Friday Sky Day, no. 3

I am a preparer.

Not a planner. Plans suggest that we have control. Planning fixes the future in place with best intentions. But I believe the best plans are almost always laid to waste — at the very least nibbled away at the corners, sometimes gutted from the inside out.

Preparation is the best we can do. We can learn and teach, assemble and arrange, train and organize, take inventory, calculate odds, push ourselves forward, trust and hope. Then add a heaping cup of Life and shake vigorously.

One of the first real arguments I had with my father was about the nature of spontaneity. He asserted, you cannot prepare for spontaneity. I vehemently insisted that you can be more spontaneous if you are prepared for the moment. (I was 12, and pretty sure I had life sorted out.)

hwy 20 roadside

I still don’t know who was right. But, thanks to the late David Rakoff and his book Half Empty, I have a nice label for the way my preparer brain works — I am a contingency thinker.

Yes, I am beleaguered by the What-ifs. I am a cursed Cassandra, able to see the future and unable to do anything to change it. But I am also an excellent process thinker and decent project manager. I’m really good at listening to your vision and helping you find a path forward, through the stones and around the flash flood zones, straight on toward whatever lights you up. I’ve been known to throw obstacles in my own path, but I’m great at helping you remove yours.

I bounce back from calamity with fortitude and resolve, because I’m not surprised that things fall apart. With a grim cheeriness, I acknowledge that the center does not hold. (Except when I’m clutching the pieces, grasping at falling shards, insisting I can hold it all together. But that never works for long.)

lawen store

All of this brings me to Monday morning, early. Barely awake, I was pulling apple sauce and bread from the refrigerator, and my daughter’s lunch box from the cupboard, when my spouse said, “You remember it’s President’s Day. There’s no school.”

Crap. CRAP. What are we going to do all day? I wasn’t prepared for this. A Kipper marathon loomed bleakly on the horizon. Endless Candyland. And then a little, crazy, totally impractical idea wiggled across my mind.

I started swatting at that idea with every contingency I had — no way, we don’t, I can’t, what if … and then I stopped. I stopped myself right there, and I held myself to my own bendable-life promises. The ones I made when we closed up shop on our old life and called do-over: Fear less. Follow through on good ideas. Jump in and see what happens. Trust adventure. Trust yourself.

Hwy 20 toward home

Forty-five minutes later, the kid and I were in a car haphazardly stuffed with snacks, swimming suits, pajamas, and audio books — heading east on Highway 20. It turns out, we had everything we needed, and then some.

Happy Friday Sky Day, everybody. Go find the horizon. Jump in.

hot springs

2 thoughts on “Friday Sky Day, no. 3

  1. Anothjer excellent post. Amy, your writing thrills me to the bone.

    Comments: as the owner-operator of a lightshow company in the 60s called Spontanuity Lights, I think my position on spontaneity might actually be a bit more nuanced than suggested above. My argument for naming our endeavor that way was that, as an artist, the only way we could authentically respond in the moment at a rock concert, not knowing what might happen (since musicians are notorious for not letting light show people know what to expect), we could only prepare an array of images and effects that had some kind of universal continuity, so that we could be spontaneous in using that inventory: thus, Spontanuity.
    Spontaneity itself is, by definition, a lack of prepared response, but as you suggest, being prepared remains an essential part of living intelligently and well, and artistically.
    So we agree.
    From your Dad, the ex-museum Preparator

    • Dad, in an earlier draft of this post, I talked about the fact that around the time of our debate, you were a museum preparator. Maybe That’s the right label for me, with my thinking patterns.

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