The prompt this time was an excerpt from a long poem by Ron Padgett, “How to be Perfect.”
That prompt, and what I wrote in response, is below.
How to be Perfect
Get some sleep.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
Wear comfortable shoes.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, “Water, please.”
Take out the trash.
Use exact change.
When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.
Let the piles of essays sit. Make excuses. Say, “I need two weeks to grade these.” Then take three weeks.
Make them feel guilty when they ask. Say, “I was sick,” or snap at them, saying, “I haven’t finished grading all of the essays yet!” Don’t say you’re sorry. Later, apologize in an email.
Organize the essays into two piles. Make a schedule: seven hours of grading. Two hours on Tuesday night, three hours on Wednesday night, then finish on Thursday. When Friday comes, and they still aren’t graded, get stoned and watch Orange is the New Black. Revise grading schedule, then spend the weekend grading essays with resentment.
Realize you shouldn’t grade essays while you’re angry. Several studies have shown this. So take a walk. Give yourself a pep talk. Say, “I make the rules; I’m the teacher.” Feel guilty and drink coffee at the local Starbucks. Charge your phone on their magic tabletop. Stare at the married man and lust over his hairy forearms. Then feel like a perve. Think of him naked and on top of you. Then leave, saving the image for later.
Arrive home and stare at the two piles of essays. Apologize to the essays. Say, “I’m sorry I’m neglecting you.” Then eat lunch.
Then sit down, sigh a big sigh, and begin.