“They need more surprise in their lives,” author Karen Jay Fowler observed about primates in captivity. Isn’t that true for humans, too? The bars on our cages may be invisible, but we tend to live within prescribed, often self-imposed parameters. Happiness gurus ask, “What surprised you today?” Have to think a while before answering? I bet the experts do, too.
I prefer chaos to order; variety to routine. I’m with Einstein, who asked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what are we to think of an empty desk?” My computer desktop looks remarkably like the fake wood one in my office. I don’t mind having to search for a file. I usually discover something more interesting on the way.
I’m an organizer’s nightmare. Each new closet management system I try is an exercise in futility. I get some great idea to group pants, skirts and shirts by color, but in no time a white shirt creeps into the blue section or a purple skirt invades the greys. Then my true nature overcomes the impulse for order: As Rhett Butler said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I don’t need to know where my red jeans are before I open the closet. On my way to those jeans some tan pants may cry, “Pick me!” and I start hunting for my leopard print shirt.
Like stickers that say “I stop for pedestrians,” I stop for a new train of thought. Friends offer tips for staying focused: “I wait until noon to read emails so I don’t get sidetracked from my morning agenda.” Why would I do that? I love to get sidetracked. I open email while sipping my morning coffee. Messages requiring attention get equal time with uninvited messages that spark my curiosity. I click on hyperlinks, fully aware they open up who knows what to explore, like a “Save the whales” plea or a birthday reminder. Off I go, signing a petition, sending an e-card. Then I get to work. The phone rings. It’s a friend. Send it to voicemail? No. “Have a minute?” “Sure. What’s up?”
Guess which car trips I prefer: The “Straight Shot” on monotonous highways, or the “Sauntering Scenic” option – the old road meandering through quaint towns and farmland. When my husband and I had kids in tow, the superhighway reigned. Now speed takes a back seat to serendipity. On the old highway I pick the diner with the most trucks outside or head into town to a mom-and-pop cafe.
During our RV period we discovered mega-centers where long haul drivers could shower, get shoe-shines (was that important?), buy automotive gizmos, Big Men’s T-shirts and artery-clogging snacks, plus real Coke (no wimpy diet stuff). These husky guys could gas up at the pump and at the snack bar. Dining with kings of the road vs. highway franchise fare? I prefer a waitress and a printed menu to picking numbers posted above fast-food cashiers (they must repeat “Do you want cheese on that?” in their dreams). At truckers’ hot meal havens only 80% of the entrees were fried, and they came with vegetables (overcooked to perfection), plus the standard salad bar with a tantalizing array of iceberg lettuce, pickled beets, shredded carrots, black olives, and macaroni salad under the mandatory sneeze shield.
I didn’t plan my career, it just happened. And I flunked family planning, giving birth twice in 14 months and again 9 years later. When those kids were grown, I jumped at the chance to move across country for a job I accepted in a “blink” moment. (I told you I prefer something new to the tried and true).
“Who loads a dishwasher like this? The rows are there for a reason,” my daughter exclaimed. When I put something in the dishwasher I use a “space available” approach. My dishes don’t care whether they sit in straight rows while being doused with sudsy water, rinsed and dried. Why should I?
Years ago my teenage son announced, “I’ll put the dishes away but I’m not sorting the silverware” as he tossed knives, forks and spoons in the drawer, ignoring their designated spaces. That little act of rebellion seemed reasonable in our over-regimented lives.
Schedules stifle my creativity. My office assistant had to yank me from deep concentration for staff meetings (yawn) or Power Point presentations (oh great, I can see what you’re saying). Now, working from home, I welcome the luxury of unlimited flextime.
I show up on time for appointments. Otherwise, I let each day unfold, following no particular pattern. Who knows? Something might surprise and delight me so I’ll have a ready answer to those gurus, and an added measure of happiness as well. Oh wait, a chipmunk’s outside! Where’s my camera?