Years ago, whenever I imagined myself at the age I am now, I could see myself clearly, with great happy fistfuls of time on my hands. Time to doze on the back porch in the the early autumn breeze, listening to bird song. Time to write reams and reams of real letters. There would not be the teetering stack of books by my bed because, blessed by the avalanche of hours now in my possession, I would, of course, have read them all. My house would be spotless; my garden divine. My well-stocked kitchen would produce gloriously exotic new dishes every evening without requiring that last minute dash to the market to replace a sad vegetable that had withered from neglect in the bottom of the fridge.
I would be calm. I would be wise. I would be serene.
Those days still sit there, like a desert oasis, just beyond my reach. Each year I move the yardstick a tiny bit more but they always seem to respond in kind. Will I ever reach that Eden of the unfettered day? The day when my to do list is blank; my alarm clock unset?
Over breakfast this morning, The Songwriter asked, “Well, what are you doing today?”, and his eyes glazed over as I ran down my list of “musts” for the first day of the week. But I’ll let you in on a secret about myself, one that The Songwriter knows all too well, but is too polite to mention: my pressing agenda often gets shuffled around quite a bit because there is always one overriding, omnipresent item on that list.
It causes me to go off script so often but oh, how different life would be without it.
Heading to the cleaners on a rainy day with my back seat full of tweeds and silk, I’ll pass a used book store. No, it’s not on the list. But it’s raining! And it’s a bookstore! So it’s a few days till I make it to the cleaners. Does that really matter? Who knows what treasures I might find in that shop? Treasures that might open entire new avenues of thought.
Or...off to the market on a cloudless fall afternoon. I take the short cut through the park. It’s empty and the russet gowns of the maple trees are reflected in the waters of the lake. Well, we can always eat out tonight, right? Who knows what brilliant idea might drift down from those trees to land on my shoulders?
We all have maps and lists we follow religiously.
We are wary of deviating from our carefully written scripts.
But who knows what magic is waiting for us if we do?
Here in the states we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, the seminal moment in our country’s struggle for civil rights. Clarence B. Jones, now 82 years old, was Dr. King’s speech writer for that event and tells of how King followed that written speech to the letter, in a professorial delivery, for the first seven paragraphs.
Then something unusual happened.
Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out to King in the middle of his speech,
“Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.”
Martin Luther King paused a moment, looked down, and pushed his notes aside. He gripped the sides of the podium with both hands and began to speak, not as a professor, but as the Baptist preacher he was. Speaking from the heart, his words, extemporaneous and passionate, still ring through history today.
Life is just sweeter with it.
Include it on your list today.
You can listen to Dr. King's magnificent foray into spontaneity HERE.