Good Morning

 

Image result for free use pictures writing at a coffee shop

I don’t usually take many days off from work, but I needed a day to write.   I contacted everyone by email to let them know that I wouldn’t be in the office on Monday.   I had a few projects that needed closure so Friday night I stayed a little later to get things finished.   I worked diligently to make sure that I didn’t have anything to worry about while I was out.  Once I felt that everything required of me was done, I grabbed my stuff, turned off the lights, and headed for the door.  I usually sign out, but the office was locked.  Other than the custodians, I was the last person to leave the building on a Friday night.  Even though it was late, I felt good about the Monday coming.  On Monday, I planned to go to my favorite coffee shop, bright and early.  I would sit at my usual table.  It has a bright light overhead and enough room to spread out.

After I was about 20 minutes away from the job, I remembered that I borrowed a book from the media department that had to be returned on Monday.  Nothing can take the joy out of taking a day off from work faster than having to drive the work anyway.  I could’ve kept the book with me until Tuesday and suffered the wrath of the media director.  However, I promised that I would return it on Monday because another colleague had signed up to read it.  Just thinking about having to take that drive Monday made me instantly angry with myself.  That Monday was set aside for writing, not running errands.

*  * *

Monday came and it was raining.  My alarm usually rings at 4:30 a.m., but I awoke around 4:25.  I think it was because of the excitement of taking the day off.  I’d already planned to edit and revise an essay I started on Saturday.  So, I jumped up, showered quickly, got dressed, and booked it out the door.  I had a 45-minute one way drive to tackle first.  What a waste of time and gas.  Moreover, I didn’t want to see anyone and I didn’t want anyone to see me.  I left the house at 5:45 to beat the traffic and my colleagues.

I had to trick my mind and my spirit into being okay with taking this drive instead of keeping the book until Tuesday.  I love rainy days except when I have to go to work and especially when I have to drive some place I don’t want to go.  After getting everything packed in the truck:  my laptop, favorite pens, used and unused journals, and before starting the car, I looked into the read view window.  My heart told my mind to write a story about why this drive was so important.  I spun this story while I drove:

I have an important client who lent me a first edition leather-bounded book from her personal library.  Her father gave her that book.  This was the first time she’d ever allowed the book to leave her library.  In order to not fall out of favor with this important client, I must honor my promise to return the book first thing Monday morning.  I’d like to keep my word because my word is my bond.  Yes, returning this book is keeping me from making it to the coffee shop at my appointed time, but I’ll get there eventually.   Life is full of interruptions, intrusions, and inconveniences, especially when you are trying to get to the good stuff.  Get over it.

* * *

It was still raining when I pulled into the parking lot.  I snatched the car keys out of the ignition and the book from the passenger seat,  Without an umbrella, I ran into the office with my book tucked in my rain jacket.  I stepped into the lobby.  The lights were on and it was quiet.  The receptionist wasn’t there yet.  The computer that I’ve signed into everyday for two years was in its usual place.  However, today I was able to by-pass it.  That gave me thrill of its own.

I took a few steps into the mail room to place the book in the media box.  One of my colleagues was on her way out.  She leaned on the door with her right hand on the door knob and her briefcase in her left had.  The door was slightly opened.  I said, ” Good morning.”  She looked me right in the face and said nothing.  She pushed the door harder and walked  out of the mail room.  The door shut behind her.  I stood there at first, shocked.  The, I shook my head and thought it strange that people could actually lock eyes with someone and not reciprocate a good morning.

* * *

I wish I could say that that encounter was an isolated one, but it wasn’t.  That particular colleague has never said good morning, to me anyway.  And, I have to say that most of my colleagues neglect to say good morning.  Sometimes they walk by you int he halls or enter meeting rooms and offices without a greeting.  They just start talking about whatever concerns them.  Other times, I’ve said good morning with stares or feigned busyness.

I was raised to wake up in the morning and greet everyone in the house.  I was raised to say good morning everywhere I go until 11:59 a.m.  Bus drivers, waiters, receptionists all get good mornings.  Before I said anything else, i had to say good morning.

Unfortunately, over time I had stopped doing what my grandmother and mother instilled in me.  I’d adopted the custom of not greeting colleagues.  I’d gotten used to walking down hallways as if I was alone although other people walked ahead and behind me.  Today, for reason, I couldn’t help myself.  A good morning just fell out of my mouth.

Besides, this was MY Monday morning, not theirs.

* * *

It was still raining when I ran back into the car.  I squeezed by another colleague getting out of hers.  I asked her pardon; she granted it.  I drove off mad with myself again because I should’ve been in the coffee shop writing already.

As I was driving, something hit me right in my heart.  My day of writing was not delayed because I had to return the book.  It was fueled by it.  The interruption, the intrusion, and the inconvenience blessed me.  This essay wasn’t the one I took the day off to write, but there it was, sitting in my lap.

I’ve been asking myself why do I need to take a day off to write.  I should write everyday.  Well, The encounter in the mail room answered that for me.  I needed a new environment; I needed new motivation.  And when I needed it, it came to me.  I gave myself a Monday and Monday gave me an essay to write.

Good morning.

 

 

Embracing Doubt

Very few things make me feel more vulnerable than writing.

It is a mystery to me why.  I’ve always written something.  In elementary school, I’ve submitted poems and short stories to youth fairs.  In middle school, I’ve entered writing contests.  In my younger years my teachers made me feel good about my writing.  However, in high school, I began receiving some of the harshest criticisms.  I remember getting a paper back from one of my English teachers with so much red ink on it.  In the margins, in between the lines, there was red ink.  Then, at the bottom of the second page, my teacher wrote in red ink, “You changed tenses so much that I felt seasick reading this paper.”

I should’ve remembered that she didn’t dismiss my ideas about Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s relationship.  Instead remembered a vulnerable writing experience, not a triumphant one.   Since then I must’ve written a few really good essays.  I was an English major and I graduated.  However, there is just so much about writing that reminds me that I haven’t arrived.  And that I’ll never arrive.  If I want to write, and I always do, I have to work for it.  Every time I face that blank page, in a journal or on the laptop,  it’s déjà vu.

Maybe it’s because I never felt that I’ve received the best writing training.  I only knew if I had written well or poorly after submitting the essay.  Not much feedback before or during writing.  Worst of all, rarely was there an opportunity to rewrite and resubmit essays to show that I took the feedback into consideration and made revisions.  I’ve been always willing to learn how to write better.

Here is another issue I’ve had to confront about my writing.  I haven’t had many writing teachers although I have taken many English classes.  The few writing classes that I’ve taken always taught me to argue one side of issues.  In his article, “The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt, Phillip Lopate (2013) talked about how he’d supported his daughter’s display of ambivalence in one of her college entrance essays.  He felt it was acceptable to argue the validity of both positions in her paper; her high school counselor and teachers thought otherwise.  As an English teacher, I’ve taught my students to always argue one side of issues as well because that was what I was taught.  Choosing one side and sticking to it was supposed to signal that you were a competent writer (especially for assessments).

However, I’ve never been taught that good essays feast on doubt (Lopate 2013) until reading that article.  I’ve never been told that inner debates, mental wavering, contradiction, irresolution are effective tools for essay writing (Lopate 2013).   I was always told to pick one side; consequently, I taught what I knew.  Yet, what is more human than identifying loopholes and alternative perspectives in arguments?  Sounding confident and self-assured in essay writing shouldn’t be expected.  It isn’t real.  Well, it isn’t real for me.  In my mind, I have difficulty staying on one side of an argument.  I’ve just been trained to do it on paper.

No matter the issues and the arguments, what you can expect from me is vulnerability.   You may read an essay on this blog one day and return to read it again to find that it’s been revised.  I may argue for AND against issues that concern me.  I’ve read recently that Walt Whitman constantly revised his writings.  If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.  I don’t know if doubt made Whitman revise his work, but it will probably be my main reason for doing it.

Lopate (2013) called doubt his “boon companion, a faithful St. Bernard at his side.”  I, on the other hand, describe doubt as the constant churning in my stomach, the slight feeling that I need to throw-up every now and again.  I’ve felt it since high school, so . . . .

Still, I love writing.  I won’t let doubt stop me.

 

 

Lopate, Phillip. “The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt.” The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2013, opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/the-essay-an-exercise-in-doubt/.

 

 

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