I’m a planner. It’s both how my brain is hardwired, and my default coping mechanism for making sense out of and moving through life. If I can figure out what’s ahead (or at least what I *think* might be ahead), I can devise strategies for dealing with it. (I’m not saying it always works; I’m just saying that’s what I do.) Which means I’m constantly on a quest for the Holy Grail of Organization: The Perfect Planner. So far there has been just one tiny problem with this. I haven’t yet found that “Perfect” planner.
I’m currently using the planner of a well-known leadership development and productivity guru, and it’s good. Very, very good. But not quite “perfect”. So, when I was researching this yet again last week and found a sale on 2018 planners that offered me the opportunity to try another flavor for just $1.00, I went for it.
It arrived Monday, and I was highly optimistic when I opened it up to the initial set-up page, where I was asked to make a “wish list” based on this question: “If you could be anything, do anything, have anything, what would it be?” In the split second it took me to read that sentence, I instantly turned into Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, except that instead of my father (although it would be nice to have Dad back too), all I could think of was “…I want my husband back, you (colorful metaphor/expletive deleted)!” At which point I shut the planner, threw it in a desk drawer, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing Mah Jong on the computer.
The next morning when I opened my devotional I found Madeleine L’Engle’s interpretation of the Greek words for time Chronos and Kairos from her book Circle of Quiet. Chronos is measurable, quantifiable, sequential, and ordered by the calendar and clock. Kairos time, according to L’Engle, “…is not measurable. In Kairos, we are…” While her particular take on this is somewhat unique compared to the way others use and define this construct, (some, particularly in faith traditions, define Kairos as “an appointed time, an opportune moment, or a due season”), her words helped put my love-hate relationship with planners and why I can’t seem to find the “Perfect” one into perspective. It has less to do with the planners themselves and more to do with my recent experience with time.
Much of what has comprised my life since Bill’s death does not fit neatly into incrementally laid out time slots. There is no timetable for grief and its many manifestations. In that sense it is, the way L’Engle defines it, a Kairos event; something that just is, and has to be dealt with as it is. I couldn’t sit down with my planner and schedule a good cry for next Wednesday at 2:30. Well, I could, but I needed to be prepared for the fact that that good cry could show up at midnight this Wednesday, or at 9:30 Friday morning, or at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. Not being able to plan or even knowing what to plan for left Organized Me feeling disoriented, terrified, and uncertain. Which I compensated for by trying even harder to figure it all out and nail it all down.
What I eventually figured out is that even if I were to find that “perfect” planner, I still would not be able to schedule and quantify everything. L’Engle was right. Some things in life simply cannot be contained in a finite block of time on the calendar or clock. Some things just “are”. Trying to hang onto control (that I never truly had in the first place) only left me closed off from the grace that is available and sufficient if I but open my heart and hands to receive it. I’m working on channeling my inner Elsa and letting go of what I can’t control, (but I still plan what I can...) so, if you do happen onto that “Perfect” planner, tell me which one it is!
How do you plan? Do you use a specific system like Dayrunner or Full Focus? Lists? Sticky notes? The back of an envelope? Your phone, tablet, or computer? All of the above? None of the above?
How do you move forward when things don’t go as planned?
In every day, in every moment, in every event of your life, may your heart and hands remain open to life, to love, and to the Holy.