Plan to be Surprised


I am a night owl and consequently, I am also a night blogger. The hours between 9 and 11 pm are like prime writing time. It’s normally in these evening hours that I find the time to slow down and let my heart and mind begin the tremendous task of sorting through the thoughts and feelings floating through my head. On a bad night this process lends itself to overwhelming questions and insecurities about the big what ifs of life. But on a good night, this very process lends itself to writing. And somehow, almost automatically words begin to flow from my fingertips and appear on the screen.

So, on this first night of November I am up late, but I blame it partly on the time change. Somehow I convince myself that it’s really only 11:22, completely disregarding the bold 12:22 on my clock, and I feel a little more justified to still be up.

One of the best monthly investments I’ve made in the past few months is my $4.99 Netflix membership. Given that I don’t go to see movies that often, I spent years trying to keep track of all the movies I wanted to rent on a pink little post-it note next to my bed. This worked fine, except when I walked down to Video Smideo and realized I had forgotten to bring that blessed little post-it note with me. Ugh. For this reason, I think the online que is the best thing every invented. And now, twice a month I get a spiffy red envelope in the mail filled with the solution to my post-it note dilemma.

This month I watched Dan in Real Life and loved it. If you have not seen it, you should. It is maybe once of the most enjoyable films I’ve watched in a long time. Sweet, simple and just flat out funny. Not to mention, it has an incredible soundtrack! I am obviously not a movie critic. My three adjectives don’t do it justice, but there is a line at the end of the movie that grabbed my attention and stuck with me.

As Dan Burns (played by Steve Carell) is reflecting on the events of his life and offering up his last bit of fatherly advice he says, “Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised.”

It was one of those moments when you feel like, holy crap, he is speaking to me. That line was meant for me. Plan. To be. Surprised.

I sat there and realized that so often my rational, pragmatic self gets the best of me and I plan for what makes sense or what seems manageable, but rarely do I plan to be surprised. At first glace it almost seems like an oxymoron or some clever play on words. How can you really plan to be surprised? (this is my cynical, logical voice speaking). Surprises by definition are just that “surprises, usually spontaneous, unexpected events in life.” You can’t plan those types of things or if you did they wouldn’t really be surprises, obviously.

However, I think the line in the movie is getting at something else. It doesn’t mean that we get to necessarily plan out exactly how we’re going to be surprised. But rather, I think it means that we have to learn to expect surprises. To plan for them. To be open to them. And maybe to even look for them.

How would your life look different if you planned to be surprised? I mean it. What would today or this week look like if you planned to be surprised? Try it. I decided that I am going to adopt this new mantra for the month. I am going to plan to be surprised. I’ll let you know how it goes : )

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