"Did I tell you about the explosion?"
"Uh - I don't think so."
My new friend Kristi is loading the dishwasher at the homeless shelter where we volunteer. I am counting sandwiches and cartons of fresh milk. She launches into a tale of Pillsbury Pop-n-Fresh dough gone wrong, culminating in a late night pantry cataclysm, dough balls embedded in walls and ceiling, rescued with a spatula and baked for the next night's shelter supper.
"I am SO not a cook," she says.
We laugh, and I console her. We're all not good at something.
My own story takes shape in a recurring nightmare about a ball hockey tournament. Thrust into the game unwillingly, I injure my team mates, score on my own goal, and limp away, embarrassed and guilty. I am SO not an athlete, and probably not much of a team player, either. We are all not good at something.
At work, my friend Diane tells me she accidentally packed an uncooked egg in her partner's lunch. Sitting with his buddies in the lunchroom, he cracked it on his head, saying "Good thing this is hard-boiled!" (not).
I know Kristi to be an awesome high school teacher who inspires her students to volunteer at the shelter. She is a role model for kindness and generosity, loved and admired by everyone whose life she touches. Diane is a working artist who facilitates community art projects. After Hurricane Katrina, she visited Louisiana, and initiated a project to link families there with students in schools here through art experiences. I am inspired by her energy, dedication and enthusiasm for new opportunities.
These contrasting impressions make me wonder why, when we talk about our lives with our friends, we lead with our shortcomings? Hi, I'm Sue. I'm a klutz! There, now we can be friends.
I think that this is the way we share ourselves, bonding by blunders, gifting each other with admissions of ineptitude. It's fun and loving, and allows us all to say, "Thank goodness I'm not the only one who is not good at something."
It's also not polite to brag. Writing this blog, I hesitated about beginning my post by mentioning the homeless shelter. Will I be showing off if I say that I volunteer? Maybe I should leave that until later.
I think it's also more comfortable to laugh about silly, trivial things than it is to share what's really meaningful in our lives. We save that for the right moment in a conversation or a friendship. When we get to that, we know there's trust and mutual regard for one another.
Finally, the failings we share in social conversation are typically light-hearted and inconsequential. They are not expressions of our deepest, darkest anguish about ourselves and what we cannot do or have not done. They're more the twitter or facebook profile one-liner updates about what's gone wrong. They are suitable for mixed audiences, re-tweeting and repeating as needed, without compromising confidentiality. I told both Kristi's and Diane's stories to Andy and the kids when I got home. They loved them, and probably like Diane and Kristi even more without knowing them well at all, because of this re-telling.
I started out feeling a bit sad about this practice of light self-deprecation, but I having thought it through out loud, I guess it's okay. It's okay so long as it's not all we share with one another. I'll tell you how I set the smoke alarms off at 7:30 this morning with an oven full of bacon, if you'll tell me your laundry mistake. I'll tell you how I electrocuted myself and our pet cockatiel one time (we both survived) if you tell me how you accidentally brushed your teeth with Preparation H. We find our way into friendship this way, and move on to a better knowing of one another along the way. We are all not good at something. We are all also grand, wonderful and awesome at many things. It's worth the wait to get to those stories. In the meantime we can always laugh.
question: what are you GOOD at?
mompoet - I am good at working things out by blogging them