Ten years worth of journals and agendas are stacked up on the table next to me. Marie Kondo recommends going through papers as the last step in Tidying Up. These notebooks sit in a cupboard tucked away most of the time, but in rare moments of deep reflection they make an appearance. For the most part they are a daily record of the mundane details that make up life — plans for dinner, meetings with people, phone calls to make, holidays.
Here’s the biggest takeaway from ten years worth of journals: pencil > pen. Up until this year, 2019, I used pen to record and plan. There were seasons of colorful pens, black ink, blue ink, red ink, green ink. Seasons of brown ink and even pink. Writing plans on paper is a spiritual practice; it is grounding and forces my brain to slow down enough to truly measure priorities, time, and energy. Sitting down once a week with a cup of coffee and writing out the next week’s plans brings focus and intention to the immediate present. And for years a little whiteout tape sat next to me to erase and rewrite the changes that inevitably pop up.
Towards the end of 2018 in a moment of frustration over having to whiteout yet another plan it dawned on me: pencil > pen. I’m a late bloomer to certain life lessons and this is one of them. No longer would I need whiteout tape. No longer would I feel annoyed with rearranging events. No longer would I feel personally injured when something was postponed or canceled.
Can we all agree pencil > pen? It’s a mindset shift. It’s a declaration that life is messy, people are fallible, and plans are flexible. Maybe that disappointment with change isn’t something you wrestle with but if it is, there’s hope. With a small change you can reframe the way you look at your days, choices, hopes, and plans.
It’s a little shift in attitude that implemented over time makes a big impact. Writing your plan for the day in pencil rather than pen cultivates a flexibility in how and when to get everything or nothing on your list done. If you struggle with regret over some of the choices you’ve made or hopes you’ve had, think about moving a big eraser over those things and then writing something new in it’s place. You can be the editor of your life. You choose what stays and goes as well as which angle and perspective to take.
Perhaps you were too ambitious with your plans and goals — an eraser mindset frees you to make those small adjustments that make them actually attainable and possible. Maybe you set a goal to exercise three times a week, but it hasn’t happened once and you’ve lost momentum. Erase it and write in a more realistic one that you can actually follow through on.
Erasing is not failure. It’s a resetting. It’s a step towards grace and mercy for ourselves and others as we place one foot in front of the other into the world and take a risk in love.
Like bamboo plants that send their roots and shoots generously in all directions then regrow after every cutting, we can freely edit, erase, and eliminate knowing it’s not a dead end but a new beginning.
May you see your next hopes and plans with fresh eyes and use a pencil rather than a pen to write them on your heart, paper, phone — holding them palms up, open-handedly, up for a tiny re-alignment if needed.
Love and blessings,
Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.
— Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World