To plan or not to plan, that is the question. When I fill in my calendar with events, meetings, obligations, and activities I feel a sense of importance and urgency. I find myself prioritizing and making difficult scheduling decisions. Can I possibly squeeze in a yoga class there? Would that be enough time to meet my friend for coffee? What time will I have to wake up to make sure I get that 5 mile run in? It feels a lot like putting together a puzzle; fitting together the people, places, and things that help define who I am. It is always amazing to me how much I can do when I take the time to plan out my week. I like having a reason to get up early in the morning and I like feeling tired at the end of a long day. Those are some of the pros to scheduling.

Unfortunately, when every day is filled up and I always have somewhere to be, I find myself having to say no to many spontaneous activities and opportunities. I sometimes feel stuck in the plans I have made and then I do not enjoy myself fully. I might be wishing I was somewhere else, or with someone else. I miss out on some of life’s biggest and best surprises. Also, with little to no down time, I find it harder to justify sleeping in, wearing pajamas all day, or even going for a long walk. There is joy in simple relaxation and availability. I suppose it comes back to balance. The balance between plans and spontaneity, productivity and laziness, society and solitude, adventure and comfort.

I encountered this need for balance recently when my life went from 5 mph to 60 mph in less than a week’s time. For months I was unemployed, unencumbered, and unplanned. There was so little for me to do that there was no need to schedule anything at all. I woke up every day and said yes to every opportunity that arose. If someone wanted to have lunch, sure, I could do that. If it was a sunny day then I might decide to drive out to Mt. Hood National Forest and go for a hike. Heck, I could even decide to do a spontaneous backpacking trip if I wanted. It probably sounds great to most, but I was bored and I longed for structure and plans. Everything changed when I got hired at my new job a couple weeks ago. Now, with limited availability, I can’t do everything and be everywhere. I have to make choices about how I want to spend my precious time. And so I have begun to plan. This is something I can spend hours doing. Looking up events, activities, etc. and then plugging them into my calendar. Calling friends and scheduling time to get together. “I can do Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, or between noon and 3 on Sunday.” Even penciling in chores and phone calls: “Vacuum Thursday morning after yoga and before work.”

It did not take long to recognize that by eliminating spontaneity, I was eliminating a major source of joy and comfort. I want to be free to take advantage of nice weather, to say yes to a friend who is going on an adventure, and to feel peace when I decide to spend 5 hours immersed in a good book instead of always going places and doing things. Recognition of limitations is really as far as I have come in my own planning experience. I hope to find a healthy balance between making plans (so that I get to do the things that matter to me) and having a flexible, open schedule (so that I can take advantage of opportunities as they arise).

Today I read a book by Anne Lamott called Imperfect Birdsย and I came across two different quotes that stood out to me. In their own way, they each relate perfectly to this topic. The first is from the poet Rilke. He says, “I know there is room in me for a huge and timeless life.” Wow. This gives me hope and reminds me that the time I have is sufficient for everything I need and want to do. Later in the book a character states, “There is wilderness inside you, and a banquet. Both.” Life cannot be all banquet or all wilderness. I must leave room for the different parts of me, and patiently learn how to embrace all of my needs.