Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Dubious Dividends of Spontaneity

February 23, 2007
I was Officially Upset last night. Only three people showed up for the first World Day of Prayer rehearsal. Since next week's rehearsal conflicts with the music festival, it is unlikely that more people will show up then. That means that recruitment of participants must continue, perhaps until minutes before we actually start the service.

When we hosted this event three years ago, we wrote letters to all the churches, asking them to pre-recruit 2-4 people. Despite a number of logistical glitches and last-minute changes, we ended up with a team of a dozen, and most of them made it to both rehearsals. The rehearsals were fun -- in some ways, better than the service.

This year time was short (for reasons beyond my immediate control), and I agreed to the more laid-back approach of issuing an open invitation to anyone who was interested. I had nightmares as a result. They didn't come true (my dreams involved a LOT of people engaged in unpredictable crazyness), but the reality was just as upsetting. It doesn't help much to know that I will find solutions in real time, and even if the result is less than optimal, life will go on. People have their own concerns, and glitches in the WDP service are unlikely to hold their attention for long. If I am hit by a bus or the earth is hit by a meteor fragment, the whole matter of the WDP will be irrelevant anyway.

Nonetheless, I like to get things right, even if I'm the only one who cares. In order to function effectively, I need structure, commitment, and practice, practice, practice.

This morning, I could feel that I was starting to lose my grip, so I named today a Designated Day Off/Mental Health Day. No structure or commitment -- I just do whatever I feel like in real time. Some of those days turn out to be surprisingly productive. I am more creative outside Shouldville.

Soon after I got up, I decided to phone my mother. Her Topic of the Day was the infant Residents' Council at her independent living facility. She went to one meeting, read the minutes for the others, and decided to have nothing more to do with it. "I feel like somebody is trying to recruit me into the Nazi party." That is an extreme way of saying that she is tired of being structured, and certainly doesn't want to be committed. She wants to live in the Now and let things unfold. No more practice. No more taking orders. No more teamwork, co-operation, or deferment of desires. Unlimited opportunities for sleep. She was over-controlled for much of her life, and was overtly cheerful and compliant about it, but inside, she was always fighting back.

As I was listening to her, I realized how much of my own struggle is inherited. I automatically resist restrictions on my impulses, even while I recognize the value of structure. I want to be in charge, but I don't want the responsibility thereonto appertaining. I admire teamwork, but I hate that I can't control the rest of the team. I want to be spontaneous, but a lot of things I value can't happen on the spur of the moment. I want to be fettered by no one's stupidity but my own, but I get bored playing by myself.

I can nurture both aspects of my personality. What I want to eliminate is the energy-draining inner battles. No matter what I do, some nasty, pleading, or choked voice inside insists that I should be doing something else.

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