One of my all-time favorite movies is the 1991 "L.A. Story" where Steve Martin plays a confused TV weatherman who takes his life cues from a talking freeway sign. In that same vein, my wine bottle just spoke to me. When the cork popped out, it said "Plan some spontaneity."
Now, I'm not exactly sure when fortune cookies morphed into wine corks -- and it could be that my wine has been speaking to me for quite a while and I just haven't been listening -- but I'm taking this message to heart.
I had just spent the better part of the evening trying to book a vacation online, which in our case involves attempting to use airline miles (seriously, United?), coordinating my work schedule with the kids' school and soccer practices, and figuring out when the new dog sitter was available to stay in the house with Harry -- our latest rescue pup who "has some issues," as his trainer gently puts it. Harry pretty much hates everything and everyone who isn't us or this sitter, which makes figuring out when she is free to stay with him the springboard from which all other vacation considerations must fall.
And then along comes a wine cork with advice: Plan some spontaneity.
It got me thinking. We have no spontaneity in our lives, unless you count opening a bottle of wine on a Wednesday night an act of spontaneity (and I do). Our lives are about as structured as they come. We even plan for our down time: It is on the third Sunday of the month (assuming there are no soccer games) and we go first to the beach for some stick-throwing with the dogs (early enough so that Harry doesn't encounter anything beyond seagulls), then hit the farmers' market, and then head home for the scheduled down time before I get a jumpstart on my cooking for the week. Don't worry; I love doing all of those things and I love my work, my family and the life we have shaped for ourselves. It's just that there isn't a shred of time left over in it for spontaneity.
We haven't played hooky from homework on a school night since my high schooler was in preschool. We never go out to dinner on a week night unless you count stopping at the pizza place on the way home from soccer practices. I don't think I've eaten anything but an egg white omelette with spinach for breakfast since 1997. Mind you, I love egg white omelettes and sometimes I even add some fat-free cheese to them. But spontaneity? You've got to be kidding. Not in my world.
I admit, I am always a little envious of those who do last-minute drinks after work or decide spur of the moment to stay in town at a hotel after a late-night concert -- although my first thought is always: "Without your toothbrush?" My secret fantasy is that we just show up at the airport and get on the next plane going anywhere. But knowing me, I'd ask if I had time to run home and get my swimsuit. It's just who I am. Spontaneity and I aren't bosom buddies.
Truth is, for me, planning establishes order in my chaotic universe. It allows me to accomplish everything that I need to get done. All my trains run on time because I'm an over-planner; I also plan for contingencies and have them covered as well. I am so well-organized that when I scan the list from school of which kids lost their library books and textbooks, I do so not because I expect to see my children's names on it but because it's kind of like reading a horror novel for someone as structured at me. It's my version of coming upon a bad car accident and not being able to look away. I called my son over when the list was issued last year to point out that one of his friends was on it. "Are his parents getting divorced?" I asked him, assuming that could be the only explanation for such an egregious parenting misstep as failing to keep track of a textbook.
But my wine cork nailed it, called my bluff. Deep down, I long to be a spontaneous person. I want to be one of those women who goes to the hairdresser and lets her cut my hair however she thinks best. I don't want to walk into Nordstrom's half-yearly sale only to come out with another black sweater.
I want to trade the safety of my box for the occasional impulsiveness. What would it be like to worry less about the consequences and live more in the moment? To not always need to have every situation, every outcome, controlled. Could I do it?
So when my wine cork decided to offer me life advice, it gave me some pause. Have I gone overboard? I summoned my husband. "Look Honey," I said, "The cork says we should plan some spontaneity."
"If you plan it, it's not spontaneous," he said, pointing out the obvious. And so came my aha! moment. No wonder I was drawn to the wine cork's message: I like planning everything, even spontaneity.
Research shows the midlife crisis is largely fiction. People in their 20s and 30s are more likely to experience the kind of "crisis" associated with middle age. Only an estimated 10% of middle-aged people have the classic midlife crisis.
Researchers have found no evidence of the so-called empty nest syndrome. Many parents relish and enjoy the transition, taking pride in the fact that all their child-rearing efforts have paid off, and their offspring are on the road to accomplishing their goals.
Men don't abandon their middle-aged partners for younger trophy wives as the stereotype suggests. Most marriages break up in the first eight years. The recent rise in divorce among the middle-aged is because second unions are breaking up (usually within the first eight years of marriage).
Hot flashes aside, nearly 62% of women in one survey said they felt "only relief" when their periods stopped, while fewer than 2% said they felt "only regret."
Despite the latest hype about testosterone supplements, low sex drive, depression and sagging energy levels were more likely to be caused by stress, poor eating habits and laziness in midlife than lower hormone levels. Meanwhile, many researchers think that warnings about female sexual dysfunction in middle age are highly exaggerated. What may account for women's flagging sexual life is that they are less likely to have a regular partner than men.
It turns out age really is about attitude: Research has found that believing that you can improve your health in middle age actually improves it. A sense of control in midlife can dramatically reduce disability and preserve one's health and independence later in life.
The truth is just the opposite: Many people view midlife as their happiest period. Several surveys have found that while happiness dips in the 40s, people start to feel more content with life after the age of 50.
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