To plan or not to plan?

“Your destination has arrived,” announced the GPS lady, talking to me through the speakers of my car.  She sounded confident and cheery as if she had steered me right, a self-congratulatory note of pride in her voice at a job well done.  Except that the said destination was not in my sights.  I was at the edge of a traffic circle, getting blinded by the angry headlights seen through the rearview mirror of my car, wondering what to do next.  Traffic circles aren’t new things.  They are anachronisms.  So even if my GPS hasn’t been updated since 2006 chances are the circle predates the GPS, new traffic circles just aren’t being built and as such I shouldn’t have been told that my destination was a traffic circle when I was really looking for an Arts Center in the New Jersey town of Watchung, a town I had never heard of before.
The planners would tell me life isn’t as simple as just getting in your car and driving off without having mapped your route and convinced yourself that you couldn’t possibly get lost.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  Life really isn’t as simple as just driving off in your car, armed with nothing but an outdated GPS, a bag of Doritos and oodles of senseless overconfidence.  But in this world of ours there are the ant types and the grasshopper types.  Ants with their super organized, super structured life, all work and no play, marching along, single file, carrying bits of food.  Grasshoppers…well…no idea what happens to them during their life cycle.  Do they have more fun doing all that hopping on the grass or are they miserable drones (no pun intended) drowning in the cluelessness of their next move? Who knows.  But they aren’t known for planning and organization.  Somehow my life refuses to run a course similar to that of an ant’s.
I know the merits of scheduling and mapping, of carrying around an agenda with all 365 days neatly marked, but that’s where it stops – at this wide-eyed admiration. These excellent qualities are frozen within a beautiful diorama inside the glass walls of a museum.  I have stared at them in awe.  I have admired but have never been tempted to emulate.
Regrets? Yes.  Of late nothing but regrets and yet the leaf is stubborn and refuses to turn over despite the sticky fingers of fate trying their level best. Someone up there is licking those fat fingers with a vengeance, forcing the turning over.  I look around and I see how streamlined some lives are, how self-assured, how confident and I wonder if it was their incessant planning that got them there.  I want something like that for myself because, in retrospect, things appear to be falling apart with a degree of certainty.
So after being lost around a traffic circle, disoriented and disgusted with my inability to find a place, today I sat down and mapped my destination using MapQuest.  I looked for the Panera Bread in the town of Sparta and was told that it was at 25 Country Lane.  I printed out detailed turn by silly turn directions…get out of your front door…turn left to your car…go straight for a few yards…leave your driveway…etc. Then I got in my car and fired up the GPS.  This time I was not taking any chances.  If the GPS got me lost I would have the paper.  Off we went admiring the picturesque settings of Sussex county, the quaint bungalows and the large mansions, the farms, the hills and dales, pointing at this or that while our dear friend, the GPS lady, told us to bear right or bear left or go straight for eight miles.  So far the paper and the disembodied voice were in sync.
A few more twists and turns and there I was outside the largest mansion I had ever seen in New Jersey, set back inside a cul-de-sac, as the voice announced, “Your destination has arrived”.  Panera Bread anyone? Nope.  Chances were that the folks who lived here would say, “Panera Who?” if we rang their doorbell. My destination, dear GPS lady, would never be a castle like home in this neighborhood, but I am flattered you thought I had arrived!
What did I do wrong this time? See, planning just doesn’t sit well with the people who just aren’t used to planning.  The paper from the Google Search and the GPS lady both wanted me to go ask some millionaires if their home was pulling double duty as a Panera Bread.
So I came home.  Told the people I was supposed to meet that I was sorry I couldn’t make it but I was perpetually lost these days, that I probably couldn’t find my way out from inside a paper bag I was inhabiting with a GPS woman telling me my destination had arrived.
So despite an awakening desire to plan, despite making my plans to plan, I am in a state of paralysis.  I sit there with my notebook, making lists, filling out my calendar, I pause to think, I lift my eyes up at the TV screen and I see some very calm and serene Japanese people pushing empty carts through empty supermarket aisles while the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen tells us of consecutive nuclear reactor meltdowns.  Some announcer talks about lunchtime in Sendai…people would have been thinking about a return to their work desks, about picking up their kids at school, about dinner plans and their own mini-universes within the larger one and at tea time their worlds as they knew it had ceased to exist. Plans washed away, slid under a mobile tectonic plate, crushed beyond recognition.
Can those who live in doll houses with matchstick walls, drive toy cars, sail toy ships and work in pretend jobs at pretend offices afford the luxury of a plan?

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