Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Plan to be Spontaneous

It was Thursday morning and we had both just recently awakened when I started a conversation with my wife that challenged us both and changed the course of our next two days. Due to Dayton's snow hangover, she was on her fourth day off work and I had scheduled myself to take a day away from home to find refreshment after a hectic start to the new semester. That's when we realized that our approaches to free time might actually be counter-productive and in need of evaluation.

It should be noted that the two of us are very different people. Sometimes it's quite humorous, our differences, and sometimes incredibly frustrating...on both our ends. She tends to approach life in a "let's get things done" mentality, where checklists and strategic planning are best friends. Meanwhile, I wouldn't call myself flighty, but I do enjoy the back roads of life and don't mind a good detour if it brings refreshment or helps me cross paths with something interesting. On the contrary, sometimes I seek these outlets. In our conversation, our differences were never more evident. I guess both approaches have their upsides and downsides, and I'm very thankful that she is an "on point" person most of the time. It definitely makes it easier in my worst "head-in-the-clouds" moments.

But Thursday morning we noticed that our recent approaches to life were quite mechanical, and in many ways, compartmentalized...likely a byproduct of our daily attempts to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of each day in order to keep up with the hectic pace that in many ways we have created.

After a long conversation and a decision to put off our "free day" plans until Friday, it was concluded that we needed to try to be somewhat spontaneous with our time, as paradoxical as that sounds. Plans were not totally outlawed, but if anything, we needed to plan to be spontaneous. We wouldn't simply drive to the city, make our scheduled stops for supplies, kill ourselves to be productive and turn around and come back with a completed checklist and exhausted hearts. This trip we would allow for some adventure, some rabbit-trails, some venturing away from the norm. And we did.

We walked in a mall. We looked around stores. We bought cheese and tea. We talked and drove. We slipped across the ice and snow-covered Walnut Street Bridge in freezing temperatures, and when we got to the other side, we got ice cream and coffee at a little shop. The details aren't really important though, because it was an experience that wasn't a sum of its products but rather something much more intangible. And somehow letting go of control for a day was a lot less threatening than you would think.

If each life were a photo album to be viewed surely what you would see would be a lot of haphazard shots, seemingly random moments, interspersed with the occasional "staged" photos that lend order to an otherwise chaotic world. What we noticed Thursday morning was that most of what we saw from our own photo album of memories was a lot of canned group shots spread out over large tracks of time with a lot of nothing in between. There was no doubt that the "in betweens" had happened, but there was little to verify their existence. So "Adventure Day I" was born and will likely have many sequels.

Sometimes life needs to come to you, and you need to just let it happen or you're going to die. At times, you've got to wipe the slate clean of all expectations, take a deep breath, turn off the phone and see what is happening around you without checklists and plans hovering over your shoulder demanding productivity. At least that's what I came away with Friday.

What we need is to allow the unexpected to happen, even walk straight into its path, and potentially let it take our breath away.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

19 Thoughts from Thursday

Of late, I have become acutely aware of the vast amount of processing that takes place in my head on a day-to-day basis. Though much of what happens is less than mind-boggling, there are the occasional "earth-shakers" that cause me to either momentarily forget about the world around me or find the nearest diversion to derail my train of thought so that I can mentally find my happy place of numbness.

Not surprisingly, I've realized that I rarely take the time to jot these thoughts down, much less actually work through them. So, as a therapeutic and cathartic exercise, here are some thoughts from today.

  1. Why do I typically apply more deodorant to my right underarm than my left when I am right-handed?
  2. Does anyone really believe the recorded message that says that their call is important when they are on hold?
  3. Why do I seem more apt to journal in cold weather months?
  4. Is a 24-minute 5K unreasonable for me?
  5. At age 32, am I cooler than my parents were at the same age or did they think the same thing about their parents?
  6. When we have dinner guests over, why do we feel obligated to put out spoons and knives at meals that don't require them?
  7. How well can a person truly know themselves?
  8. What was God thinking when he made the world with less sunshine at different times of the year?
  9. If I lived a more transparent life would it change those I come in contact with or simply repulse the majority?
  10.  Is it possible to purposely pursue spontaneity?
  11.  Who took my copies of "21" and "Rocky 3" and why did it take me so long to notice that they were missing?
  12.  How can something so vital to healthy living become so loathed in seemingly no time at all?
  13. Am I thinking about Heaven, and if so, am I thinking about it terms of "being safe" or in terms of "being fulfilled"?
  14. Am I a magnet for odd people?
  15. Am I one of those odd people?
  16. Would MLK approve of his holiday, both in its focus and how that focus plays out in American culture?
  17. Why does no one seem to notice that saying "I could care less" is not usually getting across the point they are trying to make?
  18. If it's true that fashion runs in cycles, could parachute pants be the exemption to the rule?
  19. Is it possible to understand this life and who God is apart from how I interpret my life experiences, or put another way, is what I believe about God true or simply what is easiest and most comfortable for me to accept?