The Second Third, Week 35: Best-Laid Plans

Sometimes it appears that I am unable to go with the flow. This is not true. (No, it isn’t!) I can absolutely go with the flow. But once I have a plan, I have a hard time adjusting it or letting go.

I have a good reason for this — one that cropped up again today. As a writer, I have to push myself to get work done in a reasonable timeframe, and now that I’m able to work from home (surrounded by potential distractions) I have to be even more structured with my time. So I’ve got my work week carved into blocks of time for specific projects, for writing, for catching up on reading and administrative tasks, etc. It is my intention to cultivate discipline in myself…unfortunately, this morning I woke up feeling quite ill and started the day slow. Then I started to spread myself out in my home office space and realized I didn’t have enough open work surface for the project, so I had to do some rearranging. By the time I got situated, I was supposed to be moving on to the next project. I didn’t achieve much that I set out to. Tomorrow must be a better day than today, or I’ll be seriously behind my self-imposed deadlines. And even though they are self-imposed, if I don’t take them seriously, I’ll never accomplish anything.

Similarly, today is my bride’s birthday, and I wanted it to be special. I’ve spent the past several days thinking about how to achieve this and formulating plans in my head: how can I give Jodi exactly what she wants, and surprise her?

What does she want? The bathroom repainted, relit, recaulked, etc.; a new curtain or blind for the kitchen window; and (eventually) new bedding. And to go out for supper. And a pineapple upside-down cake. I knew, based on what we have scheduled this week and weekend, that the bathroom was not going to get done until next weekend at the soonest…and since we’re still trying to narrow down what she wants for the kitchen window, I urged her to consider moving the bedding up on her list of priorities, because we had done a little looking already and that was something I could do tonight. After all, I wanted her to have something to open.

I also planned to have lunch with her today, and supper out, and then cake. It was going to be great!

I was going to pull lunch together with the kids, but people kept calling Jodi, so I was working while she talked…and next thing I knew, she was cooking something for lunch. Strike one.

“Why are you cooking?” I said. “We have plenty to eat, and the kids can do this!”

She shrugged. “It’s fine,” she said. “It’s lunch time and I felt like it.”

We talked a bit about her “home improvement” gifts, and I thought I’d slip quietly out to get what I needed for the cake and come back with the bedding we had looked at…except then she said we should shop some more — at least at JC Penney and Bed, Bath, and Beyond — before we purchased anything. Strike two. At least I could still make a cake.

Jodi and I discussed supper plans. There was a fair chance that wherever she decided to go, we would get dessert. Tomorrow is Gabe’s birthday — we will celebrate it as a family, but he’s having a party (and his cake) on Friday.

“Maybe we should get dessert at the restaurant tonight, and hold of on your cake until tomorrow,” I sighed. “Then there will still be a cake on Gabe’s birthday, and one for his party.”

“That sounds good,” said Jodi.

Strike three.

I spent the afternoon stewing. Jodi made lunch. Jodi had no presents or cake. All she had to mark the day was a card, or best birthday wishes, and dinner out. That had better be good!

We went to Texas Roadhouse. Having no experience with the place or the portions, we thought we would order a couple appetizers as a treat. (We almost never order appetizers.) The boys wanted chili cheese fries. Jodi wanted potato skins. The two younger kids wanted macaroni and cheese and fries for their meals, but we reminded them we were getting fries as an appetizer. We were also snacking on delicious warm bread and cinnamon butter as we discussed it…so by the time we had settled on what we would order, Jodi and I looked at each other and said, “Probably just one appetizer.”

Except that now all four kids were expecting fries. Jodi ordered chili cheese fries instead of potato skins. Then, just before we ordered our entrees, she announced she was ordering a sandwich — one of the cheapest things on the menu.

“Are you sure?” I asked, incredulous. “Don’t worry about the cost because…”

“It’s fine,” she said. “It’s what I want.”

“It comes with more fries,” I said. “Why don’t you get the potato skins instead?”

“It’s fine!”

Jodi was getting exasperated. It occurred to me then that I wanted the day to be special, but only in part for her…that I was also trying to be a Good Husband. I didn’t want her to tell anyone that she cooked, and didn’t have a gift or a cake, and had a pulled pork sandwich and fries for supper, because people would think I was a jerk. (And if she insisted it was a good supper or a good day, people would nod knowingly, because that’s the kind of woman she is: Of course she wouldn’t badmouth Jim, the big jerk!)

She ate her sandwich, her fries, and a small dish of complimentary ice cream and chocolate sauce. We stopped at JC Penney on the way home and looked but did not buy. And I couldn’t help myself: on the way home, and at least once after we got back, I apologized for not making the day more special.

“It was fine, honey,” she said. “I got a lot of reading time, dinner was fun…and the sandwich and fries were perfect for me!”

She may have had a point there: Brendan and I were both miserable from eating too much, and Gabe brought most of his home.

I had plans and couldn’t let them go. I wanted things to be perfect, and wound up driving my bride slightly batty today. In my Second Third, I need to learn when to stick to my plans, when to be flexible, and when to let go.

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