Romancing the Form


Daily Prompt Grateful and Guilty Whether it’s a trashy TV show, extra-pulpy fiction, or nutrient-free candy, write a thank-you note to your guiltiest guilty pleasure (thanks for the prompt suggestion, Sarah!)

I read a crappy romance novel once. It left me feeling dirty, but I couldn’t stop. Everything about it was bad except the mastery this author had over the “hook.” I couldn’t stop. Literally.

I was in Italy, studying Italian. Someone had left books in English at the apartment of one of my classmates, a woman from Manchester. She gave it to me along with The Da Vinci Code. Also impossible to put down.

Anyone who writes fiction wants to write something that is impossible to put down, and they’d like to write a best seller, so I was interested in the novel for those reasons because, after a while, I was no longer interested in the book as a book. I finished it and plowed on with the second one, the EWWWW! icky book.

It was more than 500 pages, a long and circuitous tunnel in which one could lose ones self. The characters were types, but realistic enough to be compelling, There was the good guy (who was a paraplegic woman in a wheelchair living alone [god help us] in a house by a lake) and the bad guy (another woman but other than that she could walk I remember nothing about her) and the love interest — a handsome, red-haired doctor. The twists and turns involved, predictably, the protagonista falling out of the wheelchair into the snow dangerously near the lake and being rescued by some towns folk and cared for by the doctor who falls in love with her. Of course, she can’t believe it. I can’t either — not because she’s a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but because she’s so obnoxious.

I read that book exactly as if it meant something to me and I hated every minute. It was like crack. I left it in a trash can in a hotel room in Milan, finally finished it, the culmination of everything completely predictable. She married the handsome red-haired doctor who carried her down the aisle. The antagonista had some horrible thing happen to her that taught her a lesson. She didn’t die, instead she learned that nice people — even sexy people — might be in wheelchairs.

Nonetheless, that novel did something I had not yet learned (may not have learned) how to do with my own writing — it held me completely in thrall, even though, the whole time, I felt like I was eating from an ashtray full of cigarette butts. Somehow that novel even smelled gross. I didn’t feel guilty for reading it, a little shame, naturally, but I learned a lot from the experience.

The Da Vinci Code was well written, not overly accurate (some years before, I’d actually read the books Dan Brown is said to have plagiarized — if I hadn’t I might have liked the book more). It contained a mystery (a sinister one), a love interest and some mildly deviant sex. It was a good book – not a great book, but a simply very readable and engaging decent novel (that I didn’t like). The other? Everything focused on the lowest common denominators of human life in our times. If it were two celebrities, Carmen Diaz would be The Da Vinci Code) and Kim Kardasshian the other novel.

The novel left me feeling sort of sick for a day or two. I had a hard time sleeping that night, not only because I was leaving Italy, but because I felt ashamed that I’d actually spent some of my precious time in Italy reading that. I still haven’t figured out what the author did in her writing or even if it was her writing or if it was just normal, morbid human fascination.

I recalled a trip I had made to a writer’s conference seven or eight years ago. I had paid the fee for the “right” to speak to some literary agents about Martin of Gfenn. Martin of Gfenn is about a leper. The protagonist is a young painter, who gets leprosy. It’s the 13th century so there’s no cure.

I’d written each of these agents the required synopsis of the book. They had the story in front of them when we met. Each experience had its own wrinkle of bizarreness. The first was a brand new agent really looking for novels. She was interested in my book, but asked if I’d done any research at all. “A lot of you writers get an idea, but you never do any research,” she said. “You can send me a chapter but only if you send a complete bibliography.” The next agent was so tired and burned out from the conference — and possibly from being a literary agent — that when she sat down with me, she talked about her son (of whom she was proud) and the trials and tribulations of her job. The third…

“So your protagonist is a young man who gets leprosy?”
“That’s right.”
“What happens at the end of the story? Does he get married and have a family?”
I’m thinking, “He’s a LEPER.” I say, “No, he probably dies, but I didn’t write that in the novel. It didn’t seem to fit.”
“Why does he die?”
“Leprosy was fatal in those days.”
“Really? So he has to die? Readers don’t like sad endings.”

P.S. This post is not meant to say I think romance novels are bad nor is it meant to criticize people who read and like them.

First We Read, then We Write…

I’ve said this before, BUT if a prompt sucks, not only do people not write it, but they do not read what others do write. Realizing this, I made the decision that even when a prompt sucks, I’ll see what the people I’m following are writing. I’ll also try to write it (my protest a month ago really had NO effect. It seems WP makes its money by paid bloggers and “attracting” new writers to develop a “blogging habit” and placing ads — that’s all fine but it means that the daily prompt will be repetitive because the vast majority of people writing it are just starting up.)

Very often, the bloggers I follow write nothing. Or a gripe. A reasonable gripe. (Like this one.) The last three daily prompts (maybe more, but those three are close to the front of my mind) have been really awful. Today we were tasked to discuss (upload?) the soundtrack to our lives. Many readers don’t bother to listen to posted videos (peoples’ taste in music is quite personal and they like what they like) and other readers just don’t want to write the story of their lives. There is a lot of “tell us your life story” here on WordPress. I’ve noticed that since the beginning.

I suppose it comes from the “write what you know” fetish. I suppose the idea is that we write better about things with which we are familiar. It seems that “write what you know” means — to most people — write incessantly about your own personal experience with you as the protagonist. I wonder that no one has noticed how unremarkable most of our lives are, how little variety (except in the details). Almost everyone I know was born, went to school, suffered a heart break. Down the road some terrible personal tragedy occurred (knowing this about others should be the foundation for compassion) and then the triumphing over that tragedy (otherwise, they’re not writing about it). A lucky number of us get to live to a relatively old age and then we die. That is what we know. Universally across the board, across national borders and generations. That’s IT.

The really interesting stuff is not that; it’s what we can do with our experiences in creating something new — a poem? A story? A play? A conversation?

The man I was lucky enough to have as the adviser for my thesis grew up (left teaching) to be a noted Emerson scholar. He wrote a beautiful book about writing based on ideas he’d gleaned from Emerson’s journals. The book is First We Read, Then We Write. It is a textbook of a very special kind. Emerson saw himself as a poet. Dr. Richardson saw/sees himself as a writer. It seems to me the two have been in close trans-generational contact.

One of Emerson’s main points was always “The first rule of writing is not to omit the thing you meant to say.” Interestingly, blogs that rehash ones life story do not need to have a point. The writer doesn’t even have to think about actually SAYING something. With enough practice, people will probably START saying something or realize that have nothing to say, but writing with intent is something else.

Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That…


Daily Prompt Cue the Violins If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?

One of Denver’s “nothing” streets, E. 14th Avenue. It wasn’t Colfax, where it was all happening and it was a zoo, but it worked. Every morning I launched myself from my apartment on 12th and Marion and arrived half hour later at the law firm on 17th and Welton. I didn’t take exactly the same route every day, and, after I’d made the walk for a while, I turned it into a loop. Going? Down past the capital building, then across the park to Broadway, then to 16th street — much more interesting before the Mall was built — then over to work. Coming home? Up 17th street past Trinity Methodist church. The map below shows it exactly — down on the blue dotted line, back on the gray trail that’s NOT Colfax.


One morning, as I passed a large brick apartment building I (inexplicably) noticed the sounds of passing traffic. Maybe because it was the first warm day after a longish winter, and people had their windows rolled down, I heard music coming from the various cars. At that moment I had the idea that it would make a cool movie, just this, my 7 a.m. walk to work and the sound track, radios and tape decks of the random passing songs. (You don’t hear any of this if you’re wearing ear buds, but the Walkman had not yet been invented and/or if it had, I couldn’t have afforded one.)

So if you ask me for the sound track for MY life? I’d say it’s just that. Me moving along toward the destination accompanied by random, passing songs. The most dramatic of these moments happened in San Diego, at the corner of University and 54th. This is a mixed neighborhood in every way. It is near housing where many brand-new immigrants go to live. The ethnic mixture of this hood changed almost daily. At this particular moment, the Cambodians were moving on, leaving a gap that would be filled by Eritreans, Somalis and Afghanis. New immigrants still wear their “colorful national costumes.” It was also a neighborhood with a lot of gang activity — Mexican and African American territorial disputes raged constantly, and, at that point, the Hells Angels were still a presence. And within all that were people like me just trying to put a life together in one of the only financially affordable (it’s not any more) sections in San Diego.

It was the mid/late 90s. I was in a friend’s truck, coming down the hill from school to this intersection. On this corner was a largish and newer Asian mall with a restaurant and grocery story, pool hall, manicure shop, etc. Across the street was the soon to be defunct Jewish Community center. Across from that was K-Mart and a Chinese restaurant of the all-you-can-eat buffet variety. The next corner was houses, up on a hill. My friend had just asked if I’d ever heard Cypress Hill. I’d just asked what kind of music it was. He’d just said, “Rap,” and I’d just said, “I don’t like rap,” and he’d just answered, “Listen to this anyway.” At the moment we reached the intersection, the whole mad reality of City Heights, San Diego, was crossing the street in front of us, this song came on. Never has the vision of street reality coincided so perfectly with a song, the sound track of the moment.

Ticket to Paris


Daily Prompt Sparkling or Still What’s your idea of a perfect day off: one during which you can quietly relax, doing nothing, or one with one fun activity lined up after the other? Tell us how you’d spend your time.

“This is no good. If I sleep in on Saturdays, I miss the day. From now on, not happening, I don’t care what I do on Friday night. Nope. “

She shoved aside her covers and got up, shaking off a mild hangover and her persistently aching heart. February, and cold, but the sun was shining. 9:30. She went out to her kitchen and poured a glass of grapefruit juice and made a Carnation Instant Breakfast in her blender.

By eleven o’clock she was on her way downtown to her office. Not to work, but because of the typewriter. An IBM Selectric II with an erase feature. In every way it was a lot easier to work with than the Smith Corona portable her mom had given her for high school graduation. She liked her job, anyway, working in the development office for a large university’s college of law. Besides, working on her thesis at the office was a sure way not to be interrupted. Her friends would call her at home and there were no message machines, no cell phones, so she would not know. She liked the idea that by her not being home, if a friend did call her, it would seem that she had an interesting life.

She was so restless. There was a whole big world out there — she knew it — some of the people with whom she worked had been there. She had friends out there, too. But she wasn’t out there. She was stuck in a job that barely paid her bills writing a thesis that seemed never to be finished. Yeah, she wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be. What revision was this? Ten or something. It was due in two months if she wanted her MA this year. She did. She wanted out. They wanted her out.

She looked at the two shoe boxes of alphabetized and annotated references, all handwritten on index cards, that made up the bibliography. No one had ever indexed this source before. “Your bibliography alone is worth the MA,” her adviser said. “You should publish it.” She’d already figured that she’d never be able to type that with any accuracy. She’d hired a professional to do it. Pricey. $140. At least that was done and she had the cards back. A twenty page bibliography. “Too bad this isn’t a dissertation,” her adviser said.

“Should I apply for the PhD program?”

“Why? You want to teach English?”

“Well, yeah, I like teaching English.”

“No. You don’t have to teach English. You can do other things. You should write.”

Years later she would wonder about that conversation. Was he trying to let her down slowly? To tell her in a kind way that she wouldn’t get into the PhD Program? (She wouldn’t have gotten in. She’d been more or less ejected from the MA program, not given that precious third year teaching assistantship with its classes to teach and its monthly stipend.) What was he saying? But at the time she took his comment at face value, thinking, “He might not like teaching any more, but I love it.” Nonetheless, she was, even then, trying her hand at freelance writing.

The fun part of the thesis had been the research. The hardest part was typing without errors. The most important part in the long term was that it taught her to type fast, but learning how to do research at that level added a great deal to her life down the road when she found herself writing historical fiction.

The sun came in the window behind her, giving the lie to the chill-struck and glittering February afternoon. She edited. She typed. The afternoon wore on. Around five, there was a knock at the door. She got up and there was her best friend, a law student, “You wanna’ get dinner?”

“Absolutely. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, bar exam review and I’ve been working on that brochure. Thesis?”


“Are you about finished?”

“You mean finished-finished or for now?”

“Finished finished.”

“I hope so. I see Dr. Richardson next Saturday. I need a whole draft by then.”

“How many drafts is this?”

“Ten? You want to go now? I still need a few to finish up this part. Just a couple of minutes. You can wait?” She noticed her friend was already wearing her parka, hat and mittens.

21010-2“No problem. I’ll go check out the executive toys in your boss’ office. I never knew anyone really BOUGHT those things.”

“I know, right? Check out the Executive Sandbox. I had a lot of twisted ideas for that, but I wouldn’t. It’d freak him out too much.”

“Like what?”

“Tootsie-rolls. It looks like a catbox to me.” She went back to her typewriter and the paragraph she was writing. She did what she could to make the point clearly. The thought of “style” had not yet crossed her mind. That would not happen for years. She finished and turned off the typewriter. She carefully placed the finished pages into a box that had held a ream (now used up) of bond typing paper and slid it onto the shelf under her desk. “Let’s go. Cisco’s?”

“Sounds good!”

She got her coat and hat, turned off the lights, and locked the door behind them. They rode the elevator down ten floors, left through big glass doors and walked into the frigid night, thinking of guacamole.

*Tasked to write about my perfect day off (sigh) I wrote about a Saturday afternoon at the beginning of the ride, back in 1979. The title comes from something my boss did when I expressed my frustration at being stuck in Denver when I wanted to see the WORLD. He got on the phone and reserved a seat for me on a flight to Paris. His goal was just to show me that it was THAT easy.

Day of Unusual Happenings


Daily Prompt Cousin It We all have that one eccentric relative who always says and does the strangest things. In your family, who’s that person, and what is it that earned him/her that reputation?

“Ha, ha, ha, ha. Oh man. Whew. Dude, let me borrow your handkerchief.”
“Lamont, what’s so funny?”
“Look at that dumbass prompt.”
“I suspect that I am (in the eyes of my family) ‘Cousin It’.”
“Why do you think so?”
“Oh, sometimes they let things out, you know, stuff like, “In spite of everything, you’ve done all right for yourself, haven’t you, Lamont,” like they’re surprised. “
“Well, you haven’t really followed the, you know, beaten path.”
“I tried.”
“I know. It’s just not in you.”
“No. I guess not.”
“Well, you’re OK. I mean you found a nice OLD place to live IN THE FRIGID NAVEL OF AMERICA, down here in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE where you don’t  know anyone, living with a bunch of OLD DOGS and no TV or HUSBAND. Back in the 90s you…”
“Dude, we KEEP the laundry IN the laundry basket, right?”
“I guess, Lamont, no one else in your family would’ve made the choices you’ve made.”
“They all made their own bizarre choices.”
“No argument there.”
“Fact is, Charles Addams and I have the same birthday. We share it with William Peter Blatty. In a book I read that gave information about each birthdate, mine — ours — was headlined ‘Day of Unusual Happenings’. When it comes down to it, in the Greek Orthodox Church, Christ was born on that day, too. What could I hope for entering the world on the same day as those guys? Well as my friend Pietro used to say, ‘Tutti famiglie pazzi’.”

*”All families (are) crazy.”

To Blog or Not To Blog II — Dear Blog Readers!

…I’m not going to stop posting. In To Blog or Not To Blog Part 1, I was just ruminating over the past year writing a public blog — how what actually happened did not coincide with my aspirations, how the word “blog” is never going to be what I do — these are all things I didn’t know when I started just as I didn’t know that the Daily Prompt would result in some awesome stories. This has been a totally positive experience. I really had no expectations. It’s been a year of huge changes for me as well — I had no idea last winter when I started this that would be the case, either. The Daily Prompt (oddly enough) sometimes served as a buoy in a sometimes chaotic sea. And, you know, I don’t care how many people read it — I’m just gratified and a little surprised that people do and I really enjoy the connections that have resulted. I’d have to be someone else to write a blog that attracted hundreds of thousands of readers.

To Blog or Not To Blog?

What am I, anyway? Blogger? I don’t think so. I’ve read some blogs lately about blogging and I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. I think I’m doing the same thing I do anyway; I’m writing. To be honest, I don’t even like the word “blog” as a verb.

So what’s the difference? I’ve been told that the name of my blog “I’m a Writer, Yes I Am” is obnoxious and turns people off. It comes across to some as an enormous claim. I explain it on my “About Me” page but I don’t know if people have gone there to see the meaning and if they do, they might not relate well to Iggy Pop and the Teddy Bears. I’ve started out with already a meaningless — if not offensive — blog name.

Then there’s the thing of audience. I don’t have a big one compared to the number of followers many of my fellow “bloggers” have. Still, I’m pretty surprised that more than 400 peoplefollow my blog! I think that’s amazing and I’m grateful, but, for the most part, on a day-to-day basis, the same 14 people read it as have been reading it for several months. I’ve offended a couple of my more loyal readers because I insisted on my own terms for what I’d written. I didn’t want to be negotiated out of what I know to be true just because these readers did not agree with me. Truth doesn’t have anything at all whatsoever to do with whether people agree with it or not. So, yeah. I should, possibly, have kept silent but I couldn’t, after a certain point. I found myself — in those cases — thinking, “If you don’t like what I’ve written go write something you do like.” I had a moment of philosophical introspection and I realized that we’re all guilty of wanting things to be something else, of hearing what we want to hear and being surprised when, in fact, the person speaking or writing didn’t actually SAY what we wanted to hear.

I learned, too, that people spend hours and hours commenting and reading and reading and commenting and working hard to build up an audience. I don’t do that. It’s not because I’m not interested in what others write. I am. But, honestly, I’m mostly interested in my writing. Have I said what I mean? Have I said it well? How come there’s a comma missing?

Soon my blog will be one year old. I have not gotten what I came on WordPress hoping for. I wanted attention for my novels and that absolutely did NOT happen. To get that attention, I’d have to go about this in a completely different way, I guess. What I have gotten are some beautiful short stories that, in truth, I would never have written without the Daily Prompt. Still, I don’t think I’m a blogger. I can’t seem to get with the program. Maybe it’s a fact that I’m a writer, yes I am.

Here’s the song from which I took the name of my blog. I chose it because it was something I seldom heard but liked. I didn’t own it until last year. I had had a strange day at school and on the way home, the song came on the radio. It seemed somehow like an affirmation, a stand. A fact about me my students sure as hell never knew. When I made my blog, the song was fresh on my mind, and I chose the name for my blog with the same idea; an affirmation, taking a stand. It’s not snottiness, bragging or pride. It’s something else entirely. The words are beautiful; take out “Punkrocker” and put in “writer.” :-)

The Goodle Days


Daily Prompt Salad Days Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).

“Oh c’mon Lamont. You’ve had a lot of goodle days.”
“Hope for more, Dude. Besides, sometimes in the middle of the goodle days, you think you’re in hell. It’s only later you realize where you actually were. Anyway, I hate these navel gazing prompts.”
“But you could write about your salad days, Lamont!”
“Ah, in many European countries, salad comes AFTER the main dish. I prefer mine that way. No dressing. Just arugula, too. Like I had in Trieste during some of the goodle days 20 years ago. Maybe baby tomatoes. Anyway, here’s a song about the ‘goodle days.’ John Hartford says it better than I can.”
“Oh yeah! I like that song! I remember hearing him sing in back in the 70s. Were those the goodle days, Lamont?”
“You’re not dragging me into this, Dude. Just listen.”

“What’s that, Lamont?”
“I just thought of another song, The truth. NOW is when we live. Yearning in either direction is a waste of life. Beautifully said here.”


The Key to the Time Machine


Daily Prompt Golden Key You’ve been given a key that can open one building, room, locker, or box to which you don’t normally have access. How do you use it, and why?


For Milo ;-)


Drawing by Jules Pfeiffer, illustration for Norton Juster’s great book, The Phantom Tollbooth

“I really like your cell phone case, Professor. Where’d you get it?”
“Etsy.” My backpack is open on my table. My cell phone face down beside it. I’m looking for a dry-erase marker that works.
“No way. You go on Etsy?”
“I have a store, well I used to. I used to sell paintings, but…”
“Why are you teaching us this? Are we every going to use it?”
“I have no way of knowing that. I have no way of knowing what life is going to throw at you. But that’s what this is for. That’s what literature is for. It’s for your life.”
“Is that going to be on the test?”
“There’s no test, Luis. Have you paid attention at ALL???”
“I, like, forgot.”
“Professor, if there’s no test and we’re not going to use this in our lives, why is this a required class?”
“There’s more to life than getting through school, taking tests, getting a job. There’s all the OTHER stuff.”
“What other stuff?”

I wonder, “Yeah, what other stuff?” Maybe there IS no other stuff. Maybe the highest achievement of humanity is my cell phone case. If I’m honest (and soon I will be) I hate most of these students. I have at least as much contempt for them as they do for me and what I’m teaching. I don’t care what will happen to them in their lives. I don’t care if they open up to this or not. The gaping maw of their ignorance coupled with their adamant indifference have proven to be the last straw. And here I had thought teaching an intro to lit class would be a great way to spend the summer, a joyous swan song to my 35 years in the classroom. Instead it has simply affirmed my perception that I’m done, past my sell-by date.

Just twelve years ago I taught the same class. A girl — woman — came in the first day with her little boy who was about 8. “Sorry about that, Professor. But I don’t have a sitter until tomorrow. And you need to know. I hate poetry. Are we doing poetry in here?”
“Yeah, actually, right now.”
“Well, I’ll try.”
“That’s all you can do,” I say and smile at her. She sits down. I go to the board and write, “We never know how high we are.” I stop, look at the class, and say, “It’s OK to laugh.” They do. Then I write the rest of the poem.

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies—
The Heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King—
“That’s Emily Dickinson. She was kind of a weirdo, but she wrote good poetry. She was really shy.”
“What’s a ‘cubit’?”
“Like a meter or a yard — back in the day whenever there was a new king they measured the distance from his nose to the end of his finger, like this,” I stretched out my arm and showed them how a cubit was determined. “It was a pain since everything had to be re-measured, roads, everything. So what’s Emily Dickinson saying?”
“She saying,” said the woman who hated poetry, “that we would do great things if we weren’t afraid.”
“And you hate poetry?” I say, kind of laughing at her.
“Is that a poem?”
“I didn’t know there were poems like that.”
“There are a lot of poems like that.”
“Do you know another one?” asks a kid in the back. “Like that? By heart?”
I think for a moment of the beauty of that statement, by heart. To know something by heart means it’s part of you. Forever. “Yeah.”
“But short, right? I hate long poems,” says a different poetry hater sitting near the door (to make an escape if needed).
I laugh and write another short poem on the board, this one by Stephen Crane.
“How many do you know?”
“I don’t know. We’ll find out.” And so that class begins.
Twelve years later, the only thing I bring to class that impresses my students is my cell phone case. What happened?  The problem isn’t the key. The problem is our willingness to pick it up and use it.
So what happened? Here’s a comment from a Special Ed teacher friend (elementary) who retired a few years ago, frustrated with No Child Left Behind — and for good reason. It prevented her from actually and really TEACHING her students: “Twelve years ago your students weren’t coming out of an educational system that valued a test score over the love of learning. NCLB, and now Common Core, squelch natural curiosity and the desire to explore the unknown in favor of a “standards based” examination score. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of public education.
I believe she’s right. Over the last three years of my teaching career (2011-2014) I heard many students in my university classes tell me that it was the first time in their lives they’d learned something. One of the jobs of public school (IMO) is to foster curiosity and teach students how to learn. It doesn’t do that any more. My final COLLEGE literature class (the highest level non-upper division English class offered by the college) had students in it who had 1) never read a novel, 2) did not know that Greek is spoken in Greece, 3) had never heard of Prohibition, 4) did not know there were two world wars… and on and on and on and on. I LOVED teaching until 2010 when a student threatened to assault me over an A-. So, as soon as I could, I picked up my chips and left the table with a broken heart. Students seldom know the passion and love that person in front of the room has for the subject they teach and the students with whom they share it.
It’s said that a college degree is the key to the future. No. What someone can LEARN in college is the key; it is the key to the time machine of both future AND past.

Advice for Waiting


Daily Prompt Waiting Room “Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want? <== another “meh” prompt. Sigh…

The ability to wait is commensurate with the ability to live with the unknown. In Spanish the verb for “wait” and the word for “hope” are one and the same. That says everything.

There are many waiting rooms in literature. For Sarte, a waiting room was Hell (No Exit). For Samuel Beckett, waiting is the subject of an entire play Waiting for Godot. My favorite waiting room in literature is in C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. It’s a literary image to which most of us can relate. I spent most of the months of September and October waiting and it was no fun at all. I had decided to sell my house in California so I had to WAIT for someone who wanted to buy it. Once I found my house in Colorado I had to WAIT for the intricate machinations of a real estate deal to grind their way to my having a place to live. There was nothing I could do to bring the future closer or learn its secrets. I had to wait. Did the good things “come” to me because I waited? That’s a non sequitur. I think what this hackneyed cliché is saying is that letting things come in their own time is often wiser than pushing toward an outcome.

I have known many people who are “assertive.” The MOST assertive of them consider me passive. I think that many times assertiveness is simply the inability to wait. It’s deciding how things will be and making them that way (whether they ARE that way or not). My stragedy is usually to let nature take its course, to see how things go before acting. I like to collect all the information I can and to know the facts before I “do” anything. I want to know the objective limitations I will be facing. I can make decisions about things, but I seldom make them with absolute certainty. Many times they are theories waiting to be tested. Over the years I’ve learned that waiting is often wisdom. My approach is to find what I want — often visualizing it as something in the distance, like the tree you might race your little brother to — and heading toward it. I can never know what obstacles lie between me and that “tree” but I know by now that waiting is probably going to be part of the journey. Waiting can give us information, too…

A few suggestions for waiting:

If it’s a bus you’re waiting for, you just have to wait until it gets there. If you miss it, there will be another one — if you wait. The same rule applies — more or less — to all forms of public transportation.

If you’re a kid waiting for Santa, the wait is interminable and only useful if you’ve been good during the year. The waiting is good because it gives you something to which you can compare other waits later in your life. You will be able to use it as an analogy, “Damn, this is like waiting for Santa.” I’ve heard this analogy many times from pregnant women, but having no direct experience, I can’t tell you how valid it is.

If you’re waiting for medical test results for yourself or a loved one, depending on the test, the wait can be excruciating or nothing much. Still, all you can do is wait, hope for the best, pray if that’s your thing, and carry on with your life.

If you’re waiting for your significant other to come home, and you suspect him/her of cheating, it would be advisable for you to go do something else, such as find an apartment of your own. Whether he/she is cheating or not, there’s no trust in your relationship any more, so it is over.

If you’re waiting for a war to end, again, the wait is interminable, and you can’t do anything to hasten the conclusion. This is awful. Stay busy, pray if you believe in that, and be kind to others because they’re probably in the same hell.

If you’re waiting for the end of the work day, reassess the way you feel about your job, unless you’re doing something really great that evening.

If you’re waiting for love, well, my mom said that was like waiting for buses.

If you’re waiting for a sign, there are signs on buses, or you can make one up — which is what most people do.