When Life Gives You Mechanical Pencils…

There has been a pause, lately, a hiatus in posting. I offer the usual rationale: I’ve been busy.

We’ve been trying to move, you see. To purchase a new house. Something that is a little bit larger with a few more amenities. And, most definitely, a little bit more central-air-conditioning infused. The search has been occupying a large portion of my time, energy, and thought. As such, I’ve been less active over here.

And this entire process has infused me with much stress and anxiety. In fact, I think it’s fair to say this is the most stress I’ve experienced in quite a while. Unfortunately, as the stresses and anxieties build, my mind spins faster and I get lost in a complex, chaotic labyrinth of my own thinking. This pattern becomes even more destructive when others have to work with a Stressed-Out Me on something. Like finding a house for two. You take my point. In trying to do what’s necessary to find a home, I get stuck over-analyzing our process of finding a home, my thinking spirals down the aforementioned chaotic labyrinth, and I slowly drive my partner out of her lovely mind. All talk; no action.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this was no way to exist — let alone co-exist — so I’m now attempting to slow down, halt pointless cycles of thinking, and be more mindfully present. One thing I noticed is that slowing down for a grounded awareness often results in an enhanced appreciation for the life’s little things, the moments that I catch because I’m not completely swept up in my head and can actually catch them.

Like the other day.

I was driving to work, as I usually do, and I had to stop along the AC Expressway to get more gas. I was waited on there by an attendant, an old gentleman — in his late 60’s or early 70’s, perhaps. As we waited and the pump quietly emitted gasoline, he suddenly asked me, “Do you have a pencil I could use, sir?”

“I do,” I answered after thinking for a moment. I dug into my side-bag and pulled out a mechanical pencil that I keep there. He took it and turned it over, scrutinizing it. He looked perplexed, but in a pleasant sort of way, as if amused at the same time.

“This a pencil?” he asked. I nodded.

“It’s a mechanical pencil. You have to push on the eraser end. Every click there moves the lead out of the tip.”

Intrigued, he clicked on the end and extended the lead tip. He looked at it and an enormous smile broke out across his face. He shook his head.

“Well, isn’t that just something! That’s amazing. It truly is.” He set about making some record or note on a tablet that he was carrying. I told him to keep it, that he might need it again. After I told him I had another one, he smiled again and thanked me. He seemed genuinely happy to be able to work with the mechanical pencil. We parted ways, but I kept thinking about him.

I realize that it’s easy to get caught up in the romanticism of these things. I know he wasn’t a sagely Buddha trying to teach me to observe the little things and taker pleasure in them. He was just a guy who needed a pencil and who got one he wasn’t expecting. But I do feel that I could stand to learn something — or just pause to really appreciate — his candid interest and happy engagement with that moment in his life, over something as small as a pencil. If I could capture a bit of that, I would be on the path to being a better human being.

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