Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Vienna Plan

A couple of years ago, my family vacationed together in Vienna. Originally, I wasn't inclined to go, as I didn't really enjoy the way my family traveled together. (My mom jokingly broke down the various roles each family member played on vacation -- it was Mom's job to plan everything, Dad's job to pay for everything, my sister Polly's job to boss everyone into doing everything, and my job to "step in in case of an emergency.")

While we still laugh at our roles, at the time it was pretty true. Mom did plan everything, and Polly definitely bossed everyone into doing everything, even if she wasn't 100% sold on doing it herself. Grousing and bickering (or seething and simmering) often ensued. Awesome.

So when I was offered the opportunity to pay lots of money to do it again in Vienna, I politely declined.

My sister and brother in law offered to pay for my trip. I still wasn't interested. It wasn't about the money, it was about the angst and frustration of feeling obligated to do stuff that I didn't really want to do.

Luckily, after a lengthy conversation with my mother, she agreed to help me try to change our family pattern.* The new model had mom and me planning things together, and Polly wouldn't have to boss anyone because they'd either be doing something they wanted to do, or they could go home and take a nap. This freed Polly from the role of Bad Cop, and, since it was never really true in the first place, Dad didn't have to pay for everything.

With this understanding in place, I doing my own research. Picking out the things I wanted to see, and making it known that that's what I wanted to do. Getting excited about all the cool stuff there was to see and do in Vienna. Inviting others to come along, but being willing to go and do things on my own if nobody else was interested.

And this is what I call the Vienna Plan. Filling up your life (or your vacation) with things that you want to do, see, hear, eat, touch, and play with. Letting others know they're more than welcome to come along, but knowing that your happiness doesn't depend on their attendance. Delighting yourself at every opportunity, whether other delight with you or not.

I've brought this home to my real life recently, riding horses, going to the circus, and making plans to see the shows I want to see or eat the food I want to eat. And it's rocking my world! I use the Vienna Plan on dates, too -- if the guy turns out to be a dud, oh well! I'm doing something I've been meaning to do!

The key to the Vienna Plan is really letting go of your expectations of others. If you're not willing to go to that party alone, then the Vienna Plan isn't going to fix that. If you're lonely, the Vienna Plan may not fix that, either, but it will give you something to distract you -- and it'll give you something else to talk about when you do meet up with people later.

I can't recommend the Vienna Plan enough. Because if I want to go home and take a nap, that's what I end up doing. (Although I'm finding that the more I stick to the plan, the more cool stuff there is to see and do!)

*I am blessed with a really communicative and functional family. Go ahead, envy me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a month of Doing Things Differently

On October 15th, I was feeling stuck. Not just stuck, but stymied. I mean , parked like a lemon on cinderblocks in the front yard. Like life was a swamp of molasses and I was waist deep in it. I was depressed, angry, frustrated, and basically just wanted to stay in bed all day. Every day. For the rest of my life.

You know, things were normal.

I wanted so many things so badly, and I was trying so hard to do everything right... and was doing absolutely everything wrong.

Then one morning the fairy of enlightenment bopped me on the head and asked, what if there is no right way? What if there are just a variety of ways in which things an be done, and here I am, bending over backwards trying to do the ones I think are "right"?

So I challenged myself to a month of doing things differently. Not right-ly, or wrong-ly, just differently. And this meant anything -- from something as simple as walking down the other side of the street on my way to work, or wearing my hair in pigtails, to something as complex as choosing to hear my self-criticism with compassion and detachment, instead of using it to beat myself up.

And now that it's almost over, I'm happy to report that it's been an amazing month. Some "differents" were enormous successes, some were floppy failures, and others were just kind of meh. But without giving myself permission to have the big floppy failures, I probably wouldn't have had the enormous successes.

Or the pigtails.

So I want to challenge you all -- if you are feeling stuck, just try something different. Identify what you want to do differently, then deliberately make the change. Eat a funny food. Do your regular walking loop in the opposite direction. Shake up your tree, and you might just be pleasantly surprised by the fruit that falls on your head.