October 18, 2017

No News from Doodlebug Island . . . by William F. Jordan

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If current thinking among social scientists is correct, there is roughly 20% about the nature of everyone else we won’t or don’t like, but since that leaves 80% we might like, residents of Doodlebug Island view the whole matter optimistically and tend to minimize what might be perceived as shortcomings. Vanity being what it is, however, we ascribe greater acceptance levels to ourselves, thinking that if people only knew us better or could read our heart we would score in the late 90’s or approach the 100% that more nearly describes our own opinion.

Nor am I immune to such self admiration. I look at the rows of biographies and autobiographies I’ve either written in whole or edited and which line my shelves here in my office of the Doodlebug Island Run-on Newspaper and Publishing, and I’m persuaded that the sheer volume attests to my worth to others. Add to this the news published faithfully each week for years on end, the editorials, obituaries, and free advertising. What would my friends and the community do without me?

But, is all that the fairest measure of likeability? Is it even the standard by which I could measure my own worth? Somehow, it doesn’t come close to my Mother’s injunction, “If you want to be known for something, let it be for the strength of your character!”

Then it occurs to me that I have been honored with ‘Liar of the Year’ awards several years in a row for the fanciful embroidering I’ve done on those biographies that stand in accusatory rows, and I’ve been complicit in fabricating interesting if untrue autobiographies, and I rather regret a good many of those editorials, the language of which has, in all honesty, often leaned on exaggeration and bombast. Thank goodness obits don’t count; any compliment or flowery expression is never enough.

And as I contemplate my failures and shortcomings, I begin to wish I could curb my impatience with clients whose ideas and requests always seem to run to the redundant, and that leads me to fault my lack of patience with my angel wife, whose penchant for speaking in complete sentences I find annoying because years of marriage have brought the need for communication nearly to a standstill.

It’s ungentlemanly and perhaps rude to assume that we’re at the mental telepathy level now where I can tell by her actions if her thought runs to, “Don’t even think about it!” or, “Have you taken the garbage out yet?” or, “After you’ve washed the car, you might want to clean the garage!”
Chores of which I need to be reminded seem to act as a catalyst for a temper that I’m still learning to control, and the best outlet always seems to involve language unsuitable for sunday school and the quiet shades of polite society.

Afterward, when the limits of my rather extensive but sordid vocabulary have been reached,  I belatedly realize that I’ve exceeded the bounds of manners to the point I may have to sleep in that accursed garage I haven’t cleaned and find companionship elsewhere, which brings me to ideas related to repentance and contrition, bosom buddies that seem to mock ideas of self worth, and always remind me of other social gaffes and misunderstandings that linger like dust clouds on a peaceful landscape, and give rise to the distasteful idea that improvement in my case, although highly desirable, is illusory and altogether unlikely.

And the worst part is that on those occasions I lie to myself with fulminating reminders that the acquisition of a placid disposition isn’t aided in any perceptible way by the actions of a Neanderthal Legislature, a recalcitrant Congress, a war-hungry Pentagon, and a host of other agencies and ills that mitigate and perhaps excuse personal excesses.

Then I find myself wondering about my success as a father, grandfather, neighbor, relative, friend, and  I can think of a thousand times my actions could have been more appropriate, more sustaining, more, well, just more! No amount of editing seems to dull the pain of failure that rises in accusation and seem to pronounce a final curse on ideas of personal likeability.

Boy, I’ve read a great many testimonials to friendship, but none has ever touched me as in those moments of self castigation wherein you’re opinion of yourself looks upward from what feels like the Mariana Trench and you realize everyone thinks better of you than you do yourself! Maybe eighty percent isn’t so bad, after all.

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No News from Doodlebug Island . . . by William F. Jordan
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