“Have you ever had a picture in your mind of how something would go and you got frustrated when it didn’t turn out like the picture?” I asked as we were packing up the Lego in his room together.
“No, that’s a stupid thing to do.” He replied, barely looking up from scooping pieces into the tub.
I bit my tongue to prevent the irony from spilling out. Aside from severe over-tiredness, pretty much every meltdown of his has sprung from this exact scenario…Another time, perhaps.
I was actually talking to myself more than anything. The night hadn’t quite gone as I had hoped. My grand plans of celebrating Hudson’s first day of Kinder had completely fallen apart as the boy in question had awoken tearfully from an unexpected nap brought on by exhaustion.
The tears failed to abate for the next few hours, a state utterly out of character for the usually happy, cheeky boy. Eli’s post-school jitters arrived in force at the table, as he is suddenly seemingly unable to sit still for more than a few seconds at a time – leaping out of his chair after every mouthful to swing between couches or wriggle through the living room. Instructions were repeatedly ignored – despite being reiterated in an increasingly severe tone – and the special dessert that I had baked lay forgotten on the bench amidst the chaos. The crescendo of the night appeared when Eli angrily flicked his fork in my direction, splattering bolognese sauce on me in the process. I flamed, Dave advised me to ‘calm down’ which, of course, had the opposite effect. A bitter, angry silence ensued – the only one to remain immune was a bemused Ivy who continued to take measured mouthfuls while watching the show. Far from the meaningful night I had pictured and planned for, it was instead one that left us all weary and a little ashamed.
February is ‘planning month’ in my Year of Discovery. If anything, the experience above shows that maybe I need to dial it down a little. If something can be planned in my life, it will be – written with dedication into my Bullet Journal, carefully checked off or graduated to the next day’s entry if it remains incomplete. I’m the Queen of Lists – to-do lists, meal plans, columns of books to read, instagram prompts to fulfil… I have a plan for school pick-up, a routine for week days, a chalkboard for writing down meals and another for recording the events of the week. Trust me, if you could reach a Nirvana through planning, I think I would have arrived by now.
My problem, it would seem, is going with the flow. Holding plans loosely so that the inexplicable failure of the picture to materialise doesn’t become something to mourn, something to obsess over.
I realise that not everyone shares my inclinations. For some, planning could provide a helpful element of establishing much needed order and direction. And, I should admit, planning has often been my secret weapon in hospitality – allowing me to throw large parties with limited stress as each component is broken down into manageable pieces to be completed in the weeks prior. I don’t intend to uncharacteristically abandon the process altogether, but to allow it to continue to reign unquestioned is another matter indeed.
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dave and I had the opportunity to escape for a night over the weekend. A wedding in Ballarat meant that we had to organise sleepovers for each of the kids and we relished the time away together. The Bride and Groom were not known for their planning prowess, yet the overwhelming atmosphere of the wedding was one of relaxed welcome – with all the festivities being held at the Groom’s parent’s rural property. Dave conducted the ceremony effortlessly, ensuring the tone reflected the laid-back nature of the two getting married. White lanterns were scattered amongst the trees, guests mingled and laughed in the warm afternoon sun, and we celebrated true love together deep into the moonlight. Speeches were short and sweet, formalities all but abandoned and there wasn’t a bomboniere or place card in sight. I couldn’t help but think how intoxicating this vibe was – and how it allowed such deep, reflective conversation throughout the evening. It was one of those nights where each interaction lingered, secrets shared and hardships tearfully unveiled. We drifted off to sleep that night in our cosy, wooden cabin with smiles of appreciation for good company.
The next morning, after a leisurely sleep in, we abandoned plans formed by reading online reviews to visit quaint cafe, Ballarista, that we happened upon. We settled into the aubergine booth seats, carefully sliding out chiselled oriental chess pieces from hidden drawers and challenged each other to a match. By the time we had returned home to pick up our children from their time with respective grandparents, we felt positively relaxed and recharged.
Planning may not entirely be the devious character I cast it as, but my choice to clutch desperately at the straws I have carefully arranged surely doesn’t add to my experience of a rewarding life.
Today, I have set myself the intention of ‘presence’. I have no fixed plans apart from ferrying Eli to and from school. As for the rest of us, we are relishing the slow pace – reading books, colouring, painting, drinking honey and lemon tea. So far it has been divine, and the perfect antidote to the niggling sore throat that Hudson and I seem to have developed overnight.
It is unlikely, given my Type 1 nature, that I will truly drift far from the default setting of being a ‘planner’, but I’m attempting to let go a little more – taking deeper breaths, really seeing the little moments and stressing less about constantly creating order out of chaos. A little bit of chaos just might be good for the soul.
Are you a planner or a responder? Do you live by lists or despise them? I would love to hear about your experience and what has worked for you!