14 May Happiness is … having no plans.
What a change this has been for us.
As a family, we have always been regimented and ordered, even when came it to our leisure time. With both of us working full-time we’ve had to be. From routines in the morning to what we do at weekends, there are plans and contingencies to ensure that the needs and wishes of all of us are fulfilled. For the majority of time, we are at ease and Team Brown is a family of peace. Our systems work and life runs smoothly, as long as we plan.
At certain points in the year, we reach crisis point. With all of our individual calendars to coordinate, from parent’s evenings to work commitments, sport fixtures to birthday parties, family dinners to football matches, sleepovers to medical appointments, football matches to birthday parties, sleepovers to school events, it sometimes just seems impossible. When a crisis is foreseen, usually with tearful eyes and a sense of doom, I declare a state of emergency. Mr Brown, sensing the impending war, rallies the troops to try to resolve the situation. It is time for a strategy. In his neatest handwriting, Mr Brown drafts the military plan and ceremoniously pins it to the fridge. It is official, Team Brown is on red alert and at risk of meltdown and all out war.
During a period of conflict, we prepare and conduct operations with the precision of the Elite Corps. The manoeuvres of collecting children with seconds to spare, tasks of providing equipment for school, attendance at school events, sourcing presents, packing for school camp; all completed with heroism and honour. At the end of a particularly intense and complicated manoeuvre, we share our stories over dinner with an imaginary cigar and whisky. The military operation is taking all of our blood, toil, tears and sweat but we are winning. Another successful mission, the state of emergency will soon be lifted.
Sometimes we suffer defeat. During the most recent crisis, there was a failed party operation. As per the military plan, Little Mr Brown stood to attention with full party attire, equipped with present, at 1100 hours. A cross-reference with the party invitation, to confirm location and time, soon exposed an error. Little Mr Brown was 24 hours late for the party. All details of the party were recorded on the military plan but human error had led to the date being written inaccurately. Operation party had failed. We had a casualty. The sirens went off, the troops leaped into action. Tissues were provided for the snotty nose, apology text sent to party mum and the military plan revised to include an excursion to raise morale and help Little Mr Brown recover quickly. In the past, troops have gone AWOL when operations have failed. We saved him this time.
Under the command of Mr and Mrs Brown, the strategy and tactics of this particular conflict were successful with meltdown and all out war being avoided. All events were attended and all children were safely collected and returned home safe; the state of emergency was lifted. Our life was a military operation. We were often frazzled and at risk of failing the mission but it was all we knew and what our life had become. During periods of intense warfare (end of term/OFSTED/child illness) it felt as though we were in the middle of the 100 year war. On Sunday nights I would text a friend with “helmets on, heads down, here we go”. It wasn’t just about work though, it was the fact that our leisure time was also so planned and coordinated. We had no space to breathe or just be. Everything we did was planned to the nth degree, usually months in advance. I would spend hours meticulously planning ahead; planning lovely things for us all to enjoy. Every week or so, myself and Mr Brown would run through our diaries to make sure we were both up to date with the plans. Sometimes, we would say how nice it would be to have a weekend to ourselves; to watch a film, go for a spontaneous walk or have a leisurely lunch.
This is where we are now. We have no plans. The ones we had, have been cancelled and our diaries are blank. We can’t predict anything any more which makes planning impossible. We are at the mercy of treatment plans , blood counts, temperatures and side effects. They take precedent over everything at the moment. Therefore, we have to be spontaneous in its truest sense. If things are in our favour we have to make the most of it at that moment, at that time. If our friends are all well, a get together is lovely or if Felix is well, a stroll on the beach is energising. We used to plan these things weeks well in advance and sometimes, when the time came, we didn’t fancy doing it but we still would. Now we do what we fancy, when we can and when we want to. It’s liberating. Our lives are by no means less interesting or enjoyable because of it. In fact, there is feeling that time is endless.
I know we will make plans again soon. Holidays, events and planned get-togethers will become part of our mission once more and I do look forward to this. However, at the moment, it is fair to say that happiness is … having no plans.