Monday, October 19, 2009
The World According to Flexible Old Me
I was listening to a woman this weekend and was struck by how adamantly she voiced her fervent preferences to a room full of strangers. Opinions flowed from her mouth in a steady stream without any constraint. Opinions, such as: she would only EVER drink red wine—never white! Huh? While I will admit, there are many lovely reds; I could never discount a nice glass of chilled Chardonnay, or a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio on a summer day, no way.
Nobody could EVER convince her to travel outside The United States of America. EVER. For any reason. Huh? Not even Canada? And she’d deny herself The British Isles, France, Italy, Africa, Australia, and the Far East? Just because she wouldn’t feel safe? Hey, I don’t feel that all-fired safe in certain parts of L.A., and I still venture there. Isn’t playing it safe an illusion anyway?
Her most outlandish statement—the one that I couldn’t help but respond to—she made mention of visiting a friend of a friend’s house in Pasadena, a Mid-Century home above the Arroyo Seco. “Why,” she said, scowling as if she were discussing decomposing garbage, “anyone with so much money would buy THAT monstrosity is beyond me. I mean those people could afford any number of the historical homes available in the area, like a Spanish stucco, or a nice craftsman, a Victorian, anything but that modern, boring, stark, cold box.
I took a breath, considered keeping my nose out of the conversation, but wouldn’t you know it, I ignored my inner Miss Manners and said, “But…I could see why they’d choose Mid-Century. In fact, I know The Husband and I would have a hard time making our minds up. We have such a great appreciation of so many differing types of architecture. I guess we’d have to make our decision based on setting, location, and personal fit, rather than what particular style the house was. Well…that is…I’m going with the premise that cost would not present such limitations. Wouldn’t that be something?”
She looked at me as if I had said I might move into a trailer park, (and what if I had?) “The thing is,” I said, continuing on, in an attempt to drive my point home, “I wouldn’t EVER say never about moving anywhere. The older I get, the more open-minded I’ve become. I’m more flexible.”
“Not me,” she said adamantly, her mouth reduced to a tight, thin, albeit glossy line. I felt kind of bad. I could have kept my thoughts to myself. I could have let her hold court and keep her illusion of how it should be intact. My response had triggered a deluge of emotion. She threw her head back in defiance and declared, “Sorry. But, I know exactly what I want and I won’t take anything less. I know what I like and I’m not about to waste any time. I stay focused. It’s important to be focused! That’s how I see it.”
Perhaps her use of the word focused was inappropriate? Maybe she meant fixed? If anything, I am a focused human being, but ultimately flexible. I remain open to re-interpretation when it comes to pursuing and bringing to fruition goals and desires. My objectives aren’t set in stone.
This applies to writing too. I begin with an outline. I almost always know exactly who my main character, or secondary characters are, and what the events necessary to set the story in motion will be, and I usually know the outcome, but I’m willing to let events unfold that I didn’t anticipate. I won’t hold the plot or characters to my previous vision just because I am too fixed to see beyond my original framework. I have to say—some of my best stuff materializes when I least expect it. Why fight the feeling? The best part about writing, (especially with a computer), is that delete key. Just because I come up with something doesn’t mean I have to keep it. In fact, sometimes the unexpected leads me somewhere I wouldn’t have ventured otherwise. The story is a journey, and I’m willing to travel down side roads, just as long as I get to a desirable, if not stupendous destination.
(That’s a picture of my eyeball at the top of the page, sans make-up (sorry guys), taken way up close with my cell phone just now, because I knew it would come out all blurry. I wanted to illustrate the focus/fixed theme with a picture. You know, the world as I see it kind of a thing? All imperfect and ambiguous, liquid and full of possibilities.)
All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.