Earlier this week, I was complaining to my therapist about how I wanted more spontaneity in my life. I remarked how I felt over planned and over scheduled as of late.
My mind is quite skilled at visualizing a possible future, trying to optimize for how my scarce time will be used and trying to determine what I will want in the future. Planning is a way to feel some control over my future. It feels safe but is a false sense of comfort, as I know cognitively that my future is unknown, even to me.
I slept in yesterday, a rare occurrence for me. I don’t know that I have ever planned to sleep in. It is more common for me to plan to meditate, journal, exercise and take care of my body in an active way in the morning. Despite all of my mindfulness practices being good for me, I felt so great after having slept in that the feeling felt unfamiliar to me for that time of the day. I usually feel a bit groggy and tired by mid morning. I welcomed the spontaneity of sleeping in.
As I was making breakfast for myself, I listened to voice memos friends had left for me the previous day. I prefer the richness of voice memos to stale text messages, as in hearing someone’s voice, I can hear their emotional state, how the tone of their voice fluctuates for emphasis and the background noises from their immediate environment. It is an invitation to step into their world for just a few minutes.
The message one friend left me made me laugh out loud, several times. It was a short message and I felt myself desiring more. I instinctively called her without knowing what I would say. She answered with ‘is everything ok?’, a common response when someone calls without warning these days. I shared my appreciation for her message. She asked me what I was doing, I told her I was making breakfast and invited her to join me. Surprisingly, she said ‘yes’, and given she lives down the street, a few minutes later was here.
We enjoyed breakfast sitting on my balcony, overlooking the ocean, while we watched another beautiful summer day in Portugal unfold. I noticed how when I woke up this morning, I had no idea that this is what my morning would look like.
Once she left, I jumped into the shower and heard the doorbell ring. I thought it was odd as there are normally no deliveries on a Saturday. I saw in the security monitor for my building who it was, and buzzed him into the building.
As fast as I could, I dried off and dressed myself, and then opened the door to my apartment to greet my friend. After we exchanged a hug, he commented ‘it’s quiet today here, where is everyone?’. To which I responded, ‘they will all be here…next Saturday’.
I have been hosting gatherings that involve a morning hike in the nearby mountains followed by lunch at my apartment. About 30 friends typically show up. My friend has mistaken the date and showed up a week early, to his surprise and mine.
We sat down, once again on my balcony, and ate some grapes and caught up properly. I appreciated the intimacy of being able to connect in this way, unexpectedly, and to not be distracted by hosting a large group of friends.
Our conversation was cut short though, as I told him we had to go somewhere. He played along and tagged along with my plans. I had plans to surprise a friend and his partner, who had recently moved nearby into a new house.
We drove over, rang the doorbell and surprised them. They were not expecting us at all. A few other friends had joined in and we all had an impromptu housewarming celebration together.
The couple’s place was a complete mess. They had just moved in a few days prior, boxes everywhere and stuff from the previous owner still around. The couple shared they were not planning to invite us over until they had unpacked and settled in.
I remarked how this was a common pattern that I definitely am a victim to. An expectation that everything needs to be clean, tidy and presentable to my outside world. A desire to give the appearance of perfection, for fear of not being accepted or of being judged.
The experience was a gentle reminder that we can all be accepted for who we are, and how we are, in every moment, without judgment and without expectation that we need to be manicured and curated in a certain way.
We then had lunch at a nearby restaurant, and went to the beach, all of which was a lot of fun on a sunny and hot afternoon. Then my phone rang, a different friend calling, which I answered instinctively with ‘is everything okay?’. We both laughed
He shared that he was biking in the nearby mountains and asked if I wanted to have dinner. I said yes, and without any idea of what time it was, I asked him to come to my place.
As I walked back to my apartment, I realized I had no food. When I woke up in the morning, I had planned to get groceries however with the many unexpected visitors, that did not happen. Unconcerned, I told myself, ‘we’ll figure something out’. Another reminder for me that I did not need to over plan every detail of every moment.
I jumped into the shower, and similar to earlier in the day, the doorbell rang.
The impromptu dinner was wonderful. This was a friend that although I had connected with several times, it had always been in a group environment, and the intimacy of only the two of us, paired with the comfort and privacy of my own home, invited a depth to the conversation and a vulnerability that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The day reminded me about the beauty that exists in surrendering control. I am never really in control but often have a strong desire to feel that I might be and to believe that I know what will happen. It feels comfortable to know and uncomfortable to not know.
Spontaneity felt so good and upon deeper reflection, I realized that it involved having no expectations. And having no expectations is a recipe for joy.
Spontaneity is also the antidote to overthinking.
For me, the recipe for spontaneity includes a quality of openness to invite in the unknown. A quality of acceptance with the reality that I may not be the most productive or efficient. And a quality of humility to acknowledge that I will not be in control.
The equation of spontaneity equals appreciation. And appreciation is an immensely powerful feeling that helps me move through my days with grace.
I went to sleep last night with a smile on my face, as I reflected on the day. Feeling gratitude and appreciation for the many spontaneous moments that unfolded with friends. I then began to wonder what I might complain to my therapist about next week.