October 21, 2011

The Best-Laid Plans.

Call It What You Will. Fate, Happenstance or Chance Play A Deciding Role In Determining Your Future.

Joining the ranks of high school parents has exposed me to a whole new world of worries and concerns. No, I’m not talking about the “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” worries that I had expected to consume me. I’m talking about the “Where’s-he-gonna-go-to-college?”, “What’s-he-gonna-be-when-he-grows-up?” and “Will-he-ever-be-able-to-support-himself?” kind of worries. I think these may be worse.

Once upon a time, these were the worries of the actual high schoolers themselves rather than their parents. (At least I thought they were my own worries when I was in high school.) Suddenly, however, I find myself on the periphery of conversation after conversation about course selections, test scores, college applications, and which schools offer the highest chances of landing your student a job rather than a quick trip to graduate school. The note of panic I hear in these parents’ voices is real and true. Unfortunately, I fear their feelings might be a little contagious. After all, if I’m not as worried as the parents who surround me, am I doing my child a disservice? If I’m not focused on the details of planning my high schooler’s post-graduate life, am I, ironically, the slacker I’ve been worried my child might become?

Clearly, I needed to do a little informal research. After all, there’s no sense in getting all worked up if I don’t need to. Right? So, I did what I do when an issue is weighing on my mind. I set out on a long, fast walk with a close friend to talk it through. This particular walk yielded an epiphany. As you might expect of good friends, our life paths share some similarities. Some are predictable. We both were good students in high school. We both studied at competitive colleges. We both enjoyed the heck out of our four years of higher education. Once we found jobs, we both were successful in the professional world.

Other similarities are more surprising. Both my friend and I graduated from college without a clue what we wanted to be when we grew up. Both of us can attribute our career paths to the caring guidance of an important mentor. In other words, we both emerged into the grown-up world without a plan. We both accepted our first jobs with no real idea of where they’d lead us. And we each were fortunate enough to find a “real-life” teacher and a supporter in these jobs. No amount of forethought or planning by us (or our parents) could have anticipated the impact these people would have on the course of our careers.

I actually broke my stride (a real “no-no” on these power walks!) as the magnitude of this epiphany dawned on me. We could both be “poster children” for how parents hope their high schooler’s career path unfolds. Yet a key factor in the direction each of our paths took could not be controlled or planned for. Whatever you want to label it – fate, happenstance or chance played a powerful role in defining both my friend’s and my careers.

Each time we step into a yoga class, we have the opportunity to open ourselves to experience fate, happenstance or chance. Of course there will be days when your teacher leads the class through exactly the type of series you would have planned yourself. Good for you. However, it’s more likely that she will head off in an unexpected direction, taking you along for the ride. Perhaps you showed up in class with a tight lower back and were hoping for a series of gentle forward bends. It may not have occurred to you that hip-openers were what you needed. But, after working in and around your hips, you might discover that those stretches have released the pressure you were feeling in your back. “Who knew?” you might think. “Sure am glad that happened.”

We face the same unknown when we unroll our mats to practice on our own. Yoga has a way of bringing down even the best-laid of plans. You just never know what you’re going to be working with until you start to move. A loose day can follow on the heels of the tightest day you’ve ever had on your mat. A chilly breeze blowing in your window while you sleep can yield a surprisingly stiff shoulder. Even your energy levels can shift and change while you practice. You can embark on a gentle, quiet practice to calm your nervous mind, only to discover as you begin to move that what you really need is to blow off some steam in a hot, sweaty series.

My point is simple – life (the big stuff like your child’s future and the little stuff like your yoga practice) has an annoying tendency to head off in its own direction despite your well-laid plans. Upon reflection, you might find, as my friend and I did, that some of your most rewarding moments resulted from these unanticipated jaunts.

I’m sure the same will be true for our high-schoolers. No matter how much or how little we try to plan their paths, we need to save room for fate, happenstance or chance. And (harder), we need to trust in it!

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