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Images below: First from bottom - detail from a painting by Guru Kirin Kaur. Second from bottom (and Thumbnail) - courtesy, Fiona Aboud.


Life Warrior



I stepped into 2008 energized by a message I received from a number of friends:  "Create a life plan!" 

I wasn't a big believer in life plans or coincidences, but repeatedly hearing the mantra had me questioning both premises.

So, I sat down with pen and paper and created a master list of my life goals and plans for 2008.  I listed everything from cooking more green leafy vegetables for dinner to writing substantially the novel that lurks in my head, to planning weekend adventures for my family. 

Everything I could possibly think of to improve my life, organize it, streamline it  -  control it  -  went on the list.  To tighten the reins even more, each night before I went to sleep, I sat with my notebook leaning against my knees, listing all the things that would be accomplished for the next day. 

This life plan program had me revved up to seize my days and charge into battle, obliterating each and every item on my list.  I was now a life plan warrior and I cut through chapter submissions, cooking, play dates, mommy-and-me classes, car repairs, grocery shopping, and dentist appointments with zeal. 

It wasn't particularly enjoyable, but I was in complete control as a shiny new life plan warrior.  Everything would be accomplished and crossed off my list. 

The life plan was working because I found myself with more time, but I'd quickly fill it up with more tasks.  Sadly, the best part of my day was crossing each item off my list. The tasks themselves were not generating much joy, I was fatigued, and creatively, I had an empty well. 

Nevertheless, I decided to stay with it. 

A few weeks into my life plan, I woke up one morning to my list: cook raajmah, go to the park, organize my desk, exercise, and pay tuition for preschool. 

Logic and reasoning dictated it would all be accomplished in a tidy way and I could move on to the next set of things to do. 

To my dismay, the day created its own agenda: take care of sick child, cook vegetable soup, go to pharmacy.  After a few days of having no list to live by or guide me, it started to sink in; I was forcing it, trying too hard.  The daily lists and tripping over myself to accomplish each task placed blinders on my mind's eye; I could not see or feel joy because I did not allow myself to live beyond my list. 

The tight control over my schedule did not allow for spontaneity in thought, action or relationships.  The rigid writing schedule killed my imagination and had it whimpering in a corner, alone.  And listing my time with my daughter as a task, left us in a play date rut.  I was living a full life, but I wasn't in love with my full life. Instead of filling my life, I had to fall in love with my life to live it to its fullest.      

And I couldn't fall in love with my life until I trusted it.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it is only now that I'm fully discovering the power of my intuition as a life guide and more importantly as a guide for my life plan.  As a life plan warrior, I was strangling my days by not trusting my intuition about how things should go.  I did not trust that my day was turning out exactly how it should, which led me to a deeper mistrust of life or not believing that the universe did want for me everything I truly wanted. 

This realization spurred me to go back to my lists to understand what was going on.  Interspersed with the should-do's and must-do's were genuine desires and wishes that came from a place within me that already knew how I wanted my days to unfold. 

I now see knitting as a legitimate use of my time, if it brings me joy.  Learning to cook Middle Eastern food is an excellent way to schedule my evenings, if that is what I truly desire.  Planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands is an excellent vacation.  And attending ghazal concerts to further my fictional character study is a great way to do research.

My gut, my intuition, my inner voice, has been guiding me all along and all I have to do is listen.  It's not a loud commanding voice booming down from between the clouds or an authoritarian voice coming from within my head. 

This voice flutters in my chest and sometimes whispers in my mind about how to live my days. The muscles in my body have loosened and I have unclenched my fists.  I am well-rested and have good energy for my tasks as they reveal themselves. I find myself enjoying my family and friends more. 

My creative life is brimming over, and not knowing what comes next is, I have to admit, exciting. I'm speculating that there is a larger voice guiding my inner voice, or the two could be one and the same. 

It is truly magical to embody an absolute faith in God, life and myself.  I do not know what will happen next, but I trust that I will get a quiet memo on it. 

I've heard people say God's plan for ourselves is much bigger than anything we could ever imagine. 

It's an irresistible offer and I'm taking it. 


February 26, 2008

Conversation about this article

1: Chintan Singh (San Jose, U.S.A.), February 26, 2008, 4:12 PM.

Great article, indeed! I too am a to-do list person, and thus sometimes get so much wound up in having an active to-do list that, I must confess, I even put things like doing Paath and Simran, on my list. Then, I have to pull myself out of the to-do list routine and tell myself to trust my inner voice and that it will remind me to do whatever I must or have to do. Your article is a great reminder to surrender things to nature and God.

2: Bhupinder Singh Ghai (New Delhi, India), February 28, 2008, 12:05 AM.

I have two very recent real-life stories to share about "life has other plans". One, we had a distant relative who had been planning for his son's wedding meticulously for a very long time. He had personaly visted all of us and requested attendance. As fate would have it, on the wedding eve, during the mehndi ceremony, he collapsed and died of a massive stroke. On seeing this sight, his wife has gone into deep coma and the wedding is postponed indefintely. Now, the happy story: my younger brother had been planning a vaction with his friends for a very long time. Flights, hotels, cars, etc, had been booked with military precision. Everthing was set and he was scheduled to fly to Goa the next day. We went to party in the evening where we met a girl from Hyderabad who had come to Delhi just for a day. We met the parents who were well known to a common friend. It was love at first sight and in less than 24 hrs, he was engaged. Clearly, life had other plans...

3: Satvir Kaur (Boston, U.S.A.), February 28, 2008, 11:21 AM.

I don't have a life plan or a plan for this year, but I do have a to-do list. It is there as a reminder for me, so i wouldn't forget. I'm not too strict about it. It reminds me when I have deadlines, and when things have got done. Whatever that does not have high priority is always moving to the next day or something like that. It's a good help for me when I have a lot to do. I don't use it everyday, though.

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