Not so long ago, AP and I stood together next to our makeshift dining room table. A cobbled together affair of sawhorses, an old door and some ungracious metal chairs. The spectre of a table, a glaring blemish in what was an otherwise lovely setting for our Thanksgiving fete clashed offensively with the smell of pie and stuffing, of the sage and orange brined turkey which billowed around us like the wind of a happy storm.
Not so happy, however, was the stern clock in the corner, peering at me from the top of the hour before a house full of people were due to arrive, empty of stomach and full of heart.
Now, my darling husband knows how I am about the festal table. He doesn't endure the pleased cooing and enthralled murmuring from my side of the bed each night as I browse pinterest and the Martha site without understanding that about 70% of my delight is over some sort of table that just seems to have it, whatever it is.
I'm blessed to be married to a man not lacking in, shall we say....skills. And by skills, I mean a lot of things, not the least of which are his abilities with aesthetics. So, seeing the top-knot of un-done fur piled haphazardly on my head and the yet uncooked beans, he gestures to the table and generously says "Just tell me what you want me to do with the table and I'll make it happen, so you can finish with the other things you need to do"
I brighten at this. Yes! This can work! Okay. So...just....
I blink at the table. I blink at him. I am a speechless, be-bunned owl who has a a pile of possible suspects to use for decor and a somewhat enigmatic sense in her head of how she wants the table to feel when she's done, but no exact plan of execution. No recipe, no formula to hand her charming, thoughtful and oh-so-organized husband.
I point to the pile of accoutrements that I've collected over the last few weeks with the holiday table in mind.
"Uh, those things should...um, I think if we put....Because, what I want is to just..." I begin to grab things and set them, tipping my head this way and that, as he stands by, a bemused expression settling on his face.
"mmhmm, I see." he says.
I look at him with consternation. "I'm sorry, I just don't know how to explain how I want it to be."
And what I end up doing is putting ALL the thing on the table and from there, I arrange according to what my eye demands. Eventually, where once stood a door laid over some sawhorses, there now lies a benevolent and winsome holiday table. I only have 17 minutes to put beans in the oven and make myself presentable, but I am satisfied with the Martha-ness of the table.
For a long time, I was frustrated by this inability to communicate the vision I had without actually doing whatever it was. It was as if the act of doing clarified my concept. I berated myself whenever I would host an event, write an article (because I didn't have an extensive outline first), or approach any project really. It seemed as though all the planning happened after I'd sort of plunged right in to the doing part, which seemed a little like going out and buying a bunch of 2x4's and some nails and starting to do the work of framing a house before you even do the work of developing some blueprints for what that house even looks like.
But then I came across an article by Don Fry, author of Writing Your Way. Don wrote about how some people are plungers and others are planners and how that's really okay. He put words to what I'd done with the Thanksgiving table, filling me with relief and making me go "aaaaah! So this is actually a thing! It isn't exclusive to some deficit in my brain!"
Don clearly explained that there are pros and cons to both natures. Planners are great at making the map to begin with and so often they get to their destination much more directly and sometimes even more quickly than plungers, but on the other hand, they can be very rigid, unwilling to differ from the plan, even after they've realized the plan isn't working to produce the result they originally wanted. Plungers, on the other hand, tend to just dive in head first, orienting their course according to how things actively interact in the moment rather than through trying to use vision to craft assumptions about how things may go.
Planners can be visionaries and are not often surprised by things in the distance, where plungers can sometimes be short-sighted, taken aback by something they missed or didn't have the distance to clearly see. However, this same tendency can sometimes mean that plungers have the freedom to follow paths or opportunities as they come up, working with the things that surprise them in a way that makes the fruits of their labor seem fresh, genuine and spontaneous.
Finally, planners can get a little stuck in the planning part, while plungers can sometimes prematurely leap into a situation they just aren't ready for.
It's like my mama used to say; "Every coin has two sides, a fact which doesn't diminish it's value."
I think everyone has parts of both of these things. I've become much more a planner as I get older, although my core nature is still to plunge and often I will plunge first and then try to do a little planning from the thick of things before I get out into water that's too deep. My planner of a husband (clearly) has adopted some of my plunging habits, too. We've sort of brought our strengths to to bear for one another where we could, and that's been, at least for me, a great gift to have his steadiness and vision to rely on.
My last thought about this is that I think maybe Peter from the bible was a blend, a little bit like me. When he saw Jesus out there on the water, he just sort of dove in. Then, planner in him tried to take over after a few minutes out on the water when the reality of the storm and the ...you know...walking on water part started to sink in.
But that's exactly where Peter started to sink in, too. Jesus had to tell him basically "hey, you had the faith to get out of the boat and that was working pretty well for you, don't get rid of what was working for you, just because it may not *seem* terribly practical"
And when I think about that, it gives me the courage to be okay with my plunger side, the part that will dive out of the boat after something I believe in, something I want or someone I love, without having to have too much in the way of a plan.
Jesus also told us to count the cost, though, and to fix our eyes on the goal. Jesus was super clear on the big picture and the plan during his whole ministry and he didn't deviate. So I'm thankful for how learning to plan has strengthened my overall ability to accomplish what I set out to do.
So now, whether I'm planning or plunging, I take heart. I know neither is perfect, but neither is broken and what's important is the persistence to see it through.