A different perspective

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Robert Burns in To A Louse

My gran called me ‘heavy handed’. Mum said I was cack-handed at times. For as long as I can remember I’ve been clumsy. Show me a glass of water and I’ll knock it over.

I did something similar the other day. As I’ve become used to, I apologised. ‘Sorry. Clumsy fool,’ I said sheepishly.

She looked up from the latest puddle. ‘You’re not, you know?’

‘Not what?’

‘Clumsy.’

‘Yes I am.’ I was affronted.

‘No. You are careless at times. You lack concentration and you’re spatial awareness isn’t great but you are capable of delicate manoeuvring, you can do any number of tasks without mishap. We have glasses we were given when we married and you’ve yet to break them all (I should pause and note we were given a lot of glasses).’

‘But I’ve always been clumsy. Everyone knows it.’

‘You like the title. It is a comfort blanket. Maybe a bit of an excuse.’

We left it there. But I thought about it. I kind of watched myself. I still dropped things, fumbled stuff, spilled a proportion of the liquids I confronted but, frankly, not a lot more than anyone else.

So is she right? Have I happily carried the nomenclature for this long in error? Or are both positions tenable. Can I be self deludingly clumsy while in others’ eyes merely a little less coordinated than I might wish?

Of course it doesn’t matter. It’s not important.  A few errors, then a small glut, one closely following the other starts the rot. I’m a child. I adopt the mantle, accept the received wisdom and before I know it, it is my cloak, part of the jokey exterior I like to use as a shield from the world.

I doubt either my grandmother or mother thought much of it; the labelling wasn’t done with any wish to control or harm. It wasn’t one to do me down, not deliberately and I have in some ways turned it to my advantage.

Its my default excuse. There’s a delicate job. ‘Not me, I’m clumsy.’

But for others, such careless labelling can be more damaging. Size, maybe or looks. I never thought, because of some careless word spoken way back when, that I was good at maths yet by my sixth form my maths teacher wanted me to try for Cambridge in maths (I still thank a minor deity for letting me avoid that particular hole).

Perhaps most telling was my English teacher, Mr Doubleday, who, to my ears, rubbished my attempt at starting a novel with a not particularly well chosen, ‘No one would be interested in that.’ Did he realise it would take me 35 years to move on from that memory?

Of course it wasn’t just his ill chosen words that set me back but, like ‘you’re heavy handed’ it was the beginning of a self assessment that time and circumstances reinforced. Needless to say it was the Textiliste who pricked that boil and encouraged me to take a creative writing course just prior to my 50th. Bloody woman knows me too well. Thanks be to said small godlet. At least now I can call myself a writer (even if a clumsy one).

And on that note I shall end with my favourite saucy postcard of all time.

image

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to A different perspective

  1. Another delightful anecdote. We DO need to watch our choice of words. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My eldest daughter taught me well. Once, channeling my own crazy mother, I said to her four year old self “You need to pull your socks up and get on with it!”. I no longer recall what ‘it’ was, but she leaned down and grasped one sock, which was already ‘up’ and firmly pulled it more ‘up’, then looked at me bewildered. I burst out laughing and years of my mothers careless epithets and labels fell away in one magical moment. The great gift was that as part of freeing myself from maternal madness I spent years questioning everything I had been told, modelled and believed. I’m still working on it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. trifflepudling says:

    I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear from me about clumsiness! Definitely some people are more prone to it than others. Actually when I try to do something more carefully I often make a worse job of it than when I rush it. My fingers look enormous and the thing I’m holding becomes unco-operative and cunning. Friends in museums and china shops routinely run away from me when something unprotected hoves into view.
    My aunt was ridiculed by a teacher about the length of time she took to look things up in reference books and still mentions it 70 years later, but she’s managed to write two biographies with extensive source references. It still hurts, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. davidprosser says:

    My childhood nickname from my maternal grandmother was Spindleshanks. I knew what it meant but thought it was a real did at just how thin my legs were. Heck, I was thin all over then (how times change) and I made sure none of my friends ever heard it. I know now that it wasn’t meant unkindly but for some reason I’ve never been able to talk about it even though my daughter knows there was a name. Oddly enough I too have some problems with spatial awareness but I think the concentration is OK. It seems to be vases with me.
    That’s also my favourite postcard.
    Hugs Geoff.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love the cartoon Geoff and your admission of being fond of being known as the clumsy guy. My eldest daughter is kind of clumsy, and prone to fainting spells. She managed to nearly knock down a very beautifully arranged chocolate prize off a shelf once in a restaurant with her crutches – she’d just broken her ankle. It was last Valentine’s. I’d gone to do my Florence Nightingdale impersonation, she was my Valentine. It was a very strange Valentine’s evening, in fact I wrote about it on my blog – thank heavens she’s not had any more fainting spells, clumsy episodes for a while!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I can relate, Geoff. Applesauce! I am so blasted clumsy! Unfortunately that lack of grace is combined with living with an awful lot of stairs. (Narrow row house) About a dozen to the front door and the living area (no bathroom there). From there a flight up to the bedroom & bath, or a flight down to the basement & laundry/bathroom. And I’ve fallen all the way down every stinkin’ one of them.
    I really need a one-level home. In the desert. In a nice quirky community. I could go on with that fantasy list, but I’ll stop. Mega hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve written about similar things myself, Geoff. We do have to be wary of how we think of ourselves, and what people say about us.
    As for the postcard, it reminded me of the emptiness I felt when I got rid of my collection several years ago. Still, decluttering is good for the soul…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Denzil says:

    Can I give you an extra like for the cartoon?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really like this post, Geoff. I actually read it a couple days ago but couldn’t comment at the time (apologies). I’ve been thinking a lot about it, though. Makes me think of my own childhood. But, of course, having young kids, I’m well aware how important it is how we word things or how we label someone–even in fun. 😉 I’m saving for their therapy.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Norah says:

    Those things we are told in childhood scar us for life – and sometimes create our reality. If we are told we are clumsy, we can become more wary, more nervous. Our anxiety makes us tremble and become more clumsy as a result, reinforcing the perception – a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’d almost have to think what I wasn’t told as a child. I tried to avoid the negatives with my own but I’m sure they have many things to pin on me. Like Sarah, I should have been saving for their therapy. They seem okay for the minute though. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Charli Mills says:

    Wise woman, your Textilist. So often we focus on fixing weaknesses, but sometimes they are actually underdeveloped strengths. Once I discovered StrengthsFinder, I apply those attributes to everything. Or at least I can say, “not my strength” and pursue what is. I’m so glad you defied the words of your English teacher because I love to read what you write!

    Like

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