I have just signed up for #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge via The Domino Project, inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book, Self-Reliance. Today is the first day of the challenge. The prompt and my response are below. If you're interested in joining in, go tohttp://ralphwaldoemerson.me/
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We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.
(Author: Gwen Bell)
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Oh, this scares me so much! What story do I have to tell that’s worth the last fifteen minutes of my life? I don’t think there is one—not a single story, not a particular story. I have things to say to people, people who loved me, people who always will. People I loved, and people I should have loved but didn’t. I guess I'll write the biography of a lazy girl.
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There once was a girl who was lazy. All she wanted to do was as little as possible. She had a lot of stomachaches, though the doctor never could see anything wrong with her. But that was no excuse. She was lazy and a dreamer and a reader, and school, though she said she liked it, wasn’t challenging, just stressful. She never understood why others struggled so with the concepts, and thought that there must be more to what was being taught than she could see. This filled her with anxiety, and she often made jokes to cover her fears and to ease her boredom.
When she wasn't at school, she was always in the house, reading. When her mother became annoyed with her hanging around one summer day, she said, "Get out of here! Go outside and play like other kids!"
The lazy girl shrugged and ran upstairs, theoretically to change into play clothes. She put on the shorts with the biggest pockets she could find, then slipped the smallest book she could find into one of the pockets. Thus armed she ran outside and climbed the cherry tree and settled on a large branch and read until she heard her mother calling them all to dinner.
She made friends with another girl who like stories better than anything else. Together they walked during recess, their heads bent together, talking about princesses and dragons and scary things that might happen in the dark. When they were in the fifth grade they wrote stories about robots. Those two girls lost track of one another, but then thirty years later the lazy girl, now a woman, found her old friend. Both of them were writers.
When the lazy girl went to junior high she found that humor was a great reliever of stress and boredom and became the class clown. In classes where a class clown was already in residence, she became the class clown’s assistant. This is a role she continued through her school years and her stories were usually filled with fun, too.
And now the lazy girl is a woman at the end of her life, always having done as little as possible, except where she couldn’t help it, when there was no one else available to do the work, or when the stories had to come out. She wishes that she could have back all the hours she spent playing Sims and spider and free cell and Evony and Hatchlings and all that other stuff. She doesn’t regret time spent reading books, though. Those made her think, and made her more interesting, so that she was able to give stories of her own to the world. If she had that wasted time back, she would use it wisely, spreading joy to all the world through stories.
Or so she thinks. I know this lazy woman, and am sure that she’d squander it all over again.
But some of her stories touched people. She knows from letters, even though she wasn’t worthy of the praises strangers gave to her. She was only doing as little as possible, writing down the stories that had to come out. One classmate, as she began a critique of the lazy woman’s story, said it made her cry because it sounded so much like the lazy woman. Others said that she wrote only warm, fuzzy, funny stories. She tried to break away from that, but she’s funny and fluffy. Fluff is all there is to her, the lazy creature.
But she didn’t pretend to be what she wasn’t, most of the time, unless she was also pretending to herself. And all that she said and wrote contained bits of truth. For example, there was the time she told each of her three children privately that they were her favorite. Later they compared notes and were mad at her for the joke. But she hadn’t lied to any of them.