All of the Things That I Am Not Very Good At…

blood pressure
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

I have not, despite the fact that we are at times close companions, become fully reconciled to failure. I would still really rather like to succeed from time to time. I try to succeed; I always try to succeed, but more often than not, the avoidance of utter disaster is as close as I get. I aim to do things right and I aim to do them well, but in reality I seldom do either – certainly not to my own satisfaction. When I began this thing, I wanted each piece to have a beginning, a middle and an end; for each piece to have a point, and I think that by and large I have succeeded in that. But I aimed for something approaching Stephen Leacock, Alan Coren or Alan Bennett, and what I ended up with, more often than not, was Orville the Duck.

Making the effort is the big thing of course, trying to do the best you can. The only problem is, when you have tried really hard to get things right, the dog’s dinner that you end up with is doubly troubling. Having a unicorn in your head is all well and good, but when the result is a carthorse on the paper, it is wildly frustrating.

I have recently, much against my better judgement, embarked on a number of DIY projects: flooring, joinery, general decorating, with results that can be best described as variable. (Some are bad, some are worse.) I managed to electrocute myself last week via the simple process of catching a wire whilst screwing the top back on a socket, but I have baulked at plumbing. I have no desire to drown.

On occasions I have watched skilled craftsmen going about their work and I am always struck by the serenity. There is none of the all-out panic that I experience during the course of a simple task. Picture a headless chicken in possession of an electric drill and Stanley Knife and you’ll get the drift…

I can imagine that the more charitable amongst you are thinking, ‘Now come on, there must be something that you’re good at,’ so I’ve given it a little thought, and the answer is ‘No.’ I have never found myself involved in anything that I did not feel somebody else could not have done much better. I have never looked at something that somebody else has done properly and thought, ‘I could do that better.’ I have looked at things that have been done by somebody even more incompetent than myself and wondered if I couldn’t have done it slightly less badly. There are even times when I do things to an altogether reasonable standard. It’s just that it all takes so bloody long.

Many many moons ago I wrote, with my very good friend Chris, a series for the local BBC radio station, which we also recorded and performed. We were inordinately proud of it. I loved the whole process and I loved our little series, as did the commissioning producer, the radio station and even The Radio Times who chose to plug it with its very own cartoon in the radio listings. When it was broadcast, NOBODY listened. The first series also became the last and the whole enterprise was quietly put to bed. At the time I blamed everything – it was broadcast at a stupid time, it was on the wrong show, Saturn was rising in Uranus – but what I never considered was the possibility that it (or more likely, my own contribution to it) was actually just not good enough.

I feel that I have something to say, but unfortunately nobody seems to want to hear it. Which brings me back to the beginning: not my tendency towards the frighteningly inept, but my inability to fully reconcile myself to it.

Today I went for my annual MOT at the doctor’s. My blood pressure was, as usual and despite medication, on a par with that to be found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The nurse asked me if I had been doing anything particularly stressful and I said, ‘Breathing.’
‘Well, I would consider packing it in then,’ she said. I think she was joking.

The point is that I have decided that stress is the enemy of age, and it’s worth side-stepping it whenever you can. Refusing to worry about all these things that you are not very good at is a good place to start. Especially when that is pretty much everything…

14 thoughts on “All of the Things That I Am Not Very Good At…

  1. I’ve felt that way on quite a few occasions. But my wife has learned to not look at my projects with too critical of an eye because it gets done and a lot more cheaply. I have dabbled in plumbing only when necessary but am not allowed near electricity.

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  2. Right now I have too much stress and I am not sleeping. What do I do about Gary? My uncle died. I have asshats for co-workers in BOTH stores, I can’t see my g’kids. I’m alone. Alone and tired of it.

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    1. Blimey Boo. That’s a tough one to answer. Being stuck in and not able to see the kids is torture. Losing a loved one at such a time is crap. And working with twats is just incredibly draining. I’m shit at advice but Gary seems like a nice guy. Can you explain you need a friend right now. Nothing more. We all need someone to lean on. Guess he does too. Don’t be lonely. I hope you can get some sleep, it will make such a difference. I wish I could say something to make things better, but I am thinking of you from half a world away. I hope you sleep well. Things aren’t necessarily better but they are easier to cope with when you’re not frazzled. Take care and stay safe.

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      1. I’m trying. I’m doing what makes ME happy right now. The hello with everyone else because I just don’t have the energy right now to make everyone happy. No one does it for me yet I continue to do it for others. Except right now. I have to get ‘Boo’ back on track first. And the next time I’m in London………….?

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    2. Be kind to yourself, be the one to comfort, to feed, to laugh when ever possible and not feel that is wrong, to talk to the child you were, the adult you have become, to make friends with “Boo” and again be kindness personified to you over and over, do what is kind, for you are part of the Beloved and you are precious.

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  3. As for Colin, I can see it all in my mind, those DIY attempts that worked out well, but also a cringe of knowing you hurt yourself, but that you got through it and lived without putting out the A&E staff. Unlike the fella that flagged me down in a mobile phone black spot, who’d just cut his hand in half with a machete trimming his hedge or all the others that got me to take them to A&E via things like going back to a firework, the Stanley knife incident or the cooker, plug socket, pencil in the epiglottis or ~ or ~ or ~ … Stay out of trouble mate, but if you want to know what your good at: Making me smile. Thank you for the post.

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  4. Being bad at all sports used to get me down. But training badly for, and then running badly in three marathons over a few years in my late twenties turned out to be quite fulfilling. Haven’t done one in over ten years though because I’m also really bad a sticking to things. Or really good at not sticking to things…

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  5. Nah, sod success. It is one of those things we are told we should spend our lives chasing, but it’s never something you can actually catch. Because whatever success you have (getting a radio series made and broadcast? Woah! How is that not success?) you will always want a little bit more. Maybe some people can cope with that, but I know for me the tiny successes I get make me stressed and uptight because they’ll never be enough. And I become terrified of it ending, terrified of fucking it all up. Meanwhile people around me who also have success get jealous, competitive, snide.

    On the other hand, not being successful means that you can put out whatever creative blather you want (and your blogs are always an entertaining and thoughtful read, so be proud!) and then enjoy life however you like without the pressure.

    I do realise that so far it’s only me who thinks like this, and I don’t entirely believe it yet, but I’m fairly certain I’m right. Life has always, always, been more fun, exciting, adventurous and creative when I have bugger all success than when I do. So I’m settling in, failure is my place. I hope you’ll come visit me. 🙂

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    1. I LOVE your credo. I have had a few, small successes – I’m always so full of them when they happen, but totally aware they are of value to absolutely nobody else at all. My family love me – most of the time – so that’s pretty good isn’t it? I love the fact that you like what I do. It’s what I do, so I have to keep on doing it. Take care out there!

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