And more complex, multi-step goals. Like "plant more native flowers this spring," "get rid of 30 years' worth of accumulated possessions," or "find a new place to live that meets the requirements of two people who want very different things" (to name a few of mine).
But sometimes progressing toward some ideal is not exactly a goal. Not in the sense of analysis, problem-solving, list-making, or even about taking action...at least, not in a linear sort of way.
Can we talk about that?
You encounter moments when you overlap your past with your present, and see the differential. Somehow you've managed to expand your view of the world or yourself. Not because you've cleverly delineated a goal and a plan to reach it; but because you grew toward it all unknowing, like it was the sun.
Over many days or years, you chose to embrace an idea: a way of thinking or experiencing the world that moved you, imprinted itself on your impressionable heart. And you don't realize until your Current Self unexpectedly collides with your Past Self that these selves are no longer the same.
How does this happen?
It's like you're traveling along a spiral, where you come around to some version of yourself every so often and give a nod to the person you were the last time you traveled this path. Maybe you're a star on this cosmic spiral I'm envisioning, and you notice that the luminosity you're emitting has leveled up. Maybe you had been as bright as red Antares, the heart of the Scorpion...and now you're even brighter, moving toward Betelgeuse.
But you realize this only when you juxtapose where you began with where you are now.
The idea that made me think about these encounters with oneself in the first place is the way that some indigenous peoples define "persons," and how that is broadening my circle of compassion and relatives.
All humans are persons, but not all persons are human. All living things are considered persons; and the definition of "living" is wide and deep, encompassing mountains, mosses, waterfalls, lakes, winds, clouds, the animate Earth itself. All our relations.
I am still thinking about ancestors, the land and their relationship to one another, you see.
How much wonder does such a personed world hold, how much sacredness and magic? This way of seeing wanted me to claim it. I know this because I encountered it many times, was on its trail in books, poems, articles, interviews, art, the leaves along the pathway stirring in its wake.
I've thought of animals as persons for a very long time—but not mountains.
I've thought of birds as persons for a long time—but only more recently bees.
What I'm saying is that if I can't see a fish as a kind of person, then I am the one lacking, not the fish.
So good news for people like me who are not planful. Who don't have words for what they're seeking until it shows up like a gift. Some part of you may be mysteriously working away at finding that thing and making you a better person, through an underground process that neatly bypasses your tendency to get stuck in your head.
Well played, Evolving Self.