Things About Doing (all the) Things

"You're such a jack-of-all-trades," she said, with what could be wantonly construed as a hint of admiration. "No seriously, you do it all!"

I shook my head, guzzled the last third of my Flume Creek/Honey Basil mix and sighed. "But I suck at every one of them."

The reality of this has never been more clear to me than it was as I stood raking dirt back into a hole that I had attempted to dig earlier in the week. The hole is big enough to park a Volkswagon Bug in, because I dug in the wrong direction exactly three times (which is how many you need to find all of the wrong edges of the septic tank) in order to begin digging in the right direction to find the second septic tank lid. I say begin because I let my strong, young daughter uncover the second lid much as she did the first one: efficiently and much more quickly than I could have. Being young is such a benefit in so many ways, I still regret my decision to get old.

Yes, I do all of the things. I teach school. I write words. I go on ambulance calls. I work on wildland fires. I pour beer. I cook. I clean. I raise children. I work out. I pay bills. And each one of them I do more poorly than the last.

Case in point: How many people have you met that have DESTROYED food in a Crock Pot MORE THAN ONCE? Like, obliterated past the point of recognition? I burned apple sauce (of all the easiest things) in a Crock Pot. Granted, it was cooking for about 4.5 days while I was carefree and forgetful at work, but the poor slow cooker has never recovered.

My housekeeping skills (or lack thereof) are fairly evident and have been recently and vociferously denounced, so I don't feel the need to dwell on that.

When I open up the most recent edition of the paper that I write for and see a multitude of apostrophe mistakes and there/their/they're faux pas, I quickly let my boss know that I am fired and she insists, in desperation, on rehiring me on the spot.

It's really desperation that saves me. A rurally isolated school desperate for substitutes, a volunteer-strapped first response agency that would LOVE to replace me, starving children who have to eat SOMETHING - I get by on the desperation of others. I'd like to brag that it's my universal skill set and remarkable capabilities that make me a "jack-of-all-trades", but it's really the desperation of myself and others that has propelled me to this level of quasi-success. I suppose all I am really lacking is a desperate man to put up with me for the rest of my life.

"Master of None" should be the title emblazoned on my office door. If I ever had an office, or a door. I suspect they gave me a Bachelor's Degree just so I would stop taking classes and turning in mediocre work. I suspect I get hired at jobs not because of my revolutionary work ethic or brilliant business savvy, but because I operate on just enough of a guilt complex to always show up (turns out that's a rare commodity in itself).

But the truth of it is, we are our own worst critics, and despite my lack of rip-roaring success in this lifetime (so far) nobody has died, either from my cooking or my parenting or my lack of housecleaning. Somehow even in my mediocrity we have made it (thus far) without evictions or homelessness or (very much) jail time. So I guess I need to bask in the glory of the little triumphs, like being reminded 15 minutes before my kids sports physicals that my kids HAVE sports physicals, and 15 minutes is definitely enough time to put the clothes on that I forgot I wasn't wearing when my pajamas just kind of hung around until 2:45 in the afternoon. And successes like getting out of bed at 8:00 AM without cussing at the kid who comes over to get my help with his college homework, because maybe, after all, I am a little bit good at something.

I really am not being fair to myself, because I do have a couple of landmark skills: eating and drinking. Really I am pro level at both. In fact, I am so dedicated to the craft that my calorie counting attempts all peter out at around 2:00 PM when the beer-drinking-cheese-eating frenzy begins in earnest for the day. OK 2:00 might be generous. Can we go with noon? I used to also be an expert sleeper but that skill seems to have waned along with youth and enthusiasm. Now I lie awake all night wondering what I will suck at doing the next day. The one beautiful thing about doing all the things is that I never know, day-to-day, which one I'll be doing. It's like a perpetual, exhausting surprise.


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