All My Greatest Failings Start with the Letter P

My worst quality could be one I’m not aware of. Perhaps what I see as caution and an eye for a bargain would be seen by another as typical Scots parsimony. A wish for clarification and detail might be written off by the unsympathetic as pettifoggery. But from the list of failings that I own to, which would be the worst?

Let’s see…

Picky
Panicky
Prickly
Prattly
Prissy
Pernickety
Pesky

This list could go on quite some way, but is already sounding like the seven dwarves.

I was labelled ‘pedantic’ at the age of 19 by family and friends. Was surprised and indignant, but over time began to realize what they meant. When I wrote letters, I answered every single thing that was said, dissecting each comment and rambling away, only to get back on track with the next nano-topic. It was only polite, all right? It showed I was paying attention.

I hadn’t shaken the habit by the time I was working — one colleague told another I tended to fly off at a tangent. The same urge to dissect everything and really get my money’s worth out of it was at play. Sometimes you’re not sure if a relayed comment is a compliment or not…

Anyway, you keep combing over little clues like this in your mind, spinning out a long list of weaknesses to be worked on. Pedantry might be undesirable, but I don’t think it’s the worst. It seemed to amuse more than annoy, and probably keeps my nose to this whole self-improvement track, though that’s not as New Age as it may sound.

Since that revelation back in time, maybe I’ve swung the other way and been too casual with emails and letters, ignoring a lot of things I should have responded to. Sometimes you just don’t seem able to get it right. The worst of it is, I can look back and see where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have talked so much about this; should have said more about that. I microanalyze everything I’ve written, cringing and thinking “no, that was terrible!” One friend recently reassured me that I didn’t come across as sounding the way I thought I sounded even though I didn’t mean that anyway. Maybe she knows me too well! Either that or she knows me better than I know myself, and would be able to tell you without hesitation what my greatest failing is. I would be very surprised and completely indignant… then bound to acknowledge the truth of it!

If I microanalyze everything I say or do, you can be sure I do it with other people. I used to believe implicitly that if you said it was so, it was so. Not so much now. “Your letters are so light and chatty,” could mean “you don’t half go on… I’m not able to keep up.”

And what about ‘keep in touch’? Never used to trouble me — schoolchildren commonly wrote it to each other and I thought it meant exactly what it said. But now my crazed and self-loathing brain sees: “I don’t mean to talk very much to you — just once every Christmas, maybe?”

Actually, that’s probably what it does mean.

I seem to have singled this out as my greatest failing… pedantry? I’ve talked so much about it here, but perhaps I’m just reluctant to get to the nitty gritty. Which leads me to…

Procrastination. This is a failing I’m annoyed by so much that I fight it by being earlier with things. This year I got the Christmas tree up in November! I feel better for it. The better and happier you feel with yourself, the more you think “that wasn’t bad at all!” and the more likely you are to be early with the same thing next time. Because there’s nothing I hate more than something weighing me down increasingly… the one thing I haven’t yet done that must be done.

If you get a Christmas card from me these days, you’re one of the lucky few. But if you’re thinking “she dropped me from her Christmas card list!”… oh no, I didn’t. I dropped the whole list by accident when busy a-procrastinating, back in the days when I was a greater procrastinator than I am now. I never took it up again, as I found I liked being free of that particular albatross.

I still shilly-shally sometimes. For instance, there’s the picture I never finished. Well, more like 500 pictures I never finished.

The back-up drive I haven’t bought, though my main one failed several weeks ago (I guess this might eventually solve the problem of the unfinished pictures).

The emails and letters I never wrote.

The squeaky wheels I haven’t greased. (Sorry, trolley!)

The coffee percolator that still has old coffee grains in it. (That should give a good rich, ripe, earthy flavour to the next brew). Yes, the pink one.

The failed spotlight bulb still not replaced, after years of irritably wishing the spotlight would work.

The ‘solar lights’ owl I didn’t furnish with batteries (and it got smashed in the next gale anyway).

Dental check-up. Had it to here with dentishts after being elevated to the status of a vampire at my last session, blood streaming down my chin. “What did your last dentist think she was doing?? Why so long to get this gaping hole closed?” Gosh, I don’t know.

All things considered, looking at it point by point, it seems procrastination is a failing I’ve not yet vanquished. In my vain pursuit of personal perfection, though, I’m sure I’ll get to it. Maybe tomorrow?

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