Folks around here say something I’ve come to love, a word that seems to me to stand in for a panoply of things. It’s the word well. (I should write it like this: weeell. To hear it correctly, be sure to drag it out and make it multisyllabic, kind of like “wail” turned into “way-el.”)

I used to think that it was an introductory word, leading to something else. But it’s not. It’s a thing unto itself. In fact, I think it is a word of solidarity, like if you’re sharing something that you’re going through that is hard, someone might respond with “Well.” And that’s it.

So, Friday and Saturday found me hanging out with an amazing group of creative writers at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. It was a great time. Encouraging. Inspiring. Reminding me of all the things I do love about being a creative writer. Ah, yes.


But there was this one woman, a fellow conference attendee, who fate would have it ended up sitting with me at lunch on Friday and being part of my small-group poetry workshop. I refuse to go into details here about the situation, partially because I have already vented to more people than it is polite to admit, but let me just tell you that she drove me so crazy that, trying to deal with how much I was seething after interacting with her, I drafted a poem called, “I can not be Jesus to her.”

I’m not kidding.

Friends, I spend a lot of time writing here at Texas Schmexas about encounters I have with strangers and the beautiful glimpses of community we can have if we are willing to slow down and pay attention to the world around us. I do.

But, people, what else is there to say? Sometimes I can’t do it!

I’m not looking for sympathy or encouragement. Really. I don’t want to hear, “Now, certainly you can’t love everybody, Elizabeth, and you normally do such a good job at this, so don’t beat yourself up over it.” Please, please don’t tell me that.


A little solidarity would be nice.

Maybe a “Well…” or two?


8 comments on “Well.

  1. Craig says:


  2. Elaine says:

    Not encouraging or discouraging, but well! What memories that brought back. I so vividly recall as a child, when my grandparent’s family came to visit. You see, they were immigrants, so their family was mostly still in Germany. I recall them all sitting in the livingroom of the house, and everyone talking at the same time – a cacaphony of noise, and mostly in German! Everytime there was a pause and things got quiet, someone would remark, “well, well”. Not loud, drawn-out or anything else, just “well, well”. I will never forget that! As young kids, my sister and I would struggle not to laugh! A word unto itself, you say. Yes – it was there also! Thanks for the memories!

  3. Bonnie (Mom) says:

    May I be the first!!!! ‘Way all’ or however it is spelled with several syllables!”

  4. elizabeth says:

    Elaine, great story! Thanks for sharing. I can imagine this well! Do you think that this space-filler was related to the English-German language situation? I’ve worked with folks at the writing center who aren’t native English speakers who have picked up certain English words, phrases, or verbal tics (you could say) and use them as fillers in a way I wouldn’t have expected.

    Mom, I’ll give you props for being the “first” even if yours didn’t come through first. 🙂 Must be the time zones! haha.

    • Elaine says:

      I’m not sure if it was a tic or not, but I do know that it only occurred at a time of silence, as if they thought something needed to be said. It wasn’t a nervous filler, more like a companionable phrase, if that makes sense. I recall it as being peaceful, almost a sigh. But comic to two young girls who didn’t understand any German, but knew what well meant 🙂

  5. Darla says:

    Well, I certainly have had similar encounters and I usually end up looking up to the heavens and telling God/Jesus I just can’t do it this time! O’Neal and I have come up with a new diagnostic category for people like this. OPD: obnoxious personality disorder. And then I ask God for forgiveness! Hopefully God has a sense of humor.

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