I’ve not always been a planner though. When I look back to try to pinpoint when this need to control things that had yet to happen-from bigger scale items like trips, to the smaller details like the food I eat-came from, it seems to have taken root during my years spent in Northwestern Ontario.
I had returned to Canada in the late spring of 2005, after having spent the last year and a half working towards and completing my teaching qualifications in Christchurch New Zealand. Eager to find full time employment, I began applying all over the province of Ontario. The first job offer that came back to me was for a grade 3 teaching position in Grassy Narrows. This being my first job offer, I jumped at it. I packed my life up, and in early August of that same year, I got on a plane and began the journey up to Grassy.
Grassy Narrows is a beautiful little part of the world. I had only intended to stay for a year or two to get some experience, but I quickly fell in love with the land and the people. Grassy still occupies a big piece of my heart, and while I look back on the 6 years I spent there with great fondness, it was also a time where I fell into some less than healthy habits, I think out of my desire to try to maintain some control in an environment where I felt very much like an outsider.
Amongst other things, my need to plan what would eventually include just about all aspects of my life, took hold. With Grassy being a small reserve, there aren’t any grocery stores there. There is a small general store, and quite a few corner stores operating out of people’s homes, but for everything else, it was common practice to head in to either Kenora or Winnipeg.
Grassy Narrows is located about 80 km north of Kenora. The drive up to the reserve is beautiful, but can be tricky to manoeuvre for the unexperienced as it is primarily composed of a very windy road, lots of deer and a handful of partridge for good measure.
For me, after a year of driving the trek back and forth from Kenora, I think I was able to do the commute in about an hour. In winter, I tacked on anywhere from an additional 30-45 minutes to that hour. Thus, my once-a-week visits into Kenora for groceries and supplies needed to be well-planned. I wasn’t keen on doing the trip in more than once a week, so if I forgot to get anything I needed on those trips, I had a bit of a wait ahead of me before I could grab it on my next trip in. There is considerable mercury contamination in the water systems in and around Grassy, so part of my weekly haul included enough store bought water to last me the week. I learned to stock up on some items so that in the event of a blizzard in the winter or a road wash-out in the spring, I would be covered if a trip in was missed.
This need for planning ended up spilling into many other areas of my life, and has ultimately left me now with the inability to be in the moment. Up until very recently, I have been in the habit of planning for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the weekend, and the next month and, as a result, I have been blind to the present. During the last few months, I have been working on translating a book for a friend, and in this last week as I came to the final chapters, the following excerpt hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks:
One of the root causes of procrastination is the idea that the perfect moment has not happened yet, so the project can wait. By accepting that there will be a better time to start training, to put money aside, or travel we accept a deluded perspective that life is eternal and we can simply accumulate these future perfect moments. (From Ian Renaud’s book on overcoming procrastination)
While I wouldn’t have labelled it as procrastination, it suddenly dawned on me that this is how I have been living my life for the last decade. I’m not only a planner, but a perfectionist too, so planning things WHILE waiting for the perfect moment was my jam.
Naturally, me being me, I had BIG plans for how I was going to spend my time once my final day at work had passed. I was going to PLAN my recovery and healing and I was going to do it perfectly. Instead of taking it one day at a time, I was already caught up in looking ahead to the next week, and the following months. I was going to do more yoga. I was going to try new work outs. I was going to bike. I was going to read. I was going to get exactly 8 hours of quality sleep. I was going to meditate.
At this point, my body said “Hold my beer” and completely shut down on me. I developed a horrendous cold where I couldn’t taste any food and was forced to mouth breathe, in addition to picking up a hacking cough that left me with the voice of someone who has been smoking for 1000 years. Feeling like a pile of garbage, I was forced to stop. No workouts. No biking. No reading. No cleaning. No being perfect. Just resting.
Hyperbole and a Half
I admittedly fought against this for a few days, before literally throwing my plan bible out the window and giving myself the permission to be in the present moment and focus on that.
A week out, I am still struggling with the idea of NOT planning out the details of my life, including when I will blow my nose. Its becoming a practice for me to wake up each morning and ask myself what I want to do just for that day. Not tomorrow. No thinking about 5 days from now. Right now, what do you, Olivia, want to do with today.