We live in a society where we’re supposed to be on the path to achieve more and more. Earn this degree, advance in that career, become better at such and such.
It’s pert near impossible to keep up. By definition, most of us won’t get most of what we want or where we want to be. We’re only human.
No wonder there are so many self-help books out there.
Create deeper bonds with your pet. Gain discipline through the art of cheesemaking. Break bad habits by watching bad television shows. How to overcome being a master procrastinator. The secrets for a healthy relationship with your mother-in-law.
It’s all about “personal development.” In my day, we simply called it “trying to improve.”
Oh well. Whatever you want to call it, I’m all for it. Believe me … I’ve always felt I could become a better version of myself. I just seem to run smack into … let’s call’em a wide assortment of deficiencies.
A history of flaws and defects
For example, I’ve tried to be handy around the house. One of my insecurities is that I’ve always been incompetent at fixing, installing, and repairing. Amongst family and friends, my reputation on this subject is laughable. How hard can it be to hang art or install curtain rods? For me, turns out it’s pretty darn difficult.
I recognize that being handy isn’t so much about skill or coordination; being handy is about preparation, following instructions, and most of all being patient. And following instructions. (Did I already say that?)
There are tons of resources to improve one’s handyperson skills, including endless YouTube videos of people confidently showing how to fix the garbage disposal or the garage door that stopped opening.
All the information is there, with easy-to-follow steps. These days, you really have to be a screw-up to screw things up. Turns out I’m a screw-up. I’ve accepted that “handy” is one adjective that won’t be used in my eulogy.
Missing that precognition gene
Unfortunately, and much to my wife’s chagrin, clairvoyance is another skill I lack. Hence, her most repeated mysteries-of-life observations about me are:
- Why doesn’t he know that?
- How many times should I have to tell him that?
- He should know that by now.
Which often are followed by:
- In my next life, I want to come back as a man.
As all husbands throughout the history of western civilization know, it’s an unwritten rule that you must learn how to not only know what’s on your better-half’s mind at any particular moment, you must develop the ability to forecast what she might think at any given moment in the future. Too often, I come up short on both counts.
My desire for personal improvement isn’t for lack of trying.
Case in point: I’ve always been clumsy, even as a little kid. I often bump into things and strangers at the supermarket. I occasionally trip when stepping off the curb.
Heck, I stumble over things that aren’t there. And without skipping a beat, I bang my knee at least once a week when getting up from my desk.
Realizing I needed better concentration and balance, I considered trying yoga. But the thought of downward-facing dog lasted about eight seconds. I’m too uncoordinated for that, though my efforts would doubtless create a YouTube sensation.
Cleaning activities are, likewise, challenging for me. Take dusting. I’ve never understood exactly how I’m supposed to do it. The dust just goes from one place to another and, to compound my ineptness, I’m challenged to put things back exactly as they were pre-dusting. Come on — how difficult can it be to clean the darn baseboards? What’s wrong with me? Is it nature or nurture?
Do other folks have similar issues? If so, I’d like to meet some of them. Maybe there’s a dusting support group where we could sit in a circle, consume adult beverages, and spill our guts about being inept at cleaning. It could be helpful, even cathartic.
Mistakes don’t happen by accident
I have concluded that my lack of personal evolution is related to 1) a shortage of patience; 2) poor listening and recall skills; and 3) according to the missus, my “gently used” brain.
Some combination of these is likely why my dog could probably fold laundry better than I can. Ditto why I’ve never had the perseverance to achieve even a degree of gastronomic success. Aside from perhaps my grill skills, Denny’s gets a 5-star Michelin rating compared to what I can whip up for dinner.
I’m hopeless with technology as well. It’s a cruel god who has given you the gift of being able to type 90+ words a minute, lickety-split edit a manuscript, and ready a spreadsheet in a snap, but not let you understand how to use apps.
It’s bizarre. I’m coordinated enough to make a phone call, send a text, and press the right buttons on a simple TV remote, but that’s about it for my tech motor skills. Personally, I won’t be impressed with technology until it can download food.
I’m also not good at finding stuff, even if I’ve been told multiple times the exact location of a specific item. I generally can’t find something in a drawer, on a shelf, in a file cabinet, or in my pick-up truck, even when it’s right in front of me and I’ve been directed to it more than four times. When I finally (and believe me, reluctantly) say to my wife, “Honey, I can’t find the (fill in the blank),” her standard answer is, “It’s behind the mayonnaise.”
Please understand. I have valid reasons for forgetting where things are. First, I’m getting along in years, and second, I only have so much space upstairs for memory, and it’s rightfully devoted to important stuff. Like Al Kaline’s batting average when he won a batting title at the age of 20 (.340 in 1955); who were Inigo Montoya, Wesley and Buttercup; and the origin of “ooo eee oo ah ah, ting tang walla walla bing bang.”
Oh, there’s more. Much more.
I can’t dance, which my wife loves to do. I have no flexibility, no balance, no grace, no moves, no recall, no rhythm … no idea at all how to strut my stuff on the dance floor.
Hence, I don’t really dance. I shuffle and know that I’m not at all cool while doing so. At best, I’m bumping into folks and, at worst, falling on my ass.
One would think that learning a simple line dance would be something even a Cotton-Eyed Joe could master. Boot Scootin’ Boogie, Watermelon Crawl, the Electric Slide, and even the Macarena all require advanced degrees well beyond my grasp at this stage of my life. Stomp left foot out, toe up, clap, and stomp now left foot out quarter, turn left, right foot storm, now right foot out, go turn right. Yeah, no. Not happening.
It’s not only on the dance floor that I have an issue with getting from point A to point B. When someone tells me how to get somewhere, I at least partially rely on wishful thinking that I’ll arrive at my desired destination. You would think that it would be impossible to get lost with GPS and Google Maps. Not so much. Remember, we’re talking about me.
Let’s be optimistic about this
Perhaps my ineptitude isn’t due to a lack of patience, poor listening skills, or my “gently used” brain, after all. I strongly suspect I have defective short-term memory chops. To combat this condition, I take lots of photos as reminders, write notes to myself, and send texts to yours truly in an effort to recall stuff.
I’d love to get better with life’s immeasurable and abstract parts. Like being comfortable with alone time and with silence. I don’t look around corners for a raving lunatic when I’m a solo act, but I feel much better — whether relaxing or task-focused — with the TV, SiriusXM, or Alexa engaged. Silence isn’t my friend.
I realize that none of this psychoanalysis should bother me. At my advanced age, I shouldn’t judge myself so harshly and instead simply do what I do, accept my limitations, and embrace my trusty axiom that the secret of success can be found in one’s daily routine. It does trouble me, however, that I should have accumulated more wisdom and skills by now.
Alright. This is ridiculous. I’m done. At this stage of my life, “I yam who I yam” — a glass-half-full, lucky-in-love, very blessed guy … who happens to be concrete sequential with an assortment of flaws and imperfections. That being conceded, the reflection in the mirror ain’t half-bad, so I reckon I’ll accept myself for who I am. Besides, why would I want to be perfect anyway? That’d be boring. If I were perfect, I’d have nothing to complain about. Nor would my bride.
But maybe I should read a self-help book or two. I wonder if there’s anything about how to find things hidden behind the jar of mayonnaise.
Addendum from LSomerbyCooke …
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The illustrations accompanying this blog were created by my longtime go-to illustrator, Rob Barge of Opelika, Alabama. Rob is the founder and proprietor of Hardware Graphic Design + Illustration. He’s an incredibly talented designer and was the inspiration for my blog about Why Design Matters. Regardless of what you’re looking to illustrate, visually communicate or brand, do yourself and your company a favor and reach out to Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will thank me later.