Man Without a Plan (#363)

My husband is good at living in the moment.

Planning? Not really his forte. Maybe this is because he lacks an internal monologue.

Sometimes I think it must be very restful in his head. He falls asleep much faster than I do. He plays on his phone in the morning and drinks coffee.

Meanwhile, I’m at my desk, writing out the day’s “To-Do” list amidst constant mental chatter:

If I can get through emails in ten minutes then the dog and I should start our walk where I can call Lawyer Sis and ask how to handle the insurance adjuster from hell and we will be back in time for me to do yoga so my back doesn’t go out again while doing laser pointer with the cat so I can wear cat out before locking cat up when the water mitigation guys arrive which will hopefully mean no more ripped curtains in the bedroom and I’ll make the kid breakfast in a to-go container because we will have no sink to do dishes and damn it, Andy still hasn’t talked to his family about Thanksgiving which I asked him about weeks ago maybe I should text his cousins myself—

As you can tell from the above monologue, it’s mostly sometimes irritating for a planner to live with a non-planner.

Andy drives the same way to the same destination every time he goes. He listens to podcasts.

I drive in silence, lest the noise interfere with the shifting efficiency flowchart in my head: If the light is red at Sepulveda, make a right and take it all the way to Maple before turning, but if it’s green, turn at Carson, unless that light is also green in which case turn at Torrance Blvd…

Andy does do a vague mental outline on projects that are important to him, like stealth building his garage gym. Or stealth landscaping half of the backyard into a vegetable garden. But the execution invariably reveals the limitations of said outline—as evinced by either a week-long trickle of supplemental Amazon boxes and/ or multiple trips to Home Depot.

Seems like, I dunno, creating a detailed list in advance might make the process more efficient?

Yet Andy doesn’t seem to mind. He sees multiple trips to Home Depot as part of the process.

I see wasted time.

The efficiency taskmaster in my head undoubtedly honed her skills when I worked as an executive assistant in Hollywood. She went into overdrive when I became a mom. Baby D hardly napped and had a ton of energy. Every day was a campaign to get household tasks done, pets cared for, a shower, and carve out scraps of personal time—all while teaching/parenting/feeding/playing with a tiny, irrational tyrant. If I got a half-hour to read or completed a workout, it was a victory.

Once Baby D went to school, I gained enough time to write again…only to lose chunks of it as Dalton’s soccer coach, school volunteer, etc. I had an agent—a white man, of course—who moaned about how long it was taking me to write the second book in a series and then asked, “What do you do all day?!”

Pretty sure I spent that day plotting his murder.

Anyway, while it’s sometimes frustrating to be a planner in the passenger seat, it’s probably not much fun to be the driver when your wife constantly offers alternate routes on long drives back from soccer games.

Or at least that’s what I figured when Andy told me to take the wheel one weekend. After checking both Google and Apple and getting us on the fastest route home, I asked, “Was I making too many suggestions?”

“You don’t make suggestions. You give orders,” Andy answered absently, scrolling through his phone. “Nah, I just wanted to check on my pension.”

Since I ‘d finally gotten into the carpool lane and we were cruising along at 70 mph, I did not slam on the brake and scream, “You have a pension?! Since WHEN?!”

I merely said, “So. You have a pension.”

Dalton called out from the backseat, “What’s a pension? Why is mom yelling?”

“It’s getting a regular paycheck after you retire,” I called back. “Usually only available to teachers, cops, and other government workers. Which your father isn’t. Which is why I never thought to ask him if he had one.”

Andy, in an Oscar-worthy performance, said, “I’m sure I told you I had a pension.”

“No, honey. You did not. How on earth do you have a pension?!”

“I got hired just before the current company merged with the old company,” Andy explained. “The current company doesn’t offer pensions, but the old company did. It was one of the reasons I took the job—a pension after 30 years. The new company had to promise to honor the old pension plan before the merger could go through.”

“So…you have a pension. All this time, and I never knew.”

I bit back all the comments I could have made about how much I’d stressed, for more than a decade, about not contributing to my 401k anymore, or how we would manage retirement.

Because, all along, the man actually had a plan.

Or at least an outline.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

39 thoughts on “Man Without a Plan (#363)”

  1. OMG! We are identical. There is always a conversation going and it revolves around best routes, logical progression of things to do and of course, things to do. I can’t help giving driving instructions as my husband never seems to take the logical route. Even shopping trips are in a logical sequence without back tracking. Not sure how he feels about it. To some extent he’s grateful he doesn’t have to do it but the downside is having to “get orders!”

    1. We are identical! And it’s automatic, I guess, that immediate calculation of the most efficient process for driving and even small chores. I wonder how much is from our German heritage and how much is from losing a parent at a young age?

      1. I don’t know. My brothers do not have it at least to the extent I do. I always thought it was because I was secretly lazy and wanted to accomplish something with the least effort possible. Whatev, it works for me!

          1. It’s not that they don’t work hard or have a lot to do but I think women have more balls in the air that aren’t connected which requires coordination. Much more than men.

            1. Yes, the western patriarchy built themselves a nice little world where they could compartmentalize and be singleminded. It’s why men can have secret families. Have you ever heard of a woman with a secret family?! LOL

  2. Chortling into the morning cup of tea, thank you!
    Here on the east coast, I’m definitely the planner – endless lists etc etc. and yes, a constant internal monologue of what to do and when. It’s the reason the kids made it into adulthood adequately clothed, fed, and educated. Spouse basically wings it thru life, but also takes forever to make the most simple decisions (maybe X would be better…or should I pick Y? Maybe if he PLANNED a bit more, the choice would be obvious. Sigh).
    Alas, he also narrates his existence Out Loud. Constant verbal diarrhea. English-me at first thought it must be some Americans-never-shut-the-hell-up thing, but in the near-40 years we’ve been together I’ve never encountered another American who talks this much…

    1. You are welcome! And thank you for chortling. Spouse thinks I talk a lot, but he mostly thinks my commentary is amusing, especially if it isn’t about him. There are definitely some talkers in my family, ranging from solid conversationalists to utter pedants. Do you eventually put in air pods to tune out the spouse? That’s what my husband does. He claims he’s listening to podcasts, but one wonders…

      1. Haha, no the spouse is the one walking around with AirPods in — and verbally reacting to whatever he’s listening to.

  3. He sees multiple trips to Home Depot as part of the process.

    I see wasted time.

    YES, yes. Same conversation here, same ridiculously cavalier attitude about doing things, same noise on in the car while I drive in silence. It’s like we’re all fated to fall in love with our opposites.

  4. OMG! You are so busy and fast. I’m tired out just reading this. Obviously, I’m older and slowing down, but still … Even when I had three girls under four, I feel like I took things one at a time and tried not to be too busy. My daughters were fairly easy, though, and my husband was helpful. Like Andy, he wasn’t a big planner, but he was very fast. When he decided to do something, it all came together in a flash. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

    Come to think of it, I do plan. I have a daily to-do list. I don’t always complete everything, though.

    1. And yet I am far less busy than I was when Dalton was younger! I was able to scale back to just one volunteer role this year. I think your child-rearing method of one thing at a time is a good one. Makes it easier to stay present and focus on the kid fully.

  5. Second book in a series?
    We want to read your books!!!

    Great post – I loved your account of your ‘stream of consciousness’ (Ulysses on steroids?) and the way you described the dynamic between you and your husband. Very clear differences and roles that sometimes, unexpectedly, get turned turned on their heads.

    1. I would love for you all to read my books. Thank you, what a nice comment to start the morning. Unfortunately, said books have never been published. I’m about ready to give up on traditional publishing and become an indie author. When that happens, everyone will know, don’t worry.

  6. No internal monologue? Wow! Himself is constantly thinking, even my ex would wander off (mentally) on his own mid-conversation, and yes, it was usually to plan a journey!

    I only put a CD or the radio on in the car for really long journeys, otherwise I really appreciate the quiet. Himself likes to talk in the car – I do a lot of uh-huhs, so it appears like we’re having a conversation 😉

    The only aspect of Himself’s constant thinking which I find tough to live with is his extremely lengthy decision making process – but once the decision is made, he’s a stellar planner. That’s not to say he wouldn’t make multiple trips to the type of stores he likes to wander around, but he doesn’t pretend it’s for anything other than his enjoyment!

    1. I can never decide if Andy likes the trips to home improvement stores or not. He does seem to like going to Costco, despite all his rants about how poorly everyone drives in the parking lot.

  7. My biggest regret about leaving South Dakota was quitting CenturyCo, because I had a pension there, too…which is practically unheard of. It would have made retirement much less stressful, sigh. But I think the tradeoffs were worth it.

    I cannot drive in silence.

  8. I’ve never been much of a planner. I am now even less so, because certain people, who shall remain nameless, will make the plan for me, and then blow it all to smithereens and redo it at least four times between the time the plan is initially made and the plan is actually carried out.

    1. LOL, yes, there is definitely something to be said for delayed planning. Sometimes I jump on an issue in advance and then, as you say, that particular issue is obliterated by another issue. Then I bemoan all the work done. But sometimes a good plan–or just checking in with one’s parental units before booking tickets to Hawaii–can save you a lot of money.

  9. ” I had an agent—a white man, of course—who moaned about how long it was taking me to write the second book in a series and then asked, “What do you do all day?!”

    Pretty sure I spent that day plotting his murder.”

    So funny. I’m sorry since I returned from nearly yr. long absence or longer, I don’t know about this bk. you’re whipping up words. Summarize, please.

    It’s good you analyze differences between self and hubby: it helps work through a marriage and keeps it running well.

    1. That particular series is a portal YA Fantasy; a newly orphaned teen and his canines wind up in an alternate, magical universe where wolves and humans are at war. It did not get picked up by any traditional publishing houses, sadly. It’s been sitting for a while and definitely needs a rewrite. I’m also in search of a new agent, since I fired that one.

  10. This must be a universal thing with men and women. Exactly the same here. And it’s hard not to get annoyed with all the meta work I’m silently doing with the kids while having a full-time job! And there he is, just chilling after work!

    Except that over here, everyone who retires from any job gets a pension – I thought that was pretty universal, too, but apparently not?

    1. Well, it is in Western Europe and Americans are starting to realize that a pension and universal healthcare would be a good thing. But here, it’s definitely not the norm in most jobs. You might have a retirement account and some social security (which the Republicans keep cutting), but no, not the norm.

      The household norm is apparently the same all over among heterosexual couples, though. And the old white pundits can’t figure out why younger women everywhere don’t want to get married or have kids. Like it’s more mysterious than dark matter or something.

  11. I read your first line and went ooooffttt… I am like you, very much a planner, including being an over-planner and overthinking things. I agree with you on people who live in the moment like Andy – very restful in the head. SO relaxed. Andy probably thinks you are capable of anything. Normally when I’m planning and doing things, I don’t like listening to music or ebooks or anything really. It’s full focus on the task at hand and getting things done – you can say I’m someone who is efficient with a lot of intensity.

    1. That’s great description: efficient and intense. I think that’s why I like books so much–it’s one of the few ways to turn my brain off! A good book takes the focus and I get a vacation from planning.

      Andy may think I am capable of almost anything, but that probably includes great evil, LOL.

      1. A good book can certainly takes the focus away from the intensity of life. But it really has to be a good book. Then again, I find the search for a book to read is a good way to distract myself from things anyway.

        You are probably capable of everything Andy can think of

  12. OMG you have a book, and another?! Wah, it seems I’ve missed out on so much ever since I’ve went on hiatus! What kind of books are you writing? Very curious about it. Also, I can so relate to your way of going through life. There has to be some sort of plan. And man, the buzzing in our heads!

    1. I have several books written, but nothing published, alas. The YA Fantasy market is saturated and I think my style of writing is not as sought after as some others. Might have to go with self-publishing eventually.

      1. Wow, that is awesome, actually! I hope you get to publish them though! I am really curious about your fiction writing. Did you consider sharing bits of it over here? Or did you and I missed them?

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