My Christmas card list is in ink, but every year it needs a re-do. Friends have moved. Or divorced. Or died. Half-way into Covid I began to write all my calendar entries in pencil. It feels safer.
A couple of weeks ago I was startled to discover I’d been on Zoom five nights in a row. Meetings had become so easy that they also became more frequent. Why have a phone call when you can call a meeting? No need to dress, drive, or show up somewhere. And you save the travel time, right?
My Zoom addiction seemed to grow even as Shutdown receded. When a deer jumped over my car hood as I sped along a highway around 7:30 PM, I became more hesitant to drive after dark. With fewer night meetings my calendar temporarily became more manageable. But Zoom called and I found myself having to choose among several simultaneous events, all enjoyable or worthy of support.
It became harder to say “No” to book clubs, writers groups, and committees. Suddenly I was active in seven church groups, three nonprofits, and miscellaneous educational activities. I felt needed –- ego-stroked? — or maybe something just sounded interesting or fun.
I missed quiet time with Jim after dinner. I wondered whether he felt neglected.
So I whited-out half my calendar and re-wrote in pencil if I needed to make choices. I’m learning to say “no.” If Jim or one of my kids needs to talk, I can usually let the meeting go, even with a little guilt or regret.
Writing in pencil is a good metaphor for my life. I often live with the myth that I’m in control, but then life gobsmacks me upside the head. And I get to rewrite my plans.
An interviewer once asked Billy Graham, “What about your life has surprised you most?” He answered: “The brevity of it.” Graham lived to be 99. That must have surprised him even more.
Writing in pencil reminds me that the present moment is all I have. Life is brief. It is precious. I still like to have a plan, but only if it’s flexible and subject to change.
Now the only things I’m writing in ink are birthdays and anniversaries.