“Bad things happen when you aim instead of throw.”
I heard this quote on NPR during some story on MLB pitchers. I missed the rest of broadcast as my mind made sense of those words, mental fingers untangling the knot of words.
I’ve been working through a meditation series on anxiety the past month and trying to become better in my “real life” of implementing the mediation strategy of “noting.” This particular series encourages a two-step noting process, where you first identify if you’re thinking or feeling and then further recognize the quality of your thought or feeling – positive, negative or neutral.
And it’s been eye-opening.
The thoughts that tend to cloud my vision are almost entirely of one particular variety. So much so that I added a third option to step one: thinking, feeling or planning.
I barely ever note the first two. The third? It’s a constant note, as though I’m stuttering. Planning. Planning. Planning.
Planning how I’m going to approach this one concept with my 6th graders. Planning when I need to do laundry so that it doesn’t interfere with my other plans. Planning what to wear the next day. And the next. Planning to plan my grocery list. I even find myself planning to return to the breath, once I finish planning of course.
It has a neutral tone, there’s no sense worry or concern in it. But it’s obviously rooted in anxiety, a need to think and strategize for every possible outcome.
I’m aiming ten times for every one throw.
And that’s not good.
In my chosen career as a teacher, I have to plan. This year, with three accelerated preps, I have to PLAN. My days are scheduled down to the minute and I have to plan how to fill every one of them with meaningful content and activities.
When I first started teaching, my plans were rigid. Every detail was fully thought out prior to the start of the day and I would get flustered when an unplanned fire drill unexpectedly eroded away half of second period.
Over time, I grew to trust myself and my instincts in the classroom. My well-written plans dissolved into brief words jotted down in a sequential list or placed into small calendar squares. The mental work still happened, lessons being tweaked in the shower or thrown out on the morning drive, but the obsessiveness about the detail faded as I grew more confident with my abilities and insights.
I relaxed into the planning more, less worried about a forgotten photocopy or dropped detail. I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world. I was aiming and throwing in relatively equal measure.
And then this year happened. And with it, my trust in myself unhappened.
My planning has become all-consuming. Partly of of necessity. And partly (hey, 80% is still part! 🙂 ) from what I put on myself.
At work, I’m succeeding.
In my life, I’ve been too busy aiming.