Remember when we had plans?
Stephanie Hayes | Dentist appointments. Dinners. Movies. Why the things we do matter.
A usually active Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg is eerily quiet at around 9:30 p.m. on March 18.
A usually active Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg is eerily quiet at around 9:30 p.m. on March 18. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published May 1, 2020

Vacations and cookouts. Graduations and weddings. Final exams and knee replacements.

Try to remember plans. The exhilaration of entering a bank to discuss refinancing. The joy of being annoyed at someone’s feet in a movie theater. The verve of wishing your family would wrap up the chit-chat in the parking lot at Red Robin.

A friend sent me a postcard, a lovely act of human outreach. It arrived in the middle of the ninth ring of malaise. “Adopt the pace of nature,” it said, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Her secret is patience.”

Nay! Fie, Ralph! We are living in a horrid Poe story, and the black hole that sucked all our plans is the returning bird. Evermore.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would slowly reopen Florida. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to be rushing out. Everyone should not be rushing out. Please, don’t rush out! This is going to take a very long time. Life may never feel exactly how it did. How to channel that Emerson patience?

One cool thing about being a member of the press is that you can bounce your existential crises off professionals under the guise of reporting. Get a little therapy on you like a spritz of department store perfume (remember shopping?).

Lindsey O’Brennan is a psychologist and owner of Morningstar Wellness in Tampa. She works with high-achieving adults and young people, the kind of smart, hardworking folks who can burn out.

Lately, some of her patients have been asking questions along the lines of, “What is even the point of doing anything?” I have no idea what that feels like, ha-ha-ha.

“Planning in and of itself is kind of a core behavior that we all do, especially as adults,” she said.

Why do human beings need to make plans, anyway?

“It gets philosophical. And complicated.”

Lay it on us! We are strong enough to hear the truth!

“Having plans implies that we have a choice in the matter," she said. "Everybody wants to have this sense of control. In actuality, we don’t have control. We actually have no control.”

Oh. Sweet Zeus’ thunder.

"That’s why a situation that is completely disruptive to everything freaks people out so much. I went to the right school. I did the right thing. I am a good person. I saved up. I followed all the steps.”

And here we are, wondering how many showers one needs in a week.

The only thing to do with this, she said, is to sit with it. To feel it. Like understanding we’re all going to die. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and it is fine to feel uncomfortable. I’ll give you nine seconds.

There’s good news. The antidote to not having plans is making plans. Start small. Walk around the block. Do a craft. Read something. Make dinner. Find a moment in the exhaustion of working, navigating unemployment or caring for family that gives you back an iota of choice.

“Do anything, quite frankly.”

O’Brennan is trying to take her own advice. She and her boyfriend are working on their Riverside Heights patio, pulling out bamboo, hanging white lights and planning a dinner with friends one day. Every time she looks in the back yard, she can visualize people in it.

That’s enough of a plan for now.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes

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