“So can we put our Christmas tree up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year?”
It was October 29, and my family and I were in the middle of our weekly Skype call. We had just gone through the dates that Abby and I would be home for Thanksgiving, and I knew that I needed to give my dad a few weeks to get used to the idea that he would have to put the tree up on November 25, the earliest we’ve ever decorated.
True to form, we spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes discussing why the tree had to go up Saturday, explaining that it was only a month before Christmas, and really, a few days earlier wasn’t a big deal. Eventually, we established what time we would have start the decorating process to accommodate everyone’s schedules. And then we moved onto other topics. Case closed, project planned, and mission accomplished a month later.
Spend 30 minutes with me, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly that I like predictability, anticipation, and the calendar. What could be better then coming up with a great plan, tossing and turning with expectation for a week, and then watching it unfold just as it was meant to be? Planning gives me a sense of security, comfort, and the knowledge that everything is going to be okay and I won’t turn out a failure.
But sometimes plans don’t work out exactly like they’re supposed to. Maybe Maryland unexpectedly decides to do some road construction, which subsequently causes you to be almost late to your friends’ engagement party. Or equipment malfunctions and technology doesn’t cooperate, leaving you wondering what you’re supposed to do at work while all of the computers are down. (The answer to this question, if you’re wondering, is to sit in your friend’s cube, geek out over The Elements of Style, and moan about all of the writing errors you see on a daily basis.) Sometimes directions are miscommunicated, recipes turn out wrong, and people arrive at the opposite side of the park than you intended. At times like these, I’m learning to take a deep breath, evaluate the situation, and move on with the factors that are now in play. Unfortunately, time machines still don’t exist, so there’s no use wishing I could go back and change the circumstances.
On the other hand, an upset plan could lead to results that are better than previously imagined. When you’re left on the dock while the boys go water skiing, you might find yourself at a delicious impromptu brunch in Wexford. An endlessly long line for ice skating could turn into making gingerbread houses instead. And last minute Thursday night decisions could lead to enjoying the wonderful company of your friends at Mad Mex. Who knew that letting go of control could be so amazing?
However, I have to admit that while I’m learning to be more spontaneous, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully give up my propensity to plan. Since moving to Pittsburgh, I’ve learned to leave my house packed for any occasion. I’ve accepted that I might not know what the weekend will hold, but I’m determined to be prepared. My roommates laugh at my attempt at “planned spontaneity,” but you never know when you’ll need a towel, running shoes, or Christmas cookies.
“Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art.”—Oscar Wilde