THINGS I’M NOT GOOD AT
Job-hunting has long been off my list of Things To Do. But I remember advice that went something like this: “Know the things you’re good at, and offer them at the job interview. They may be exactly what the potential employer is looking for.” Something like that.
In other words, “Accentuate the positive.”
Well, okay. Having lived several decades with my own set of things I’m good at and things I’m not so good at, and having been retired from active duty (8-5, five days a week) for a decade, I’ve had ample time to investigate the other side of the fence.
Let’s agree to not call it the dark side, all right? These aren’t bad traits. They aren’t going to get us in trouble that involves jail, court hearings, sentencing, and workin’ on the chain gang.
These traits are the things we’ve learned to live with, and around, and through. They’re part of our lives. Most of all, they’re what make each one of us the person we are.
So, here goes.
Things I’m Not Good At:
#1. Making friends
Not a surprise, because we moved so many times between first grade and ninth grade. Any friend I made during a school year would be left behind the following June when we moved on.
My mother, an extravert, decided I was too shy, lonesome, and friendless. Her advice: “Go right up to one of the girls at school and introduce yourself. Be friendly!”
If memory serves, I tried that two, or maybe three, times. The response was raised eyebrows that seemed to ask, “So what?” (Perhaps I exaggerate. But it was not a good experience.)
#2. Playing on the team.
Any team. Any group. An only child don’t learn the essential skills of (1) negotiating, (2) compromising, and/or (3) beating up the opposition.
Instead I learned to be a solo practitioner—turned myself into a bookworm—made Good Grades my goal. The reward was a scholarship to college, where I again skipped the team stuff and lived in my cave (library).
#3. Any sport.
Not even swimming, which can be done solo. I’ve never learned to be comfortable in water that comes up over my knees, and even though I took swimming in college Phys Ed (and earned an A, the Lord knows why), I remained a confirmed landlubber.
Perhaps the issue with sports is not expertise, but competition. There was a time I could compete with the best of ‘em—for grades, skills, roles in the school play. Now competing for anything seems pointless. Is that wisdom coming with age? Or just age encroaching? (Don't answer that.)
#4. House cleaning.
Did you see that one coming?
The thing is this: I know how to clean house. My mother kept the cleanest house on any block we lived on, and I always helped with the process. In fact, like my mother (and many other people) I love to see the house cleaned up, spic and span, clutter put away, surfaces dusted, windows shiny. But I don’t love doing the work.
I’ve also not enjoyed having my house cleaned for me—tried that a couple of times when health problems actually barred me from vacuuming and dusting and lifting anything that weighed over five pounds. Maybe I’m not tough enough to let other people come in and take over the cleaning.
I suspect, though, that the kernel in this nutshell involves the Accumulation of Stuff (yes, I know you’re tired of hearing about that).
Mixing with big groups. Celebrating with a lot of hoop-la. Evening meetings, no matter how vital the cause. Surprises (even good ones).
At my age, there’s a lot of “been there, done that” hanging about. Events that excite friends and family members don’t even make my Things-to-Consider List. Evenings, especially, find me grumpy if I’m asked to go out. Why? Because my energy levels are high from getting up (before 6 AM) till about 2 PM. After a short nap, I can manage some activity, but not going out in the evening.
And surprises—maybe I had too many surprises in my young life; nowadays, when I get a surprise that seems to be a good thing, I look for the kicker. How is this really going to play out? I ask. Surprise parties? Unh-unh.
So, you ask, how did those things affect your life?
#1. Making friends. I’ve made several good and true friends over the years. Some friendships are still going strong 22, 40, 46 years later. We don't live near one another and see each other only a few times a year. But the friendships are strong.
I have newer friends, especially folks I’ve met at church and with whom I work on a regular basis. And it wasn't difficult. I didn’t have to go up to anybody and say, “Hi, my name is Judith Palmer. What’s your name?”
I'll never number my friends in the hundreds. Social media doesn't keep my interest. But being an introvert doesn’t relegate us to the loneliness pile. We may seem shy, but we’re okay. Truly.
#3. Any sport. Still true, I’m not a sports player or fan. But! I’ve found activities that support good health for my heart (and other body parts): Walking. Yoga. Tai Chi. These can be done alone or in groups or with a buddy. In yoga and tai chi, especially, there is no competition; in fact, competition is discouraged.
#4. House Cleaning. Whoever first coined the phrase “Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy” deserves a special citation. I’ve heard it attributed to people’s grandmothers, mothers, and an author in the ‘50s or ‘60s (probably Peg Bracken or someone like her).
Thus, my house may never—well, let’s be honest here—my house will never be as clean as my mother’s was, but it will be a house in which I am happy to live, its windows will shine sometimes, its surfaces will be free of dust sometimes, and the clutter is disappearing bit by bit.
My only problem with Accumulations is that so many of them recall something, or someone, important to me: a greeting card from one of my kids, a letter from a friend who is now deceased; an art object or a quilt/wall hanging/pillow made by one of my kids or a friend; a gift from someone special; books I’ve treasured . . . .
What I’m learning about reducing clutter and downsizing is that perhaps, just perhaps, somebody else will enjoy what I’m giving away. Someone I don’t know, and will never meet, will open a book or listen to a CD or wear a sweater that once was an important part of my life.
#5. Miscellaneous. Giving up evening meetings, noise and hoop-la, crowds—not hard at all. People have learned that I don’t do much of that kind of thing. As for surprises, I do enjoy little ones—like a new TV series (new to me could mean its seven years gone) that I’ve never seen, with actors who are superb in their roles; or a new book by an author I adore; or (please don’t laugh too hard) opening a box of fabric and re-discovering a lovely piece I bought some time ago, haven’t used yet, and am still in love with.
There you have it. Things I’m Not Good At. How they’ve assimilated themselves into my life.
Celebrate those traits that make you who you are. They may be positive traits. Or Not-So-Positive. Or just So-So traits. You don’t have to boast about them. Just accept them. Explore them. They’re you.
And have a wonderful week!