Is everything intentional?

This is a topic that comes from my “Have an Idea?” feedback page. Bob wants to know my take on being intentional vs. being frivolous. It pulls somewhat from other posts I’ve written about how not much I do is super casual or careless, whether it’s showing platonic affection or being analytical in social situations. This is really not a topic that I am comfortable speaking on in broad terms – I can really only talk about myself, and how I approach my life.

First of all, I do not actually view being intentional as somehow being the opposite of frivolous. Since we’re dealing with words here (and words really are awesome), I think it’s worthwhile to get into the meanings of these words before going further. The dictionary defines intentional as “done with intention or on purpose; intended: an intentional insult.” We can probably sum that up as “on purpose” or “deliberately.” Intentional implies a deliberate choice in one’s actions.

Frivolous is defined as “characterized by lack of seriousness or sense: frivolous conduct.” This is not the only definition, but it is the primary definition and the one I want to focus on.  I would probably put it as “for fun.” Frivolity is silly, light-hearted, and fun.

Given their meanings I am inclined to say they lie orthogonally to each other. Being intentional can mean being serious, but it does not have to mean that. I can be silly on purpose and frequently am, because fun!

Personally, I find I do better when I plan and structure my daily life. Without routines to rely on I tend to wind up incredibly stressed. Far too much of my energy winds up going to just coping with uncertainty and very little is left over for actually doing things. I prefer to plan things out an go about my life with intent.

On the other hand, I can easily take this too far. I am far more comfortable with known, set plans than with figuring out what to do on the fly (at least partly because sometimes I don’t process so very quickly), but if I take it too far I can become rigid and unable to adapt to changing circumstances.

So I try to find a middle road that works for me. I am definitely not particularly spontaneous and I likely never will be. I don’t even particularly want to be. But I try put enough routine and schedule into my life that I can function comfortably, and then deliberately leave space open for other things. For me, those other things are almost always low-key. I can decide, in the moment, if I want to crochet vs. write vs. do paper crafts or whatever else. Bigger things, like actually spending social time with friends, almost always require advance notice. It works for me.

It does mean that I do not mesh well with people who are very spontaneous and prefer their social time to be spontaneous as well. However, I don’t really worry about that. I’m not going to mesh with everyone anyway and trying to do so would probably crush me. So instead I find my own happy medium, and I find friends who like my happy medium as well.

As for being intentional – yes, very nearly everything I do is intentional. Even my fun, frivolous times tend to have intent behind them, though the intent in those cases tends to simply be “have fun.” I don’t think I need to do away with being intentional in order to be frivolous. I can make a conscious and deliberate choice to let go of myself for a while (if I am in a situation where it is safe for me to do so, which usually involves being alone). My therapist once described it as planning my spontaneity, which is probably not an entirely accurate description but it is an interesting way to put it.

Much the way I am ok with the fact that I tend to be analytical at times when people think I shouldn’t, I am also ok with the fact that I tend to plan everything out more than some people would choose to do so. It’s more important for me to find a way to relax and enjoy myself, and if, for me, that involves planning and analyzing and knowing what’s going on in advance so I have time to prepare, then that is exactly what I should do.


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