For the last few days, I’ve been having the same lessons come to me in different ways. It’s a favorite thing of mine when Life communicates to us so clearly. And we’ll keep receiving the same information a few times, in case we didn’t catch it the first time around. Sometimes these lessons come through words, and sometimes they just play out in front of you. The latter can be subtle, in that it’s up to us to connect the dots and realize what’s happening.
Two situations played out in the same way. I had planned something, I thought I knew how it would turn out, it turned out completely different.
The first was a Shabbat dinner. Every week, friends in my community gather to celebrate the Jewish day of rest, Shabbat. It’s less about the religious aspect and more about the traditional invitation to build a day of rest into the week. We come together, cook nourishing food, and decompress. Last week, I along with another friend, decided to initiate the conversation about who would host and who to communicate the plans to. We intended to keep it a small gathering – only be about four of us. And the friend who was part of the planning was going to be moving away soon, so it felt like we were having a Shabbat to honor him. A couple of hours before Shabbat, this friend decided that he was actually going on a trip and not coming to the gathering. I was surprised to hear this news, based on my prior assumption, and started to feel a little down on the gathering. Were people still coming? I’ll admit, when I arrived at the house we were gathering at, I had low expectations. And then I walked in. And I saw all these faces gazing up at me, people whom I didn’t expect, with gentle smiles, a sweet glow in the room. A friend said, “There’s a surprise for you in the kitchen.” I walk into the kitchen, and find one of my dear friends standing there – she had moved away from the area and decided on a surprise visit! And she had brought in three other bright, new faces. A few other friends showed up who I didn’t think would make it. The dinner ended up being exceptionally sweet, just marvelous. I realized that the thoughts I had about what the dinner would look like, the thoughts that I believed in, were not at all what it was! And, it was so much better than I could’ve imagined. I literally could not have imagined the situation that presented itself!
The second time (I suppose the lesson really wanted to be driven home) is currently playing out. I have to be in LA this weekend for a facilitator training, and I had planned with a dear friend that I’d come down earlier in the week to spend time with her. I had this whole plan mapped out – drive to the city to switch cars with my sister, drive to LA the next morning, stay with my friend until Friday morning, go to the retreat. I’m the type of person that takes a bunch of moving parts, plans them out perfectly, and then forgets that things might change. I left home to drive into the city to switch cars with my sister and in the morning I received communication from my friend saying that she’s sick. “Could you come a day later?” She requested. And so, from the beginning, it all started to change, to look different. The future that I had been planning, that I believed in, was already looking completely different.
So here it was, over and over again, and these are just two recent examples of how the future shifts. The reminder that whatever we’ve built into the future, will not happen the way we think. It may end up looking semi-similar to how we imagined, but never the same. We don’t actually have control over what it will look like. Sure, our planning creates an intention, but the technicolor that reality brings into the picture is the most important finishing touch. As I wrote this, I was reminded of a musing that came through me after a breakup. I had been planning on moving to Israel to be with him and a couple months before, we ended our relationship instead. At the moment that we broke up, I could see the future ideas that I had been building, crash and burn.
How often do we mentally build a house that we never step foot in? We pick out the material, wring our hands about the design, fear that we don’t have the resources, get behind on dates, and then, the house that we so carefully constructed, the house that will ensure stability, security, and safety, burns down. And what do we do? We build another house.
Baby, it’s okay to dream. It’s okay to plan. But don’t get too attached or it will all come crashing down.
I write all of this to remind me, to remind you, to not take our plans too seriously. To not believe too much in the future fantasies that we create. To hold all that we imagine about the near and far future with a light grip, knowing that it will unfold in a different manner, wanting it to unfold with life and possibility sewn into it. And may we remember that we are not in control, and thank goodness for that, because without control, the mystery of life wraps itself around us and dances us through each moment.
I want to believe that I now fully understand this lesson, but seeing the pattern of things, I’m sure I’ll be reminded time and time again.