Competence Happy

I just read a recipe on the Bon Appetit website and realized I had all the ingredients to make it, not just the onions and beef which I would always have had but the three inches of ginger root, the sesame oil, and the fresh lemon, not to mention the bok choy he suggested as a side dish. It made me think, “Huh. Maybe I’m a cook.” Mostly it made me feel competent. Which made me happy.

And that’s when I realized how rarely I feel competent.

Right now it seems like I’m screwing up everything I touch (except in the kitchen where I’m amazing) while in the background, my government is screwing up everything it touches. I’m wondering if I’m not getting an incompetence low off of Trump and Barr and the rest of them, the same way I used to get a pot high off the kid smoking it next to me in college (I’m asthmatic, so I tended not to smoke which is ironic because I think pot is actually good for asthmatics . . . where was I? Competence is focus, Jenny.)

So I’m looking at Nita and thinking, “In heaven’s name, what am I DOING?” (old Wile E. Coyote quote) and wondering why I ever though I was a writer. Which might be the reason that when somebody shows up in my eyeline who’s quite clearly competent, I sigh and relax a little and get happier. A competence high.

I felt that way when Marie Yovanovitch testified: here was a woman who knew what she was doing and, even though she was surrounded by clowns and jokers, came out of that hearing a hero with actual applause. Or when Dr. Fauci speaks.

It’s the way I feel when I go to my therapist; here’s somebody who can see clearly where I can’t and will shove me on my way.

It’s the way I always feel when I look at at an Ann Telnaes cartoon.

It’s why I felt so happy when I read and re-read the Murderbot books this week, because the author and the central character are competence porn in the flesh (or augmented flesh).

Seeing competence makes me happy and gives me something to strive for.

What made you happy this week?

48 thoughts on “Competence Happy

  1. I know what you mean about competence, but we all have our skill sets. No one is ever going to want me to organize the book fair or the Christmas party or sort their sock drawers. Or if they do and I’m stupid enough to try they will end up with uh. . . interesting results. I often tell people, “I’m happy to do what you need me to do, if you give me a concrete, specific task. Please don’t ask me to plan or organize.”
    One of the things that most annoys me about the expectations put upon women is the “oh, you’re all good at that.” or worse. “oh, you’re all so good at that *and* you enjoy that.” (words I have heard come out of men’s mouths more than once). No, we all aren’t and we all don’t.
    I feel like it’s sometimes something even other women will judge me for like I’m lazy or just trying to duck out on some sort of collective responsibility we’ve all silently agreed to take for the good of humankind. No, my brain just doesn’t work that way and there’s no Olympic medal we’re racing for here.
    I do try to lift up and recognize the world’s organizing, competent folks b/c those people do go unrecognized and unsung (especially when they’re somehow not at “the top of the heap”). But recognizing a skill’s value and being able to replicate it are two different things.
    I try to remind myself when I get down on myself about that stuff that I’m funny, I’m creative, I’m a good listener. I can write you a great card (hopefully I’ll remember to mail it on time). If you’re blue and you call me on the phone, I can make you feel better. I’m patient (usually). And I can be organized enough for what I need (not always, but enough) and there’s an inherent value in knowing yourself. In the immortal words of Ke$ha (a beloved music icon in our house), “We R Who we R.”
    Whew, sorry this is Happiness Sunday, not rant Sunday 🙂
    My happiness this week -warm summmery days without too much humidity or bugs. Gin and Tonics on to celebrate said summery weather. The end of school (finally!). Archiving and deleting all of my inbox to start over fresh. Hitting pause on a lot of social media for the summer. Reading a book in one day, when I can.
    Everyone take a deep breath and have a good week, if you can.

    1. I an surrounded by creative people. I balance checkbooks for many of them. It does help to remember that I have skills others admire even if it seems like something easy to me.

      1. If you balance checkbooks, you are a rock star and a saint! In my world, yes that is definitely not easy.

      2. I remember Mollie early in present career (working with writers on internet presence) e-mailed me at one point and said, “So it’s not just you.” She found out we were all nuts and incapable of dealing with the real world on any longterm basis.

    2. Rant Sunday is good, too.

      I do know what you mean. About ten years ago somebody was bitching at me about the house being so messy (REALLY messy), and I thought, “I’m a good cook, I’m funny, I have a terrific color sense, I can paint and draw, I rescue animals, and I’m a New York Times bestseller. And out of all that you got “You’re a terrible housekeeper”? I mean, they weren’t wrong, but jeez.

      1. This. We all have our strengths. People who want us to succeed and feel good about ourselves point out the things we’re good at, not the things we’re not.

        My best friend has clutter to the verge of hoarding, mostly because she’s not good at figuring which things still have real value, so she doesn’t let go of anything. She is also much stronger and tougher than I am, so she helps me in the garden (in a normal year) and periodically I go to her house and gently force her to clean and toss. We buoy each other up with our strengths, but without pointing out the weaknesses. Let’s face it–all of us are well too aware of the bad stuff.

    3. I have a slightly different skill set. I can organize pretty much anything, but keeping it going is another thing entirely. Once the thrill of organizing is over, I’m no good at all at maintenance after that.

  2. Nature and kids made me happy. Today we went on a day tramp (hike). It was minus three when we started, the kids walked uphill for two hours *without complaining*, it was absolutely gorgeous.

    We stopped on the way home at a great pie shop and I ate guilt-free steak and cheese pie (all that walking!).

    Things have been a bit ugh, but this was time out. Feeling pretty good.

    I have pics

    1. I can absolutely see why that walk made you happy – especially with your family to enjoy it with you.

  3. I’ve had painters at the house, and I’m very happy I selected a very competent contractor. He’s repairing where there is need, with materials better than original (they don’t make my original siding any more because it has been proven to be crap). The thing that sold me on him was that he knew the material, and knew that he couldn’t just spray paint it – it required brush work to make sure everything gets sealed. So, while it is a chunk of money, I’m glad it is getting done right.

    The other side of it is that I’ve had men working around the outside of the house, which makes me feel a bit twitchy if I’m just sitting around. Their competence forces me to try to at least be busy. It’s an internal thing I have a hard time turning off, (I’ve been working on it when I see my DH slaving outside – I have to make sure to tell myself I’ve done things too.) So my happiness today is that the painters will be taking a day off, so my mental challenge can too.

    Meanwhile I’m glad you enjoyed Martha’s books.

  4. I’m happy that our bathroom taps (sink and shower) are finally fixed and don’t constantly run. I’ve been walking into the bathroom to just stand there and listen to the silence.

    And I’m happy because I’m only a few thousand words off finishing the first draft of my fanfic and I think I’m starting to get a handle on what those words need to be.

    1. I know what you mean about listening to the silence re: water dripping. If I was a spy they wouldn’t have to waterboard me. They’d just have to leave a tap dripping at exactly timed intervals and I would tell all.

      1. There’s an episode in Red Dwarf where Kochanski staggers into the galley clutching a wrench and, rather wild-eyed, talks about lying awake all night listening to the pipes making noises in the wrong order. I identify with that.

  5. I have not felt competent at my job for months and teleworking long days for the last 11 weeks hasn’t helped my self – confidence or my anxiety. Only three weeks left before I retire. My replacement is someone I know and respect – I ‘m thrilled for the team that they will be in good hands. However, my second thought was that she will be much better at the job than me. Since leaving was totally my choice, this isn’t a productive chain of thought.

    I planted my veggie seeds last week. Since I usually grow from seedlings, I worried nothing would come up. Thanks to an early heat spell and a few rain showers, they sprouted in record time. So exciting! I had a long FaceTime with a friend in another province and a lovely chat with my nephew. He’s going to grad school in the fall and will be less than 2 hours away. He’s a terrific young man and I’m looking forward to seeing him more than once every 2 years.

  6. I am happy that you read and re-read the Murderbots, as I get vicarious pleasure from it.

    I feel that there are things that are not getting done in all parts of my life – job, home, volunteering, personal (gaining weight, anyone?) but trying not to give myself a hard time about it.

    At least with our stay at home lightened, I felt I could go visit my M-I-L. It was harder than usual for her to understand me since I wore a mask, and I couldn’t figure out why or how her email program thinks all my messages to her are spam, but the cookies I brought her were a big hit, and I can use my yahoo email to communicate to her, so the net result was quite good.

    It is chilly but sunny and I am going for a walk with my B-I-L on the nice walking trails, instead of just in my neighborhood, so that should be cheering as well.

  7. My daughter set up the treadmill, after months of it being in storage, and I’ve used it twice. Plus got on the floor and did stretches and abs, and added in some light weights.

    It feels good to exercise again. And while I know that I could have done some of that before, I had no motivation. So happy to be seeing clearly again. Now to get rid of the pounds put on by sheltering in place. All I did was read and eat.

  8. Lately (i.e., since mid-April) I’ve been tackling window washing, one at a time. This week, I went for the hardest job (so far): my second story office window, which involved a lot of careful dismantling, washing the storms in the bathtub (rather than take them downstairs, outside, and use a hose :^0) and NOT having easy access to the outside surface of the wood-framed ones (why yes, I do live in a 1933 house with sash cords). Had to use a squeegy and great care not to fall out.

    It took hours.

    I was exhausted.

    But, oh…. after a hot bath and a cold drink, the lovely clear view from my desk out to my garden and laneway!


  9. This past Friday would have been the last school day for the seniors in my town. So at six PM they gathered at the beginning of town in decorated vehicles (balloons, flags, chalked windows) trucks, top down convertibles, SUV’s and sedans led by the police and fire department sirens blaring and paraded to the end of town. A different rite of passage but one that is unique to them this year. I also noted when driving to the bank earlier that week that their graduation pictures where put on posters and attached to telephone poles down the main street. That made me happy and also a little teary eyed thinking of their future. A great sendoff to the Class of 2020.

  10. I put together my flower bed and filled it with dirt. I haven’t gotten thr plants in yet. This was my only happy for the week.

    The rest was frustration and anger that my favorite aunt is passing away and her nursing home won’t even let her kids in to visit. My mom is so upset that she won’t be able to tell her sister goodbye. The home told my cousin, they would call and let her know when the time came. It might be in time for her to visit. My cousin lives three blocks from the home and they might call her in time for a visit. REALLY!
    My Dad’s rehab center was also a nursing home and they still let people come for hospice patients. You had to wash your hands and they gave you a mask, gown and gloves, but you got to see your loved ones at least. Argh!

    Sorry, I’ll stop ranting now.

  11. Lots of hard work and lots of happys. Paul built me 2 raised bed planter boxes on long legs. One went in the greenhouse and the other is by the back steps. We filled them and planted them yesterday, weeded and planted the community garden bed, weeded and planted the big garden here, and planted the greenhouse.

    Today we had a guy in to give us an estimate on putting a new sidewalk in the back yard and doing some grade-work on the driveway. It will be a lot less than we though since we can be his helpers and do some of the grunt work.

    I met my quota at work even though I had a few extra days off/no work, and that made me feel good.

    Now, I think I’m gonna to go have a nap.

    1. Wow! You guys have been amazingly productive. Enjoy all your assorted gardens and your well deserved nap.

  12. I’ve been feeling bad about my front yard – let the Spring weeding go for far too long and it was really a mess out there. So the last 5 days I’ve been at it hammer and tongs, and turned a corner yesterday – still work to be done, but it looks somewhat tidy and intentional, instead of overgrown and weedy. I feel like a competent gardener now. 🙂

  13. Lots of yard work, and an amazing hot, sunny, but not too hot, week. Neighbors offered me office space over their garage for weekday afternoons, so that is wonderful. Wonderful!
    Our yard looks good, the tomatoes are potted (no actual dirt in the ground here) soil is composted and fertilized, basil and sweet pea seedlings are planted. We’re not very ambitious about growing food, see above: no dirt. Bluejay sightings. Long walks.

  14. We had 2 in-person outdoor karate classes today in the beautiful sunshine. We coned off fifteen 20×20 sections in the grass and everyone trained (and social distanced) in their boxes. It was so much nicer than the Facebook Live and Zoom karate classes we’ve been hosting for our students since March 16th.

  15. I am not sure what I accomplished this last week, other than to keep writing and fuss a little with my garden. Sometimes that’s all that needs to be done.

    I’m thinking “competence porn” and “imposter syndrome” are two sides of the same coin. We’re all good at something, but unless we allow ourselves to admit we’re good we get caught up in what we’re not.

    It’s such an internal thing, too. I can remember years ago going to pick up my kids from elementary school, feeling rushed and frazzled because I’d had to leave something undone at work and would be going back to a mess. Waiting with one of the other moms, she said how she was always a little jealous at how put together I seemed all the time. Little did she know!! But that tiny bit of kindness still comes back to help me through those days when I have trouble remembering to breathe.

  16. I talked to my brother in France for just over one and a quarter hours this week. The combination of his hearing aid and my bad cell phone means that we haven’t had a good talk in ages. But on skype it doesn’t matter how few minutes my cell phone has or which corner of the apartment has the best cell phone reception. I even got a kick out of seeing his wife walk around in the background after she departed the conversation.

    That was at the beginning of the week. For the last few days my colon has been cramping. For the first two days it has been painful enough that I haven’t left the house and today I have diarrhea. So the fact that the lockdown is loosening up doesn’t mean much in my house.

    My biggest concern is about my niece in Minneapolis. She lives about a mile and a half from where the incident happened and I not only worry about the rioting, but also worry about her living in a city where the other 3 cops sat there and watched while a guy stood on a man’s neck for almost 9 minutes. The potential for damage to the windpipe, vertebrae and spinal core, even if it wasn’t fatal, was mind boggling. And they just sat and watched. And racist idiots on TV say that if the victim could say that he couldn’t breathe, he must be getting enough air.

    Of course, I’m not saying the cops are any better where I live, but I had nice nostalgic memories of Minneapolis from over 30 years ago that I probably don’t want to examine very closely.

  17. More things are flowering in my garden – the amber-flowered honeysuckle opposite the back door is especially cheerful. And I made frames and netted both strawberry beds, and have therefore been having strawberries and Greek yoghurt for pudding since Friday.

    I’ve spent time – outdoors and 2 metres apart – with three different friends this week, and will hopefully see my friend whose husband died five weeks ago in a few days.

    Sitting in the garden, working and reading, makes me happy every day.

  18. Zoom baby shower for my cuz today. Really interesting experience (although baby shower games definitely not my thing). So nice to SEE so many family members – it’s been too long since we met up. Very enjoyable!

    Have also been enjoying catching up on Jenny’s older posts. Jenny, looking at the suitcases and the collages I can see how very artistically talented you are apart from the writing thing. So cool!

    Coincidentally, before I read this post, earlier today I was looking at an art project that I did in the 90s and surprising myself at how good it was. It’s definitely nice to remind ourselves from time to time of our talents and focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

  19. I finished putting the garden in, which always gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Until the first weeds start taking over, anyway.

    Found a roofer who seems both dependable and knowledgeable, who came well recommended, communicates promptly, and miracle of miracles, can probably replace my leaking (only 9 year old) roof in two weeks or so. Of course, then I have to find someone to fix the horrible ceiling in the upstairs bedroom where one of the leaks when undiscovered for long enough to cause serious damage, but that’s a different challenge.

    I’m on an organizing and getting rid of things blitz, motivated in part by the fact that my pandemic house guest seems to be turning into a house mate and I need to find room for her stuff. I weeded through all my books, and ended up with about half a dozen bags to donate to a local small library or give away. Still have way too many left that I can’t let go of (including duplicates of some Crusie books), but I was happy to have accomplish what seemed like an overwhelming task.

    1. I should add that all my fiction is in alphabetic order by author. I grew up in a library. Alphabetical order makes me happy. (My nonfiction is grouped by subject, of course.)

      1. I think so many people have had the same idea here that my library has said they are not taking any more books. What a shame.

        1. Schools. Shelters. Some Friends of the Library groups (they usually sell the books and give $ to the libraries).

  20. I knitted a cat. It now sits on top of the hamster “cage.” It’s orange with a white chest and feet. Have not picked out a name yet. The face came out very silly (it really needed decent cat eyes, but didn’t have any), but oh well.

    Theater is making me happy this week. I did my dream role of Beatrice in Much Ado–finished it today–and then I just got out of a good conversation (albeit about suicide, so…real upper) with the folks in the other play I am working on, so I enjoyed that. I think theater is the one thing distracting me from all of this. Not reading a book, sadly–I downloaded a few free chapters this week and barely finished those–but actually doing theater. Let’s go be someone else for a while. I’m glad we’re still doing it.

    Now I am about out of something for the first time in 2.5 months (mouthwash) and I have to figure out if I am going to actually leave my house and go buy some soon. I am going to have to figure out The Grocery Issue too because I have not bought any since March 12 and had a lot around the house already before, but probably at least not for another week. Agoraphobia is a blast, lemme tell ya. I may just go without mouthwash (it’s not like I’m going to the dentist any time soon) for a week rather than make an extra trip outside any sooner than I absolutely have to in order to keep the car from dying.

  21. This blog has made me happy just now. Seeing how life is still going on in positive ways builds hope, Right before coming to Arghink, I had been reading about the protests and riots in my state (Michigan), which is upsetting. I fully support all the peaceful protests and hope they affect a change.

    Your posts also helped me to see things that I can be happy about, although I’m also struggling with a lack of competency in getting my work done. I restarted work on an application process. I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, but I did work on it for an hour.

    We have had beautiful weather and despite a knee injury I was able to go for walks. I also learned the name of a neighbor’s very friendly cat, who I get to pet on my walks. These things make me happy. Finally, today towards the end of my walk I met a neighbor who lives 3 houses down from mine. We’ve been neighbors for 14 years but just met today. This is one thing I will add to the silver lining around covid. Meeting my neighbors.

    Thank you for this community! 🤗

    Also, organizing is potentially my super power. It isn’t always appreciated so thank you Jill Q for acknowledging it in others! I’m also in total agreement with your post, especially the part of “you all do this so well and enjoy it.” nonsense that gets uttered by folks who probably just want to believe that so they don’t have to do it or feel guilting about not doing it.

    1. My husband made some off-the-cuff remark about something we should get for me because “you like cooking”. I am a good cook but I have to be because I like to eat good food. That does not mean it’s my favorite activity in the world. I looked at him and said “I have to cook so I try to do it well. You clean the kitchen after dinner every night but I don’t make the mistake of thinking you like to clean the kitchen”. (Based on the bitching I hear coming from the kitchen, he hates it but I am not doing it for him because that is his assigned chore)l I suppose thinking that I LIKE to cook is his way of getting around that if you consider cooking my HOBBY, it excuses the fact that I have more routine chores than he does. I am still a little annoyed by this.

      1. I am not sure why this landed as a reply here. It certainly is totally out in left field.

        1. Most of us here on Argh spend quite a bit of time in left field. It’s not a problem. We just roll with it.

      2. honey if he like to clean the kitchen let him it is a good for you . I have been married 4
        57 years and now my other half is doing his part.

  22. My son has finished his grad school class And can now lead me on gymnastics conditioning sessions twice or three times a week instead of one. (He is sheltering with us and doing grad school remotely. Since he’s the kind of physicist who does his research by computer, the best estimate of when he will return to school is something between August 1 and late next spring. )
    These sessions are fun, funny, and appalling (many years ago I could do this stuff!) It’s amazing how I actually make progress if we do it more than once a week.
    Also, we live in a suburb inside the DC beltway. On a walk this week my husband spotted a fawn lying in the grass on the side of our street, hidden by a metal railing. We warned the neighbors to keep their dogs on leashes and the next morning mama had moved him, as mama deer will. That made us happy.

    My husband, who is cheap about small things, years ago bought a haircut kit and gives himself his own buzz cut haircuts. So now with the pandemic not only has he had his haircuts but this week he successfully cut our son’s. That made them both happy.

    I found a way to use up the four (!) jars of dulce de leche that people have given us, I know not why. So that made me happy (and in general we are using our pantry supplies more systematically and have gotten rid I think of all out of date food so that makes me happy).
    Last year’s snapdragons not only wintered over but are coming up in new and interesting places. Since this is the time of year where I would be running to the garden store for a few more market packs every weekend, and now I can’t, that makes me happy. In general our garden seems to be delighting our neighbors at a bad time, and the other day someone pulled up in a car and got out to take pictures. I’m not a great gardener but I do love colors and put them together and have figured out timing so there is always stuff in bloom from Feb to November. I may kill a lot of plants but no one seems to notice.

    We now have a sign saying this is a silly walk house, and people do get out their silly walks. My neighbors flock of plastic flamingos plastic eggs hatched and the baby flamingos have now become adolescents.

    I’m holding on to these things hard because last week we had a memorial service for a neighbors mother who basically was part of my children’s childhood, and another friend lost her dad and her aunt, and then of course we all know what the last week brought.

  23. I’m sorry you’re struggling with feelings of incompetence, Jennie. I can recognize that feeling (since I feel it often!). FWIW, you appear strikingly capable in any number of ways from here.

    My happiness this week came from connection, rather than competence. I find healing and peace when I collaborate with other people around a shared belief that a better world is possible. So I have been marching and writing and chanting and donating, and it is…something. I guess I don’t know that happiness is the right word, since I feel like I’ve just been Feeling ALL The Things. But grieving, raging, and hoping collectively is good, in a not-exactly-happiness kind of way.

  24. Nine months in, my new job is making me feel competent, which is making me happy. I do well in situations where my skills are recognized but more importantly, I get to use them. My superpower (other than leveling and centering by eye) is understanding a process, being able to figure out what is wrong with a process, and given the opportunity, being able to fix or improve a process. This is instinctual for me, but apparently not for many people. My last office employment, which was more accidental than deliberate, gave me an opportunity to do the first two but no ability to fix anything. It was a misery. On the other hand, it paid the mortgage for a while and reminded me that I have certain requirements to be happy in a job. (I will never be a glass-half-full kind of person, but I can always figure out what I learned from a bad situation.)

    I am also very happy about tarragon, which I am putting in everything now that I have a thriving tarragon plant. Seriously, my herb plot is AMAZING. Well, except for the dill, which apparently does not enjoy its current location.

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