In and out of my purse it goes. Here and there in my home it moves. Shiny black cover, spiral bound, carrying my “life” inside of it. As I moved into the elementary school years of my kids two decades ago, I began to tote this “August-to-August” pal. The style of an At-a-Glance weekly planner has worked well for me as I have attempted to control my life and everything in it.
Datebooks have helped me to keep track of day-to-day responsibilities with calculation for as long as I can remember. Writing down plans and obligations makes me feel like I can stay ahead of the game and execute my year with the least resistance and mistakes as possible. The illusion of managing my days has evolved over the years.
Initially, in my high school bedroom with the dark fuchsia wall, I stuck a standard monthly calendar into my burlap-covered cork bulletin board with a push pin. Here I kept track of important events such as swim meets and school dances. During that free-spirited time, the calendar seemed to be all about fun and games. Eventually, it became an instrument of perceived control.
During my early twenties, I carried a small, faux leather “week-to-week” book that an insurance agent gave out at the end of December. It was thin and pocket-sized, soft to the touch. Each page had an entire week on it, offering a smidge of space for notes of the day. I could peel away the perforated edge of the booklet and feel some agency about the passing of the seasons seven days at a time.
For some years after that, I worked off of a giant desk-sized calendar. It held the entire month in one glance and helped me with grand scale scheduling. Knowing what was ahead gave an allure that nothing could surprise me. At the end of the month, it became satisfying to hear the rip as I pulled off one sheet of the sizable chart, unveiling a new line up that I could systemize.
Another strategy I have used to illicit security necessitated the personal creation of a ten-week calendar during summertime when the kids were young. It was a version of wide-ruled notepaper, three pages glued together the long way. I painstakingly filled out each week with each kid’s activities (lessons, jobs, camps) represented by a different pen colors (black, blue, red) and family events in pencil. This was slick.
Even now, with the advent and convenience of electronic calendars, I still prefer to arrange my life with paper and pen.
January offers opportunity for a reset and a good time to reflect on my patterns of the months and decades prior.
If I look to the new year with the attitude of a maiden and see my possibilities with fresh, uncorrupted eyes and innocent naivety, I wonder how my planning could change. If I opened up my year to exploring possibilities that the world has to offer me, might fresh new experiences come my way?
I am guessing I would live a bit more spontaneously. I would have less room for productivity but leave more space for play and adventure. No doubt I would release myself from the fantasies I have about what I can direct through my Day-Timer. Author and artist Scott Erickson names my propensity, “We obsess so much about controlling the future narrative because it’s a cathartic practice in the face of all things we have no control over.” I have used my scheduling to provide a support that lies to me. I truly have sparse power over the outcomes of the next day.
As I begin 2022, I would like to loosen my hold on my planning strategies and embrace the maiden in me. Though the shift sounds intimidating, I believe I will be okay and maybe even thrive.
If I leave some spaces empty for exploring or creative connection each month, without squashing out the idea with my matured practicality, wisdom of age, or hesitancy of doing things right, it may energize me.
While I have reluctance to completely let go of my chronicling practices for 2022, I purpose to honor playfulness and new experiences in my life this year. Perhaps soon, I can begin to become comfortable with impromptu. It’s a new year, and it is time to turn the page. I am already excited!
Maryhelen Martens has been gathering and connecting with others since she was a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. She is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. While her emotions and voice were shut down for decades, she is finding them again and using them in healing groups, story coaching, and writing. She’s always been drawn to water and sunsets and more recently to the desert and sunrises. She’s curious about that. Mother to three authentic adults, Maryhelen lives with her steadfast husband Keith on the shore of Lake Michigan.