July 07, 2007

Self-Improvement--Or Maybe Not.

Almost everyone wants to be a Better Person in some way or other. And we try, the best we can, on so many different fronts. But what about those categories where we don't try--or where we tried before, maybe many times, but we finally just gave up?

Do you have any areas of Abandoned Personal Growth? You know, where instead of a garden with fountains and blue birds and gazebos you've settled on a weed-choked vacant lot with scummy puddles and mosquitos and piles of old tires?

Crabby sure hopes so! Because it means you're human. And she's hoping you'll share some of these with her. She'll share some of hers first--but please help her out with yours, too. Don't leave her hanging out there all by herself.

Women's magazines and Self-Help books make it sound like we should want to do Everything and Do it Well. But this is silly, we can't. Sometimes, we don't even care. Other times we do kind of care, but not enough considering how many other more important things there are to worry about. And as far as Crabby is concerned, Giving Up is sometimes a perfectly sensible thing to do!

So first up is the Don't Give a Crap Category. These are things that many people work really hard on, but for whatever reason, you just don't feel very ambitious about. What areas do you just write off wholesale?

Here are some of Crabby's Top "Forget About It" categories:

1. Parenting. (That's easy: no kids!)

2. Spiritual. (She's a big ol' skeptic about everything in that department).

3. Personal Appearance, Beyond Basic Hygiene. (Happily coupled, and never that much of a Hottie to begin with).

4. Arts and Crafts. (At least not since second grade).

5. Domestic Skills and Housekeeping. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha!).

Isn't it convenient to wipe out entire huge categories by not caring about any of it? Think of all the time you save! Crabby hopes she's not the only one who has done this.

Next up is stuff that falls within Important Categories that we care about, but these particular items just didn't work out. Crabby's list is very, very long, so she'll only share a few of them:

1. Meditation.

Crabby is so ridiculously bad at meditation she's going to write a whole post about it later. She tried for years. And please don't tell her you can't be "bad" at meditation, because yes, yes you can. Some of us just are. We have different brains. You meditation people need to start believing us on this.

2. Posture.

This is another one where Crabby has tried so very hard, year after year, and now she's starting give up hope, which will only make things worse. She has slumpy shoulders. She's tried the exercises and the stretches and nagging herself. The nagging works for a nanosecond and then she forgets again. Can anyone really think about their posture all day? Crabby sure can't.

3. Country/Line Dancing.

Crabby likes music and she likes stomping and whirling around to a nice catchy tune and Country Dancing seems like one of the few sensible ways to combine exercise and beer. But Crabby is self-conscious and has no short term memory for sequences of steps. She hates stomping when everyone else is whirling and vice versa. She tried the "free lesson before the serious people arrive" sort of deal many, many times, and watched all the other beginners start to get the the hang of it, but she never did.

4. Grammar, Vocabulary, and Spelling.

As much as Crabby values the written word, and as much as she respects all the pesky rules that make the English language way more complicated than it needs to be, she can't seem to learn anything new! And she's pretty much given up trying. After about thirty, her mastery of spelling and grammar started to slip, and now she can't even hang on to new vocabulary words! She used to collect them like a greedy child stuffing Milky Ways into a pillowcase on Halloween. But now there seems to be a hole at the bottom of the bag or something!

So what about you folks, any quests for self-improvement that you've given up on, or never much cared about in the first place? Or do you seek Mastery in all areas of life? Please tell Crabby all about it!


  1. Unfortunately I am an anxiety-ridden worry-wart and have given up nothing. But oh, do I want to. I even have plans to. 1. writing--yes, I will not publish such blasphemy on my own blog since the Powers That Be might read it (doubtful--I'm not that important) but one day soon, I'm saying to hell with it. 2. house work--I so wish I could not care since I do not have the time and my kids, even when bribed, do a subpar job on chores. But I like a clean house. A lot. One day I will be able to afford a maid. 3. Oh, here's one I HAVE given up on--yard work. Luckily I have a Significant Other who cares a lot about that and derives great pleasure from mowing and pruning, so I can enjoy a nice yard and not have to lift a finger.
    There are more of course, but I think 3 is enough for now. (:

  2. Hi Jen,
    Awesome list! Was surprised about #1, but don't worry, Powers that Be are unlikely to be lurking on Crabby's little stretch of beach. And, I agree-- Yard work is one of those things that can be fun for about 3 minutes but I don't believe there are any chores that can actually be done in that amount of time. So the rest of the time it sucks and it's best to entice or pay others to do it if at all possible. Thanks!

  3. I've abandoned self-improvement in many areas. I'd be hijacking your comments trail if I listed them all.
    Dress - I'm clean and neat and my clothes are in good repair. I've long given up on any sort of "dressing well" business and it plain does not interest me. I don't like clothes shopping either. It's a waste. "Dressing up" for me consists of Wearing Something Black.

    Manners- I'm a sloppy eater. Not as bad as many, and I do have passable table manners, but I just can't seem to get away from spilling something or wearing something that should have gone into my mouth. Mostly it blends in with what I'm wearing (A bonus of Wearing Something Black.) Instead of feeling embarrassed about it I chose to go with "Embrace Your Mess!" as my rallying cry.
    You not only can't dress me up, Crabby, you also can't take me anywhere.

    I've given up on keeping a thoroughly clean sparkling house. It doesn't mean anything to me. Real people live here and we have better things to do than worry if the taps shine. It's passably clean and won't make anyone sick.

    My concentration has been on inner growth and that's worked well. I no longer bother trying to cultivate patience, though. Life is too short to put up with nonsense.

    I'm lousy at small talk and I don't have a clue what to do with children. Neither skill will improve my life so I don't care.

  4. Leah, please hijack any time, that was so funny! In fact you could just cut and paste the whole thing for a blog post over at your place that would be much better than mine, if you ever feel lazy one day.

    I realize I should have broadened the personal grooming category to include fashion (or lack of same) because my definition of dressing up is the same as yours. I'd say your priorities are completely in the right place!

  5. I've never been big on housework, and my attitude is that clutter is just fine most days, so long as nothing is actually dirty or dangerous, and it gets tidied up on the weekend.

    And then there's my car. Some people see their car as an expression of who they are. Not me! Even though I have a cool, sexy restored RX-7, I'd rather drive the dinged-up '91 Corolla with the sagging interior ceiling liner. It's easier to drive, easier to park, and it uses a lot less gas! My ego doesn't hinge on what I drive.

    And I've noticed a big change over the last twenty years in how I am about clothes, hair and makeup. It helps, of course, that styles have become soooo much simpler since the '80s! In the '80s, you just weren't "in" unless you had a minimum of three colors of eyeshadow on your lids! So some of my simplification is simply keeping up with the trends.

    But I used to be the kind of gal who wouldn't be caught dead in a t-shirt, and now I'll wear one, if it's a good one, like from a special race or bike ride.

    And I used to not set foot out of the house without my hair and makeup done. But if it's just the store or something, I don't go to much trouble any more.

    And when I first got into distance running seven years ago, I always put on a couple coats of waterproof mascara before heading out. How silly! No one can see my eyes behind my sunglasses! And as a bonus, if I wear a hat, I don't even have to care if my hair is smooth when I ponytail it. I just pull the cap over the mess and go.

    There are only so many hours in a day, and you have to choose your priorities! :-)

  6. "She used to collect them like a greedy child stuffing Milky Ways into a pillowcase on Halloween..." lol!! oooooh, when was the last time I actually HAD a Milky Way? yum!

    Yay for mediocrity!
    -general appearance
    In fact, I don't reall strive for perfection in anything really. Just general a general "be better."

    That said, I'm still trying for:
    -raising human beings in a way that won't totally screw them up (this is a huge umbrella that covers patience, compassion, creativity, organization, forgiveness, and about a hundred more things that I'm aware of now that I could be better at)
    -the 6.

    and Crabby, I just have to say: line dancing? I would've never guessed - sheesh! You think you know someone...

  7. I stopped looking at "women's magazines" because they always make me feel like a horrible slacker. The truth is that I've never cared much about makeup or fashion - looking presentable is what I strive for. I don't think it's worth my time to make seasonal centerpieces for the dinner table - I just want be able to time the main course and side dishes so they finish cooking at the same time. And a lot of the spiritual stuff that Oprah touts just seems so silly I can't even imagine seriously trying it.

    What I do want to work on:
    1. eating healthier
    2. procrastinating less
    3. being more sociable in TRW (as opposed to online)

  8. Hi bunnygirl,
    Yet another great list!

    I'm so with you on the car and appearance thing. (Though your standards on the latter are WAY higher than mine). I think the common denominator, as you said, is getting away from ego-involvement in the kind of car you drive or the clothes you wear or whatever. Frees up a lot for more important things.

    Well the line dancing would be way more shocking if I ever actually managed to do it on a regular basis. But I DID try a number of times.

    I love your approach to raising kids--stressing all the important stuff! And I'm not even sure what archiving is, but it sounds Sensible and Meaningful and a good use of time!

    Hi Peggy,
    Another like-minded soul! And if you are "cooking" rather than "nuking" or "ordering" I'm thinking you're way ahead of most people. Screw the centerpieces. I'm worried about "TRW" socializing though. Do we have to? Really? It's so nice here in cyberland!

    (I actually did some over the weekend and it was really fun, but I hope computer stuff counts a little too.)

    And I have to say I just love everyone's comments on this. You all are very funny gals!

  9. hi. i'm back. heh heh.
    It occured to me that after I left that comment I may have given the impression that I'm obsessed with my blog archives, lol!
    No that anyone really cares but by archiving, I mean keeping a history of our lives. Right now that translates into keeping current with our family blog.

  10. Katieo,
    Thanks for the explanation--I thought perhaps it was some kind of scrapbooking thing.

    I sure wish our family had done more of that kind of thing when I was growing up. (Though blogs hadn't been invented yet. Or, well, personal computers.) Those memories are so precious. I think it's so cool you're preserving them!

  11. Hahaha, I've pretty much left aside parenting and housekeeping stuff behind as well. I tried to play Perfect Wife once, and really, it was just that--playing. It doesn't work. I can't care about having THE perfect house. As long as people's feet don't stay glued to the floor when they walk on it, I'm happy enough with the general state of my apartment. I will go on the rampage when there's too much junk lying around, but no matter my efforts, there *always* are piles of books and papers that mysteriously appear after about three days of cleaning, so meh. I'm a chaotic person, and I'll deal with it. It causes me much more grief to try to change that, than to acknowledge it and just try my best to not get things dirty in the first place. (And to my school mates who say I'll never find a man that way: I can't care either. If all a man wants to see in me is my ability to clean a house, then he can damn well go find another girl elsewhere.)

    Arts are something I peruse at times (drawing/writing), but I'm not too focused on it currently, with my looong studies looming ahead. Those are more important right now. As for spirituality, well, if it is meant to appeal to me one day, then I'll deal with it when it does.

    As for appearance, well, hygiene and wearing clothes that I like are the essentials for me. Although I took care of myself in unseen ways (creams, etc), and not in make-up, so people never see it. :p

    One thing I need to improve, though, is on the side of eating/food--it's in my interest anyway, I need good nutrients for my brain to be efficient at studying. And the love handles sure could do with some trimming. ;)

    So, yeah, I have plenty of abandoned lists behind, I suppose. But striving for perfection in everything drives me nuts, so for the time, I'll just strive for doing as well as I can in my studies.

  12. Hi Kery,
    ha! I love your take on housekeeping and all the rest, it's exactly like mine. It's funny though, reading your blog--you seem way more conscientious about nutrition than most people are. But I suppose no one is ever perfect.

    Awesome comment; thanks!

  13. Parenting is a biggie focus for me, but duh, I have a child. The thing I really need to work on and don't is sleep.

    I ignore it (stupid) and stay up nights working so that work and parenting don't mesh. But honestly, that makes me a worse parent because I'm so tired all of the time.

    It's so hard to balance when you need money, don't want to work outside of the home, and need to parent. I'm working on it though. My goal is to pump up the jobs I have (network better, get more page views, get better paying gigs) so I can make more money while still dumping the extra petty jobs.

    But it is really hard. I wish I could say forget it about more stuff but kids like to eat and all that plus if I let the cleaning go I can't focus. This is one of those times I could really use another good parent around -- ok tired rambling shall stop now.

    Good post Crabby -- as per usual.

  14. That's because I'm trying. :) If I don't keep up with things, I way too easily fall into the old scheme of buying three croissants for lunch and two pack of cookies for dinner! XD

  15. After decades of feeling "guilt" over not getting it ALL done and certainly not everything done well -- I came to the conclusion that having at most 5 to 6 TOP goals is about all any one can handle - all the other stuff should support those top goals.

    my top goal is my health, then my family, friends, job (cause I have to) and self-improvement (to long to explain but you get the idea)

    Some things I hope to do when I retire though that I don't have time for now - more reading, writing, arts and crafts, and I'd add housework here - but I'd prefer to win the lottery and hire a maid LOL

    It's good to look over priorities though and re evaluate -- move things about a bit on the list... just never stress over it and certainly NEVER get upset about not being perfect

    Great Post Crabby! Health and Happiness Lady Rose

  16. Hi Jennifer,
    Wow, doesn't sound like there's much extra time to worry about the "fluffier" areas of self-improvement when there's not even enough time to sleep! Single parents have it really hard; I have so much admiration for you all. I notice Parenting is always the first priority--and what a huge job that is! Yet you do such a great job with your writing work too. No wonder there's no time to sleep!

    Hi Kery,
    Ah yes, temptation... but you seem to do a pretty good job of keeping it in line!

    Hi LadyRose,
    Great priorities! And you don't even mention blogging, which you manage to do with such great energy and skill. Your family must be lucky to be a top priority given how determined and effective you are when you set your mind to something!

  17. I love this post. I tend to beat myself up over all the things I Don't Do, But Feel Societal Pressure To Do. These comments give me hope that I'm human and not a terrible wife and mother. And hooray for that!

    I've given up on cleaning and controlling the clutter in my house. I've accepted that my house does not, nor never will look like the show room in Pottery Barn. A lot of people live here and it's warm and cozy.

    I'm with you on meditation. I know our minds are supposed to be all powerful, but I can't shut mine off long enough to levitate. I need to keep moving.

    I've also given up on doing the 'social scene.' I go to parties that my close friends throw, but that is about it. I have no need to stand in a crowded house with 35 people that I don't know. I also have no more need to have a huge crowd of friends. I have a small circle of really close friends, and it suits me just fine. I hate small talk and I'm bad at it.. so I've given up.

    Thanks Crabby, this is pretty cathartic.

  18. Organization: there's a special place for me in the afterworld where no-one will look at my disorganized organization and pass a comment on how can I ever find anything I need.

    Laundry: who cares if the laundry isn't done if you don't need the clothes yet.

    Ironing: That's what the buzzer on the dryer is for. Set the dryer and run like hell when you hear it buzz. Otherwise, your clothes are going to be wrinkled within moments of wearing them, so why just not start that from the time you put it on.

    Cleaning the bathroom. Clean not what your husband can clean for you.

    Medidate? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I'm bored stiff in two minutes and then I fall asleep.

  19. SmartCookie,
    What a wonderful comment! (And I know I keep saying that, but I keep really meaning it!)

    It's hard to ignore the social pressure and the media idea about what our lives and houses and bodies and social lives are supposed to look like, isn't it? I'm so with you on the things you're starting to bail on.

    I'm like you--a very small group of people I care about is more important than a large crowd of friends. And big parties--I'm sort of naturally attracted to the buffet table first, then the quietest corner I can find to drag my sweetie into so I don't have to talk to anyone I don't already know.

    Thanks so much for that!

  20. Hi Marijke,
    Love your list! Excellent points on the laundry and other housework. And "ironing," you'll have to explain that word to me sometime. I know I've heard it before... some sort of labor intensive chore practiced by those who refuse, for some odd reason, to wear wrinkly clothes? But that can't be right. And I love your take on clutter too. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. happy monday crabby!

    the list that comes to mind...
    1. being a perfectionist
    (I want to be one--but alas, cannot compel myself to care that much)
    2. cleaning-along with everyone else.
    3. being organized. :)

  22. Hi lacy,
    Well, I think perfection, cleanliness, and organizational skills are quite overrated! So your priorities seem quite sensible.

    And happy Monday to you too!


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