Down Time

 

By Louise Ure

 

We’ve all experienced it … in airport lounges, in waiting rooms, alone at a tiny bistro table waiting for your guest. It’s down time. That short forced period, often without internet access, when we are left alone with our thoughts.

These days my down time is often to be had at a hospital bedside or in one of those straight back metal chairs at the foot of a chemotherapy infusion chair. Conversation is not required. Just presence. Just being there so that when the eyes open they land on something loving and supportive.

And some of those times I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts. I need to be distracted.

Many of you know about my love of crossword puzzles. I can do them in ink. In three foreign languages. Quickly. They are my go-to down time staple. Not much to carry; I’ve even got all the New York Times crossword puzzles on my iPhone, although I miss the look of blue ink on newsprint when they’re completed. My favorite new clue? “What’s three less than once? (Four letters)” Check the bottom of the blog for the answer if you don’t know it.

Reading, of course, is a natural for down time, but I almost don’t want it to be a good book. I want something putdownable. Forgettable. Something I won’t remember as being associated with that day in the oncologist’s office.

During another trying time in my life I once read straight through every single one of the Diane Mott Davidson books, cutesy names, recipes and all. I loved them for the distracting froth that they were but have no desire to revisit those books or days.

I watch others for ideas on how to use this time, their haggard faces make them look like experts. The Russian lady skims rosary beads through her fingers like she’s shelling peas. The Asian man with a shock of white hair like a coxcomb is sleeping.

My friend Brian does Sudoku, which I’ve never warmed to. Why on earth would a number puzzle be so much more difficult for me than crosswords when each square is just a symbol after all? Why is it impenetrable for me to figure out the order of the numbers 1 through 10 while I can easily do it for a 10-letter word like “gesundheit?”

Some folks watch TV if it’s available. The offices and airport gates I frequent rarely have a program or channel that I’m interested in. Others find distraction in music, the ear buds leaking a tinny rhythm when you sit next to them. I don’t see many knitters anymore, but maybe that’s just California.

I dare say many of you writer-types like to work on a draft or jot notes about character and dialogue. I call that work, not down time.

I also don’t count idle cell phone conversations as acceptable uses of down time. Those are the natterings of people afraid to be alone, to be quiet, to be serene. They are a pestilence to the rest of us.

As you can tell, my friends, this is a week of waiting. Waiting for the curtain to rise. Waiting for the other shoe to fall. Waiting for news. For decisions. For an answer.

While we wait, tell me how you spend that forced down time. And if it’s reading, what kind of book? A comfort read? A “can’t put it down”?

 

* “What is three less than once?” Ocho. Read the word “once” as Spanish.

 

48 thoughts on “Down Time

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    At a couple of times recently when I was in fear and anguish I repeated prayers or meditations continuously just to stop the obsessive thoughts in my head. It finally sank into me what rosaries and meditation beads are for, to keep count and focus on the prayers, to make sure you’re moving on to the next prayer instead of letting your thoughts run off in that bad direction. And it changes your whole energy, and other people’s too. I think that’s more where I’m at these days than Sudoku (besides which, as everyone who knows me knows, I HATE word games. Numbers even worse.)

    I love you, Louise.

    Reply
  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    I’m with Alexandra, in personal stress down times, I turn to the Lord’s Prayer or the "I will not fear" mantra from Dune. (probably not what Frank Herbert intended) Down time in airports, I read. I remember one 5-hour layover in DC — Passages by Connie Willis kept me occupied. Non-stress down time otherwise, I’m comfortable in my thoughts. Music, sometimes, but mostly I just like where my thoughts take me.

    Reply
  3. JD Rhoades

    Never had any aptitude for Sudoku, and I can do the TV Guide crossword, but that’s about it.

    My comfort reads tend to be classic SF or fantasy, like Heinlein, Zelazny, Spider Robinson, Harlan Ellison–Ellison’s particularly good for getting through those angry hours. And then of course, there’s music , particularly blues, cliched as that may sound. Hard rock or metal’s also good for those moments when you just want to obliterate all rational thought. None of that angsty emo shit the kids today are into, though.

    I tend to turn misery into rage.

    Hugs and love, sweetheart.

    Reply
  4. mary lynn

    It’s hard work to Be There. Last time around, with my parents, I felt that was what was required. Now I’d like a little more serenity in the mix.

    Magazine articles kinda work for me; Nat Geo, Fine Woodworking, down to Pop Sci, Pop Mech and the peculiarities of Old Skool Hot Rod. The river runs on (dammit!).

    Small-medium earthquake here an hour ago. The animals are perturbed and want reassurance from an awake human. No reading, aloud or otherwise, required.

    Reply
  5. Kaye Barley

    Ridiculous as it may sound, during my most difficult times I find myself picking up cook books. Invariably, I’ll become captivated and totally engrossed with the recipes and find myself thinking ‘Yum, sounds good!", or "Ewww – who’s gonna eat THAT." Whatever. It seems to remove me temporarily from those thoughts I’m not quite ready to think.
    I join everyone in sending those Hugs and Love, Louise.
    Kaye

    Reply
  6. Eika

    I tend to daydream. If I do have music on, it’s to block out the world around me; I don’t need it. In my daydreams, everything will be okay. (and I rarely daydream about stories, so it doesn’t count as work; though I do get ideas sometimes).

    Other times… I hate to admit it, but there is a book on my shelf that I brought to college to me. Paperback. Middle grade. Heck, not even middle grade, age 8. Maybe 100 pages. I love it so much I just caught myself writing a full book review and trashed it. But it makes me laugh, guarantee, no matter what or where. So, it’s worth it.

    Reply
  7. Karen Olson

    I can’t do Soduko because I just can’t grasp the concept. My daughter is brilliant at it, but she’s got that music/numbers thing going. I also don’t like crossword puzzles. I love words but not puzzles about them. I do like Mad Libs.

    This may sound odd, but I’ve had a character in my head since I was a teenager. I have never written about her. Instead, when I’m trying to fall asleep or on the bus or waiting for my daughter’s choir rehearsal to finish up, or in the doctor’s waiting room, I shut out everything around me and put this character into situations, creating a story for her. And none of her stories have ever appeared on any of my pages. They may never. She may never. Because she’s my distraction.

    You know how much I’m thinking about you, Louise.
    Karen

    Reply
  8. Sandy

    I am a Sudoku person but also a Brain Age person in my down time. If you do enough exercises from Brain Age 2, you "earn" the game Virus Buster, which can consume a dangerous number of hours.
    Sending positive thoughts your way, Louise.
    Sandy

    Reply
  9. Louise Ure

    Alex, your mantrras and meditations are good. I found myself silently singing Rudooph the Red Nosed Reindeer over and over again under the words became meaningless, but comforting.

    PK, Frank Herbert would be proud.

    JD, "turn misery into rage?" Oh yeah, Some of the hospital staff I dealt with yesterday would understand that concept to a tee.

    Magaines, Tom! You’re dead right. I never knew I could find solace in People magazine until this month.

    Kaye, I understand the recipe thing. I think that’s why I’m watching the Food Network almost exclusively right now. There’s normalcy in there.

    Eika, I adore your hauling that childhood book around with you. You and Karen both qualify as daydreamers, although Karen, I love the notion of this alter ego character you’ve been traveling with.

    Now I’ve got to try Brain Age, Sandy. Until it will make me feel like an idiot.

    Reply
  10. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Well, one thing you do during your down time, Louise, is write a great blog. The images you present here are spectacular. It reads like literature. "The Russian lady skims rosary beads through her fingers like she’s shelling peas. The Asian man with a shock of white hair like a coxcomb is sleeping." Just beautiful.

    I don’t think there’s anything I can do to feel comfortable in situations like the one you describe. I think Alex probably has the healthiest approach. I stare down at my feet and twitch a lot and obsess on things. I can’t stand to be caught in a down-time situation without a book in my hand, but, as you described so well, I don’t want to associate a good book with a bad or uncomfortable feeling. Crossword puzzles are simply too much work for me. The magazines are probably the best bet, and National Geographic is probably my favorite in those situations — I can drift off into the photography.
    Truth is, knitting would probably work. But, really now, can you see me sitting in some lobby knitting a sweater?
    My heart goes out to you, Louise. And to Bruce. I wish I was there with you, holding your hand. I wish I could slow the speeding bullet of my life and step aside for a few weeks, so I could spend that time with you. Know that I’m thinking about you. Always.

    Reply
  11. Allison Brennan

    Big hugs, Louise.

    For down time, if I’m not stressed I write. If I am stressed, and need time away from writing, I write–but something completely different. I started writing a YA novel just because I had an idea, and recently turned it into a screenplay and am now using Scrivener for it. When I am trying to unwind at night and can’t sleep, I bring it up and play around with it. I doubt it will go anywhere, but I’m having fun and it keeps my mind off everything else.

    When I’m stressed, I play video games like Tetris or word games on my iPod. Or some of my son’s Nintendo games :). My new favorite is something called Angry Birds on iTunes. Love it. 🙂

    When I’m trapped (layovers, on planes, doctors office, etc) I read, and it can be anything. But my comfort reads are usually romantic comedies–and that goes for movies, too. I’ll watch WORKING GIRL or FRENCH KISS ad nauseum. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Louise Ure

    Stephen and Allison, both of you have minds that are whirling so fast that I’m not sure you ever really have down time. I understand the staring at the feet and obsessing part , Stephen. And Allison, why didn’t I think of games? Most of my friends have more games than work-related apps on their phones. What a good, mindless, thing to do!

    Reply
  13. James Scott Bell

    Like Allison, I tend to write, sometimes something new, or something random, maybe something stream of consciousness that relates to my WIP; a blog post, notes on people I see, etc. I carry an AlphaSmart with me when I know I’m going to be waiting anywhere. I’ve typed many a chapter on it. If I get in one of those situations where I’m in the "wrong" line at the store, I don’t fume, but try to imagine what my Lead character is doing at this very moment, and watch that little movie.

    I do, however, take a writing Sabbath once a week. One day of no writing at all. That seems to recharge the batteries nicely. And games can be a nice break in the writing day, which one needs.

    Reply
  14. Judy Wirzberger

    Down time – Depression down time means sleeping or staring mindlessly at the TV.
    Glued to a chair down time – I would probably take up my childhood passion for embroidery, though I’ve recently discovered printed pillowcases and baby bibs and baby gowns are not as easy to buy.
    I find I don’t want to think, don’t want to be creative, can’t cry. I eat, trying to fill the void of contentment.
    I talk to people I don’t know. Any stranger passing by. Give her a compliment Call the IV pole George Clooney. Try to joke to cover the pain and fear. Stuff that down until I’m forced to look at it.
    I close my eyes and imagine myself someplace else. I try to describe the house I grew up in, the kids I played with. Try to remember stealing ice from the milk man’s truck. Sucking on cold while the heat melts it in my hand. Say something funny to anyone to cover the pain and fear.

    And tell myself that I’ll feel better some day, a day I can’t imagine. Down time – a time for happy memories thoughts of yesterday rather than today.

    And then, I say to someone, “You know, I was just thinking of spending the summer at Aunt Edna’s Iowa farm and chasing the cow through the corn and kissing Billy in the hayloft, just like in the movies.”

    You and Bruce are loved.

    Reply
  15. Louise Ure

    James, I don’t know Alpha Smart but I inevitably wind up in the "wrong" line at the store. Without fail, the person in front of me will have the wrong coupons, will dispute the sales price or will have their credit card denied. You not only have an active imagination, you have the patience of a saint.

    And Judy, as my mother used to say, you have the strength of ten because your heart is pure.

    Reply
  16. Gar Haywood

    Louise:

    I don’t know about you, but I have a stack of stuff sitting at the foot of my bedside table (books and magazine articles, mostly) that I keep telling myself I want/need to read, but never get around to touching. At times like you describe, I finally pull some of this material out of the pile and dig in.

    So I’m housecleaning and reading at the same time. It’s a two-fer.

    Hang in there, girlfriend.

    Reply
  17. Cornelia Read

    Oh, Louise. I heart you mightily.

    I was very sad over Christmas and had a wonderful time reading eight of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie books. Easy on the soul and just engrossing enough.

    And Sudoku=math homework, to me. YUCK.

    I love that you can do crosswords in four languages–so amazing!

    Reply
  18. Cornelia Read

    I also like the sound of this as a comfort read:

    http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/new-book-serves-up-a-fresh-side-of-julia-child/?hp

    A new book of letters from Julia Child to the friend who helped her find her publisher, over fifteen years.

    To quote from the article…

    Child writes on such topics as:

    The city of Paris:
    “Longer I stay, better I like it. I must say, I do love French people, and had no idea they would be as they are. I thought the women would all be tiny little things, too chic for words; and the men pinching everybody and little, too. I was not prepared for this wonderful, earthy, human, sweet, gay naturalness. Cozy is the only word that expresses my feelings.”

    Whether one should apologize for a meal gone wrong:
    “I make it a rule, no matter what happens, never to say one word, though it kills me. Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or I have put the lettuce out the window and it has frozen, or the meat i

    Reply
  19. Cornelia Read

    Whoops…

    "or the meat is not quite done . . . grit one’s teeth and smile.”

    And the letters were WRITTEN over fifteen years, it didn’t take her that long to find a publisher.

    Reply
  20. toni mcgee causey

    Sometimes I build things, in my head. Hammer and nails and sliding the sheetrock knife over sullen drywall, like icing on a cake, and then painting it later and turning it into amazing. There are walls and windows and views of lakes and forests and somewhere out there, the sea. I keep thinking I should have lived by the sea, and I don’t know why. I can hear the waves crash, in those down times. Crashing onward, like time.

    Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I write, occasionally I read, if the words will stick together in straight sentences and quit dancing around in a rumba. Most of the times, I build. Castles in the sky, my husband and I once called them, and laughed. A place to live, when the here and now is too hard.

    Love you, Louise.

    Reply
  21. Judy Wirzberger

    I am constantly thrilled to discover yet again what a amazing woman you are. Your words are glistening pearls of dew. Amazing woman. Amazing author. Amazing friend. Amazing wife. And damn good crossword puzzler.

    Reply
  22. Rae

    Sending good thoughts, Louise….

    Forced downtime when I’m stressed is one thing. Forced or unexpected downtime when life is good is something else entirely.

    When there’s stress I go into ‘monkey mind’ mode – mentally, I jump around all over the place, and have an attention span about the length of a gnat’s whisker. Which means a game on my b’berry or a comfort read – no deep thought required, but enough engagement to keep me off the ceiling.

    Stress-free forced downtime (flight cancelled, no point in worrying about it) means looking for a yummy snack and/or beverage, and people watching and daydreaming.

    Reply
  23. Louise Ure

    Cornelia, I must find that book of Julia’s letters. It’s just what the doctor would have ordered, had the doctor had a heart.

    And Toni, only you would actually BUILD your castles in the sky. The rest of us just dream about living in that untouchable, invulnerable land. You, my dear, make it happen, brick by brick. That’s why you are the strength in your family, my guess. Why all the others turn to you in time of need.

    Judy, I’d settle for just one of those titles you gave me. Any one will do. Thank you for being a friend.

    Reply
  24. Louise Ure

    I can envision the two different paces that those scenarios reflect, Rae. Monkey Mind is a great description of the first and Deep Breath would more accurately describe the other.

    Reply
  25. Janine

    Louise ~ I go to that place in my mind that stores happy memories and good times and I find myself smiling. Makes people wonder about the smiling fool sitting in the corner but memories have saved my sanity many times. Hugs to you, dear Louise.

    Reply
  26. Cornelia Read

    I’ve also been reading a little poetry lately, by an old writing teacher of mine.

    Here’s a favorite I came upon last night

    The Neighborhood of Make-Believe
    by Tom Lux

    To go there: do not fall asleep, your forehead
    on the footstool; do not have
    your lunchpail dreams
    or dreams so peaceful you hear leaves thud
    into the fine silt at a river’s edge;
    do not hope you’ll find it on this updraft
    or that downdraft
    in the airy airlessness.
    It is elsewhere, elsewhere the neighborhood you seek.
    The neighborhood you long for,
    where the gentle trolley–ding, ding–passes
    through, where the adults are kind
    and, better, sane,
    that neighborhood is gone, no, never
    existed, though it should have
    and had a chance once
    in the hearts of women, men (farmers dreamed
    this place, and teachers, book writers, oh thousands
    of workers, mothers prayed for it, hunchbacks,
    nurses, blind men, maybe most of all soldiers,
    even a few generals, millions
    through the millenia…), some of whom,
    despite anvils on their chests,
    despite taking blow after blow across shoulders and necks,
    despite derision and scorn,
    some of whom still, still
    stand up every day against ditches swollen with blood,
    against ignorance, still dreaming,
    full-fledged adults, still fighting,
    trying to build a door to that place,
    trying to pry open the ugly,
    bullet-pocked, and swollen gate
    to the other side,
    the neighborhood of make-believe.

    Reply
  27. `kit

    My mind is my own worst enemy…it won’t calm down or relax, or I worry..so then I have to force it to.
    I have a keychain rosary..it’s made from wooden beads and cord, the beads slide up and down on the cord..1decade long……just something I picked up because I thought it was neat and could fit in my hand.
    Like Alex stated it’s the mantra effect, but also..instead of praying it properly,like saying the mysteries, I will talk in-between, silently or in a low voice…and try to get what’s bothering me outa my head…my hubby caught me at it once and said "KIt! what are you doing, isn’t that a rosary??!"
    because I was saying something like "oh please, grant me serenity, I know I’m supposed to be cheerful and positive, but right now, I could positively grab ****** and cheerfully kick their ass"

    it may not be dogma, but the way I see it, caregivers need care also…it helps me to get done what ever it is I have to do, and by getting it out of my head…there’s room for the stuff that needs to be there.
    take care, louise

    Reply
  28. Allison Davis

    Just poked my head in here from the insanity of my work desk…I remember sitting with my mother and watching baseball in the "downtime." That is a good memory.

    I’m not good at sitting and doing nothing. I’m a figitter, but I have had lots of down time, in the heartbreaking situation that you are in Louise to more mundane times at airports, in court, DMV, passport lines or other similar places. Magazines are great if you have them, People or even fashion magazines, you’d be surprised at the meaty content in some of them. But I have also learned to meditate — I have done rosaries as a kid but that doesn’t quite do it, but I can find a place in my head to just hang out and be okay with it, for a while, and just sit.

    At work, I steal time outs by reading Murderati (like right now) or calm the frenzy with a game of spider solitaire — but Louise, I’m surprised with the iPhone you’re not on Facebook placing Scrabble…you’re a word person, and I would think that would appeal to you. I’m sure we can find you a worthy opponent if you need one.

    Much love to you and Bruce and all the strength I can send through the cyber waves.

    Reply
  29. Allison Davis

    Cornelia, loved the poetry…can we talk about poetry someone here? Is it relevant to the writing?

    Reply
  30. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    Heartbreaking post. I feel for you and for Bruce, so much.

    I’m not very good with down time. I even tend to iron while watching TV. I watch the directors’ commentaries on movies I’ve seen a dozen times, just to work out how they put the things together.

    (Note to self, though – not a good idea to be holding hot object while trying to read subtitles…)

    I feel like I shouldn’t admit to a liking for Sudoku, and being hopeless at crossword puzzles, but there you go. I’m in awe of you being able to do them in one language, never mind four!

    Getting out and doing something physical is always good for relaxing my mind – and building something is a favourite. Or watching old series of CSI, Bones, NCIS, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If my brain’s running on empty, I want a familiar movie rather than something I haven’t seen before. Sometimes it’s just more soothing to enjoy the ride rather than worrying about the destination.

    Reply
  31. Louise Ure

    Kit, I think I like your version of a bead/mantra better than the traditional prayer.

    Allison, you’re another whirlwind. I don’t think you really have any down time. And Facebook? I may have to break down and do it, but for the moment I’d rather have gum surgery.

    Zoe, your skill at Sudoku doesn’t surprise me. It’s the builder and mechanic in you coming through.

    Reply
  32. JT Ellison

    Louise, love, I’ve been thinking of you and Bruce. It utterly sucked being in the same town as you and not being able to stop by and hug you both.

    I have to admit I’ve been scheduling down time. Real live silence, with no need to read, or write, or think. At home, I pet the cat. I look at the new fence in the backyard. I dream about a garden. If I’m in an airport, I luxuriate in watching the bustle. It’s so nice not to have to talk, or smile, or engage. Even five minutes will help me center.

    I use music when I need to engage, or TV. Love People magazine as a total escape – I’ll go online to their site if I need a mental gap moment while working. I can’t do crosswords and Sudoku gives me hives, but can I suggest you download Scrabble to your iPhone? I’ve spent many a moment trying to improve my skills, it’s the only game I’ll play.

    Another random fun distraction – the IMDB website. Some of the little facts about the movies, the behind the scenes stuff, is fascinating.

    Apologies to all for missing the past week – I’ll be catching up next week after I get home from DC. One day at home is not enough, but at least my underwear is clean.

    Reply
  33. Jemi Fraser

    I have several comfort books – LotR, Anne of GG, Star Trek, Anne McCaffrey – that I use. I also like food magazines and home plan design magazines. Anything that can take my surface mind away.

    My thoughts are with you. Take care.

    Reply
  34. BCB

    Wow, there are some great suggestions here. If I have internet access and need to de-stress, I play games. Love spider solitaire. Or I log onto twitter and follow all the links people provide until I’m lost and swamped with information.

    People mentioned reading poetry, I write it. Now, this isn’t real poetry (I have no idea how to write real poetry and it’s a bit of an insult to serious poets to call it that) more like word games. Sometimes I write it on paper, but mostly it’s in my head. It requires an involved level of concentration to remember it all until I’m done and it forces me to use all the dusty words up there.

    I kind of make up my own rules — sometimes adjacent lines have to rhyme, or every other line, or every third line with the two in between rhyming with each other. Sometimes serious subjects, most often silly. Or I think up dirty limericks (not sure why they’re all dirty, just happens that way). Or haiku, though I can never remember whether the sequence is 7,5,7 or 5,7,5 or 5,6,7 — doesn’t matter, it’s just for my own pleasure. I know haiku is supposed to be about nature, but mine are usually irreverent.

    I often just watch people and listen to not so much what they say, but how they say it. Last time I was in an airport, there was a man forming and holding poses of some kind (yoga? tai chi?). Completely oblivious of everyone around him. It might have been ridiculous in such a public place, except he looked so serene and focused. I’d be flat on my rear if I tried that. Not at all serene.

    Wishing you peaceful down time, Louise, however you choose to spend it. Hugs and much love to you and yours.

    Reply
  35. Louise Ure

    I missed seeing you, too, JT, but I heard that your Bay Area reading was wonderful. And iPhone Scrabble is a brilliant idea!

    Ah yes, Jemi, keeping the surface mind busy. Thanks for the kind words.

    Reply
  36. anonymous

    Once again, Louise, (seems like it hasn’t been a whole month since your Coming Clean post) you have given your bloggers a gift. Reading what others do to get through or over or into their personal down time has been an inspiration today. Isn’t the human spirit fucking crazy?! Gotta love ‘us’, right?

    Of course you must know that I READ whenever I have a chunk of time where I am not people watching. People watching is an addictive game. Inventing dark back stories from nothing more than an expression or attitude, a careless word or interesting choice of handbag. Can’t see a whole lot of humanity or changing scenery while sitting next to a hospital bed. I have spent too much time in that metal chair, Louise. The lighting is always surreal. Either so dim I can’t read or so fluorescent bright that I end up thinking about nothing but my grey roots, stark haggard wrinkles, enlarged pores and poor judgment in makeup that I would see if I were looking at ‘me’.

    I remember when I was sitting in the bedside chair next to my father. I was feeling devastatingly guilty because my father had told me numerous times that he did not want to go to a hospital for his last days. (He was a doctor and his father and brother were doctors) I had heard this all of my life. But he fell down at home and I couldn’t get him up and I called the paramedics and here we were. I decided that after three days I really should go home and take a shower. I did. Stressfully. Needing to get back to be the "something loving and supportive" that my father would see when he opened his eyes. During the moments I was gone my father left me. When I got the call from the hospital, I went crazy thinking that I had not been there to hold his hand so he wouldn’t be afraid as he left.

    It took some time, but I finally realized that he had been waiting for me to go so that he could relax and not cause me any more pain with his necessary ‘process’. He was ok with finding his own portal. His last decision made with dignity and aplomb.

    I am sorry. I am not trying to be morbid or negative. Your post just touched me so. I have never been one of those lemons into lemonade idiots. (sorry if I have offended any idiots here today) As I said, you always seem to help me with MY problems when you are in the midst of your own. What a lovely human you are, Louise.

    For the down time? Cornelia gave me a gift that I cherish every day, as it keeps on giving with regular updates. She introduced me to unhappyhipsters.com. It is clever, hilarious and self-affirming.I spend many mindless minutes thinking up captions for the photos I see in all design zines now. Another time warper is reading The New Yorker all the way through without interruption and then at the end, thinking up clever captions to the cartoon caption contest. You have such a wicked sense of humor LU. Keep it active. It is one of the things Bruce loves about you.

    Short stories, the lost art, are perfect for losing yourself in, after the linoleum staring and the detached nurses going about their routines becomes crazy making. Even the old ones from Ogden Nash and such. Stephen Potter’s Lifesmanship and Gamesmanship are timeless classics. Good writing takes you out of yourself. I can think of nothing more healing or down time well spent than reading a Louise Ure. Or a Cornelia Read. or any of the Murderati crew books. Stephen Jay Schwartz’s BOULEVARD is still haunting me…. and I’m so PISSED he lead me down the intentional wrong alley on the……..[spoiler!!!!]………. ; – }

    Louise, I love you as much as all who visit you here. Thank you for helping ME today. I hope I didn’t make you more sad. I have a habit of saying the most inappropriate things. I just try to call it as I see it. It’s what it is. And it ain’t no Disneyland.

    Please write when you can. It’s a selfish thing I implore.

    I mean write a BOOK, Silly! not write to ME : )

    kisses and warm meaningful hugs and all that

    Reply
  37. anonymous

    Stephen. Beat me to the punch on admiring "The Russian lady skims rosary beads through her fingers like she’s shelling peas.". I paused at that one, also. Perfect imagery. Isn’t Louise incredible? She can’t help herself but be a word magician………..

    Reply
  38. Alafair Burke

    I’m late checking in today and will go to sleep tonight thinking about you and Bruce. We went through a difficult time in our family not long ago and experienced the search for distraction. Most of us turned to TV, even on mute if necessary, but my mother, whom I’ve never thought to be a puzzle-person, worked Sudoku with an intensity I’ve never seen. I also use iPhone scramble (which is basically boggle). And if you ever want to start a game with me, know that I’ll do everything in my power to distract you, my friend.

    Reply
  39. Louise Ure

    Such sweet, sweet final words here from our commenters, BCB, Anon (Never fear, I know who you are) and Alafair. BCB, I like the idea of making up poetry and word games in your head. I don’t understand meter in poetry, but I tend to match the words in my head to the cadence of the monitors beeping in the room.

    Anon, you seem so sad today. And yet, if you found something valuable in the blog post, I am delighted. About your father dying when you’d taken a moment to shower … I’m glad you arrived at the peaceful understanding of his timing. You weren’t there at the last moment, but your lifetime with him prepared him to gracefully and comfortably make that passage

    Alafair, I’m so glad you have family around you when you face these kind of things. My family is far flung and have been wonderful by long distance but this weekend is the first time they’ll be here. I need their arms.

    Reply
  40. mary lynn

    I know that chair well, Louise and my heart is with you. In most of my stints I did needlepoint—not the fill-in-the-background kind, but the ones where you work the design. They are quite portable and mostly mindless projects yet they can absorb your attention well.

    Actually, knitting is alive and well these days, even in California. The young women have found yarn and taken off with it. There are groups all over the world that meet every week. They’re called Stitch and Bitch groups.

    The bay area has some lovely yarn shops. If you already know how to knit stopping by one could be productive and diverting. Perhaps you could knit Bruce a chemo cap or knit some pretty ones and donate to fellow patients at the center. There is a worldwide movement of knitters, sewers and crocheters who make and donate such caps.

    Actually, if you already know how to knit and are interested, let me know. I have lots and lots and lots of stashed yarn, needles and patterns I would happily send you.

    Reply
  41. anonymous

    Yes Louise, I was sad. Sad for me and you and the whole fucking world. Not so much today. Being sad is a drain and a waste of time. Jeezus if I could bank the hours I have spent in my life being sad!

    Knitting is cool. I was always better at crocheting but haven’t done it in years. Today, for St. Patty’s, my friend gave me an old ivory tatting shuttle of all things. My Irish great grandmother and aunts tatted. I am going to try it just because it looks as impossible and frustrating as Sudoku but with the physical benefit of giving me something new to violently wad up and stomp on and throw.

    Reply
  42. J. Carson Black

    Louise, I think of you a lot. You have your Tucson people. I wish I could help you in some way–let me know.

    When my dad had lung cancer, I sat in the waiting room during his surgery and read THE HORSE WHISPERER. It held my attention as little else could. As bad as reality was, as scary as it was, I got lost in the story. It was like a dream.

    Reply
  43. Suzy Howell

    Louise, I emailed you earlier today, quite cheerfully, right after I ordered Liars Anonymous and before going to Murderati to read the latest bog posts. What a blow. I wish I had some wonderful and creative ideas for down time to send your way as a way to thank you for the enjoyment I get from reading your words, and to help as you pass through this terrible time, but I don’t. Nothing prepares you or spares you, but I hope your wishes for Bruce will come true.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.