Monday, October 26, 2009

Just Plan on Being Stressed Out! by Jamie

I’ve always been a “planner.” Before I picked up and moved to Alaska the summer after I graduated college, I subscribed to the Anchorage Daily News for a month, scouted out places to live and jobs to pursue, and even introduced myself to a few eligible Alaskan men.

All of my subsequent adventure travel trips were well-plotted out, too. Before I took off around the globe, I did tons of research, mapped out my destinations in each country, made lists of things I needed to take care of—and pack—weeks before I departed, and left nothing to chance.

My foray into single motherhood was highly planned as well, and when I successfully became pregnant, I had 40 weeks to ready myself for being a mom. I moved my life and my belongings from NYC to Long Island, read dozens of “what to expect” books, organized my room and my baby’s, lined up a daycare facility, prepared my co-workers for my maternity leave, and did everything a person can possibly do to “be ready” for motherhood.

But can you ever really prepare to be a parent? And what happens when the stability you think you’ve created in your life unexpectedly falls apart? What if your job of a decade is eliminated, and the money you’ve counted on, and the career you’ve focused on for over fifteen years, suddenly go kaput?

Lately, I’ve been discovering that planning out my future isn’t always possible—or even helpful. But instead of turning me into a more carefree person, this conclusion has simply made me a more panicked one. How can a head-of-the-household structure her life—and her expenses—on a project-by-project basis? How can she select her daughter’s nursery school for fall 2010 without knowing her own work schedule? And, most disconcerting of all, how can she potentially embark on a graduate school degree without knowing how much freelance work she’ll be able to take on, and how quickly she’ll deplete her savings account while securing a degree? Planning really isn’t possible for most of the long-term questions I’m pondering now, and it’s probably why I’ve been suffering from countless migraines and dizzy spells (which my neurologist is convinced aren’t “serious,” thankfully).

As a mom, there is, of course, plenty of joy in spontaneity. I’ve been known to let Jayda splash around in mud puddles and ruin her outfit because it just seemed silly to have her miss the chance to enjoy a rainstorm. I’ve taken Jayda to the ice cream store and let her eat frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles for dinner just because she did something that deserved a treat and I wanted her to know it. I’ve also suddenly stripped off my clothes and joined Jayda in her evening bath because she was having so much fun splashing around, and I knew she wanted me to play with her, too.

But those unplanned events weren’t very important in the grand scheme of things. Their outcomes didn’t affect our entire lifestyles, and I never gave a second thought to any of them. Alternately, life’s major decisions should be well-planned out—at least for a planner like me. But maybe the best I can do for us right now is plan how I’m going to cope with having no plan. It might not be ideal, but it will make this chaotic, not-so-predictable life of ours a bit more enjoyable!

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