I Don’t Know How to Do This

Carolyn’s Online Magazine


 One of the things I learned while writing for newspapers was if you don’t know how to say something find another way to present your idea.

Today’s WordPress prompt is Silver Screen: Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!

I turned to my husband Monte and said “I know what line you would pick: I’ll have what she’s having. The line is from the movie When Harry Met Sally. But then, Monte enjoys watching movies—second to watching sports.

However, I don’t watch many movies, and cannot think of any line from any movie—except the cliché ones like:

  • Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn from Gone with the Wind
  • My Mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.’” from Forrest Gump
  • “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” from The Wizard of Oz
  • Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” from Auntie Mame

And writers learn to avoid clichés.


I surfed the net to review famous movie lines, and was impressed with the fact that they were mostly unknown to me. Thus, I must work around this prompt. I learned my journalism lesson well.

Although I seldom attend movies, I sometimes watch television—particularly if I’m cleaning or using my elliptical machine. Today I was folding laundry, so I had my television on to a program called Judging Amy. It was a rerun with a line that struck me when I heard it the first time:

  • “I don’t know how to do this…”

Maxine Grey, a social worker, was hospitalized with a heart attack. She feared she might be on her deathbed when her mother, who died when Maxine was a young child, visited her (I guess I should say her mother’s ghost…). Maxine, who acknowledged she was old, had an emotional outburst in which she said

  • “I don’t know how to do this…”

How many of us do “know how to do this?” It is appointed to each human being to be born once and to die once. As Maxine said later in the program, We don’t get to choose how we live or die.

After our good friend Shirl—whom we considered a family member— died of fast-advancing ovarian cancer. I’ll never forget what her daughter Diane said: My mother taught me how to die.

Even so, will she “know how to do this?” when her time comes?

I certainly don’t “know how to do this.” The only thing I know how to do is to prepare my affairs so my children have as little burden as possible and to ascertain that my spiritual life is in order.

Otherwise, how can I prepare? I don’t know how “this” will arrive. Will my spirit move on while I’m sleeping peacefully, or while I’m awake and surrounded by my loving family, or by some sudden accident /medical trauma? How, thus, can I prepare for it?

I concur with Maxine. “I don’t know how to do this”—and I wonder, will I know when the time comes?

Later in the program Maxine completed her script line: We don’t get to choose how we are born or how we die. But we do get to choose how we live.

There are no redos in life, so in some sense many of our experiences are similar to the “this.” However, we do have choices, and we can take the cards that are dealt to us and choose how to play them.

And many times on our life’s journey we will say “I don’t know how to do this…” Even when I began this post I thought “I don’t know how to do this…”

This non-Silver Screen line applies equally to living and dying.

I’ll end with a poem I found in my files:



Not “how did he die? But “how did he live?”

Not “What did he gain?” but “What did he give?”

Not “What was his station?” but “Had he a heart?”

And “How did he play his God-given part?”

Not What was his shrine?” Nor “What was his creed?”

But “Had he befriended those really in need?”

Not “What did the piece in the newspaper say?

But “How many were sorry when he passed away?”

Was he ever ready with a word or good cheer,

To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?

These are the units to measure the worth

Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.


About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com. My novel site is www.intertwinedlove.wordpress.com.
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One Response to I Don’t Know How to Do This

  1. luckyal1@comcast.net says:

    Thanks for this meaningful post Carolyn.  Having lost a close family member last week, the post and poem were especially appreciated.   Lucky Ardinger


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