10-Minute Stories – It Is and It Is Not

“Knowing that there is more than one way to react to any situation, I could sit myself down and pay attention for a while so that I can figure out which one of my reactions is worth the effort I am putting into it, and just go with that,” said Henry.

Of course, he was talking to himself, and not even out loud, so no one knew what turmoil he had allowed a simple invitation and request to bring into his mind.

“Alright, so I agreed to go to that party and to put together the gift basket,” he continued to himself as he walked to the self-service checkout in an attempt to get the heck on with the whole charade. “I knew. I knew the moment I accepted, that I did not really mean it. I keep making this same mistake. I know I do not fit in with that group, but it feels like I am a bad person if I do not participate. As if I had to sign-in and be a part of something.”

In spite of all this turmoil and self-doubt, Henry had managed to assemble a nice selection of items for the gift basket,and well within the allotted budget too. Perhaps it was this creative aspect of the invitation that had led him to accept. At work, he had been told he was too strict, or too organized. “Straight-laced Henry,” they called him, teasing. He liked that group. They worked well together and then he could go home and leave it all behind. That was easy. But this…

Henry was the soft-spoken sort. He did not dare upset anyone and felt that any rejection of others on his part was unacceptable, even if it was just declining an invitation to a dinner party. Saying no was not a soft sort of response in his book. Hence the turmoil.

ps - basketAll he needed now was to stop by a florist or craft shop to get a roll of shrink-wrap. “That’s me!” he suddenly thought, laughing to himself. “That’s me right there in that gift basket: a bunch of objects or thoughts brought together, but that really do not belong together, and then sealed together in a bubble, like a stocking on the face that squashes the nose and barely allows you to breathe, and makes you feel ridiculous.”

This thought had shed some light on his situation, somehow. He got home and put the basket down on the table. He arranged the gifts inside and sealed everything under the shrink-wrap. Then, he stared at it for a while. It seemed this would allow him to follow his earlier thought to its natural conclusion.

“My doubts do not belong together anymore than these gifts do. Later today, someone will tear through this plastic bubble and release the contents, but they will end up being scattered and meaningless even more than before. Only one or two items will bring true joy to the recipient. I need to identify the one or two ideas I have about myself that bring me the most joy. That is all that is real. I must let go of the rest.”

And so later that day, Henry delivered the gift basket he had agreed to put together, politely explained that he was not able to stay at the party, and walked away feeling he had finally taken a step in the right direction.


Topic: Talk about a time when a character felt divided over an incident, decision or act. Start with, “Knowing that there is more than one way to…” and use these divided (hyphenated) words: self-service, shrink-wrap, sign-in, soft-spoken and straight-laced.

Exercise Book: Take Ten For Writers

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