Lately, I’ve been thinking how much of life is not the way I think. This summer, for example, has sported weather more akin to Portland, Oregon or Montpelier, Vermont than Lawrence, Kansas (not that I’m complaining about highs in the low 80s and lots of rain). Our kitty cat, Hideki, recently vanished outside (when he’s supposedly an indoor cat), and as much as we look and call out for him, he doesn’t reappear like I think he will (at least, not yet). Then there’s my children, all the jobs I’ve ever owned, all the cars I’ve ever driven, all the physical ailments I’ve suffered, and all the losses and joys: most of them not the way I thought they would be. In truth, life is more like a quirky yard sale down the block where you might find iron sculptures of clows on horseback or soup bowls painted like leopard skin far more than life is like an orderly department store full of stacks of neatly-folded shirts in various sizes.
I remember when a friend of mine and her partner, having a year before adopted a newborn girl, found a message on their answering machine that simply stated, “Would you like the brother?” (who was just born). My friend joyfully said, after picking up her new son, “Life has more imagination than us.” Thank heavens for that, in celebration of how life is not the way we think, I invite you to try out the following:
- Make a list of at least 20 experiences you’ve had in your life that didn’t turn how you thought they would (it might be difficult to just list 20, so feel free to list more than that if you want). Your list can contain the mundane (”the garlic mashed potatoes didn’t taste garlicky”) or the profound (”childbirth was so much more painful and joyful than I imagined).
- Pick the one item off your list that seems to call to you the most at this moment because it seems especially intriguing to you for whatever reason.
- Write about what you expected and then what happened. Pay close attention to sensory description — what you could taste, see, hear, touch and smell.
Option 2: Using the phrase, “I used to think…….but now…….” fill in the blanks. Then repeat and fill in those blanks, and keep going until you have a long list of “I used to think…..but now…” For example, mine might look like:
I used to think pulling weeds in early August would still be worth it, but now I know to just admire the jungle and drink more iced tea.
I used to think camping in winter was exotic, but now I love down and a good book on icy nights.
I used to believe whatever old wounds I carried would one day dissolve to nothing, but now I know they’re the compost on my messy winter garden.
Please feel free to post your excursions below, and share comments about others’ writing.