About two months ago I bought a day planner. Handheld. Old school. The calendar I was using on my smartphone failed me on a few occasions. I had missed appointments, I had appointments in my digital calendar scheduled for the wrong time, or the wrong day, and one appointment that I swore I typed into my smart phone calendar had simply vanished. I was so embarrassed by all of it. It’s one thing to make a human error, but a human error aided by a computerized device became too much to bear, so I went analog and found a terrific day planner that helps me keep track of all of my appointments, just like the old days.
You make me feel so young.
Being a retro kind of guy, I love the tactile, nostalgic nature of putting pen to paper. I love smelling the whiff of new pages. I like seeing the unexplored landscape of empty days fill with events I look forward to. Being a visual artist, I like seeing the architecture of my days and months build and grow inside this neat little book. I learned the art of keeping a calendar from my parents. My mom, to this day, charts important appointments on a wall calendar that hangs in her kitchen. My dad, the ultimate life-hacker, crafts his own day planner using a standard notebook. Since returning to the written method of scheduling, I find the act of writing down dates and appointments better ingrains the story of my life as it unfolds. I find it easier, and more fun, to keep my life productive and timely. I also experience more clarity about the things that are important to me. When I write an appointment down, there’s a level of personal commitment I’m establishing, more so than typing into my digital device with its predictive typing. Talk about living life by route; trusting the effortless ease of autopilot scheduling was the culprit in my missing those appointments. My planner engages my awareness while I’m mapping my activities, which makes me eager to greet both the far future, and the days ahead.
Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
Believe it or not, we’re halfway through this year. Because it’s July, my day planner has a two-page exercise that asks me to reflect on the past six months. It encourages me to think about goals that were accomplished, or unaccomplished, lessons learned, and to redefine my goals for the next six months to come. Yeah. One of those kind of planners. Truth is, it’s a perfectly valid question – helpful even. How have things been going these past six months, and how do I want things to go in the future? In the digital age, time moves quickly. It feels like January was yesterday, and December feels like it will be next week. In our house, we joke around saying how in three hours we have to go out and buy a Christmas tree. Time feels that fast! So I’m taking this reflection exercise seriously. After reading this, maybe you will too.
For me, the past six months have been a hit list of highs and lows in every area of life. A career high, a health low, a family high, and romantic relationship low, a financial low, a health insurance low, a student loan low, a physical pain low, a dream deferred low, a diet low, a fitness low, low, low, low….whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! With this recent string of lows, it’s tempting to think that this low life pattern will be any different in the future. The disappointing pattern keeps me stalled when I want to be moving forward in life. If a low gets followed by another low, then followed by yet another low, isn’t it possible that a low will follow that low, and another low will follow that one too? Of course one can beat the odds and hit a high, but how many lows will that take?!
A New Thought
Years ago, a spiritual teacher shared with me a phrase that helps me ease stress when a pattern of misfortune seems set in motion: Up until now. The phrase helps me to shift my attention to thinking of misfortune as finite, as opposed to perpetual. It’s a stopgap that allows me just enough time to reframe the story of my life. Up until now, I’ve had a string of misfortune. Up until now, I’ve made lousy eating choices. Up until now, I’ve felt so trapped by the pressure of my student loan. You get the picture.
There’s an addendum to the phrase: Moving forward. Moving forward, I can be present with myself when it comes to making choices. Moving forward, I can pay attention to what my body needs, not what it craves. Moving forward, I can remind myself I’m smart enough to handle my student loan.
Between the six months that have passed, and the six months ahead, I realize my planner has given me the gift of Today. Up until now, the past six months have been a roller coaster ride of twists and turns with exciting highs, utter confusions and meaningful revelations. Moving forward, I have six months worth of days, weeks, hours and minutes to learn from those twists and turns. Six months to fill with events and activities that will allow me to celebrate life, make progress on my bigger dreams, or simply spend time being a person in the world, trying to make the world a better place.
“Music is the space in between the notes.” – Claude Debussy
Up until now, I felt like life was moving so fast, but moving forward, I can see how life has plenty of opportunities to experience the beauty in the journey. I’m going to take more responsibility for showing up for my life, and not rely so heavily on my smartphone to live life for me. Toting around a day planner like it’s the 1990s may not be the right fit for everyone, but it’s the right fit for me; at least right now. Who knows, maybe in six months I’ll go back to my digital ways, but today, I love how present and engaged it makes me feel, and isn’t that an important part of the journey?
*The planner I have is called Passion Planner. I researched other motivational type planners and this one suited me best in style and content. Maybe you’ll like it too. Check it out at www.PassionPlanner.com