Here is the latest of my short-short stories that are composites of real-life events with psychological or practical implications.
Ever since she lost her husband, her world kept getting smaller. Now she spends most of her time walking with her folding shopping cart to the supermarket, watching apolitical romantic movies, and cleaning her condo even if it doesn't need cleaning.
She ends most days sitting in her Stressless chair listening to the adagio movement of some symphony, concerto, or sonata as she sips hot chocolate even on warm nights because she and Herbie used to.
When she was motivated, she’d add a third activity to the music listening and hot-chocolate sipping: She wrote in her journal. She’d go on “runs:" For a few entries, she’d write love thoughts, then a few on aging, then a few on career. But this night, she decided to list all her dilemmas:
Should I go back to work? Back to secretarial would be easiest but something new? Scary. Am I too old to learn?
Should I date? All my girlfriends tell me to: “You’re meant to be partnered.” “Herbie would want you to.” “I know this great, well good, guy.” But the thought of taking my clothes off in front of another man…
I know I should get together more with my girlfriends. That’s the problem—It’s a “should.” Maybe if I forced myself, it would become more of a want?
Maybe I should throw a party. But I run around like a chicken without a head and the party still comes out worse than other people’s. But still…
Should I go on a cruise? Maybe a singles one? Oh, I can’t resist eating. I’d gain ten pounds in the eight days, seven nights.
My belly and hips are getting bigger. Should I go on a diet again?
Maybe I should take piano lessons again. It’s only been 60 years. It was so laborious. Maybe if I just tried to learn to play by ear?
Should I stop dyeing my hair? It’s the only part of me that’s really phony, but everyone would be shocked to see me gray. I could just see it at Christmas. The family would say, “That looks so nice” and be thinking, “God, she’s aged” or “Why in the world did she stop coloring her hair?!” Maybe I should just stop wearing makeup. That’s scary too.
Should I join a church? I'm such an agnostic these days, it feels hypocritical, but it did feel good to go, maybe get involved. Maybe I should go church shopping. I don't have to buy.
She ended that journal entry by writing a big question mark. Then she dug up a red sharpie and outlined it in red, closed the journal, put it in its hiding place between the water heater and its insulation blanket, and went to bed.
She awoke in the middle of the night and went on match.com.
Many people ruminate a lot and finally, sometimes for no ostensible reason, suddenly act. Are you ready? Should you be?
Dr. Nemko’s nine books, including his just-published Modern Fables: short-short stories with life lessons are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at firstname.lastname@example.org.