Inside the Box

Memory Box 2008 Dawn Elizabeth WatersWhen something fascinates me, I think about it, a lot. My default thinking process includes careful analysis, application of logic, and considering the practicality of the solution depending on the problem or situation. Admittedly, there are moments I am guilty of practicing the art of overthinking with this approach. Fortunately, in the past few years I have become much more adept at squashing my tendency to overthink.

The first month of 2016 was busier than any in recent memory. I blinked and it was gone. The racing engine in the car called January finally shifted in to neutral and sat idling on the last Saturday of the month. Our calendars were blank, this alone was somewhat of a belated Christmas miracle.

Historically, we create lists of interesting things we could go and do or see when a free day finds us. Our intentions are genuine, but more often than not we alter the plan or do nothing. The reasons why vary, and mostly revolve around job related demands that pop up unexpectedly, but also include our general lack of trust that what we plan will actually happen.

We have performance anxiety when it comes to deciding how our free time should be spent. Yes, it is silly. While we acknowledge our flaws in this area and accept awareness as the first step to making a change, we still struggle to do differently. What sounds like fun on a Monday or Tuesday does not always match our declining energy level as the week unfolds.

When our free day rolled around, we opted to forgo our usual planning and instead decided to free ourselves from expectations and just to wing it. It was the best exercise we got all week. We visited a local independent bookstore who agreed to add my book to the shelves, ate Greek food at a new restaurant, bought handmade chocolates, and rearranged an entire wall of photos, and perused old photos. More than a few times we stopped to just have a good laugh.

We moved from one random thing to another all day and it felt wonderful. We tossed our consummate planner hats and went full rebel. Well, rebel for us. Our movements may have looked scattered but we were going with the flow.

I rediscovered a prophetic craft project which was born on New Year’s Eve 2007, with the help of some tequila, old magazines, in a valiant attempt to reset and leave behind a particularly difficult year. We spent the night cutting out motivational snippets and gluing them to a plain cardboard box and drinking. A lot of drinking. It seemed like the best way to get our minds right after a year that included her miscarriage, my son’s second open heart surgery, and the sudden death of one of her uncles.

I pulled this box out as we were looking for cards to frame and display on the newly updated art wall in our living room. Over the years I put special cards, photos, and other sentimental items inside for safe keeping and easy locating. For some reason I actually sat and read every snippet I stuck to the box seven years ago.

The lightbulb went on when I realized the meaning of that project and how, without knowing it at the time, it represented the future blue print for my life and the journey I am still on. In that particular present moment, I reflected on the past, and smiled. For the first time in a very long time, we were not haunted by what the stroll down memory lane brought us.

Often, we dwell on the emotion of where we were and forget to consider all of the progress we have made. Self-doubt and regret are stubborn companions and are too eager to kick the brain into overdrive at a moment’s notice. Making peace with the past includes letting go of the need to rethink and analyze events that no longer are relevant to the present moment.

There is beauty in the past we often gloss over or forget, especially when we relive negative moments over and over again. Memories can be a double edged sword when a thinker is taking a stroll down memory lane. Too often taking a trip in the way back machine results in pain or regret. Thankfully, this was not one of those times. I was encouraged to realize there is hope for this thinking gal after all.

I understand there is a time and place for careful consideration and thinking, however a cautious brain that is in a constant thought spasm has been known to create more problems than solutions, or peace. They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. Our classroom may have looked more like a shop class and involved power tools and bleach, but we learned that we all are capable of enjoying a day that just happens and is without an agenda.

There is such power and freedom in fully surrendering to the natural flow of an unplanned day. By letting the universe dictate events, our brains unclenched and we enjoyed a marvelously spontaneous, extremely productive, and fun day. We all could use more fun days in our lives. I challenge everyone to create their own blank canvas day and see where it takes you. Be present. Laugh. Think. Sing. Drink. Whatever you choose, enjoy. You will not be disappointed.