Coffee and Ellipses

Possibilities are magical. Possibilities are scary. Possibilities are incomplete and messy and meandering. But what a beautiful thing to welcome into your life.

So often we create a playbook in our heads. Our version of how life is supposed to go. From a young age we are asked to create a path to follow. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m guessing some of us may have wanted to be a dinosaur, or a race car, or a stalk of celery (as one preschooler once told me). What a burden we place on our children to push them into a playbook when they don’t even know the game yet! I love imaginary play for children, especially role-playing. I love the idea of letting them ‘try on’ an identity. Actually, I hope they try on several in their youth and that they keep trying until they find one that feels like it was designed just for them. They should keep trying until they find the one that feels like a well-worn leather jacket, molded to the shape of their shoulders and the cut of their waist, butter-soft and smelling so good you can’t help but take a deep breath and feel like you are home. But they shouldn’t have to claim that identity yet. They don’t have to ‘be’ anything or anyone until they are ready.

I cheerfully gave my answer to that question when I was very young. Actually, I gave several, because I couldn’t decide on just one thing. I designed a house in which I could live and work at my four stated professions. I created names for each business. I even developed an overlapping marketing plan for all of them – although I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time. I set a schedule of how to work 4 jobs at once. I was creating my playbook, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I held fast to that playbook for a very long time. Even as I grew older and understood more about ‘what I wanted to be,’ I couldn’t let go of that playbook. It had been with me for so long. I can still see that house in my memories. I can see the swing on the porch, I know where the stairs are, I know the colors of every room and the size of the yard. I can’t forget because that’s what I was supposed to be. That’s what I didn’t become. In my memories, this is now my failed playbook.

When I finally attended college – for none of the four professions I had placed in my playbook – I felt like I was following someone else’s path. I did well and enjoyed my studies but always felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. Opportunities came up and I watched them float away because, surely they weren’t really meant for me – they weren’t in the playbook. I was invited to try out new pages for my playbook and I shut them out. If I couldn’t see how these invitations and opportunities got me back to the book I’d already made I didn’t give them a chance. Because I had grabbed hold of that playbook so tightly as a child I couldn’t see that the pages in it were no longer meant for me. How could a seven-year-old know what a twenty-year-old will want to do? There were new plays that danced before me now, asking to be added to my book. I swatted them away as distraction. And yet, they were the pages I was living. My heart said “okay, I will follow this plan, but it’s not the right one so it can’t be in my book. My book is full.’

My book is full.

I’d decided – at seven – what my playbook looked like and I believed it could not be anything other than this. I struggled at 14 when I dreamed of a life that turned those playbook pages sideways. I hurt at 25 to believe I’d done it all wrong. It has taken me over 50 years to find my true answer to ‘what do you want to be?’ Now, with joy I respond ‘I haven’t decided yet.’

I have taken many paths that weren’t in my playbook. For short bits of time my life dabbled along the edges of my book. But, the majority of what I’ve done and who I’ve become was never in that book – the one I believed I was meant to follow. I gave up and missed out on experiences because I believed in that book. I was crushed by my own broken heart for years because I did not fulfill that plan. So many things I’ve done in my life have been made harder by holding on to that playbook or thinking I needed to. Everything was measured against an imaginary life that was dreamed up by a child.

Recently I was invited to coffee by someone who wasn’t in my playbook. I spent far too long questioning the invitation and my answer and trying to make it fit in my playbook. It was coffee. How could I question coffee?? It wasn’t just coffee, though. It was coffee and…

Coffee and possibilities
Coffee and conversation about things I haven’t thought of before
Coffee and a new friend
Coffee and the unknown

I almost missed out on this experience because of the arbitrary outline I force myself to stay within. And I would have missed out on so much more than coffee.

If you have a playbook – whether it’s from childhood or last year – I encourage you to throw it out. Or, maybe close it up a little more often. It is great to have a plan and to set goals. But we can’t be so focused on the plan that we miss out on the greatest parts of living. We can’t be so tied to the plan that fit our life at one time that we pass up a new one that might bring more joy to our life now. A playbook is full of plans – not possibilities.

Maybe it’s time to write some new plays. Maybe it’s time to call an audible. Only you know what is right in your life. But, if you hold a playbook from years gone by, I hope you will at least open it and question the pages. Don’t live your life from a book of what-ifs. Look at the world around you instead of that dusty old book. Live this moment as it comes. Let the playbook rest. Go, enjoy some coffee and…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Built with

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: