Hi, I’m a Recovering Planning Addict

Whenever anyone comes for a visit, I go into hyper planning mode. I do the same thing for birthdays, anniversaries, and vacations; I feel obligated to arrange everything to the hilt. I spend hours on the internet noting times and addresses, reading reviews on Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon. I imagine how it all just has to go. As a result, the anxiety levels rise, disappointment inevitably creeps in (some things don’t go exactly as planned, after all), and I often miss out on enjoying the moment I am in.

I think there are two reasons why I do this. One is that I tend to measure my worth based on what I accomplish. If I plan a good trip then I am good person. Another is that I am a quality time kind of person; I feel most loved when someone plans an event for the two of us to share, so I naturally tend to want to do the same for others. I highly suggest two books, The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which helped me understand myself in some important ways.

My parents just left after a week long visit. I planned, and some things worked out and some didn’t. There was a moment when I asked my husband in concern, “Are they having a good time?” I worried that we weren’t doing enough meaningful activities. He assured me for the 100th time that spending money and following the plan were not necessary to have a good time. In the end, my favorite moments of the trip were unexpected and unplanned:

* We were waiting in a phone store and I was trying to find another T-mobile location on my phone. Suddenly mom started saying everything I was saying at (almost) the same moment. She watched my lips with a glint in her eye and mocked me as well as any 10-year boy could. She tormented me to the point where I actually whined, “Dad, mom’s mocking me!” We laughed hysterically. Nicely played, Mom.

* A day or two after they arrived, I told my dad sternly that he needed to update his look. We went to a Ross and I picked out handfuls of pants for him to try on. The impromptu fashion show was a riot, and he so appreciated my help. Thanks for being open, Dad!

So I’m starting to learn that while planning activities is good, going with the flow and enjoying the moments in between can be even better.


A New Way to Listen

A few weeks back I wrote about one of my anchors, my best friend, and how she helped me learn to communicate. See my earlier posts “The Anchor” and “Ms. Streisand was Right” for more details. Now I want to say a little something about another key relationship in my life- the one I have with my husband. This will be the first of many posts about him, I’m sure.

Before I got married, I figured I had developed into a pretty great communicator. I was like, “I’m sweet! I got this!” But a few weeks in I was like, “Wait a minute! Men are different! Communicating with them is hard! We fight more!” So I had to reassess and learn to share my side of things in a way that didn’t damage the relationship.

More importantly, I had to learn to listen to him. At first, when he would tell me that I had hurt his feelings, I would freak out, get defensive, take excessive blame. I would shut down and stop talking. Further down the line I realized that the only emotion I associated with men was anger, and I couldn’t deal with him expressing any of the others. I had to learn to face his disappointment, sadness, and insecurity head on, eyes open, and try to understand without judgment.

The first few times it was hard not to feel like my world was coming unmoored. I wanted him to always be strong, to always be the rock and allow me to be the emotional one. Our relationship got a whole lot better, however, when I just let him be vulnerable. Vulnerability can be excruciating, right? Seeing it in others and showing it in yourself- both are hard.

I guess what I’m saying is that from my bestie I learned to talk, but from my husband I have learned a new way to listen. I think I have more compassion for people because of it. I know all you great communicators out there are going, “Hello, obvious!” I’m just sayin’, some people like me just don’t get it right away. Slowly but surely, it’s getting easier to give myself  and my spouse permission to be vulnerable. Work in progress, of course. Always.

The Airport

Last Saturday I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a work conference. It’s been a while since I’ve flown, so as I walked the terminals I started thinking again about how much I love airports. When I travel I just go with the cheapest flight I can find, so I’ve been to a lot of airports in the U.S. This type A librarian loves a list, so here are my Top Ten most awesome things about airports:

10. Moving walkways. Rest for my weary soles. Also, you will almost always see a child who walks the wrong way on a moving walkway. It looks like fun, but I’m too proper to do anything like this so I watch and live vicariously.

9. Hudson News. Snacks! Pain meds! Magazines galore! I usually try to read several magazines all the way through while standing inconspicuously in the back corner. I have this thing for shiny magazines, especially People and Entertainment Weekly. I never buy them, can’t justify the expense. So I devour them at airports.

8. Food courts. There was a time long ago when they served hot meals with a knife and fork on airplanes. Now you have to bring on your own food, but luckily most airports have restaurants featuring regional fare (shout out to the Charlotte airport for the awesome barbeque joint). Or you can just hit up the McDonald’s. Yum. You’re usually so hungry and thirsty that you just go for it, no holds barred.

7. Carry-on luggage watching. I think it’s fun to see the bags people try to bring on a plane. I like to guess whether they will get away with it. A happy side effect: feeling good about myself and my own modest carry-on.

6. Airplane watching. I know there’s a scientific explanation, but it still seems like magic to me that a giant, man-made machine can fly so gracefully into the air. Wow. I love watching them take off and land out of all those big, beautiful airport windows.

5. People watching. Airports bring together so many different types of people. The clothes, the hair, the accents- it’s entertaining to observe this rich cross section of human life. You see a lot of different kinds of relationships, different parenting models. My husband and I always see something to have a psychological discussion about!

4. The buzz of excitement.Travelers are going on vacation, going home, going to school… People are talking energetically and are generally happy- those who aren’t utterly exhausted, that is.

3. Meeting cool strangers. Sometimes someone asks, “Where you headed?” and you meet a really cool musician, businessperson, or student. Or you might see someone wearing your college sweatshirt or a t-shirt featuring the band or movie you love and you strike up a conversation. These chance encounters can lead to opportunities- to teach and learn, to encourage and be encouraged.

2. Farewells. Usually pretty mundane, but there are those occasional moments when great human emotion is so evident in those final hugs, kisses, looks, and words.

1. Greetings.  I miss the days when loved ones could come all the way down to the gate and you could see those faces right as you stepped out of the jetway. Now, the anticipation builds as you walk to the security exit. You find that familiar face, speed up the pace a bit, and get to the big moment: hugs, laughter, fast talking, maybe a few tears. In this day and age it is rare for someone to take the time to park and come in to the terminal, so when it happens you just feel loved.

I’ll never forget one homecoming- it was right after my fiance had broken our engagement six weeks before the wedding. As I came around the corner and exited the security area, I saw my family there with signs, balloons, and flowers. They knew I needed that little extra boost! Best airport moment ever! And I see those kinds of things happening all around me when I go to an airport.

ps. Favorite airports- Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR (’cause it’s home!)



It’s Sparkler Time

4th of July has been a problematic holiday for me. I’m very patriotic, and I love the food (is there anything better than a slightly burnt beef hot dog off the grill, accompanied by potato salad, baked beans, and Classic Lays? No, there is not!), but the fireworks… they are an issue.

There are three basic scenarios when it comes to fireworks:
Scenario 1: You can shop around, sometimes weeks or months in advance, even to the point of crossing state lines, to buy your own. As a kid I loved those giant prepackaged deals that had all types of fireworks in them. These can be great for the younger crowd, but there is such a feeling of disappointment when they have all exploded or fizzed out. No matter how big the package or how great the price, you still wish there were more. Also, now that I’m a grown up, I’d have to be the one to light some of the fireworks and clean up afterwards. And I’ve always hated those burnt marks that are left on the street. Ugh.

Scenario 2: You can go see a live fireworks show. First you must scour the Internet to determine the where and when and how. Then you have to pick the right outfit and shoes to withstand grass or mud. You have to bring water, snacks, and possibly folding chairs or blankets. Then you have to figure out the exact right time to arrive, which should be early enough that the parking situation isn’t too bad but late enough that you aren’t waiting hours for the thing to start. You have to deal with crowds of people and tons of food trash. Don’t want to park, walk, and stand for hours? You could do what we did one year- drive all around the city trying to find the perfect spot to see the fireworks, thereby missing most of the actual show. Jeesh.

Scenario 3: You can lounge around the house, eat a fast food dinner, and view whatever fireworks show you can find on TV. This is a more comfortable and less stressful option than the others, but it often comes with a general feeling of sadness. You feel like you should be doing more; after all, it is the holiday celebrating our national independence, and, gosh darn it, you are not at work! Sigh.

I have endured the angst- and occasional triumphs- of all of these scenarios because I love those store bought fireworks that spin around really fast and make that whirring sound and spit out colored sparks. I love that loud crackling and popping sound you can hear at a live show. I even love the music they put with those fireworks shows on TV. Fireworks are make-you-feel-like-a-kid thrilling and a great way to celebrate, so you just have to count the cost and go for it one way or the other. This year we’ve chosen Scenario 1 by way of a potluck at a friend’s house. It’s sparkler time for me! Woo hoo! : )