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.)
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.)
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.
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.