I am a sucker for an online quiz. You know those ones that tell you what country best fits your personality or what your spirit animal is? Well, a while back I took one on happiness. To my surprise, the results indicated that I highly value spontaneity, and that some of my happiest moments were unplanned. This was shocking to me.
See, I am a planner. Of course, most women — especially moms — I know are. You have to be, or you’ll get steamrolled by soccer practice, baseball tryouts, birthday party invitations, parent-teacher meetings, science projects, Grandparents’ Day, work deadlines, and doctors’ appointments before you can blink an eye. How many of you already have your summers planned out? Camps, vacations, etc.? See what I mean?
In one sense, planning in advance can give a person a feeling of control and order. If we know what we’re doing and when, every day is not a chaotic exercise in finding lost permission slips and last-minute lunch-packing. (Although believe me, that still happens more often than not.)
But there’s a downside to being overly scheduled. A few, in fact. For one thing, it can make you feel like you have zero free time. Secondly, if one thing on your jam-packed calendar changes, it can make the whole day or week collapse like a row of dominoes. See: every snow day and school delay we’ve had this winter. And lastly, over-planning can mean that if you DO find yourself with a rare afternoon off, you have no idea what to do with yourself. Boredom, frustration, and excessive screen-time ensue.
What’s a spontaneity-craving planner to do? First, recognize the problem. If someone invites you out for coffee and your first opening is in 3 mos., you’re too tightly scheduled. If you’re changing checkout lines in the grocery store like a NASCAR driver switching lanes, only to have your whole day thrown off when you get stuck behind a senior citizen clutching a fistful of coupons and paying by personal check (doh!!), you’re too tightly scheduled.
Second, make room for spontaneity. By leaving a weekend afternoon open, yes, you risk having nothing to do and being assaulted by bored, whiny kids who resort to tackling each other for entertainment. But you might also find yourself enjoying a beautiful day building an igloo with your neighbors. Huh?
That’s what happened on our street the first day of Daylight Savings. The late-day sun and warmish weather lured everyone outside. Some of the neighbors we hadn’t seen all winter. A couple even had new babies! The kids were playing, the grownups were chatting, and it appeared that maybe, just maybe, spring was finally on its way. Of course, there were still piles of snow everywhere.
Then someone suggested we build an igloo. An igloo? Why not? Our intrepid team leader and the kids got to work – scooping, shoveling, packing the snow. Cardboard boxes were pulled out of the recycling bins to use as brick forms. Soon, the other adults joined in. The igloo began to take shape. Even the littlest kids helped out. A pegboard roof was procured, and an old blanket for the floor. Someone found battery-powered Christmas lights, and my younger son made a flag to stick on top.
The kids were thrilled. They piled in several at a time while the parents took pictures. It’s not every day you find yourself part of an all-ages igloo-building crew. Then one by one, each family made their way home for dinner, everyone tired and wet and happy. And still the late-winter sun shone on, signaling the hope of spring and more spontaneous Sunday afternoon adventures, if only we leave space for them.