Becoming a Spontaneous Planner

Some of us plan for the future. We save for retirement, prepare for the job interview and get our annual physical. Others of us are more spontaneous. We face what’s in front of us, and leave the rest for tomorrow.

One morning as a hospice volunteer I found myself sitting on a futon with a new client. Family and friends were gathered around, sharing stories of her life. This middle-aged woman, who I’ll call Mary, was infinitely generous. Mary would give away her last dollar to someone she just met on the street, even if this meant she would go hungry. Mary, it seems, was the very definition of spontaneously living in the moment. Certainly, they all agreed, she would be wonderful in this moment of dying as well.

Soon friends and family left and I found myself sitting alone with Mary, who was now alert and awake. As I opened my mouth to ask if she wanted some tea she grabbed my hands, stared into my eyes and said, “You’ve seen death; how can I make God let me live? I have to live. I just have to!” As I stumbled to find words, Mary sank back into sleep.

Mary’s friends and family didn’t see her as a planner. She believed in being spontaneous, seeing what was needed, and offering her all. But what I discovered that day and in the following week was that Mary had planned on living a long and healthy life, growing old, and holding her grandchildren.

The reality is we all are a mix of planning and spontaneity, struggling to figure out how to balance the two. Maybe this month we could develop some awareness around our own unique balance, creating a blend that fits who we want to be no matter what comes our way.