I love to make plans and I'm a bit of perfectionist. Sometimes these are great attributes, like when I need to plan a big trip with a hundred moving parts (and do so expertly, I might add). Sometimes though, my perfectionist streak drives me crazy, like when one or more of those hundred moving parts starts to move in the wrong direction.
Recently, I was lucky enough to go to New Zealand. I went to sojourn with my man who was there for work, which means I was there to keep him company during his off time but I also had free time to do my favorite thing in the world... explore. I was going to learn about kiwi and Maori culture, hike over green hillsides and through rainforests, visit one of the oldest national parks in the world, see volcanoes and glaciers, get new perspectives, write lots of blog posts, and hopefully meet a few hobbits.
Boy did I have a ton of plans for this trip, but boy did life have other plans for me. And bare with me here, but boy am I glad life changed all my plans. Not because I enjoy it when all my efforts fly out the window and those plans suddenly change, and not because (spoiler alert) I enjoy being sick on the other side of the international date line, but because of the lesson in mindfulness the whole crazy experience gave me.
As soon as I arrived in New Zealand I got sick. For those of you who know me, you know I was also just sick for 2 weeks in early September. Sick sick sicky sick. Being sick is always struggle to some degree, but being sick abroad was a struggle on a whole new level.
Side note: I've been debating just how much I want to divulge on this. I don't make it a point to whine, at least publicly. I don't like to worry anyone or act needy, so I largely kept this under wraps. Aside from one semi-vague Instagram post, and texts with close friends, very few people knew I was sick out there.
But I'm trying to use this all as a lesson, one I can learn from and then one I'll tell you about so you can hopefully learn from as well. If I'm going to do that I need to let down my guard and take down the walls of privacy and vanity.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of this time feeling frustrated - all my well thought out plans dashed, my normally active self tied to a hotel bed, my love of exploring new territories and cultures stymied, hopes of a "perfect trip" lost.
But that frustration, like any difficult time, was also an opportunity.
Difficulty presents us with a personal mindfulness challenge.
It always boils down to a choice: let the disappointment of an international exploration opportunity lost overtake me with anger and regret, OR use it as an excuse to reconnect to mindfulness and then use/enjoy every moment I do have for all its worth.
Through painstaking effort, I chose the later. When I felt well enough to go exploring for a bit, I made sure to soak in every last second of the experience. When my throat was calm enough to allow a proper dinner, I savored every bite, and let myself have a glass of wine or a beer because I was on vacation goshdarnit. When I was awake and aware I made myself ever present and shook the chains of distraction loose.
Because of the illness, I knew I'd have fewer moments of enjoyment on my trip, so I mindfully dove into any moment in had with gusto. Suddenly my time became less about the limitations of being sick, and more about the joy to be found in the random moments.
I can have a memorable time whether or not everything goes exactly the way I expect. I can make good use of my time even if plans fall through. I can have a totally new and unexpected adventure even when things don't line up as I'd hoped.
I can be frustrated and angry that this trip didn't go the way I hoped it would go, or I can accept that it changed and make the most of it... roll with the punches, go with the flow.
My attitude about it, about anything, is entirely up to me.
So make plans, set expectations, and do your best work to make sure everything goes your way - lord knows I'll never stop doing that - but make sure one of your expectations is that it's possible none of your expectations will actually come true. Life will take you where it wants, you can fight and lament and whine and cry but the change in your path will often happen whether you like it or not. It's way better for your sanity to just accept it and go with the flow.