The importance spontaneity

I’m obsessed with the word ‘spontaneous’.

In a recent article I wrote, the word made its way into at least three sentences. I was spontaneous in my speaking, in my traveling, even in my relationship. I was saying it so often that it was starting to lose its meaning. It was starting to sound foreign and meaningless, like a word you say over, and over, and over again.

What did the word really mean to me? Why did I feel the need to inject it so forcefully into my writing?

In the words of Germaine Greer, “The essence of pleasure is spontaneity”.

spontaneityGreer’s words sum up how I always saw spontaneity. The ability to be natural and passionate, the joy of living life impulsively, without too many constraints. The adventure of ending up somewhere unexpected and discovering something new.

Spontaneity was something I always aspired to, something I always made a place for in my life. I impulsively left my job to write a book, set off on a quest with barely a plan, said yes to anything and everything that sounding intriguing.

But I aspired to other things too, more concrete things, like a house and a family and enough money not to worry too much. We started a business, I wrote a book and I knew the importance, and the comfort, of having a routine.

Gradually, the rituals and routines that we had created started to seem like they were taking over. Every moment in our day was accounted for, every evening planned and every weekend full. We were busy and productive and trapped.

I realized the spontaneity was not just a frivolous thing that made me feel free and unencumbered. It was necessary. It was in the moments that I didn’t have anything planned that my mind could wander and make connections. It also allowed me to see things and experience things that were unexpected, things that challenged me and changed my perceptions.

Without spontaneity I was safe, with it I was living.

New York Adventures: Joining the polar bears

2012 in New York started out on a good note. Or rather it started out on a very high pitched scream.

new york polar bearsMy voice roared as the cold water hit my ankles. I stopped screaming as my toes started to go numb and I lost all feeling in my arse. In mute admiration I watched Jeremy dive under the water for the third time. We had decided to kick, or rather swim, off 2012 with the Coney Island NY Polar Bears. Hangovers and sanity forgotten, hundreds of us had decided to storm the shockingly cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Polar Bear Club founderAccording to the impressively named Polar Bear Club founder, Bernarr Macfadden, a winter dip in the ocean could improve one’s stamina, virility and immunity. The club had been going strong since 1903 and, if I was to believe Bernarr, a quick dip would be a virtual all-in-one new year’s resolution.

I was keen. The weather was on our side, new year’s day was a balmy 55 degrees. We planned to go with friends, bundled up with enough warm clothes to keep us cosy after our dip and were given the incentive of a post swim cup of hot spiked cider. Jeremy and I ran into the water holding hands like kamikaze storming troops.

I would like to say that I emerged in a state of frozen nirvana from under the water. I’d like to tell you that I stayed with our friends and bantered calmly treading water for 10 minutes in the ocean. Sadly none of that is true. I’m much more of a wimp that I would like you to believe. However it is true that I ran out of the water on a high that lasted well beyond the joy of wrapping myself in my towel.

In fact I felt so good for so long afterwards that I’m tempted to give a dip in the icy water another try on a less crowded occasion. Maybe I’ll even get my head under next time. Anyone mad enough to join me is very welcome.