Live Life in Pencil
I was sitting in the immaculate office of a friend of mine talking with her, when I happened to glance down and noticed a neat row of pens on her very orderly desk. There was something not quite right about them though and I looked again. They weren’t pens, they were mechanical pencils! With erasers on the end!! That had been used!!! Not one pen to be seen anywhere on her desk.
I asked her what was up with the pencils and she explained that the older and more experienced she gets, the less she knows for certain and the more her life is done in pencil.
What made this so ironic a moment was that for the last few years I have been using, almost exclusively, you guessed it, mechanical pencils, for exactly the same reason. Until that moment, I didn’t know anyone else had been having that experience as well.
I don’t think she had either, judging by the energy unleashed as we excitedly told each other of the things in our life that had taught us this “The older I get, the less I am absolutely certain about anything, so rather than be disappointed let’s do life by pencil” lesson.
I was listening to another colleague a few weeks later and we were talking about how as she was getting older, she noticed how much more certain of everything she was becoming. The war in Iraq. Where the economy was going. What life had in store for her. Certain about everything. I have found that this kind of certainty is very common in people my age. That’s one of the reasons I hid the fact that I was doing life in pencil these days.
Since she knew I was about her age, she asked me if I wasn’t finding that to be true also. After a long pause, I told her that I was finding out the exact opposite. I told her about my movement from pens to pencils and how that seemed to be what I was most certain of. She looked at me a bit puzzled as if evaluating our relationship (the way someone might when they just noticed that you have a third eye on your face), and promptly changed the subject. My experience with people my age is that there are more like her than there are like me regarding the “pencil-ness” of life. I have been around people who as they aged became more and more dogmatic about what is good. What is the absolute truth. What should happen. Who should do it. What is right. What is wrong.
There is a part of me that wishes for that certainty. It would make things a lot easier. It is scary sometimes to live in the “I don’t really know” place when others around seem so certain. But not a very big part. There is a much larger part of me that wants to keep opening up to new truths, new challenges to my old beliefs, to new ways of seeing the world, especially from the young souls my life is gifted with. See, when I have something written down in pencil and it doesn’t end up happening, I simply erase what I thought was going to happen and, Wallah, a space opens up for what is. No need to hang on to anything. No need to waste precious time arguing about what was supposed to happen. No need to waste energy resisting what has already happened.
So, just as it has been called a miracle that water was turned into wine, I consider it a miracle that I have been converted from pens into pencils. I’m grateful. The only problem is that I can never remember where I put the dang thing!!!!
I think I am a bit younger than you (he he) and I am certain I know much less today that I did 20 years ago, 5 years ago, last week and even yesterday!
I like your metaphor of doing life in pencil. Today I am living literally one day at a time. A concept I have been familiar with, but now from a whole new perspective.
My mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. We had plans for her 70th birthday to go to Italy together as this is one of her bucket list items (prior to her even knowing she had cancer). We won't be going on that trip, so I am not sure what to with that one on the list?
A spontaneous thought I have is; I always right with a pen and cross out what I don’t like and then re-write it. When I feel complete I write on a fresh piece of paper and throw the old paper away. Somehow that doesn't feel so good today; like I am throwing something away that is important to who I am and my life.
I see our lives as that piece of paper and we don't want to throw it away. It's who we are. Sometimes it’s clean, crisp and others it’s all crumbled up. My mother's life is all that and more. I want to fully experience all of life that is left for her. As I live one day at a time I will write in pencil!