Ode to Spontaneity

I woke up to pee at 3:30.  I should have relieved myself and gone back to bed, but I decided to have a cup of coffee, instead.  Madness.  That’s no way to ensure a good night’s sleep.  I may yet return to bed to sleep for a while, but not before I ruminate with my fingers and explore how my mind works betwixt wanting to go back to sleep and wanting to get in the car and head for Elephant Butte, New Mexico.

I miss the spontaneity of road trips without planning or preparation or foreknowledge of destination.  Not just road trips, even local jaunts in the middle of the night.  There’s something exciting about breaking out of one’s day-in, day-out pattern of living.  I enjoy an occasional venture out of ordinary, hum-drum daily existence into what’s at least moderately thrilling and unexpected.  Perhaps it’s the fact that aging seems to correspond with unshakable routine that drives my desire for an occasional jarring, unexpected experience.

There was a time, no too long ago, that a day trip could turn into an overnight experience on a whim. Just get in the car and go, with no place in mind, and drive in a direction that seems to hold the promise of something new, something interesting. And when the allure of the road has lost it immediacy or its luster for whatever reason, the search begins for a motel for the night. For awhile, the driving force behind these unplanned trips was an interest in finding, or just stumbling upon, old railroad depots.  Another time, it was an interest in places in small-town Texas where the blues flourished.  More often than not, though, it was just the urge to get out and go someplace we’d never been.

That’s just a bit of freedom that seems to have disappeared somehow. I suppose it could happen again.  But a person has to have a certain mindset that allows such spontaneity to happen.  And the absence of obligations that prevent that spontaneity is requisite; obligations crush spontaneity. For instance, later today (this evening, actually) , I have committed to attending an event associated with an obligation I willingly took on for an organization of which I am a member.

Ach!  I suppose I’m taking on such obligations as a means of making closer connections with people in the area, people with whom I might have some commonalities of interest. But what I’m most interested in (I think, as the hour approaches 5:00 a.m.), is connections with people who share some of my interests but also some of my desire for spontaneity.  Yet it’s hard to be spontaneous around people with whom you haven’t yet developed much of a relationship.  And, of course, I have no idea whether any relationships I might build will ever be sufficiently strong to survive a middle-of-the-night call to inquire about interest in a spur-of-the-moment trip to New Mexico. I’ve learned that even the closest relationships don’t necessarily take kindly to that kind of spontaneity.

Just a while ago, I  read a message that came in around 12:30 a.m., generated through couchsurfing.org, from a young German woman who asked if she and her boyfriend could stay with us tonight. They are in Memphis and decided, on a whim, to check out Hot Springs and wanted to find a host.  That’s spontaneity.  We can’t host them, unfortunately, but it would have been interesting if we could. I envy her ability to be spontaneous, to change plans on a dime or to simply scrap plans all together and just do what comes next.

There’s comfort and a sense of safety in routine, but it tends to dull the senses, too. Routine smooths off the rough edges of life, I suppose, but some of the clarity and sharpness and interest is ground off in the process. I don’t always feel this way. But right now, at this very moment, I do.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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