Monday, February 18, 2013

Overscheduled vs. Underscheduled

I know some people who always have someplace to be.  Their days are a constant movement from one activity to another, from the early morning spin class to the late night business video conference.  They were constantly on the go, always someplace to be or something to get done.  When they did slow down long enough to have a conversation, I felt as though I was the victim of a drive-by-yakking instead of any sort of meaningful interaction.  Even at parties, when everyone is supposed to be relaxing, these individuals are talking at people using rehearsed talking points, instead of listening.  When that is finished, they consider their social duties done, and then it is time for the emails, phone calls, and texts that they can't get to at other times. 

Then these people had kids. One of them added three kids.  There would have to be some slowing down of the scheduling at last, I thought  Children have their own agendas, their own pace, their own schedule, right? No. They simply added the children into their schedules.  Now their kids have early morning tutoring before school, followed by chess, book, whatever club meetings after school, then it's off to gymnastics or football or soccer, followed by drive-by visits to the grandparents, then home to exactly 60 minutes of homework, dinner, bath, then bed.  I get exhausted just thinking about all that.

Those people scare me now.  I used to admire them at first, but after watching them flitting around, never stopping, I got tired.  How can every single minute of every single day be scheduled?  What happens to a brain when every minute you're scheduled to be doing something?  I can't believe that any actual thinking happens--your day is planned out, and you are constantly looking forward to make sure you get to the next item on the schedule.  And what are the kids learning?  That they have to be entertained or managed?  That they aren't allowed to have their own agendas?  That letting someone else(Mom or Dad) do all their planning is optimal?  What happens when these children are adults?  What happens when these adults retire? 

On the other end of this spectrum, there are the individuals who never schedule anything.  They aren't lazy, they just would rather be 'spontaneous' with their lives, they say.  They don't own an alarm clock. They get there when they get there, and if they don't get there, oh well.  Many of these people just don't want to make decisions. I have been in restaurants with people like this, and I've wanted to strangle them because they can't even pick out an item on the menu without a lot of hemming and hawing and hand wringing. They are terrified and therefore don't want to choose between vanilla or chocolate, wheat or white, short-sleeves or long-sleeves.   They lose money paying for missed appointments because they can't decide. They lose jobs because they can't make decisions at work. They lose friends,too, because what sort of regard can you have for a person who never shows up? 

For some individuals, having a schedule is a comfort, a safety net.  Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory, who even has his bowel movements on a schedule, comes to mind.   The need to never schedule anything because something better might come along smacks of narcissism, a severe self-centered person who cowers in the center of a world that must revolve around their needs, but it seems to be more about fear and anxiety than selfishness. I have a mother-in-law who can't make decisions as simple as what shirt to wear; having her day planned out brings her some relief from her overwhelming anxiety.  I can certainly understand that need to have some control over your life.  However, control is mostly an illusion. There's no controlling for every single variable, and life is really just one variable after another.  You have to be able to adapt to the curve balls, the spitballs, as well as the fast pitches. Why am I using baseball metaphors?  I have no idea--I dislike baseball.  But just because I dislike something, or fear something, or outright hate it, doesn't mean that I will never have to deal with it.  I understand that. 

And me?  Where am I in all this scheduling mess?  Why, I am somewhere in the middle, which is why my family and I are enjoying our day off by being as unscheduled as possible, and why tomorrow we will go back to our regularly scheduled programming.


  1. Being retired means forgetting holidays like President's Day and the like. I am more like your example of a person who never schedules anything. I can make decisions but hate to schedule anything that isn't interesting or fun.

    1. That is probably why you are having a fun retirement!


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