musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

July 14, 2008

The best laid plans or happy accidents?

I had great plans for today, because I got so much done yesterday morning, outdoors. I finally got more seedlings in the ground — not the easiest task for someone with arthritis and fibromyalgia, who’s out of shape, and who’s working in hard, rocky soil. But I paced myself, got a lot done, and I felt good about it afterward.

I was so happy with the result yesterday that I planned to do more of the same today. Then I wakened later than usual, and not in the best mood. I dealt with kitty behavior issues right away, then I went to the store instead of starting work in the yard. Finally I came home to a hot late morning promising an even hotter day. So I canceled my plans to do more spading and planting, and here I sit indoors with the air conditioner on, wondering why that seems to happen so often. Not the hot weather. That’s to be expected this time of year. But I’ve noticed with many other things I do that when I make specific or detailed plans, they often fall through. Not just gardening tasks.

I realize now that even though I fooled myself for years, dutifully planning my work, both on the job and off, I’m really, at heart, not a planner at all. I’ve told my husband time after time how I like to plan things. But truth to tell, I’ve never actually been much for committing to anything. What I was really saying was probably that I didn’t like anyone else to make plans for me that might keep me from finding my happy accidental tasks. I think it’s because plans seem so often to change — and often for the best — that I’ve discovered this. Plans change. So why bother planning? Of course in the workplace that wouldn’t have flown. In any cooperative effort, plans make sense, because we depend so much on others getting their work done on time.

On my own, who needs plans? Maybe it’s something to do with being a generalist, not a specialist. But in a way I’m like this little cat, self-directed and easily distracted — by the right distractions. Those distractions often become momentary passions, obsessions that frequently happen to turn out really well.

Yes, I could tell myself, “Just get out there and do the damned gardening, like you planned.” But then the joy wouldn’t be in the effort, and instead of feeling good about what I accomplish, I’d be dehydrated, overheated, and feel terrible the rest of the day, possibly tomorrow as well. I know better. So I threw some water on the little transplants, and came inside. Maybe tomorrow morning. . . .

Still I wonder. Why do I get the most done when I don’t plan to? When it’s a spur of the moment, “I think I’ll do this right now” kind of thing? That’s what yesterday’s effort was. I woke up, got dressed, and started right in, because that was exactly what I wanted to do that morning, as soon as I woke up. I woke up inspired. This morning I didn’t. At least not with that inspiration, not with the one I expected.

I notice this is especially true with creative work of all kinds, and with learning, where it’s not the weather that changes things, but something unknown. Just when I wouldn’t think I’d even be in the mood for it, I get a whim and do that different thing, whatever it may be, and that’s when I get the most out of it. I seem to be most productive when I haven’t planned anything at all, when I pay heed to momentary flashes of inspiration or that sudden opportunity. Happy accidents and spontaneous productivity. Do you have them? My life seems full of them. They’re what makes me happy.

Here’s the real mystery: I don’t think it’s just about my mood or how I’m feeling, or the weather. It sometimes seems almost more like a synchronous universal dance of some kind. Sometimes all the pieces are in place, inside me and outside of me.

And it’s not just me. I think there are lots of people, like me, who’ve struggled all our lives to conform to a world that likes plans, schedules, rules. So much so that I grew up, and spent thirty years of adult life, thinking I was more comfortable with plans, schedules, and rules. Actually, as a kid, I never felt right about it. As an adult, I bought into it. Had to, to keep a job. But if that’s the way we should live life, how does one explain all those happy accidents by inventors, scientists, and discoverers through the ages? Granted, a certain amount of preparation took place before those historical happy accidents occurred. But many important discoveries in history weren’t planned. Not the way they turned out. Someone happened by chance to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, or paying attention to what turned out to matter most.

Were they in tune with the synchronous dance of the universe?

For some people, I know this doesn’t work. Planning works for them. That’s great, more power to them. We need planners in the world, and maybe that’s their part of the synchronous dance. Someone has to read the music and keep the time. For me, not planning works. It’s about time I realized it.

Instead of gardening today, what will it be? I won’t know until seconds before I start, or perhaps after I’ve already begun.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:10 pm PST, 07/14/08

November 25, 2005

Dust devil or dust angel?

It was a hot, dry, dusty day in the Central Valley of California. Late August or early September. I rode in the camper, while my dad drove, and my mom and younger brother rode up front, in the cab of the truck. I think I was sixteen. We’d spent a few days in the Sierra Nevada. Now we headed home to San Diego County. Dad usually drove south through the valley, but it was too hot today, so we aimed for the coast, hoping for cooler weather there. We looked forward to a bowl of clam chowder in Morro Bay. I think we were somewhere west of Fresno when it happened.

I sat on a sturdy metal cooler with my back against the oven door. From time to time I peered through the cab’s open back window at the road ahead, and talked to my parents and brother. It was a boring drive, with scenery that repeated beige and flat, in unrelenting heat. Irrigated farmland created the only break in the barrenness, with its artificial patchwork of green. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:31 am PST, 11/25/05

Recent Comments