Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Open Mind

I had a friend, years ago, who hosted a lovely jazz brunch every Sunday to which she would invite her neighbors, young and old.  One Sunday, one of her elderly neighbors asked her if he could bring a friend and of course, she said yes.  She told me that she expected an elderly friend of her neighbor, someone retired and who lived in her neighborhood but who she didn’t know.  What she didn’t expect was the man who entered—young, single, Italian, gorgeous—who later on became her husband.

They have been married for almost twenty years.

I think of this story often not just because I see her pictures on Facebook and marvel at the life she is living now—sophisticated, continental, international—but because I have been known to jump to a conclusion or two myself and I respected my friend’s ability to keep an open mind, to meet new people in spite of age.  What they all had in common, this group that got together, was a love of jazz and of my friend's buffet spread. She thought she’d be setting another place for a new older friend--someone she had yet to meet--not a single Italian national only too happy to meet a nice girl.  

Like my friend, I try not to make judgments about people and/or situations before I have all the facts or before I have the tools to make my own assessment but I have failed occasionally. (Well, more than occasionally but shy of “often.”) I have met many people over the years about whom I have heard not-so-great things, things that lead me to believe that they weren’t worthy of my time or friendship only to find out that not keeping an open mind—and listening to gossip—had robbed me of the chance to make my own opinion or to forge a new friendship, devoid of others’ impressions.  Many of these people have become my friends.  (It also begs the question:  just what is being said about me?  But that’s a blog post for another time.)

It’s a hard thing to do, to be open to every person and experience, to not bring any preconceived notions to bear but I’m slowly training myself. As I told a friend once, “I can only go by my own experience in how someone treats me.  They may be the village idiot, but as long as they nice to me and my family, I will accept them.” 

I try to do the same with my writing.  Sometimes I think things are going to go one way—or that a character will act a certain way—only to find out that they (or more to the point, my mind/imagination) had other plans.  They had their own preconceived notions about how a scene was going to go, how they would react.

Who they would like.  Who they would loathe. What they would do.  Where they drew the line.

In these cases, though, I’d be foolish not to listen.  They are telling me what they want, what they like.  In the case of my work-in-progress, the second Maeve Conlon book, I’m two-thirds of the way in the manuscript and still getting to know some of my characters.  One who I thought I loved I have grown to despise.  Another who I thought I wouldn’t like has become very sympathetic.  But I’m keeping an open mind.  Because like my friend, there is a single woman in there and if the time is right, a handsome Italian may come her way.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. So now you really have anticipating. I'm looking forward to reading your new books. Btw, is that story an example of serendipity? Happy for your friend.

  2. Lil, what a story of serendipity. I remember her telling me about this happy encounter and just grinning from ear to ear. Maggiexo

  3. Love this post, Maggie. So very, very true. Having moved as much as I have, I've always recognized the importance of taking a chance and widening your circle. It really does pay off in wonderful ways.