How ‘let’s play it by ear’ stopped striking fear in my little heart

Weeks after returning from the beach, it’s hard to conjure up those warm, the-sun-is-on-my-face and I-have-a-book-in-my-lap feelings. Work is busy. Birthdays are coming. Each weekend in the summer seems scheduled, arranged and preordained, each moment maximized for our enjoyment.


I’m a busy person, and I do that deliberately. When I’m in a “slow” period without many plans, social or otherwise, I tend to start thinking too much, worrying and becoming obsessive — especially about things beyond my control. As we grow up, we learn so much about ourselves — and what we need to be happy, fulfilled people. For me? It’s scheduling. Organization. Basically, I need to get on my feet and stay on my feet, running to the beat of a well-executed plan.

Lately, though, this tiny voice has been piping up from somewhere deep in my chest cavity — the same chest usually swelling and pounding with anxiety as I try to accomplish all this stuff on my ridiculous to-do lists. It’s weak, but it sounds like me — and I know it’s me. It’s whispering, “Let’s play it by ear.”

The idea of looking at wide-open Saturday, all fresh and shiny, and telling Spencer or my family that we can “wing it,” “see what happens” or “see how we feel” regarding the day’s plans is basically crazy. This is me we’re talking about: the Queen of OCD Organization. I make lists for everything. I make lists of my lists. I consult my Google Calendar as one would a religious text, searching for answers to any question. I like color-coding things so my eye can scan them quickly, taking in an entire month’s worth of business at a glance. I’ve got scheduled book reviews, dentist appointments, barbeque, bridal showers, day trips and concerts all mashed together in one colorful grid, blinking up at me like a promise of good things to come.

But lately, something’s begun to happen. On the days Spencer and I meet up early to have breakfast, go to yard sales (yard sales!), attend photography club meetings with Mom or other random activities, a strange sense of excitement comes over me. And looking back through the months, those days hold some of my favorite memories. Spencer and I eat when we want to eat; we go where we want to go. Holding hands in a hot car, we turn to each other and say, “What do you want to do now?” Sometimes we go for drives. Sometimes we stay home and watch TV, eating ice cream on the couch. Sometimes we run to Target or go take pictures. And sometimes? We do nothing at all.

Regardless, it’s delicious. And feels . . . almost rebellious.

I’m not saying I’m completely changing my ways. I still firmly believe that planning is necessary to avoid boredom — my boredom, at least. I know I thrive when busy and making plans. I’m not one to wander or loaf around, and I hate the absent looks that come from a group of people turning to each other and muttering, “OK, but what do you want to do?” I take charge. I plan stuff. But this whole getting out of the house without a major plan? Well, it’s exciting.

And I just might get used to it.

13 thoughts on “How ‘let’s play it by ear’ stopped striking fear in my little heart

  1. Reading this post put a huge grin on my face, Meg. Despite how busy you are, it sounds like you’re incredibly happy and that’s fantastic 🙂

    I’m completely the same with the organisation love by the way, perhaps one day I’ll be able to embrace the idea of winging it too!


  2. I wish I could have one of those adventurous days — step out of the house and not know where I’m going to end up and what I’m going to end up doing.


  3. Meg…I used to be so regimented…I needed to make lists daily…and I still am like that but every once in a while…we all need a list less day!!! But I would feel much better writing it down…today is my adventure day…hee hee hee…


  4. I can totally relate! I’m so glad you’re having fun with this “freedom!” (I actually used to be “free” for a while but I regressed. However, I’m trying to draw inspiration from your story!)


  5. I understand you very much! I think and I plan when brushing my teeth or taking a bath. It’s like my dad’s principles to be synchronized and organized is instilled in me as I grow up.

    I smiled reading what this post is really about. That you’re finally loosening up and I think Spencer could be one of the factors.


  6. I used to be like that in school, in the last five years I gave up on all those lists,now I avoid scheduling if possible, I have an issue with my outlook calendar … and since I stopped planning things started happening on many levels.


  7. I really like to plan things too – I always have to be doing something or I get bored. I’d love to embrace winging it like you have!


  8. whoa.. teach me your color coding and organizing ways.
    i’ll admit i’m a planner too, but not to that extreme. i do like knowing what i’m going to do in advance, but i think this post may persuade me to be a little more adventurous. 🙂


  9. I love this!

    Sometimes it’s nice to let go and “play it by ear.” However, like you, I’m a serial planner. Especially at work.

    Outlook is my new BFF. I am in love with the calendar feature. Keeps my life wonderful and organized 🙂

    When I don’t plan, I feel like I have nothing to look forward to which puts me into a funk. That’s why I like planning.


  10. Pingback: Reading and roasting at the National Book Festival ’10 « write meg!

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