Suffering Spontaneity

Being spontaneous is highly overrated in my book. I mean how likely is it that something splendid is going to result from acting on a momentary impulse? Although I was never a Girl Scout, I adhere to the motto, “Be prepared,”i.e., plan ahead. That outlook is simply antithetical to spontaneity.

Perhaps being a planner is the result of how I was raised. My mother often told me that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Even though opposites are supposed to attract, my father was a planner as well as my mother. I can remember being on family vacations where Dad would ask me to write down our lunch order for McDonald’s while we were on the interstate miles away from our intended meal destination. Heaven forbid we get there and–GASP–have to make a decision at the counter.

My lack of spontaneity is the reason I am positive that God has a sense of humor. He made sure that I am in a job–I’m an adoption attorney–where I often have to do things on the spur of the moment. Of course, the impulse that spurs me to act then is not an internal one; it is the result of someone else failing to plan or babies, rather than adults, controlling the agenda. I frequently joke that I have to fly by the seat of my pants at the office even though I am typically wearing a dress.

My late mother-in-law was a woman who would definitely be classified as a spontaneous person. I have heard stories about how she would sometimes pick up her kids from school on a Friday afternoon with the car packed and announce that they were headed to a beach hours away for the weekend. What fun! As a planner, that situation would make my skin crawl.

While spontaneous people will no doubt urge me to loosen up and live more for the joy in the moment, I firmly believe that the spontaneous ones are the ones missing out on the real joy. If I plan something in advance, I get to savor the anticipation of the upcoming event for day, weeks, or even months in advance. Spontaneous joy lasts but a short while, but the planner’s anticipation goes on for a long time.

Each time I have taken a trip to some exciting vacation spot, I have bought a Fodor’s or similar book about that particular location way in advance of my departure date. Not only did I read about the history of the destination and learn its basic geography, but I checked out what restaurants, museums, attractions, etc. I wanted to visit while there. In some instances, I’d already decided before I even packed my suitcase what special dish I would order at the restaurant I had selected.. Yup! I savored that salmon crepe in my mind at the restaurant of my choice at Pike Place Market in Seattle long prior to heading to the airport to travel to the West Coast from Florida.

There are some rare instances where spontaneity has worked well for me. If you have read to this point in my blog post, you are experiencing a spontaneous event in my life. Typically when I write, there is a gestation period between the conception of my creative baby and its birth. I may take days to jot down notes about points I want to include, do research to find interesting tidbits or pictures to include in a blog post, etc. But today–drum roll, please–I was totally spontaneous. I had a creative spark to write about spontaneity and then did what the concept implies–acted on that momentary impulse. I sat down and wrote off the top of my head. There was no meditation on the idea, research on information to include, or sleeping on it and reviewing what I wrote tomorrow. I just did it.

So? What do I conclude after acting spontaneously today? I will not be placing “Be spontaneous” on my to do list. Been there, done that, don’t feel compelled to do it again. I’m a planner, and being one is more likely to make me a happy camper than being spontaneous. I’ll take pleasure in planning rather than suffering at trying to be spontaneous.


One thought on “Suffering Spontaneity

  1. Hey Alice – this is Clare! How about planned spontaneity — I’m going on an African safari in 10 days! Going to Tanzania and then Victoria Falls Zimbabwe! Live a little Girl! (I have been planning this since January and me and a companion are going on an escorted tour so THEY get to do the planning!) Love you!


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