Recently my friend, Laura, dropped by to say Hi and asked how I was doing. My first response was to say I was doing great—but then I started talking about a big change in my life and the conversation went downhill.
The big change? My grandson is entering kindergarten. The heart wrenching reality is, to a great extent, this marks the end of my beloved “Nana Days”.
I began Nana Days in August 2011 when my granddaughter was two years old. I would pick her up before breakfast and return her after dinner. We would spend the day laughing and going on adventures.
In 2014, when my granddaughter started kindergarten, I began “Nana Afternoons” and would pick her up at 2:30. But Nana Afternoons can be a bit rushed and hectic—drive to my house; play; do homework; have dinner; and take her back her home by 7 or 7:30. Whew!
It was during that time I began having Nana Days with my grandson. And now….. he is beginning kindergarten and the opportunities for my 10+ hour Nana Days will be greatly reduced.
As I shared these thoughts with Laura, my words came pouring out—stumbling all over each other—in rapid fire fashion……
When would I see my grandson and my granddaughter and how would I handle Nana Afternoons and would there be times for sleepovers and I feel like I am at another crossroad and what do I want to do with my life and should I volunteer and or should I do more at my church and then there is this Bible study class I want to take but should I try to make time to feed the homeless and I want to write a book but maybe I should volunteer at the hospital as I used to be a nurse and should I try on-line dating and I want to make new friends and I need to find quiet time with God and when will I exercise and I work two days a week and when will I fit this all in and and and and bla bla bla …… aaughghghghghg….
I could sense panicky feelings rising inside of me.
She laughed and put her hand on my arm and said very kindly “Janet, you have to quit trying to plan this all out. You need to learn to be spontaneous.”
I will confess her remark stopped me in my verbal tracks.
I do not have a spontaneous bone in my body.
A long time ago—in a galaxy far far away—I used to be spontaneous. I used to even be a bit flighty. But then I got married.
And for 35+ years I dealt with living with a man who was on call every 2nd night then every 3rd night and every 4th night for years—and he worked many weekends. And later, he spent two years going to school every other weekend to get a Master’s degree.
Everything—and I mean everything—revolved around his call/work schedule. We would literally plan a dinner out with friends two months in advance. And, as we had out of town family, holidays got divided up months in advance so our parents could make plans with our siblings.
And now my friend is telling me I need to let go of planning and being in control and I need to learn how to be spontaneous.
The thought crossed my mind—I don’t know how to do that.
Frankly, I don’t think many of my friends do either. Most of them act like they are gerbils running around and around in a gerbil wheel—when asked how they are doing, they respond “I’m so busy”. It seems they do not have enough time in a day to get all the important things done—much less time to be spontaneous.
As I have pondered this, I am beginning to suspect being spontaneous means more than taking random unplanned weekend trips or deciding to order a BLT with fries instead of (my) healthy salmon salad with a side of fruit. I think being spontaneous is more a state of mind where you allow yourself to do something—large or small—that you would not ordinally do.
That actually happened to me a year ago….. and it left a huge imprint on me.
I was eating lunch at a local sandwich shop after church—sitting there minding my own business and reading my Sunday School lesson when an attractive and extremely well dressed (as in gray suit and red handkerchief in his suit breast pocket) man walked over to my table. He held in his hand a glass of water and the stanchion you put on your table with your order number.
He glanced down at my Bible and noticed that I have tabs on the side which list where each book of the Bible begins. Seeing them, he smiled at me and said “Oh, I see your Bible has training wheels”.
I was somewhat taken aback but said no those are not training wheels and I taught Sunday School and then he asked some questions and I tried to politely answer them and go back to my reading but he kept standing there holding his cup and stanchion and kept talking and I finally realized he was waiting for me to ask him to sit down.
Aughghghgh—I have never ever in my life asked a stranger to sit with me and I had this hour planned out—I was going to read the newspaper on my iPad but I could not figure out a polite way to tell him to get lost and go away…… so I finally asked him would he like to join me and he smiled and said yes.
You know how people talk about out of body experiences—where they feel like they are looking down and observing themselves? Well, for the next hour that is how I felt.
He was very nice and polite and had a great sense of humor but he kept throwing me off balance. The conversation would be truly humorous and then he would make remarks that were unbelievingly insightful and touching. At one point, I tried to be a bit flip in response to something he said to me and he simply sat back, looked at me and said in a gentle voice “Sarcasm does not become you.”
Whoa…..What? Did this stranger just say that to me? And yet, he nailed my response.
Long story short…. We chatted for an hour… I said my goodbyes and I have never seen him since.
As I have wrestled with what being spontaneous means…… that “spontaneous” lunch keeps coming to my mind. The truth is…… my saying yes to his sitting there was truly out of character for me—it was not in my plans nor was the next hour anything I controlled—I was simply being open to a new and unexpected experience.
Laura, in her wisdom, told me not to fill up every hour in my calendar but instead, to leave blank spaces so that I could say an unexpected yes.
But I think it is more than that—we need to leave open spaces in our hearts too.
Perhaps that is the key—in our quest to get things done—to be busy and live a full life—to fit it all in—we miss something by not being available –both physically and emotionally. If we try to map out our entire life—if we keep filling up all the hours with our “to-do” list and our “I-have-to-be-at-this-place-now” list, we might miss an opportunity…..
Or….. we might miss something or someone standing in front of us.
I keep going back to a remark made by my lunch friend—regarding the importance of “being intentional”. He said one cannot just let things go by or assume things will fall into place—if you want something you need to be intentional about it…. Whether it is something you need to say or something you need to do.
As I enter this new season and begin a new path in my life, I am determined to be (and I understand the irony of combining these two words) – Intentionally Spontaneous.
How about you, dear reader, would you care to join me on this journey? And what would it take for you to do so?