Adventures in Being Human: Planning Season

Ammi Midstokke

“Oooh!” I sighed from my office chair, “They have it in elite black!”

“Do I dare ask what you are buying on the internet today?” asked my husband.

We’ve been together for a while now, so he ought to know that the most exciting time of my shopping year is when companies start releasing their 2021 planners.

I resist buying an annual planner until it is absolutely unavoidable. If I buy it too early, my eager optimism about the next year has me scheduling so many backpacking trips and races and adventures that by January I’m already telling people I’m too busy until August.

If something doesn’t make it into the planner, then it doesn’t happen.

And if it is in my planner, it always looks like a delightful engagement, even if it’s a root canal. Dentistry is always listed four shades of elegant turquoises, a variety of floral designs, and fancy calligraphy writing. It might as well be a wedding invitation. In fact, I’ve taken to making my chore lists look like works of art. Which is why I rarely actually get to doing the chores.

Planning is about setting intention and avoiding the insidious sprawl of life to take over. I would hate to be associated with such a word, but it’s rather “efficient.” Of all the things I hate to waste (coffee, paper), time is the most important.

Early winter is incubatory period for my plans of the upcoming year. I’ve just begun to forget the pain and injuries from last year’s training load or misadventure in the mountains, and I can reflect on all the mistakes from a distance just far enough to not be overwhelmed with guilt and shame.

Planning calendar. // Photo: Ammi Midstokke

There actually are a number of studies that link the writing-down-of-goals with improved likelihood of achieving those goals. I like to lay out the entire new human I am going to become, preferably on Jan. 1, in a color-coded timeline of sanguine expectations.

I usually throw a lofty goal or two in there (lose weight, get out of debt) and then some freebies (go to a new place, take more naps) so when I look back, I can have a sense of achievement. By the end of the year, I’m invariably chuffed at how much I actually accomplished. I almost always meet my nap goal.

Now, my planners are historical references for the whole family. We look back in my notes and see when we started the first fire of the season, what we did on our vacation, and how many times I actually did make it to the gym. They’ve become an encyclopedia of where I have been and where I am going—mostly outside.

I suppose that is my real attraction to them: having a sense of direction, however naïve. In a world of unknowns and influences that are out of my control, opening my planner gives me a sense of calm stability—as if I still determine my own fate or something. It’s like a roadmap of self-care, coffee dates, long runs, and adventures that keep me grounded. Occasionally, I even make time for work in there.

Ammi Midstokke is a nutritionist and author living in North Idaho. She owns several hundred colored pencils but can never find a sharpener. Sadly, this is her last “The Human Adventure” column but, we hope, not her last appearance in the pages of Out There.

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