The re­lief of not plan­ning

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

“You don’t seem to plan much any­more.”

These words from my sis­ter stopped me cold. I’d begged off mak­ing de­ci­sions about an up­com­ing hol­i­day — and an up­com­ing week­end. Like so many oc­ca­sions lately, I dis­miss them with a wave of the hand and a vague “we’ll see.” I thought noth­ing of it at the time, but . . . was she right? Was she? I thought about it that af­ter­noon, that night, into next morn­ing . . . and yes, I think it’s true. The old plan­ner Meg — ob­sessed with cal­en­dars, con­stantly look­ing ahead to the next birth­day, hol­i­day, fam­ily event — has leaned back in her easy chair, let her hair down and taken a si­esta. Or some­thing like that. It’s all thanks to par­ent­hood, of course. One of my ear­li­est lessons as a new mom was to for­get per­fec­tion, per­snick­ety sched­ules and my ob­ses­sion with punc­tu­al­ity . . . be­cause it will only lead to tor­ment. Though I make ev­ery ef­fort to ar­rive ev­ery­where “on time,” there are days my tod­dler just con­spires against me. Usu­ally by de­cid­ing it’s a naked day, whereby all cloth­ing is chucked be­hind the couch.

If you’ve never tried to out­run a di­a­per-clad child hell­bent on get­ting up­stairs be­fore you can wres­tle him out to the fam­ily car, hey — it’s pretty ex­cit­ing. And you can to­tally skip the gym.

Back in my stu­dent days, I thrived on rou­tine. Hav­ing col­lege classes di­vided into 50- or 75-minute chunks meant my days were easy to man­age. I’m all about ef­fi­ciency. I quickly dis­cov­ered the best times to hit the over­crowded stu­dent union, ar­rang­ing my af­ter­noon around when I was most likely to get a seat to scarf down my Chick-Fil-A sand­wich be­fore head­ing up­stairs to nap — um, read, I mean — in the com­muter lounge.

Some of those naps were, in fact, built into my sched­ule. If it seems bizarre or even dan­ger­ous to sleep in a pub­lic place where any­one could come along and pluck that re­main­ing $9 from your wal­let, you’re right. But we looked out for each other. The tired 20-some­thing com­muters with no other place to crash on cam­pus would gather in chair cir­cles to draft notes, read or snooze.

This was 2005, friends — a world pre-smart­phone. I’d imag­ine to­day that the com­muter lounge is noth­ing but sweat­pant-clad kids with their faces buried in In­sta­gram. But back then? We all word­lessly watched out for each other, tak­ing turns “just clos­ing our eyes” be­fore our cell phone alarms jarred us awake . . . just in time to walk a mile to our next class. I miss those days, re­ally. Af­ter col­lege, my rou­tines be­came even more pre­dictable. I knew I could get up around 6:30 a.m., grab break­fast and cof­fee and watch “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” un­til 7:18 (the end of the daily weather seg­ment, in­ci­den­tally), at which point I would shower and get dressed for the day — a 25-minute process — be­fore leav­ing our apart­ment at 7:55 for my short com­mute.

That prob­a­bly sounds ridicu­lous and OCD, and I get that. But it’s a tes­ta­ment to my strange­ness that, even two years later, I can re­cite that rou­tine by heart. It was de­vel­oped for its ef­fi­ciency, you see — even down to pay­ing at­ten­tion to how long my typ­i­cal makeup rou­tine takes. It took a while to de­cide the best or­der in which to do ev­ery­thing (ap­ply con­cealer, blush, lip balm, eye­liner, then blow dry hair — and end with mas­cara). I still loosely fol­low this, but the sched­ule is of­ten in­ter­rupted by Oliver howl­ing from his crib, open­ing all my cab­i­net draw­ers or try­ing to climb into the tub.

When we’re home, my hus­band and I are on Oliver Time. OT does not care if you’re run­ning late to a fam­ily gath­er­ing or im­por­tant meet­ing or doc­tor’s ap­point­ment. OT also does not care if you’re stressed be­yond mea­sure, in des­per­ate need of a shower or want to ac­tu­ally eat your now-de­cep­tively-named Hot Pocket.

As a tod­dler, it’s Oliver’s pre­rog­a­tive to look adorable while caus­ing un­told mis­chief. How my rou­tines are now ac­com­plished is en­tirely de­pen­dent on OT, and that — like so much in life — is un­pre­dictable. So no sense wor­ry­ing about it.

I cut my­self some slack, build in some lee­way. At the risk of ir­ri­tat­ing oth­ers, I keep plans loose. I’ve stopped sched­ul­ing ev­ery mo­ment of ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day. I don’t know how I’m go­ing to feel, for one — or how Spencer or Oliver will feel, ei­ther. Switch­ing this up al­lows for spon­tane­ity . . . some­thing I never, ever thought I’d say.

Sure, I still keep up with my cal­en­dar. I’m an adult, and record­ing ap­point­ments and in­ter­views and get-to­geth­ers is just part of adult­ing. (Also, doc­tors charge no-show fees, so.)

But I’m hap­pier now. There’s room for a lit­tle im­pul­sive­ness, which has al­ways been a gripe of my hus­band’s. It’s true that I was both an ar­dent sched­ule-keeper and a home­body, but now? Well, some­times I like to ac­tu­ally get out and about. Plus, run­ning er­rands as a fam­ily means Oliver is 900 per­cent more likely to take a much-needed nap in the car.

And let’s face it: that’s what re­ally mat­ters here.

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