If you were to ask my brothers, “What is the one, probably minuscule, flaw your sister possesses?” they would most likely say, “She hates not getting her way.”
But they would have to think long and hard about it because their only sister is pretty perfect.
It’s true, though, I am much happier when the world follows my plan and everything goes the way I orchestrate it. My brothers, as well as my parents, can attest to that, especially on family gatherings. I make plans, very specific to my liking, and all forces – time, money, other people – should match it accordingly. Most days come with a schedule: I leave at this time, complete these activities by this time, finish this, do that, be home by then. In America when these itineraries are messed up by even a half hour, I get, well, a little cranky.
Or a lot cranky.
I never get my way in Africa. I may plan to go to the post office to pick up a package, but it is closed for no real particular reason. I may plan to be in town at 8 a.m. to do loads of work, i.e. catch up on Facebook, but the taxi takes twice as long as the driver stops at each junction because he may have seen someone walking and they may want to get in our car, never mind there is another two minutes behind us. Then, I am forced to reduce my to-do list and only creep on one person from my former life. The teachers may have planned a meeting in Sesotho, but I didn’t know about it until they send a student to my class to get me. The weather may thwart plans for a run or day visit to see a friend. Things happen so unexpectedly it’s hard to make plans and be OK knowing they may not come to fruition.
African life is constantly throwing me curve balls. I often feel misinformed and agitated as my perfectly planned schedule is wrecked. I am not in control of the daily events of my life and I hate it.
Last week I was in a taxi and the driver stopped more often than usual, or at least it seemed that way to me. I was on my way to Maseru to catch up on work and errands that weren’t possible because of the standfast. With a later rising sun and earlier setting one, I need to make the most of my shorter days in town and sitting in a taxi while the driver screams down potential customers was not helping. I was restless and agitated. But why? I would get there, I told myself, and if I didn’t get everything done it would be OK because I would be back (several times) the following week. Relax.
And, no thanks to my anxiety, I was able to complete almost every task on my to-do list, despite the stalling taxi.
Life, surprisingly, did not end. Go figure.
Part of the reason I came to Lesotho is to work on internal issues and, at the end of these two years, pop out a better person. I am trying to listen to my emotions more and figure out where they come from. Why do I have to be a cranky bee with an itch when my life doesn’t follow these schedules I implement for daily life? How would it feel to just ride out the day and enjoy each experience as it comes? Huh. Never thought about that.
The Basotho are amazingly relaxed people. They go about their daily lives and take time to greet people, stare at the sky and sing a tune. They do not live by watches – which can be frustrating at times – or to do lists. If they said they will go somewhere, even if it is two hours later than the planned time, they will always show up. They live and enjoy.
A friend of mine is going through some problems with a job. While he describes the situation, I want to pick up a chair at hurl at the wall. But he laughs and says, “That’s the way it is.” There is more to the issue that I won’t get into at this time, but I appreciate his attitude. He could be angry, but he’s not. He’s accepted the situation and is looking for the future.
Slowly, probably to the surprise of my brothers, I am learning that the world doesn’t operate on Heather’s Schedule. It just is and I need to hop on it and learn to love those little curve balls. I am working on it, but have a ways to go. It helps that I have the Basotho to remind me that life without plans is fairly endearing.