About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Don't Do All Things Well ~ I Don't Have To

Over at Elisabeth's there's been some discussion about things one does well and things that are more challenging or do not come naturally. I am a person who must fight the urge to try to be perfect at everything I attempt. Oh, yes, my good head knows that perfect is impossible. But my gut still says "Do it perfectly." It comes from temperament and conditioning. It is exhausting. I've only been trying to resist it for about two years and it is difficult for me to find the welcoming place between frantic perfectionist and self-indulgent slacker. I've struggled learning to ask others for help after a lifetime of refusing to do that.

I am lucky to work in a place where the players are all so diverse, there are probably few things in this world that we couldn't tackle together. There is a completely non-judgmental air so it's OK if one is a girl and doesn't know how to adjust the alternator on the steam cleaning machine. If one of the homes isn't all that literate, we'll work around it - that's why I'm in charge of writing. We're a small group in close quarters who have weathered much together in the name of the team. Here there is a deep understanding and admiration for each person's special talents. No one is beaten up for things they don't know how to do. Which is not to say there is much tolerance when one of us gets stuck on stupid. We share information and model behaviors for one another, the idea being that everyone has something to teach everyone else.

As one might imagine, some roles and niches have developed. Troy is a mechanical sort. He can and does build anything. He can repair motors and engines, machinery and broken furniture. I know where to go when I want some shelves installed or when my office chair blows a wheel! He impresses me because I am not mechanical in any way and I don't want to touch tools. That's what I have him for. He owns every tool in the world, the toolkit to carry it, and he knows how to use it. When I have him come to my home on a Sunday, I have a long honey-do list, the payment for which is cash.

Cesar is a fixer. He knows how to fix most anything one can name, even if parts are missing. He can find an ingenious way to repair some item that "can't be fixed" and have it work. Cesar also fascinates me because of the odd variety of things he can do well: paint, alter a wool suit or coat and give a credible razor haircut. [He once offered to razor Justin's hair and I immediately said I'd rather give him my haircut money than anyone else. "Uh-uh, Les. If I mess up Justin, I can just shave his head. If I mess up you . . . "]

The way I help the homes typically has something to do with paperwork. Maybe it's time to register the car or renew their business licenses or complete papers for a traffic ticket. I've helped some of them open their first bank account and taught some to use software programs. One asked me to teach him the ropes about building websites and blogging and another requested I explain the intricacies of the Excel spreadsheet and formulae. I've gone farther afield from time to time, though. Once I exchanged ironing two dress shirts for an oil change in my car. And once I sewed a pair of ripped pants for the same home dude who came out with me to cheer the Badger at a criterium and showed me how to take video of the event with my BlackBerry.

Some of my favorite hits:

I alternate more pairs of glasses than Elton John in the 1970s. Often a screw goes missing or a temple piece needs to be reattached. The John Lennon glasses throw a trifocal lens fairly frequently. For the price of a fast food lunch, Cesar will sit for an hour rehabbing the collection so I can be cool again. He's great at shortening or fixing jewelry, too.

At the first of every month, when our fleet of service vehicles is being inspected, I get a chirp on my BlackBerry. "Hey, Les, toss your keys down. I'll check your car's body fluids. All the other hoods are up, why not yours? I'll check the tires, too!" I write myself a note to provide pizza later that day.

Sometimes one or more of the guys asks me to make an eBay purchase on their behalf or create a spreadsheet to help keep track of their deductible business expenses or locate something on craigslist. These are things I do well and without difficulty. I usually find a Starbucks giftcard on my chair the next morning, or a Fresh & Easy pass.

It's a beautiful thing, this helping one another out.

Late in August I went to the granddaddy of all craft shows. I was looking for really special birthday gifts for my girlfriend and I found them there. I bought myself a duplicate of nearly everything I bought for her. One stall that drew me featured Chinese charm bracelets. These pieces are slender black laces, each with four charms that have different meaning. One gets a card that tells the meaning of each charm. There seemed to be no two bracelets alike, and there were many tens of thousands of them spread out in a heap on long display tables, longer than I am tall, and as deep as I am thick. I was snared when I touched the first one.

There is no small legend surrounding the selection of the charm bracelets. If one is enlightened and pure of heart, a spiritual energy guides one to the charm bracelet best suited to her needs, says the legend. An example is my bracelet that has the charms for eternal youth and everlasting love, a pot of gold, bamboo for strength and a peacock for colorful romance. I'm asked to believe I selected that bracelet because those were the things I most needed for fulfillment as I stood at the table in the Cashman Center that hot afternoon. And one can select for another person, too, as I did for my girlfriend.

Although the picture makes it seems as if one just ties the bracelet on, that's not accurate. The bracelet is actually long enough to practically serve as a belt and each end of the lace passes through a pair of beads. One pulls the ends to tighten, loosen or adjust the bracelet. But I didn't figure that out. I asked others who came in and out of my home and who may get off the farm more frequently than I do. No one could figure it out. The bracelets sat for months. Sometimes Virginia Woolf would make off with one that I'd find in some strange spot. I know it was she because Dylan is not obsessive about small shiny objects. Finally I brought the bracelets to work a couple of weeks ago.

During our morning huddle, I told the legend of the bracelets and explained I needed help. Cesar didn't say a word, but walked toward me with his hand out. I gave him the bracelets. He took my wrist and went to work. Meanwhile, Troy mused that these that worked in exactly the way I was about to learn they did work. He was right! He knew because his daughter has some. Good, I'm selecting teenagers' jewelry again.

Two of the other homes were looking at the card that tells the meaning of the charms. They began to pepper me with questions. "Les, do you have a bell?" I do. "That's 'may your prayer be answered every time the bell rings'." Well, good! "Is there a yin and yang?" I have one of those, too. "That's for balance and good decision making." I can use a little assist in that arena. "If you have a little stone purse, that means 'may your money bag always be full'." I'll take two of those! "Do you have a fish, Les?" I looked. No fish. "Are you sure?" I looked again. No fish. "Look once more." No. I'm tired of this game. "There's no fish, homes." Big grins. "I guess you didn't need any freedom, prosperity and good sex that day, Les."

It's a beautiful thing, this helping one another out.

In my ears right now: Much loved R.E.M.

Something that charmed me: My bracelets, of course! The reader knew I was going to say that.

One photo credit (the wrist of LimesNow - January, 2010): J.D. Morehouse


  1. What a great little family you have there at work. That bracelet is really cool. I love the idea of being drawn to what suits you most. Totally fun post!

  2. I first heard REM's Night Swimming many years ago. We were on a trip to some beach side holiday destination. My oldest was only fourteen years old, or thereabouts and she slipped the tape into the tape deck. I was transformed. It must have been about fourteen years ago and the song still thrills me.

    A lovely post here, Leslie - or Les as your colleagues call you.

    I wear adolescent bracelets too, but mine are silver, assembled in Bali, almost exactly the same as worn by my third daughter.

    I love the fact that 'aged' folks like us can sometimes wear what the young ones wear without feeling too much like 'mutton'- you know the expression?: 'mutton dressed as lamb.

    That's why it's important to stick in groups of all ages. Even my mother in her nineties who lives in a home for elderly folk keeps up with some of the more youthful activities of some of the staff. I wish I could introduce her to email and blogging. She'd love it but it's too late, she tells me, to try the computer.

    And, yes, Leslie. I can still remember probably some twenty years ago when I first ventured into computers to 'word process'. I thought I'd never be able to do it. But I have succeeded, in a manner of speaking.

    We all have talents and it's important to share them.

    I love reading about your 'homes' family and about Badger. Thanks.

  3. @ Kass ~ I am SO fortunate to be right where I am right now, surrounded by those who surround me. It is evidence that one really IS provided with what one needs. Once in commentary, you asked who my "homes" were. I realized I hadn't written about them in a very long time. And, no, I don't use the term "home dudes" in any other aspect of my life. It just charms me that they call each other by that name. So I made them MY homes, too.

    The bracelets ARE fun, aren't they? I own far more fun or quirky jewelry than the real deal. It pleases me more.

  4. @ Elisabeth ~ I'm surely glad you stopped by, as your post inspired me to write this one. I also love Nightswimming and many other R.E.M. tunes. Michael Stipe's voice pulls me in and I like the surreal quality of the lyrics. I sport a tattoo with some of the words from Losing My Religion. Those lyrics are the essence of my life so far.

    Funny about my name: the guys call me everything from Les to Lezzzlie (hard z sound) to Leslie (sibilant s as my parents intended) to Miss Leslie. I think of myself (and call myself) Les. But I introduce myself, always, as Leslie.

    I had never heard "mutton dressed as lamb", but I got it immediately and I hooted out loud. I intend to use it every time I can.

    I have always enjoyed elderly people and they mostly enjoy me. I don't get annoyed at them at all. I am less tolerant of immature young adults. Justin, one of the homes, has said more than once as we interact in some way, "I always forget that you're older. How come you're so cool?" Which I process as "we're relating perfectly naturally with age difference being no obstacle."

    You've mastered the use of the computer most assuredly! Technology has never scared me, even though I am a person who has been almost completely ruled by fear throughout life.

    I thank you for appreciating my writing and for telling me that. If no one tells us, then we don't know, do we?

  5. I thhhink Ive' mastred a coputeir annd keybaord perfeckly

  6. @ Kirk ~ Ha! You're doing admirably, home dude. But let me share a couple of tips with you. They've made my life ever so much easier. And afterwards, maybe you could take a look at my watch. It seems to need a new battery.

  7. You are a diplomat, Les (just realised I always call you by your bloggy name initials - LN - oops!) I like the term 'home dudes" it's familiar and puts the reader at ease from the outset. What a lovely place to linger....

  8. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.