Do you want to know what is the most hilarious waste of space in the history of all time?
The 2020 day planner that I found sitting in a desk drawer yesterday. I laughed out loud.
This was a nice planner, too. I had always used just a #basic paper calendar for scribbling in appointments and notes, but this one– hardback, black leather bound, all kinds of designated pages for writing big goals and great ideas, prompts for writing and reflecting on how you were spending your time. This was going to be THE year that I figured out my vocational life, my home life, my spiritual life AND my social life.
Like I said, I laughed out loud when I found it in a drawer. Who knew that 2020 was going to come to a screeching halt after the first quarter and that every aspect of our lives would become one long improv act?
I almost scrapped it, just tossed the whole thing in the trash while enjoying my good chuckle. Then I figured I could tear out the pages to use as actual scrap paper.
I cringed at first, tearing the first blank page out of that beautiful bound book. I felt that surely some invisible librarian was looking over my shoulder, ready to shout at any moment, “don’t hurt the book! Step away from the beautiful book!” But wasn’t this preferable to the recycle bin?
And that is the story of how I found myself with at least a year’s worth of scrap paper. The blank canvas for any number of grocery lists, errand lists, meal plans, and work out schedules. You know, life.
Or maybe I can leave a love note on my husband’s drum set. Stick a word of encouragement or a funny joke in my kids’ lunch boxes. Maybe I’ll keep a few pages in my car for scribbling down those sermon thoughts or beginnings of blog posts that come out of the blue sometimes.
Maybe that empty book is where I start a new book.
The more I think about it, those worthless, wordless pages start to look like infinite possibility. And when you get right down to it–to where the book gets binding–that’s what that whole year was. For all the tragedy, anxiousness, loss, and outrage of that season, we all learned some new ways to be together, some new things to do with our time and spaces, and some new purposes for things that were always right in front of us.
We also learned that plans were always an illusion. And so were the planners we kept them in.
Tomorrow, next week, next year… the vacation, the new job, the retirement plan, the college fund, the gym membership… who knows? These are all great things to build into our lives but not ON WHICH to build our lives. I’m still learning this every day: the discipline of knowing the difference between what I should care about and what I should let go; what I should work for and build, and what I should just let be. But I recognize there is a certain power in writing something on scrap paper - it can be scrapped. It can be tossed to the wind or recycled; rewritten, reworked, or reimagined. Nothing is certain, nothing set it in stone. And on a good day, I know that is every bit as freeing as it is terrifying.
I’ve had trouble finding my words these last couple of years, for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with here. But I know my problem is more about space than it is about time. Finding the right physical space in which to sit and write, and finding the right platform in this time of rapidly changing communication technology… it’s daunting.
But there is something about a stockpile of scrap paper that opens up the world. And whether I use it for a grocery list, a lunch box note, or to start the great American novel, I guess that little book–with its endless pages for planning and dreaming and writing the world–is doing its dang job after all.