An Open Letter (5000 Words Writing Class Assignment)*

Dear Satan,

I was thinking how left out and unappreciated you must feel– no one ever gives you credit for the effort you put in around here, the ghost writer of this broken world.

You’ve built a treadmill and set us to running like so many Frankensteins, piecing together dead parts–an arm here, a leg there, whatever stylish philosophy that tickles or pleases or comes along in our moment of need– we patch them together, hit the defibrillator, and expect our creation to be beautiful. How surprised we are at the thing that wakes and slithers off the laboratory table, as if it’s not the child of our own caprice.

I’ll say this for you: except for that little incident with Job (that didn’t work out so well), you’re no braggart. Perhaps you learned from skins like that to take no credit for your orchestrations, lest the world find out it’s you behind the Frankenstein faith being dispensed to and gobbled up by so many– your great placebo. I’d say it’s your greatest accomplishment since your little trick in the garden. At least you were given credit for that one. But now, is it painful to stand by and watch all your work be dubbed anonymous? 

Incredulously yours,

K

*I try not to waste an opportunity to use the writing prompts I assign to my students. This session we’re studying Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, so I thought I’d piece him in. An open letter has a recipient, but is meant for a broad audience.  In my experience the open letter prompt draws writers into sarcasm the way a tractor beam draws in Star Wars fighter ships, but some of my students resisted the pull and took it in new directions. Even so, I recommend students write an open letter at some point in their academic careers.  They’re motivated by the bullhorn opportunity it presents, even if the only one reading it is the teacher.

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Telling Myself… It’s All Good

It’s a new year. Do you feel brand new? Sparkly?  Like the reset button has been pushed on your life?  The tags are still on the new personality you’re determined to create for yourself in 2014, right?  Uh, hem… Some of you have already broken your resolutions. For my part, until yesterday I could say, “I haven’t worked out all year.” It’s true; I didn’t even attempt newness in 2014.  But I’m not a slacker: I’ve got these little verses up my sleeve that have been serving me well since way back in 2013.

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You’re thinking how appropriate these sentiments were just a few weeks ago during the holidays, with all that eating, drinking, and enjoying we all did with some help from God. But how do they apply now? Now that the lights are down, the ham is gone, the cookies firmly ensconced on the hips…

If you know me, you know I struggle with my inside voice. I mean that both ways. Comments that should have stayed firmly nailed down inside my head often zing out my mouth like kamikazes, unbidden and unhindered by discretion.  But I refer now to the outside voices of the world which sometimes penetrate my bubble, have a locker-room chat with my consciousness, and leave me black and blue. 

The media tells me I suck in more languages than I can find spoken in the General Assembly of the United Nations. My children, bless their little ungrateful and entitled souls, unknowingly sit on my self-esteem for years at a time.  Even the standard I look to every day– (as I should) the Bible, puts a gentle arm around my shoulders, gives a little squeeze, and murmurs, “I regret to inform you…”

Probably because I’m a Martha, my tried-and-true life-raft-for-my-thoughts is the verse above. I do many things in a day, and let’s just say they don’t always feel good, and I don’t always feel good about having done them– just depleted and despondent about whether any of this wheel-spinning matters.  I have to remind myself that my flawless cleaning of the cat litter box is good. My vegetarian tacos… good. Crazy that I’m not serving them to a standing ovation, I know.  So I remind myself over and over: Hey, these vegetarian tacos are good labor… and that litter box… sparkly!

Here’s an example of a day pretty much straight from my journal.

December 28, 2013

1. Sorted through Tory’s Goodwill bags – saved some useful stuff.

2. Made Ganeen pumpkin roll – kindness to others.

3. Cleaned kitty litter – kept chaos at bay.

4. Cleaned the fish – kept chaos at bay and fish alive.

5. Took kids to sell their games at Buybacks and spend Christmas money at Target – kindness to others.

6. Had soup ready for dinner when Bob got home – kindness to others/a dreaded chore: done.

7. Handled Katae’s school loan transfer – a dreaded chore: done.

I chose to do seven a day because that’s God’s favorite number.  It matters not how many you choose, so long as you begin to see the value in those little chores/errands/favors/labors you do every day. Unraveling just why these labors are so good is just as important as recognizing their goodness.  I make sure I end every point with a dash and a why-this-was-good comment. There are sometimes a hundred reasons a labor is good.  Pick your favorite one or spend lots of time writing.  That’s ok too.  Think your labors don’t make the cut? I even have a day with #1 being “Applied eye makeup – created beauty.” Really that reason could also have been “kept chaos at bay,” but this is about feeling sparkly, not snarly. Do you think I went too easy on myself with that one? There are many, many days, I choose other good labors over creating beauty in the vicinity of my face.  What I pick as my good labors changes from day to day (i.e., I don’t list cat litter every single day, unless I’m having trouble coming up with seven labors); but pick them I do, and having a record of rights is a worthwhile exercise. God says the best I can do with what’s already done, is– deem it good and thank Him for the blessing of food and drink and labor done with Him.

 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?  – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Repeat verse 100 times a day or as needed. 🙂