By appointment

“Comfort zone: What are you more comfortable with – routine and planning, or laissez-faire spontaneity?”

In order to protect my carefully cultivated aging-hippy image, I suppose the appropriate response to this latest of ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ would be something along the lines of ‘Whatever, man…let the good times roll…I’m a free spirit.’

But I’m not.

Alternatively, having once bestrode a small corner of the world of global investment, like a – rather half-hearted – colossus, I could trumpet myself as a paragon of organisation: a meticulous planner leaving nothing to chance, always thinking three moves ahead.

But I’m not.

And if you really believed I was, then obviously you’ve never seen me try to play chess.

There’s no doubt that I’m rather more comfortable with routine than being faced with the unexpected. This is no bad thing: being methodical by inclination has its advantages and in truth I rather enjoy the process of making plans and then seeing them executed smoothly. In my working life, I was an inveterate list-maker, and it takes a lot to beat the satisfaction of finally, definitively, completing a scheduled task and being able to cross it off the to-do list.

Whereas the unanticipated tends to require an unplanned response, which just involves additional effort. Tiresome.

In retirement, now the most obvious manifestation of my organisation gene is travel arrangements – booking flights and hotels and so on. In  fact, even when I worked in places that had their own Travel Departments, I would try to micro-manage my own arrangements. I thought this was fair enough. Since I spent so much time travelling anyway – usually outside normal office hours – I felt I deserved some input into the process.

Although we now travel less than previously, and only for leisure, I still find it very satisfying to book ferries, for example, and search for interesting hotels (as long as they’re not too ‘interesting’). It’s research, and research is what I do did.

Don’t get me wrong, however. I would hate to wake up every morning and know, to the last detail, what I was going to do that day. And I’d hate it even more if I knew that that was exactly what I had to do.

There is nothing to be gained – and potentially a great deal to be lost – from sticking stubbornly to a rigid routine. To paraphrase what Keynes apparently didn’t even say in the first place, ‘when circumstances change, I change my opinion. What would you do?’

There must surely be some happy medium, where life has the reassurance of some structure, but retains the potential for some refreshing laissez-faire. Even if it’s something as simple as: ‘the sun’s shining today, let’s have lunch outside.’

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my diary secretary has just reminded me that my regular 15-minute spontaneity slot is due.

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