Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Special Purpose

So I've been a little distracted lately, or should I say, more distracted than usual. I'm not afraid to admit it. I can blame my sister for this, as it was on the trip to Connecticut that I began my latest agitating thought process. I went to see her and her partner Jack, who is an artist. As a birthday present, my sister volunteered his talents and he did a sketch of me as a surprise for Elliot.

Here are some pics of the process...

Ok so bear in mind when looking at the next photo that the ONLY thing I had to do was keep my mouth shut...I couldn't do it, go figure.

Holy shit, right? I mean, all he did was look at me for 2 seconds and then casually jot a few lines on the paper. Talk about talent. My job was to simply sit there and shut up for a couple of hours and I couldn't even manage to do that. I chatted away as he sweetly reminded me to keep my mouth closed every few minutes or so.

The portrait experience was immediately followed up by my sister, a professional chef, throwing a few simple things effortlessly into a pot and having it come out as a fantastic mouth watering dinner 45 minutes later. Talk about being surrounded by skill and competence...

That night as I thought back on my day, I sent an anxious email to my friend Betsy who knows me well. "What's my special talent?" I demanded. I had just been immersed in far too much artistry than I was used to and of course, had to make it about me...so she responds with, "The only thing to conclude when surrounded by greatness is the realization that we can't do shit." And there you have it.

I recently found out my dear friend Cindy is a kick ass bowler; my sister in law was a childhood backgammon champion, who knew? I love when I find out some quirky skill someone has tucked away in their back pocket only to be pulled out on certain occasions. I caught either Sumner or Marshall bragging to CeCe recently about their ability to read. Not to burst her bubble or anything, but I had to interject, "You know, everyone learns to read eventually, so it's not really a talent to hang your hat on..." I should have taken my own advice in college when my advisor guided me to major in what I enjoyed, rather than honing in on a specific skill. This led me to English which has given me the pleasure of reading many great works but has left me without a specific goal...

Remember about this time last year when the Olympics were on T.V. and I was feeling so inferior? Well that's what the weekend with Lesley and Jack was like except in person. Jack worked on the portrait and Lesley worked on dinner while I, um, sat on the couch for the better part of the day demanding they come up with a "My Special Purpose" and cracking jokes about Steve Martin's "Special Purpose" from the movie The Jerk (one of the greatest of all time, by the way).

So for the rest of the weekend, we racked our brains trying to come up with a legit talent for me..."Um, you're a really good long distance runner." She suggested, "Or maybe it's relationships, you're a people person..." She declared with certainty. Does this even count? "I know," She said 10 minutes later, walking into the room all excited, "You're really good with animals." Clearly she had forgotten that my snarly puppy had been sent to The Dog Wizard for boot camp after I had deemed him untrainable. By the way, this works wonders...talent with animals? You haven't seen good until you have witnessed Jake work his magic.

So after hours (literally, we didn't leave the house all day) we came up with nothing. No special purpose, no raw talent for this lady. So my sister did make me feel better by reminding me not to feel that I had come up short by lacking a specific talent, but that I am more one of those people who is all around good at a LOT of things. Hence the complete variety of answers I got from everyone I felt it was appropriate to ask. Elliot's answer was, "Breaking Balls," as any husband's response would be...nice.

Elliot always chuckles when he proofreads my resume and I list random stuff at the end under Special Skills. "Photography?" he joked the last time as we agreed that taking candid family photos on Christmas doesn't exactly a photographer make, but still. I had to put something, right? You can't leave something like this blank. My favorite section to fill out on job applications has always been the "Awards and Recognition" part. It's so easy, I just skip over it, no writing necessary. A while back I thought about maybe getting a job in retail, you know, just for fun and the discount. Little did I know, there was a 10 page questionnaire process to work at a stationary store and according to my application, I was barely qualified to get from the car to the store. This could be where my complex began.

So the conclusion I came to was that I have coasted along being happily average for most of my life. Then you get to the point when you have kids and the focus is all on them. Once your kids grow a little and you start to think about what the hell you are going to do with the rest of your life, it leaves a mother to ponder what her true talents are. I have a friend who is a personal trainer who asks all of her clients what their "Passion" is. What do you enjoy doing so much that you would like to spend more time doing it? As martyrs, ooops, I mean mothers, it is hard to find the time to do this. It's all about the daily care and management of your little people and near impossible to carve out even one sweet moment for maternal solitude. But now? They're in school all day. There's time to think about this, and it has only led me to continue my quest for greatness. But instead of wondering till the cows come home about where I'm lacking, I'm gonna work with what I've got. It's a little hypocritical of me to preach about gratitude to my girls when I'm sitting here focusing on where I'm coming up short instead of embracing the aptitude of those around me, right? Easier said than done.

So unable to come up with any concrete answers, I'm just gonna go with my favorite response I got. When I asked an old friend what she thought my passion was, she said, quite simply, "Laughter." Ding ding ding...that's it. So simple, but exactly the talent I am comfortable with, if we can even call this a skill. I'm labelling it as a people skill, but truly is there anything better than roll on the floor, side splitting, stomach aching laughter? Is there really anything more enjoyable than a good old snicker in the middle of church? What about when you are having a problem, or are in crisis, and something someone says strikes you as smile cracking funny for the first time since you were upset? It's the greatest.

So I'm satisfied with laughter, and I can piggyback this onto the talent I find most important to hand down to my children: Resilience...the ability to let things roll off your back, the impossible skill of forgiving and moving on, even when you don't want to. If I can show them this, then I have fulfilled my passion, that and the amusement of some great potty humor or even a good clean joke at my own expense, which seems to be my forte.

So the next time I update my resume, or have to fill out one of those pesky PTA volunteer forms which includes the question, "Do you have any special talents?" I'm going to write "Laughing" and then wait to see what kind of job I get assigned. Hee hee...