Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Joys of Being Inept

This part-time job I have so recently undertaken has become a barrel full of… no, not fun, but life lessons. I talked in my last blog about developing the strength of heart to keep oneself open to new connections and how it pertains to much more than just a cashier’s lineup. Previous to that I spoke of identity and how we are much more than what we do for money. This newest lesson finds me joyfully accepting my limitations.

If truth be known, and I know many already know this truth, is that I am fairly inept at being a cashier. Don’t get me wrong, I am great with customers (and that will save me from being let go), but the computer and I have, shall we say, some relationship issues. Perhaps if I had taken this job a few years ago things would be different but as my peri-menopause days drag on, my brain becomes foggier. New concepts take longer to sink in, my short term memory is … very short, and my stress levels are … very high: I have little tolerance for life’s irritations and none for mechanical devices that squawk and beep at the slightest provocation. In my “doddering” middle age I have come to enjoy stillness and quiet from these man-made machines, not insolence… nor, as it were, tales told behind my back. Whenever I push the wrong button or try to force the wrong pathway in this DOS based horror filled maze, it beeps. It not only beeps to me but does so with such voluminous gusto that the cashier thirty feet away hears my error filled ways. I’ve tried talking to it, pleading with it and even telling it to shut up but still this evil toting PC clone continues to tell the world of my ineptitude. And, yes, in my doddering middle age, I also anthropomorphize a bit too much.

At first I was quite stressed over the whole affair. I mean, I have always strived to be good, even great at things. Personal achievement was my goal whether it was in baking bread, working with clients or running up a mountain. Things were not done unless done perfectly or I died in the attempt. Somewhere, however, along day ten or so of this new job, I realized perfection wasn’t going to happen and more so, it really didn’t matter. I was stressing about a skill that I had no intentions of doing for more than was necessary, i.e. until my bank account looked a little healthier and, in stressing out I was making myself quite miserable. I took a step back. And then another. Things became clearer. It didn’t take much longer for me to say, hey, not only am I not good at DOS-based cash registers/computers but I am okay with not being good.

At first I stuttered over the words even as I mumbled them to myself. Then, as it got easier I began to let others onto my secret. The stuttering happened again but this time from my audience. They were shocked. Not that I wasn’t good at the work—that was obvious—but that I would say that about myself. No, no, they said, you are not inept, you are learning. Yes, yes, I replied, but learning aside, I am not good at it. Give yourself time, they admonished, you are being too hard on yourself. Time is not a factor, I shot back, and I am, for once, being kind to myself. But, but… they said; no, no… I replied.

Our society is one that idolizes the achiever, the one who pulls themselves out of the ditch and overcomes all odds; the survivor cum thriver; the new Canadian who works five jobs and becomes a self-made billionaire. These examples are all good and fine and I, too, find a lot to admire in these folk. But we tend to transpose those traits onto all endeavours forgetting, along the way, that as humans we are just that, human and predisposed to not being perfect. We forget to leave space for tripping up, losing our way, not getting to the top, and not getting it right. Most of us are not lulelemon or Nike prototypes. We are in definition and name, human: not perfect.

When I first started calling myself inept as a cashier I felt a weight shift upon my shoulders. It didn’t quite leave but it gave me a hint, a faint suggestion; a wisp of the freedom to be had. As I gained more confidence with my truth I began feeling truly buoyant. It was like finally coming out of the closet; telling the world that I am okay with being me. Looking back on my life there have been too many decades of playing the role of the ├╝bercodependent: needing to be good at things; to know things; to be smart, strong and capable only to find myself lacking at the end of the road. Click here for more information about codependence.

These attempts at being superhuman, of course, were attempts at finding some semblance of self worth. Over the past few years I have made many inroads into dismantling this mindset but it wasn’t until I got this job and found my inadequacies announced to strangers and colleagues alike on a regular basis that I truly began to see the light. It’s quite a relief to be human.

Oh sure, I still get slightly stressed at the beeps and withering looks of those waiting in line for me to get it right—it is hard to change completely within a two month period. For the most part, however, I am okay with it. My skills, or lack thereof, have nothing to do with any aspect of my self worth. I am okay.

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