The first three decades of my life were spent as a chameleon. I worked hard at being invisible, turning whatever color someone wanted me to be. You want cheerful; I’m cheerful. You want responsible; I’m responsible. You want flexible; I’m a yoga master bending to your whims.
That life strategy gradually cracked, but it wasn’t until my 50s when it split open like a ripe watermelon in a hot Kansas field. Poetry, certifiably bad poetry, spewed forth; grade school imagery showed up in art workshops, and “creativity,” a word I don’t remember hearing as a child, took hold of my spirit as I started teaching people how to free their thinking and imaginations. I believed and taught that everyone was creative, while the voice in the back of my head reminded me that I was the one true exception.
All of this is to say that I have been a late bloomer. A recent conversation with a friend about my 18 year-old granddaughter raised the issue of 5-year plans. I’ve had a fairly productive life so my friend was surprised when I told her I had never made a 5-year plan. I guess it surprised me also because the conversation kept haunting me.
In my 20s and 30s, I read most of the popular positive thinking books. I wrote affirmations and filled my mind with possibilities. I visualized wealth and fabulous homes on distant islands. I pasted the title of one of my books on the NY Times best seller list and made vision boards. My efforts were always short-lived and, obviously, those fantasies never materialized.
Gradually, I determined to become visible. I began to blog, post art on FB, spew my thoughts on Twitter and occasionally tiptoe into Instagram and Pinterest. Apparently I'm trying to make up for those years when I was that mousy girl in the corner with her nose in a book. The metaphor may be inept but I basically crept out of the closet and said “take me or leave me, this is who I am.”
So, here I am at 74, thinking about 5-year plans. Who makes 5-year plans at this stage of life when the standard joke is that we don’t even buy green bananas?
However, turning the coin over, the question becomes: why don’t we ALL make 5-year plans at age 74 … or 84 … or even 94??? Who cares if we die before we reach the end of the plan? If our spirits are still reaching for joy, still learning more about ourselves and the world around us, still finding new ways to share our being with others, then wouldn’t that be a good thing?
So I flung myself into the 5-year plan idea, doing it my way, of course. Fame and fortune no longer interest me, so no more cars and boats and planes in my plan. The only thing that truly interests me these days is deep connection … with friends and family, with myself and the world around me, with the mysteries of the Universe.
I began to develop a plan to become more who I am, more visible, more generous with my gifts, more attuned to the Universe. I reviewed the new literature on making changes and establishing new habits and found a model that resonated with me. Rather than starting with specific (or even SMART) goals or new processes, this theory advocates starting with identity. Who do I want to be?
As I began my contemplation on who I wanted to be, suddenly there came a virus with a vengeance … see part 2