|Boy Scouts and Chris Hadfield: always ready. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
I just read Chris Hadfield's book where he talks about always being mega-prepared for every possible situation, planning for every detail, and practicing until you can execute a task with your eyes closed (or floating in space with zero gravity when the slightest mistake could kill you and everyone else).
This is great advice for academic and workplace success, as well as other practical endeavours like climbing mountains or learning how to repair cars or surviving in space.
I wonder, though, about other applications of is advice. Take his example of being totally ready to jump on stage at a David Bowie concert and play Space Odyssey. Could we go a little further down that path of being absolutely ready to make something happen, should someone else flip the switch on an event, to a place that's a bit socially uncomfortable?
What are some situations where we could take Chris Hadfield's advice a bit too far?
What if you are thinking you might get proposed to at some point in the near future? Well, if you're Chris Hadfield, you realize that you can't control when this happens, but you can make sure you are totally ready for it.
First of all, practice your reactions in the mirror. These days there is almost always someone secretly filming the whole thing and you don't want to be ugly crying if it goes viral. Practice to the point where the phrase "will you marry me?" starts to sound a bit funny and meaningless.
Think about what you are wearing every time you see them: will it photograph well?
Start imagining every possible way they might propose and be ready for it. What if they want to surprise you with a beach picnic? Can you slip the shoes off easily? Bring a few layers just in case it winds up being on a mountaintop where it's chillier. Bone up on the history of your relationship - some people do extravagant scavenger hunts where you visit important places from your collective past. Do you remember your major moments? You might want to start going to bed fully dressed, with make up and hair done, in case they might want to do some kind of midnight kidnapping surprise.
If you are the one who might do the proposing, get ready with all your reasons why they should want to marry you, should they seem uncertain. Be ready for both celebration and total, crushing heartbreak the night you ask the question.
Remember, preparation is what allows you to relax in the moment and enjoy life while knowing that you will be able to react perfectly in the moment.
Again, you can't necessarily control when you are in a situation when you are ready to marry someone, but you can be completely and utterly prepared to execute the perfect wedding the moment you get engaged.
Pick a selection of dates that will work depending on what time of year you get engaged, price out venues, budget, pick colour schemes, attire, decor, guest list, food, and photo booth styles. What will be beautifully hand-crafted to look rustic-yet-picturesque? Who will do make up? Is there a theme? How will you announce your engagement on social media?
"Okay, honey, we're engaged. I've got a hold on these venues for these dates, scattered throughout the year. Here is a list of vendors for the decor cross-referenced with price (how much is your side of the family willing to throw in? Mine will give this much, and I figure we can spend about this much more). I picked out three dresses for you to choose from that best suit the Magical Garden of Love theme. Here are some sample hairstyle ideas. My guest list options are either 30 people if we're keeping it small or 100 if we're going big. The tux and groomsmen suits are on hold, I just need to pull the trigger!"
The Death of a Loved One
Sometimes people die suddenly, and sometimes they die in a long, drawn-out way that you see coming. Either way, you should be prepared!
If you will be in charge of cleaning out their home, start throwing things away now. Get rid of anything that won't be wanted as a valuable or souvenir. Nobody is going to want that toaster, so chuck it. If they keep buying new ones, explain that they are being very inconsiderate to your future self who will have to deal with their remains.
If you might be asked to speak or play a song at their funeral, get that ready. In fact, just start asking everyone in your life what song they would want you to sing at their funeral.
You will have emotions to process and the only thing that helps with those is time, so you might as well start now. Every time you see them, choke up a bit, touch their cheek gently, and say "this might be the last time I see you, so I want you to know that I love you." When they're not around say things like, "I just can't believe they're gone." This will help prepare you for the real thing.
You never know when your friend will propose a spontaneous trip to Hawaii or you'll suddenly need to go away to a conference. Heck, being ready to jump on a plane is also part of being prepared for the death of a loved one.
How do you do it? Easy.
Always have at least three suitcases packed: one for a colder place, one for a hotter place, and one with a bit of a mix. Actually, you'll need at least six: a "fun" one and a "work" one for each of these circumstances. How about, instead of a closet or dresser for organizing your clothes, just have a system of suitcases, all packed for different types of travel (maybe colour-code them so you can keep track of where different items of clothing are).
Of course, you'll need to buy multiples of most of your clothes so that your favourite or most versatile items can be in all the suitcases, and I hope I don't have to remind you to keep your passport up to date and use only travel-sized toiletries.
A Friend Moving Away
Sometimes friends move away. This can be very upsetting to your life if you aren't ready for it. The easiest way to prepare is to treat all your friends like they already live far away. This means you mostly communicate with them via email, Facebook, and WhatsApp.
If you're like me, your communications will start off pretty strong and then taper off to the occasional post on each others' walls or Instagram tagging. This is perfectly natural!
Then every time they contact you to hang out, exclaim "You're in town?!??!" and assure them you will make it work to see them whenever they want. When you say goodbye, give them big, big hugs and say that it was so nice to see them and you are so glad they called, and you'll be sure to be in touch if you're ever near them.
A Friend Moving Back Into Town
Just as quickly as one friend will announce they are moving away, another will announce they are coming back into town. Friends moving back can mean many things: they may need a place to crash for a few days (or weeks) before finding their own home. They may need a lot of emotional support if they are returning due to a bad circumstance. They may want to hang out a ton to make up for lost time. They may be broke or have come into money. They may need help moving or finding a place. The possibilities are endless!
Make sure you're constantly aware of what's out there for new rental apartments. Scour Craigslist in your free time, and contact the occasional landlord to check about things like pets, so you can let your friends know exactly what their options are when they return.
Keep your schedule pretty loose and free so that you can cancel or move things around to help them out as needed. Of course, this won't be too hard because you're treating all your local friends as if they live far away, so you probably don't really have any plans.
A Break Up
Sometimes people dump you, completely out of the blue. Be Chris Hadfield: be prepared!
Whatever stage your relationship is in will determine what other practical means you need to have prepared. If you've just started dating, have a pint of ice cream, a bag of chips, and make sure you have a few friends always ready to jump in and watch a distracting movie with you (this will be tricky because all your friends live far away, but I heard one might be moving back soon!)
If you're cohabiting, then good thing you're keeping your eye on all the Craigslist apartment listings in your city and have all your things in suitcases. Moving out should be pretty easy. Alternatively, practice throwing all their things out onto the sidewalk. The key is to throw them hard enough they land right in the middle of the sidewalk and get in everyone's way, but not so hard they land in the street. That's a hazard.
Of course, there are the emotional walls to put up so that you don't risk actually having your heart broken, but most of us do this fairly naturally. No explanation necessary.
Sure, it's possible that being constantly prepared to get dumped and proposed to at once will be tricky, but I believe in you! Work hard! Plan for every detail!