Regular readers of this non-blog may be getting the impression that I’m an exceptionally competent person who is good at all kinds of things, packed with brilliant ideas, and highly successful at using every minute effectively.
This is not true.
The Earthling’s Handbook is supposed to be a guide to doing things right if you happen to find yourself living on Earth, so I write mostly about things I feel I’m doing well, things that go well when I remember to do them, things I’ve figured out how to do well after realizing I was doing them wrong, and like that. It’s not a chronicle of the ups and downs of my daily life. In fact, one thing I’ve learned in the past two years (since getting this blog software that lets me add articles easily, even during my lunch break at work) is that when I’m feeling frazzled and incompetent, thinking of something that I am getting right and writing an explanation of how to do it makes me feel so much better!
However, reading all these chipper articles about How to Do Things Better Just Like Me, you might get a skewed impression or even feel like I think I’m just wonderful and perfect. Therefore, for 7 Quick Takes Friday, I have come up with a list of 7 Things I’m NOT Good At. This is by no means a complete list! I had some trouble deciding which 7 things to admit.
1. Working full-time. I have one child, four years old, and I understand that millions of mothers of more and/or younger children work 40-hour weeks and even more. What I don’t understand is how they do it! I wasn’t good at working full-time even before motherhood; my first full-time job was a major contributing factor in my going kind of crazy. I just find it hard to tolerate rushing out of the house every morning and being cooped up in an office during the exact hours when most of the useful businesses are open and having barely enough time at home to cook dinner, eat it, and wash the dishes before it’s time to go to bed again. Which brings us to
2. Sleeping. To me, it’s an annoying bodily function on a par with urinating–inconvenient, mildly unpleasant, and a big waste of time–and I’d quit completely if I could! Of course, I am aware that not sleeping at all would be very bad for my health, and I very rarely attempt to skip an entire night…but it’s so tempting to stay up just a little while longer. Think of the things I could be accomplishing instead of lolling around in bed! I do get some stuff done when I stay up until 2am or set my alarm for 4:30, but honestly, nearly all of the times I wind up doing that, I’m compensating for having spent part of the evening goofing off. If I would just start that binge of accomplishment right after I get home, then I’d be able to go to bed on time, or maybe I’d still stay up but use the extra time for
3. Keeping a clean house. I mean, between the combined efforts of Daniel and myself, the parts of our house that we use for everyday tasks are clean enough for safety, and most of the time most of the place looks good enough that I find it a pleasurable space to live in. But whenever I take a flash photo of our kid playing on the floor, I realize that all the corners and underneaths of our furniture are filled with cobwebs and dust bunnies and flotsam. Our shower grout’s refusal to turn white again brings me such despair that I only attempt to clean it a couple of times a year, which of course doesn’t help. Last week we had to clear paths to several parts of our house so that a structural engineer could inspect it and tell us whether it’s about to crumble and tumble down the cliff [answer: not anytime soon, but we’d better get the erosion under control] and I was amazed at how much nicer the place looked after I’d spent really only about an hour picking up and wiping off, which just goes to show that cleaning is not too hard; it’s just that I’m terrible at
4. Doing small tasks to keep up with things. It’s easy to convince myself that because I don’t have time to do an entire project from start to finish right now, it’s best not to start it. One of the worst decisions of my entire life was to set a stack of papers on the bedroom end table, instead of filing them in my filing cabinet, when I was pregnant and exhausted. This created a “to be filed” pile, and I then began adding to it routinely, and although I eventually managed to stop that, I still haven’t gotten around to filing all the stuff from the pile, and my baby is four years and seven months old now! I’m just always too busy with other, shorter, day-to-day tasks, or I’m desperately trying to relax and set aside all my worries and self-criticisms in hopes of relieving one of my frequent migraines. The doctors say these are caused by muscular tension, and I keep hoping I’ll be rid of them when someday I magically succeed in
5. Doing the right thing with my spine. Something’s wrong; it isn’t normal for a spine to several times a week begin complaining that it has been fan-folded and stepped on (when in fact it hasn’t) and grabbing the nearby muscles and pinching them in vengeance, starting a chain reaction that results in severe headache, confusion, and vision disturbance. I’ve tried physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, prescription muscle relaxants (oh, what a horrible experience), various other drugs and herbs, various dietary changes, various exercises, prayer (which invariably makes it hurt more; what is God trying to tell me?), and being determined that if I just ignore it and keep working hard the trouble will stop, but none of these things works all that well. Oh, and I often get some temporary relief from applying heat, which is not helping me with
6. Conserving water. I’m very conscious of my use of other resources and move through my days happily saving a little electricity here and some unwanted food there, but when it comes to water…well, I use a less wasteful dishwashing method than some people, but I adore long, hot showers and find it very difficult to deny myself that pleasure, even when I’m feeling good already. I live in Pennsylvania, where water is abundant and cheap, and I just can’t seem to get inspired to cut back. Much as I love my showers, I don’t sing during them because of my lack of talent in
7. Music. When people start talking about keys and intervals and whatnot, I’m completely baffled. It’s not a lack of education; I had a really good elementary school music teacher, and I took viola lessons for two years. I learned that I can memorize terminology and learn (slowly) the physical procedures for translating notes onto a page into sounds coming from an instrument, but I cannot hear whether a note is an A or a C or the same letter as the last note I heard. Attempting to translate written music into vocal sounds is like attempting to read Chinese. I enjoy singing enough that I’ve put a lot of effort into matching pitch with other people or recorded music, and after decades of practice, I finally feel that I can carry a tune just barely well enough that I’m not totally embarrassed to sing a little bit when a song comes up in conversation or to be heard singing to/with my child in public. Still, I remain astounded by other people’s abilities not only to produce music but also to hear aspects of music that are meaningless to me.