© Sarah Cates | Dreamstime.com
In my husband’s business, which happens to be music, there’s a curious phrase that’s often used. I frequently overhear him on the phone saying that he will “pencil it in.” This simply means that the date is tentative; he may or may not end up with the gig, and the person calling will let him know in a few days if he’s on or not. At that point, he will turn the pencil marks to ink.
I have mixed feelings about the “pencil it in” concept. On the one hand, it’s good to keep options open. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with making a tentative plan. On the other hand, I like decisive action. Are you free next Saturday or not? If not, then say so now and I will make other arrangements!
I’m thinking about this penciling predicament today because I had extensive, detailed plans of how this day was to go in my mind, but when I woke up, I found that I had to erase everything I’d envisioned. Because I had checked online and knew the weather was going to be balmy I had planned a long walk, either at the beach or in a nearby nature center. I had also planned to attend an early yoga class. And then I intended to work outside in my garden. I had pretty much inked in the entire morning and afternoon with little or no room for adjustment.
Now, if you’ve ever been a mother or father and have had little kids around (or even bigger ones) you swiftly learn that your plans are bound to run amuck. Diapers need to be changed, kids fall off swings and need to be rushed to the emergency room, elaborate dinner plans are nixed because junior suddenly has a tummy ache. Your kid may not get into the college of his dreams, or the girl he intended to go to the prom with may suddenly dump him (usually, after you've already paid for the wrist corsage and tux). Yes, parents are used to this sort of thing. And when plans change for our kids do we whine or have a tantrum? No, we sit down with them and figure out an alternate plan.
But once the birdies have flown the nest, we think we’re in control again. And perhaps I might have been, had I not awakened to a stuffy nose and terrible cough, and—after a few early morning stretches—a hopefully not torn but most definitely injured ligament in my knee. No long walks for me today.
Thus, the "pencil it in" concept came to mind when I realized I could sit in my house feeling sorry that all my plans didn’t gel, or I could erase my vision and replace it with something else. Reading a good book, napping, taking a short, gentle walk around the neighborhood to admire the changing autumn leaves was not such a horrible alternative. In fact, it’s my suspicion that sometimes “the universe” plants little (or large) obstacles in our paths, just so that we will slow down and take a day off.
Though I most definitely prefer writing in ink, I will admit that there’s something to be said for folks who can accept that a plan isn't working, and come up with another. After all, the eraser was invented for a reason. And musicians are not the only ones who sometimes need to "pencil it in."