The real secret to a fabulous life is to live imperfectly with great delight.
Should you ever need to understand organization and planning, talk to a parent. Parents plan. If a parent doesn’t plan, their universe becomes off kilter sending ripples of unease throughout the rest of their world. As the lead in charge of a bustling household for over 18 years, I understand the value and importance of forethought: cupboards always stocked, milk in abundance, Costco toilet paper, dog and house coverage secured for family trips, color-coded Google calendars that sync with reminders. All of it necessary to run a tight ship.
But that ship has sailed. In its stead, a very loosey goosey, minimally planned Sandy vessel has arrived. Initially, this came as a shock. I’d wake up and wonder, what is on the agenda for today? only to realize there is no longer an agenda. There are no children in the house with needs. No husband’s work schedule to align with.
I no longer run by others’ schedules. I wake to my own alarm, make my favorite meals, choose movies that suit my mood. There is a fragile freedom that is awakening, and learning to work within it has taken a small learning curve. I witnessed this most before and during a trip to Amsterdam with my 20-year-old daughter. Here is a snippet of a conversation about a month before we departed.
“So, what are you looking forward to doing in Amsterdam, Cassidy?”
“I don’t know.”
“You have nothing you want to see or do?”
“Well, I’ll be there through July, so I have time to explore. What do you want to do? You’ll only be there for 12 days with me.”
Interesting. She asked ME what I wanted to do! Oh, how the tides have shifted. It was in that moment I decided I couldn’t make those types of decisions before I went to Amsterdam. In a month from now, how do I know if I’ll want to go to a museum, ride a bike, or drink Aperol Spritzes on a canal while the sun sets? For the first time in my adult life, I hopped on a plane to a foreign country without a plan in place except for our initial hotel room.
Not having anything on the agenda allowed for days to match our personal energy levels. If we woke feeling lazy, we’d pack a picnic and find a park. If we felt like exploring, we’d search nearby marketplaces or unique museums to visit. Once I delivered my daughter to her summer living quarters for her internship, I found my own hotel and lived a parallel life to my offspring. This was where the fun started.
After witnessing several sunset canal cruises, my daughter and I decided it was high time we book ourselves on one of them. I pulled out my phone at breakfast and secured us a spot for 9 pm that evening. After a leisurely afternoon of people watching, shopping, and indulging in Amsterdam’s lounge cafes, the departure time for our cruise snuck up on us. I realized we were nowhere near the canal we were supposed to leave from. So we hopped on our bikes and boogied something serious only to arrive at an empty dock as our boat’s wake shimmered in the distance. Sigh.
I suppose this was a small casualty of casual planning than luxuriating in the moment. I didn’t fret much, but did see my daughter’s face flash with disappointment—but she’s an adult and disappointed is a part of the game.
As we sat on the bench staring at the empty dock, a family of four approached looking like they were on a mission. One of the young men was taking his clothing off down to his skivvies in what looked like preparation to get wet. Silently, my daughter and I watched an entire scenario unfurl before us, as if we were at the movies. Through some intense eavesdropping, we learned the daughter had dropped her cell phone in the canal at that exact location earlier. Her big brother was going to help save the day.
Let the entertainment begin!
Big brother was a champ! He dove down repeatedly, then shot up strong on his fourth or fifth dip holding a phone high above his head! We all cheered, only to discover it wasn’t his sister’s phone, but another person’s sacrifice to the canals of Amsterdam. Big brother continued to dive down again and again as a curious crowd gathered, greatly amping up the anticipation.
“I mean, we wouldn’t get this quality entertainment if we had made our cruise,” I said to my daughter.
“Seriously,” she replied still rapt in attention.
Watching from across the canal were a local brother and sister duo about 9 or 10 years old who had been dropping a large magnet into the water to uncover treasures. From what I learned, people have found guns, phones, bombs, knives… you name it. It’s a fun pastime for the kids of the canals. Maybe not the safest, but exciting nonetheless.
There was a small language barrier as the boy demonstrated his magnetic powers, but the family gratefully accepted his help. It was an exhilarating moment when that black phone slowly rose from the murky waters at the end of the Dutch boy’s rope. It was the right phone this time and all of us watching hooted and hollered the great success that just took place. Strangers helping strangers. Community supporting one another. The boy asked if he could keep the other phone and skipped off with his sister in giddy delight.
The free entertainment we caught that evening was due to my lack of planning. We caught the next evening’s canal cruise with no issue or recourse, and it was sublime. Two nights of entertainment for the price of one.
I think back to my whole unplanned Amsterdam adventure quite often as I continue to navigate this new, loosely scheduled world. It was possibly one of the best trips I’ve ever experienced and not one reservation or Trip Advisor search was made. I do not miss running on others’ schedules, yet it’s not an easy transition. Much is to be discovered along the way—mainly learning to trust the gut and follow intuition: both extremely wise pieces within all of us.