What would you do if you could?


“Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous.” —Mark Cain

It’s been a week of spontaneity. Walking across the world, participation in a “rescue” to help children caught in the middle of a foreign civil war, planning a missions trip to a remote part of Asia and contact duck-duck-goose.

I couldn’t personally fit all these into my schedule. A couple came into town on a cross-world walking trip, stopping by the newspaper for a quick interview to make it to their bed and breakfast before nightfall.

At the same time I heard about a couple of local college students taking part in a rescue mission in efforts to saved abused children, traveling only by the kindness of strangers to get to their destinations.

And then there’s my very own niece planning a nine-week trip to Kyrgyzstan to work as a missionary this summer.

All this exciting stuff going on and all I managed to fit in was the last item on the list. Duck-duck-goose. And that was a challenge in itself.

Circle games take time and that up-and-down action isn’t as smooth as it once was. So, in light of this and other obstacles, I wasn’t able to throw on a backpack or travel across any distance further than my yard.

If I was looking to place blame, I guess I could lay it on my age, my kids or my needy dog, but I have to wonder—would the absence of any of those factors have made a difference? If I’m being honest, I’d have to say probably not, even though I like to think I would be out there island-hopping or repelling down a mountain.

It’s easy to imagine what you’re not doing. And it’s easy to overstate what you would do, given “the chance.”

I do envy those people who can stuff a backpack and hop on a plane. How incredible, I think, to have no reason to not go. I have my moments of wallowing and feeling sorry for myself. In retrospect, I may not have done the things my 20-something self promised me I would do (like move to a country—any country—where the language was any kind of “twisted” English, i.e. Australia or England) or walk the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve pretended to be English around people I don’t know for my own amusement. I’ve walked an old train track trail. Not as glamorous or exotic, but it’s something.

There’s a blog on “mommy-dom” called The Mommy Revolution. One of the founders wrote an entry called “Oh Sweet Spontaneous,” about the loss of spontaneity once you’re raising a family. She spoke for many of us when she said….

“We try to be spontaneous-ish as a family, but seriously, it’s not the same when ‘spontaneous’ involves three hours of planning, packing food for five, trying to think through every possible crisis that could arise in the next three hours, and making sure nothing conflicts with the increasingly elaborate social life of a 12-year-old girl. As one of my single friends once said as she was watching us prep to leave the house, ‘Wow, all I do is grab my purse.’”

It’s hard, if not borderline impossible, to run out on a whim. (As my kids get a little older, I see that we’re turning a corner and easing into “do-able.”) And as far as that friend who talks of just grabbing her purse, I don’t want to hear it. So don’t let that door hit you on the way out….

But it’s not all circumstance. It’s also attitude.

Take camping for example. The ideal family activity. Fun for everybody with the campfires, fishing, relaxing and exploring. So why is my first thought always how much work it will be to unpack when we get home? The dread of coming home creeps to the forefront before we get one cooler packed.

This is how I have come to think and I suppose deep down I knew this about myself. But I was reminded of it when a last minute suggestion was made to go out of town to have dinner for Mother’s Day.

Instead of jumping at the chance, I hesitated. I hadn’t planned to go out of town. It would take so much more time. I wasn’t dressed for it. It would probably be so crowded.

Seriously—who is this person?

I shut up and went to the restaurant. It was the best time we’ve had in a long time and the best reminder of why being on the mother side of Mother’s Day is the greatest trip I could ever be on.

And what can be said about a spontaneous game of contact duck-duck-goose? It may not hold the same level of excitement as a backpack through Europe—but there were some pretty intense moments.

That kind of Sunday morning was never at the top of my 20-something plans, but that’s the thing about rolling with the punches. One day you could wake up face-to-face with the Australian countryside. Or if you’re really lucky, a couple of giggling little girls with a homemade card.


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