Quote of the Day: We Can’t Erase our Lives

 

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” – John W. Gardner

When I first read this quote, I was intrigued by it! It suggested so many things. One of my favorite images was getting a pencil set each fall for school—you know the kind that had 12 multi-colored pencils, printed with my name—SUSAN KONOWITZ—in gold letters, no less. The pencils even came in their own faux-leather packet with a snap on the top. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But I digress—there’s a more valuable point here.

As we look back on our lives, we realize, especially as we grow into our “senior years,” that we made lots—I mean lots—of mistakes: poor decisions, hurt relationships, bad choices. For me, once I get past an initial regret, I tend not to dwell on a mistake. Just as Mr. Gardner suggests, we can’t change the past: we can’t relive it (although we may try to alter it in our minds), repair it, or enter a time machine and make different choices. All of our choices have brought us to this day—this amazing day—that gives us immeasurable opportunities to live fully.

So life calls to us to do our very best, to be conscious, to practice wisdom, to use our time productively. In spite of fear and anxiety driving our actions, we are called to move forward and discover what life offers. The past rests in our memories with all its flaws and blessings, and although we may have regrets, we have hopefully learned a great deal and can strive to be our best selves. That way, the unfolding future will hold fewer regrets and many more gifts.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    So far, I treasure most of my mistakes. Hard to have become me without them.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    So far, I treasure most of my mistakes. Hard to have become me without them.

    Good for you, @bryangstephens. There are a few I regret, but you’re right: they make us the person we become. Thanks!

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” –John W. Gardner

    I do all my Dell expert and challenger crossword puzzles in ink.  I don’t always finish them, but I get close.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    • #4
  5. Vectorman Member
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Susan Quinn: The past rests in our memories with all its flaws and blessings, and although we may have regrets, we have hopefully learned a great deal and can strive to be our best selves. That way, the unfolding future will hold fewer regrets and many more gifts.

    Your wisdom is also a blessing.


    This conversation is an entry in our Quote of the Day Series. We have many openings on the March Schedule. If this reminds you of a quotation that is important to you, why not sign up today?

     

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” –John W. Gardner

    I do all my Dell expert and challenger crossword puzzles in ink. I don’t always finish them, but I get close.

    I do my crosswords in ink, too, @stad, and don’t always finish them. And I make a gigantic mess sometimes on the harder ones. But as silly as it sounds, I don’t like crossing things out, but I love the way it feels to write in ink. I find I put pen to paper so seldom anymore, and I kind of miss it.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    You mean, like where the bodies are buried?

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    You mean, like where the bodies are buried?

    Now, I didn’t say that, did I? But it is a way to induce forgetfulness about one’s mistakes.

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Beautiful start to the day Susan – lovely quote and post.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    You mean, like where the bodies are buried?

    Now, I didn’t say that, did I? But it is a way to induce forgetfulness about one’s mistakes.

    I think I was set up . . . you know there are all kinds of “erasures,” you know . . .heh, heh

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Beautiful start to the day Susan – lovely quote and post.

    Thanks, FSC. I’m so glad.

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” –John W. Gardner

    I do all my Dell expert and challenger crossword puzzles in ink. I don’t always finish them, but I get close.

    I do my crosswords in ink, too, @stad, and don’t always finish them. And I make a gigantic mess sometimes on the harder ones. But as silly as it sounds, I don’t like crossing things out, but I love the way it feels to write in ink. I find I put pen to paper so seldom anymore, and I kind of miss it.

    I like ink better than pencil too.  However, I use ink because it makes me think harder and check intersecting clues first before writing something down.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):
    I like ink better than pencil too. However, I use ink because it makes me think harder and check intersecting clues first before writing something down.

    Nah. I’m obviously less sophisticated in doing crosswords. I just make a mess.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Stad (View Comment):
    However, I use ink because it makes me think harder and check intersecting clues first before writing something down.

    It also tends to be neater.

    • #14
  15. Old Buckeye Member
    Old Buckeye
    @OldBuckeye

    Thank you, Susan. I’m forwarding to a friend who recently told me about a huge regret in her life–a career path she didn’t follow. I was sad to hear her say it,  because if she’d chosen that route, she and I would most likely never have met and I would have missed a valued friendship.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):
    Thank you, Susan. I’m forwarding to a friend who recently told me about a huge regret in her life–a career path she didn’t follow. I was sad to hear her say it, because if she’d chosen that route, she and I would most likely never have met and I would have missed a valued friendship.

    What a terrific thing to share with her, @oldbuckeye. I have had so many moments where I was at an intersection of life and chose one route rather than another. Your friend doesn’t know how that other career path would have turned out: it could have been a devastating choice (she wouldn’t have liked it, it would have been too demanding, the list is endless), and when we put our time into regrets and memories, we can’t fully appreciate and live right here, where we are. I hope she finds the message helpful.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):
    Thank you, Susan. I’m forwarding to a friend who recently told me about a huge regret in her life–a career path she didn’t follow. I was sad to hear her say it, because if she’d chosen that route, she and I would most likely never have met and I would have missed a valued friendship.

    This is how I think God’s omniscience relates to the concept of fate. In many situations, there is indeed a right and wrong choice, a brave and cowardly choice, or simply a more rewarding option and less fruitful one. But regardless of which we choose, God continues to place blessings and opportunitites in our paths.

    Choices do often close opportunities which a person will never or seldom get again. But there are always more and different opportunities to come.

    Our delightful experiences don’t really justify our poor choices. But neither must our regrets impair new opportunities.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    You mean, like where the bodies are buried?

    • #18
  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” –John W. Gardner

    I do all my Dell expert and challenger crossword puzzles in ink. I don’t always finish them, but I get close.

    I do my crosswords in ink, too, @stad, and don’t always finish them. And I make a gigantic mess sometimes on the harder ones. But as silly as it sounds, I don’t like crossing things out, but I love the way it feels to write in ink. I find I put pen to paper so seldom anymore, and I kind of miss it.

    I like ink better than pencil too. However, I use ink because it makes me think harder and check intersecting clues first before writing something down.

    In high school math classes, I doodled a lot in ink. The inability to undo anything might have helped by forcing me to focus on additions rather than revisions.

    Many pencils are effectively pens, if they have the sort of erasers intended to make mistakes as large and messy as possible.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    This is how I think God’s omniscience relates to the concept of fate. In many situations, there is indeed a right and wrong choice, a brave and cowardly choice, or simply a more rewarding option and less fruitful one. But regardless of which we choose, God continues to place blessings and opportunitites in our paths.

    Choices do often close opportunities which a person will never or seldom get again. But there are always more and different opportunities to come.

    Our delightful experiences don’t really justify our poor choices. But neither must our regrets impair new opportunities.

    I gave this comment a “like,” @aaronmiller, but wanted to say even more. I so appreciate how you have elaborated on the role of choice. We have so much power in our lives, not just in what choices we make, but we can also choose how we “hold” the results of our choices. Every time we recognize that fact, we liberate ourselves. Thanks again.

    • #20
  21. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    My life seems to be written in pencils of varying hardness and blackness. Nothing is erased, but it varies in distinctness. In my married life Mrs Rodin seems to have taken an ink pen to trace over the markings I have made that makes her recollections of my path much clearer to her. I swear her tracings are not always accurate, but I can point to no clear alternative markings to refute it.

    • #21
  22. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Sometimes I look back and positively cringe. But my more serious errors have been pretty much self-inflicted.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to look back and say “Yeah, I pretty much ruined his/her life.”

    • #22
  23. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    I think your name has to be Clinton.

    • #23
  24. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    I think your name has to be Clinton.

    Is it a mistake if no one is available to testify?

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    TBA (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I don’t know. If you know the right people, mistakes can be unmade, or at least covered up.

    I think your name has to be Clinton.

    Is it a mistake if no one is available to testify?

    That is the “unmaking” of a mistake, not a mistake anymore.

    • #25
  26. Eridemus Coolidge
    Eridemus
    @Eridemus

    I have always been troubled by the spans inside of the word “mistake.” If you took the path at an intersection which at the time seemed to you was the best (that you could handle or seemed a remedy for something else) – even if driven by fear of the alternatives….was that a “mistake”? Wasn’t it just the expression of your youth/unpreparedness/prior traumas or deficiencies in that moment?

    Maybe “mistakes” should just be things we darn well KNEW or were ADVISED against, and ran into anyway for rebellious or nefarious reasons. Those are worth both reflecting on and maybe atoning for. But results of a former state of low insight or experience just has to be understood without resentment and hopefully with gratitude that the earlier condition doesn’t apply to us any more. I think that way we can have more compassion for our former selves and for those around us who are making their own mysterious mistakes.

    • #26
  27. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Sinatra.

    • #27
  28. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Susan Quinn: SUSAN KONOWITZ

    Hmm.  Sounds like a nice Irish girl.

    Great post.  Thanks, Susan.

    • #28
  29. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Eridemus (View Comment):
    [R]esults of a former state of low insight or experience just has to be understood without resentment and hopefully with gratitude that the earlier condition doesn’t apply to us any more. I think that way we can have more compassion for our former selves and for those around us who are making their own mysterious mistakes.

    I like this.

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Eridemus (View Comment):
    Wasn’t it just the expression of your youth/unpreparedness/prior traumas or deficiencies in that moment?

    Maybe “mistakes” should just be things we darn well KNEW or were ADVISED against, and ran into anyway for rebellious or nefarious reasons.

    I’m not sure I agree, @eridemus. I would tend to switch your definition around: mistakes are simply poor choices, whether out of ignorance or youth or lack of understanding. If you knew better, that was stupidity or carelessness. It’s like the difference between reasons or excuses: if we knew better, our explanations are excuses; but if there was no way to know ahead of time, they’re reasons. But I’m not prepared to die on this particular battlefield!

    • #30

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