Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lost in Confusion

I took my wife to the airport today. She'll be spending the next two weeks with her family in Thailand. I don't like driving to the airport. San Francisco International is eighty miles away and is an intimidating maze for me. Even though I worked there for almost two years, I still get lost in that place. And even though I worked there most of the time as a baggage handler and have subsequently flown out of there myself once and taken my wife and others to fly out of there several times since, I still get confused about check-in and boarding procedures. I simply don't know what to do or how to do it. If I didn't have someone with me who does know, I'd be lost in confusion, even if I somehow eventually managed to muddle through. This is one manifestation of the learning difficulty I've often written about here.

Another example happened last night. At work, I wear a badge attached to a lanyard. Last night, the lanyard became entangled with my headphones that I use to listen to my Walkman. I spent over ten minutes struggling to untangle them but only made matters worse. I looked at the tangle and tried to figure out how to resolve it, but my brain just couldn't make sense of it. So, at quitting time, I ended up throwing my tangled badge and headphones in my backpack, bringing them home, and asking my wife to untangle the mess.

I could have struggled with it more at home, but I wanted to see how quickly my wife could undo the tangle. She looked at it for no more than a few seconds and took only a few more seconds after that to extricate the headphone cord from the lanyard. It was no problem for her whatsoever. She could instantly "see" how to do it before she began. By contrast, when I'd looked at it, all I could see was a tangle that I had no clue how to resolve, so I tried haphazardly to untangle it and only made it worse.

When I venture outside my comfort zone of narrow routine, this is the sort of thing I deal with constantly. So I've lived a very circumscribed life that has spared me all the wasted time and frustration of trying in vain to untangle life's knots and navigate life's mazes. If I had believed that taking on these challenges more often would make me better at resolving them, I would have done it. But lifelong experience has told me that practice not only doesn't make perfect but seldom results in significant improvement of any kind.

Yet, I'm now trying to disregard voices speaking of the past and focus on creating a different present and future.

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