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"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

7 Life Lessons Learned from a Random Excerpt from My Novel, "Maxime"

We can learn to “read with new eyes.”

For the love of reading!


What we won’t do to slip away for a couple hours and curl up with a book without a worry in the world?


We all read for different reasons. Fiction, we often read for the pure enjoyment, often as a reprieve from a hectic schedule or to escape a bland and painful existence


Maxime, my latest novel, was published in late 2017. But the writing of it commenced 24 months earlier. Maxime takes a satirical look at growing older, at life, and at the complexities of family and relationships. I took excerpts from the middle section of chapter two.


Maxime, who is sixty-four-and-a-half years old, discovered a lump, a swelling, on his body and now sits at his family doctor’s office. (He is a worry-wart, as well as a little obsessive-compulsive and anally retentive.)


I wondered whether I’d be able to look with (somewhat more) objective eyes, two and a half years later, and dissect the writing. 


Maxime Baumann was a modest man, insofar as he could speak for himself. Didn’t he painstakingly follow rule eleven on page two, which stated: Don’t ever think of yourself as a smart aleck? He could never understand the gentle smirks he received from Donna and the boys when he claimed just that, especially when they noticed his socks. For the past ten years . . . the one thing Maxime had spoiled himself with was colorful socks.
Today was his yellow-socks-with-gray-stripes day.

1 | Our view of ourselves is often biased

    • It’s seldom entirely objective
    • It’s flavored by our view through tainted glasses—our life experiences
    • As long as it’s a healthy assertiveness and not arrogance, it’s not a bad thing

•••


Maxime thought about Mr. J. Johnson, his boss. He had his reservations about whether one should call him his “boss,” since he was only the senior partner, in charge of Johnson, Johnson & McBride, attorneys at law.

2 | Showing respect for others can be a good thing.

  • Nothing wrong with showing respect. Perhaps we need more of it
  • Respect is not equivalent to fear
  • If we show respect toward everyone we meet, irrespective of age, gender, and social standing it serves us well lifelong
  • It often teaches us humility

•••


Maxime snorted. They were nothing more than glorified underwriters of properties (business and residential), mere pencil-pushers. They were real estate lawyers. Maxime stuck to what he loved: residential property . . . He couldn’t remember when he had last seen the inside of a courtroom. He was okay with that. He was a senior partner now. Haha, he snorted again. Senior partner—the only other partner.
3 |  We often harm ourselves with negative self-talk
    • How we do our job and with how much integrity, is more important than what we do
    • Being a doctor or a lawyer makes one no better than a cleaner or a hand-laborer

•••


He, Maxime Baumann, had been hoping he could retire in six months’ time, at sixty-five. But no. Mr. C. Johnson, the brother of Mr. J. Johnson, had to go and have a massive heart attack. Died on the spot. Just like that, without even consulting Maxime. Inconsiderate man.


Mr. J. Johnson had called Maxime into his office soon after the funeral and made it clear . . . early retirement would be discouraged, if not entirely impossible . . . Maxime should wait until the two junior lawyers could manage without training wheels . . .


They would need to be babysat for at least another five years. That would make him sixty-nine-and-a-half.
4 | We tend to give up on our dreams at the earliest encounter of an obstacle
    • Do your research about your dreams
    • If you don’t ask, the answer is always NO
    • This should be our motto: quitting is not an option. If it fails, make a new and improved plan.

•••


The door swung open, and Dr. Manie Moller rolled in. “Guten Tag, Guten Tag, Herr Baumann!” he roared as he shook Maxime’s hand, clasping it with both of his, each the size of a bunch of bananas. He was a burly man, strong as a bear, and sported a free-hanging short-sleeved shirt printed with palm trees.
It was what Maxime loved about the man: genuine, going out of his way to being helpful—there was no bullshit.
5 | Showing compassion is within each one’s reach: irrespective of which side of the table we find ourselves
    • Caring requires effort and time
    • Showing compassion is not a sign of weakness—it takes a strong man or woman to care
    • You are never too busy to show affection, show respect, and be decent 

•••


Dr. Moller plopped down with the folder. His ample girth strained against the desk. He activated his computer screen and looked up at his patient, the warm smile never leaving his face. “What brought you to us today, Mr. Baumann?
6 |  We often harbor prejudice against people who look different: be it size, color, accent, or attire
    • Our prejudice (and ignorance) often make us blind
    • It hurts (the other person but also ourselves in lost opportunities)
    • We can change that. We teach children to love. We teach children to hate.

•••


The doctor raised his eyebrows. “Was ist loss?”
Maxime found his voice. “I have a swelling . . . in my groin, doctor.” He gestured down toward his right side.
Dr. Moller asked many more questions . . . then asked Maxime to take his shirt and shoes off and sit on the examination table . . . Maxime undid his yellow tie and slipped with a convoluted maneuver out of the white shirt and jacket at the same time. What would Dr. Moller think of him if he saw the burn on the shirt? Certainly, that he, Maxime Bastien Baumann, was an everyday cheapskate. He would then die of shame.
7 | Our obsession with what other people think of us, often stifles our growth as individuals
    • Perhaps it’s time to loosen up
    • It has been said: what other people think of you is none of your business
    • Do the right thing, don’t hurt or harm others, but be your own person
    • You have a voice. You have worth. You have value.
    • Your opinion matters!


Did I think of these seven things (lessons) when I wrote the novel? Most certainly not. Then again, we write how we see and experience life.


It most certainly will serve us well to read with different eyes, be it fiction, nonfiction, memoir or poetry. By learning to read closer, we will discover more treasures in the writing. It will not steal the joy from us curled up close to the fire with a good book!


Now it’s your turn! Are you interested in changing the way you read?


You can find the novel here.


If you enjoyed these excerpts, check out a collection of my short stories here.


You can also find a FREE copy of my short story, Young Maxime here. (It is the prequel to my novel, Maxime.)

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