A weekly deadline is a joy forever

Posted March 26, 2010, at 6:05 p.m.

When I began writing this column just over two years ago, my mission was to look at those times when life’s challenges throw us into the deep end, and to show readers how to use humor and aplomb and just plain true grit not just to keep afloat practically and buoyed emotionally but to make some memorable splashes in the process.

I could not have known that the assignment to write this column every week would bring me numerous gifts as well. Now, having been told that this must be my last column because of changing priorities at the Bangor Daily News, I would like to thank all the readers who hand-wrote letters to me, and the many people who commented on my work or added their insights to the discussions following my columns online. I would also like to thank this newspaper and my editor Dale McGarrigle not only for entrusting me with space to fill every weekend, but also for providing me the opportunity to live my life with the keen intensity that is the unique joy of the weekly columnist.

I would like to end on the same note on which I began, looking straight into the eyes of something most people find onerous, and endowing readers with a happier sense of perspective on it. Thus as I meet my own final Notes from the Deep End deadline, I would like to celebrate the whole essence of the deadline and let you know what a treasure it can be.

While most people associate deadlines with ominous words such as “looming” or “unavoidable,” or with “stress-inducing” terms such as “high-pressure” or “final,” this is not the case for me. That’s not just because I thoroughly enjoy the mix of thoughtfulness and playfulness that compose the writing process. Nor is it thanks to the fact that doing this job happens to be my girlhood dream come true.

The real reason that I love deadlines is that they lead me to live my life with eyes wide open. Knowing I must find something universal, insightful, or at least practically useful for readers to consider each week does nothing less than transform the ordinary into the fascinating.

Thanks to the everlasting deadline, circumstances that most consider tedious become occasions of discovery for me. Standing in line at the grocery checkout, enduring long waits at the registry of motor vehicles, even awaiting my turn to be drilled in the dentist’s office become opportunities to hear what’s on others’ minds. Demanding practical challenges, such as caring for an elder, become gold mines of insight. Delicate interpersonal interactions, including dealing with personality issues in the workplace, or puzzling how to tell a loved one something necessary but unflattering, are all grist for the columnist’s mill. Adversity — ranging from job loss to mourning — is opportunity for the writer, who may revel in how quickly such sad junctures send the fingers dancing over the keys, even as tears also strike the keyboard.

It’s also a perk to point out the good that’s all around us and spotlight the caring people in our midst. Librarians and eldercare workers, Boy Scouts and food bank volunteers, tree-loving Rockland residents and choristers who sing to support charities are just some of the many among us who are just plain good souls. Finally, the weekly deadline is a joy forever when it demands that the writer spell out small joys that are published and thus shared widely — and thereby given a permanence that eludes the unrecorded moment.

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