I’ve seen how a disruption in plans can lead to beautiful, unplanned results.
In one group I led, just four people were able to attend a session intended for twelve. Instead of canceling, I plowed ahead. It turned out that the four participants knew each other in a “six degrees of separation” type of way, and this led to a heartfelt time of deep and open sharing which unexpectedly became an ongoing, private group that I facilitate.
Another time, I attended a zoom workshop in which the facilitator’s screen froze and she eventually disappeared, leaving us staring at each other blankly, wondering what to do next. We were engaged in a scholarly discussion of archetypes in film and literature, and the glitch in technology led someone to bring up the fool, a figure who often appears in situations when things need to be shaken up. The facilitator returned, we all laughed about how the fool was at work, and she proceeded with a more energetic, interactive conversation.
I gave more thought to the topic of planning as a student in “The Art of Facilitation,” a TLAN course I took this summer. A prompt about allowing for the unexpected in workshops led me to write this:
After William Stafford You reading this, be ready. Things may not always go as planned. And you’re a planner As evidenced by your ever-increasing stack of Daily planners Weekly planners Monthly planners Next-year planners Your To-do lists Color-coded post-it notes Snippets of goals and visions Written hastily on random scraps of paper towel and restaurant napkins Stuffed in the side pockets of your purse Then carefully transferred into these books of burden. But things don’t always go as planned Sometime plans have a mind of their own Breaking away, breaking apart Becoming something gloriously unplanned And unrooted A refusal to be reduced to a pre-made plan The sparks inside bursting into the open Revealing a shimmer that defies even the best-laid plans And births worlds of wonder.
I send gratitude to the Universe for the insight that came from working on this poem and the wisdom it offered. My acute self-awareness tells me I’ll probably never stop planning, though —some level of preparation is crucial to my confidence and peace of mind, especially when facilitating workshops. I couldn’t change it anyway; it’s set deeply in the swirls and twirls of my DNA. But I’ve realized that allowing for fluidity in the execution of a workshop can result in moving, meaningful moments benefiting both participants and myself. From now on, my agendas will be less rigid, my schedules less imposing, my timetables less absolute—and more “highly flexible, suggested.”
(Editor’s note: Part 1 of this piece can be found here.)
Kimberly Lee practiced law for some years, then turned her attention to motherhood, creative pursuits, and community work. She is a SoulCollage® and Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator and an editor and contributor at Literary Mama. Her work has appeared in Fresh Ink, Words and Whispers, Toyon, The Ekphrastic Review, Minerva Rising, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. Connect with Kimberly at http://kimberlylee.me