March 9, 2014

We Must Let Go of the Life We’ve Planned.


I was driving one day.

I had somewhere to be. It was important. As usual, I was on a schedule and I’d planned my day so that I knew where I’d be and what I’d be doing each hour until bed.

I would be on time.

No, I was going to be early, because being early makes a good impression and I always needed to make a good impression. But the road I’d planned to take was under construction, or flooded or there’d been an accident or something and I had no choice. There was a detour. My road was closed. I didn’t know the other way to get to where I was going, so I was more than a little frantic.

I got mad. I cursed.

I tried to drive down the closed road anyway but ended up having to turn back around and now I was late and really angry, plus I was lost. I followed the detour because there was no other choice and I kept driving because there was still somewhere I knew I had to be.

I drove down roads I’d never been on before, still following the detour signs, not really trusting them, but what other option did I have? The roads took me far out into the country; even my GPS was confused.

And I was still mad.

I muttered to myself about the state always working on the roads and never getting anything fixed. I had a few choice words for reckless drivers who caused accidents that held everyone up. I swore about beach traffic and tourists and construction workers carelessly busting water lines. I was sure that now I was hopelessly late.

Then, following the road I’d been rerouted down, I turned, came down a hill and saw it.

An entire field of sunflowers all in bloom.

They were stunning. All those dark faces with their yellow crowns in curving rows as far as I could see. They were magical, otherworldly.

I had no choice at that moment than to pull the car over, get out and celebrate. I stood at the edge of that field of thousands of blooming sunflowers and breathed in the low, late afternoon sunlight. I thanked the universe for my very existence, for creating a world this beautiful and this perfect. I forgot about traffic and my schedule and all the places I believed I needed to be and impressions I needed to make. I must have taken twenty pictures.

That was when I finally got it—that I’d been white-knuckling my way through life, flooring the gas to get somewhere every second of every day and I believed that I knew the way, so I kept driving and driving, rigidly and ignorantly following a map I’d made years ago when I thought “If I do everything right, if I make a plan and don’t deviate it from it, if I am in control, then I won’t get hurt.”

No one is ever really in control of everything. Control is an illusion we create to help us feel safe in the face of uncertainty.

Uncertainty doesn’t have to be frightening.

As Joseph Campbell said,

“You must let go of the life you’ve planned in order to have to life that is waiting for you.”

Relax your grip on the steering wheel, understand that there will be detours. Plans will change. Sometimes you will be late or maybe you won’t even arrive at all. Don’t fight the roadblocks. Follow the detours even if you have no idea where they end up, I told myself.

When we can let go of our plans and trust the universe to lead us in the right direction, when we stop fighting change, we can arrive at a place of true beauty—the place where we are right now, the place we are meant to be.

Because what matters most is not the detour you had to take, but that it brought you here.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Courtesy of Author

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