Getting My Ducks in a Row
I don't even know where my ducks are.....
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver
I’m a planner. A list maker. A post-it-note addict. I absolutely love strategic planning. My goal in life is to get my ducks in a row, my life, home, and desks organized. I believe I have the potential to become a properly functioning mature adult who’s got it all together.
Easier said than done, right? And I’m getting a little too old to explain why I haven’t achieved this earlier in life.
Perhaps that’s why I find this meme so hilarious:
I love the meme because it implies that the “ducks” of our lives are ornery and wild, and lead us into trouble. That the tasks at hand get away from us, that our ducks, our lives, our plans — are not under our control.
I like to feel in control of my life. I realize control is an illusion, and that attempts to control lead us into attempts to manipulate. Attempts to control lead to frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. We cannot control our ducks any more than a barrel of monkeys. But control freaks like me will still try.
Lists, strategic planning, proper post-it-note placement — these are all my attempts to feel I have some control of the world’s chaos. These are the ways I comfort myself, ways I imagine I have influence, and at least some control of my ducks.
These are the ways I ground myself. I make lists of what needs to be done, what I have done, and what I hope to do. I color-code them to prioritize what needs to be done and attempt to balance the time the ducks have in the water (play) or in their pen (security). My lists are my little internal game of Duck, Duck, Goose, with ducks being counted, and a goose being something unplanned or unforeseen.
(Hmmm. Perhaps I have no ducks. Lately, I just feel like I have crazy geese.)
If ever there was a worldwide billboard exposing the illusion of control over our lives, then the pandemic was it. I look back on 3-year and 5-year strategic plans created pre-Covid for the library (I’m a librarian) and laugh. I look back on goals I set out just six months to a year ago and can still feel the upside-head smack of the Universe saying, “No. Not now. Not yet. Not ever. ”
At work and at home, in my mind, heart, and soul, it is time to review and reconstruct strategic plans the pandemic demolished. We’re all making adjustments for gas prices and inflation, for shifts in the workforce and workspace, for the changes throughout the planet, and within our own internal workings.
We are just now witnessing the ways the pandemic changed our culture, our economy, our awareness, and our hearts. In many ways, time has become for valuable than money. Simple living has become much more desirable and affordable than many career goals. Surrounded by sickness and death, we dream of improved quality of life.
Pre-pandemic, my approach to life was to make my lists, make my plans, and bulldoze forward to complete the project. I have no problem taking a road less traveled, I can usually pave it. Move. Forward. Plow, level, and remove obstacles. I have a plan, and I’m going to work that plan. This is what successful people do. Right?
But, attempting to plan using minimal guaranteed parameters in the midst of a cultural cyclone? Woah. I’m not sure I know how to handle that. I have resigned myself to accepting that I cannot control timing. Our world is too tumultuous. We’re riding out the consequences of things we cannot control.
There really is no way to adjust to the timing of the Universe, the timing of my abilities, of research, learning, development, inflation, supply, support, and energy (personal and worldwide). I can’t even complete a long-distance phone conversation with my mother without Frontier phone service cutting us off about every 15 minutes. It seems the whole world is bending us to their timing and agenda.
And so I wait and watch for signs. A small window opens for advancement here, a gap of time opens for another project, an obstacle is moved aside, or something difficult suddenly becomes easier.
American author Michael Chabon said, “Man makes plans . . . and God laughs.”
I’ve been really, really feeling that for more than two years now.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
Our steps. Fast steps, slow steps, uphill, downhill, stairs, escalators, elevators. When you begin thinking about steps, you grasp how many ways we step. Just consider dance steps alone - the box step, the two-step, the feather step, the chain step. The do-si-do, the kickball change, the heel turn, the moonwalk. One step forward, two steps back.
So, here I am, with step-by-step plans for a straightforward climb, but the universe is forcing me to slow down and enjoy the journey, to stop focusing on the destination, and twirl around in the precious present.
I do hope eventually to get my ducks in a row. But right now, they’re wild and onery, out dancing with the geese. I have to have faith that they’ll come home on their own. I’ll just sit down a bit, enjoy a rest in my journey, and wait.