Giving up my ideas about myself

Eleanor, Fred and Ben helping me install our new TV

Eleanor, Fred and Ben helping me install our new TV

Many years ago, I worked for some friends (Paul and John) who owned a company that installed “help buttons” in people’s homes. I know that these guys hired me because we were friends and they liked me, not because of my mechanical/technical abilities or aptitude. Early on, Paul was trying to explain the very complicated (to my mind) mechanics of a duplex jack, and I must have been either distracted or said something about not understanding, and he replied, in an exasperated tone, that I wasn’t even trying. I don’t remember his exact words but the gist of his statement was that I could understand how to install these units, that they weren’t complicated, but that I had just told myself for so long that I wasn’t any good at things like this, I had effectively blocked myself from learning.

Neither of my parents were mechanically inclined or clever at fixing things. If instructions were needed to assemble anything then we were in trouble…until my sister Anne became a teenager. Suddenly, everyone realized that she had this magical power to put things together. She could actually sit down and figure out how to assemble things!

So years later, when Paul basically called me on my playing dumb act, I called my sister, and asked if she could help me. She said that she would be willing to let me in on the secret. I was ready. Then she spoke. She said, “I read the directions.” With those words, my life changed. I began to understand directions. At first, my mind would revert to its old stories of , “I can’t do this! I’m no good at this! Directions don’t ever make sense to me! These directions aren’t even in English! They must have left parts out! This isn’t right! It probably won’t even work after I get it together!…..” But I noticed these thoughts, and tried to keep my cool (although often feelings of anger, frustration and irritation would surface at myself, the manufacturer, the person who wrote the lame directions, or anyone who might happen to walk by while I was in the middle of assembling the thing). But I didn’t give up.

Now, when a new piece of equipment comes that needs to be put together, I have faith that I will get it done. Once in a while I still have a mini-mental-breakdown and am sure that it will never work, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I hardly yell at anyone, except for Jack when he asks me a highly irritating questions like, “Is there anything I can do to help?”or “Can I bring you anything?” ….but I am getting better.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” Albert Einstein

17 thoughts on “Giving up my ideas about myself

  1. If I may reference a remark here…with something to the effect that you’ve hit the nail on my head, Mary…I am sitting here smiling because this is exactly who I am. I’ve told myself I’m not mechanical and to give myself some leaway, I can produce many examples of why. I once tried to repair the handle on my husband’s air to ground flight radio by putting a three inch screw into it which then went into its workings. It’s the only time I’ve seen my husband without something to say…he was apoplectic and has banned me from his machinery ever since. I do feel there are those who are better at reading instructions than I am and I still have trouble rendering myself into a calm space to do so. I use the excuse that I’m right brained instead of left and to some extent, I feel it is valid but when push comes to shove, you couldn’t have posted a more true statement for me at least. Not, I think, that it will change me. I have another excuse, you see: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Think that might fool me??!!
    Sandy P in Canada

  2. I’ve always said that I never graduated past Fischer Price when it came to assembling anything! Even a new set of house phones, putting in the batteries and reading the charging instructions is enough to set me back a day. But the message is right on Mary. And I have learned to be the ‘house husband’ in many a chore because my husband is even worse than I am! (thinking of the child’s story of the little engine, “I think I can, I think I can!”) SandyP, love your “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – Sending some Arizona sunshine to all of you in freezing temps!

  3. Ha ha , when I read directions , I too can do all sorts of things. One of the reasons I love 12 steps, they show the way to good orderly direction ….. There it is again …. Direction !!! Hugs !

  4. This is so funny! And Sandy P you made me laugh out loud! While I can say that I am mechanically inclined (because I had a fix-it mom and dad) and can usually be creative and figure things out, what gets me is my impatience! Just a few days ago I was trying to fix something that had broken in shipping. Something easily fixed…but I was impatient, hurrying, and using a new small container of crazy glue…I didn’t realize it had dripped down my fingers and as I was trying to count to 30 to make sure the thing was glued, I didn’t realize that my pointer finger, middle finger, and ring finger were solidly glued together all the way down to where they join my palm! Stuck together and stuck GOOD! And Mary, Mike asked me the EXACT same questions as he looked at my webbed hand! It took me hours of soaking in warm water and fingernail polish remover to get unstuck…and then peel it off slowly for two days! Now I think I know the true meaning behind its name!

    • I forgot about this. Yesterday I got a tube of Super Glue stuck to my thumb. The stuff is tricky to open. I couldn’t find the nail polish remover so tried a few things and soaking in warm soapy water did the trick. Maybe I should have left the tube of glue stuck to the thumb and started a new fashion trend.

    • Kathye, even I have not done something like that. I’ve just about fallen off my chair laughing at your post. I don’t know how I can sit here sewing meticulously on my quilts (some friends have had the nerve to refer to my work as ‘tedious’ (lol)…and I can’t read instructions without getting my arse in a knot. I guess it’s all a matter of priorities.

  5. Oh sweet mother…..if this isn’t me to a ‘T.’ I have no patience with getting things together. I want to open the box, put Part A into the Part A plug, Part B into the Part B plug, set it (whatever it is) on my table and be good to go. Given the fact that unassembled things do not come with such simple directions (when I think they should), I use that to tell myself I’m no good at understanding these processes. Then I get mad at everyone else, when it’s really my own stubborn wall going up that’s causing the disconnect.

    Once again, Mary, you’ve flashed a bright light on something I need to work on….big time! I can see from the responses of our fine flock that I am not alone in this. That lends me good support. And off to work I go…..

  6. sometimes its easier than others for me to recreate myself, though In my mind its always simple to think of myself in a certain way, whether positive or drowning in negative thought. But the truly difficult part of self-change is in taking action, which stems from belief, so i start with thinkng through to the self i want to become, visualizing the new self and believing in myself, the new self. Unfortunately, thats not enough. Intent alone doesnt make the change happen, but over time, somehow change takes root, and what i didnt think i could achieve, i have. As tax seasoon approaches, and the dread of filling out those tax forms and paperwork correctly takes hold of me i will challenge my self to rise to the occasion, to try not to be freaked out, and patiently try to face the details, the things i dont do well..this is a skill that helps us successfully age, facing life`s challenges. Mary thank you for framing this topic so beautifully, for making self change seem possible, if we are willing to believe we can, will, and really should drop preconception to step off the cliff and fly out to that person we want to become!

  7. Oh, I very much relate to how a person can talk themselves into not being able to do things mechanical, complicated and mathematical ! Things like assembly, taxes , complicated directions can make me feel so inadequate. I can see now that I’ve talked myself into a negative state , since my brain is fine ( at least I hope so! ). At times of those “mini- breakdowns” I take a deep breath and visualize my long departed grandfather . He immigrated from Switzerland, and, along with Grammie, lived above his bakery in a small apartment. His hobby was to assemble things- mostly he loved taking apart and tinkering with his dozen or so Black Forest cuckoo clocks. A point of pride was for these many clocks ( hanging in his wine cellar ) to all be perfectly synchronized to cuckoo at the same time. He made assembly look like fun!

  8. Oh good for you. I’m terrible at reading the directions and putting anything together. My husband, however, is fantastic at it, so I let him do all of that sort of thing. He really does need to earn his keep.

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