Merriam-Webster Has Let Me Down

An accomplished life is a life of proficiency, skillfully honed, polished, and refined with notable established social accomplishments beyond dispute, says M-W. I’ve read about people who have led such a life, because I would like to do that too before I go, but I need to know how to go about it.

While standing in a long line at Lowes in order to return twenty feet of corrugated drain pipe, I feel suspended, as in a dream of consciousness. A narrative comes to mind about the person at the head of the line who catches my attention; he has a prominent gash on the back of his bald head.

A writer once said, “Our minds discard features that don’t fit a chosen narrative, exaggerate elements that confirm the story we already believe in, fabricate out of whole-clothe, details that don’t exist but ought to, and with each recollection, our memory is retold, respun, rewoven.” *

The story of the scar, I think, must be central to the description of how his life has earned the distinction of having been accomplished. In early grade school, while kneeling during the Stations of the Cross, I learned that the road to an accomplished life should be painful.

That thought is a relief in a way, because I will have already missed the mark; the amount of measurable pain I have had so far wouldn’t qualify. Other attributes to shoot for though, include being proficient, honed, polished and refined.

This idea presents a personal quandary. It’s about the people I know and love who have long ago accomplished their lives, but have not met the M-W criteria. Their lives, accomplished yes, but through presence, generosity and kindness.


Jean Cassidy, Summer 2022


*Ken Liu

poetry, prose poetry, wnc writers

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