Have you noticed, there is a very thin line between making life run smoothly and interfering? The other day, I was ironing. Actually, I iron every day. This gives rise to the assumption that I enjoy it. Just because one does something every day is not incontravertible evidence that one enjoys it: cleaning teeth, cleaning shoes, changing the cat litter and so on and so on qualify more as 'take it or leave it' jobs, as I see it. As it happens, I do rather enjoy it; what I'm not sure of, is how comfortable I am with the assuming bit. Anyway, the significance of this ironing day was that I suddenly understood that what I really like about it is that you can make smooth the wrinkled and see the result immediately. I then realised that a very important facet of my way of being in the world was the drive to make the wrinkled smooth. If I see a dilemma, a predicament, a mess, I am driven to find a way to put it right. Clearly, there are pros and cons to this characteristic.
I have been staying with a dear friend in another European city. She appreciates my problem-solving 'gift' and sometimes invites me to solve her problems in a practical way. You know the situation: small cupboard, big accumulation of impedimenta. What to throw out, what to give to charity and what to keep. (She would put them in the opposite order of priority, I suspect.) We spent a couple of days with this task and, all to her credit, in the end there was less keep and more dispose of than one would have expected. Now, this was a pro in smoothing out. However, it did emerge that some of my earlier making smooth had had a less happy outcome and she had ended up cross and resentful that she had 'done as I said', as she saw it, 'taken my advice' in my own view. I did appreciate her coming clean about this and, again, it highlighted the inherent dangers in making the lives of others, as well as ones own, run smoothly. Among my loyal followers there may be some who remember me telling you about the thorough tidy-up I gave the home of an absent, loved relative. Her sole comment on her return was that it would take her ages to get it back the way it was: con. Sometimes, as a retired therapist, I do wonder about the balance of pro and con in the work I did. Helping people find ways to iron out the wrinkles in their lives holds a mammoth responsibility. When I think how quickly an ironed garment is creased again I do worry about this therapeutic analogy. Are there scores of people out there whose crumpled lives ran smoothly only temporarily? Doesnt bear thinking about.
There are bizarre manifestations of this phenomenon. At the top of my road is a yellow board announcing there are to be road works. As you know, this really means that the road is not going to be working. That aside, I am constantly irritated because this board is headed "Advanced Warning". Personally, I would be quite content with a standard warning. My difficulty is in stopping myself from taking a paint brush to the 'd' and making the warning read as it should. Behind this is also some fantasy of doing something about an education system that would allow someone in touch with the public so to expose him/herself as being out of touch with his/her participles and adjectives. The notice does not run smoothly, damn it. But, you may say, everyone knows what it means so where's the crisis? Where indeed? Attempts to make the lives of my young run smoothly were another minefield. They were not all that old when 'making things work for them' became 'an intrusion'. Perhaps we have all to learn that it is in our better interest to do our own ironing, but I tell you this: I shall never be one of those people who think that linen clothes look better crumpled . See you soon, Wizard of Cyberspace permitting.