I realized early in life that I was born with the gift of a destructive a eye. When I look at a piece of writing, a relationship, a painting, I have a natural talent for seeing what’s wrong, what’s weak, what’s not quite right. My brain just goes this way, and it’s a good skill to have from a survival standpoint.
The person who can sense what’s off, what’s missing, what’s not ringing true is a person who’ll be half-way out the door or up a convenient tree when trouble erupts. And yet, an instant’s reflection will reveal the burden such an outlook creates: Sometimes, nothing’s wrong, nothing’s amiss. Sometimes, three books aren’t better or worse than each other, they’re merely different varieties of “all good.”
Other times, I’ll miss the entire lovely forest for the one slightly ailing tree. For a lawyer to be able to trash an opponent’s arguments is all in a day’s courtroom work. For a writer to polish a rough draft takes the same approach. But who wants to live in a world where all that’s noticed is what’s wrong or in need of repair?
I need to balance my critical eye with joy in creativity for its own sake. I’m at a Celtic festival this weekend, and at first I thought it was the crowds making me want to go hide, but then I realized I’m also reacting to the sheer abundance of creativity. Four stages are going pretty much all the time–and every musician I’ve heard here is very good if not spectacular.
Tent after tent showcases the work of skilled craftsmen and artists, and they’ve all put years into learning how best to create the wares they’re selling. Athletes are competing, dancers, pipe bands… All around me are polished, lovely, and impressive creations of skill and beauty. I have to let go of my “Yeah, but…” or my, “If only…,” let go of the part of me that want’s to pounce on flaws, or I’ll be the bad fairy at my own party.
I think this is pretty common–for a strength to have within it the potential for not a complementary weakness, but an even greater weakness. To be gobbled up by a saber-toothed tiger (or opposing counsel) is no fun, but neither is life spent up a tree, afraid the tiger will climb up after me.
Do you have a natural, reliable, go-to strength that sometimes gets in your way? A weakness that deserves some appreciation? How does it fit with the rest of your family, and what would life look like if you put that skill aside for a day?
To one commenter, I’ll give a $25 American Express gift card.