BECOMING BETTER

Jean Croker Petke


The Death of Dickens

I killed Dickens. Last week. On a warm spring afternoon.

I hit delete and he was gone from my life.

You see, I read him once in high school. A Tale of Two Cities. I didn’t like it much then but it was required reading.

In recent years, as I’ve added classics to my regular reading, I’ve often thought I might enjoy A Tale of Two Cities, now that I’ve acquired some literary maturity and experience.

So I downloaded Tale to my phone. Occasionally I read snippets, but mostly I read for extended periods of time. I managed to get halfway through the book, with nary a hint of engagement with Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton, or Madame DeFarge.

I tried. Really, I did.

Leaving anything unfinished is difficult for me. But, as Charlie said to me last week, “Life’s too short . . .” Two days later, on that fateful spring patio afternoon, my neighbor said, “The earth won’t stop and lightening won’t strike if you don’t finish the book.”

I knew they were both right.

Not only did Dickens fail to engage me in his story, he caused me to give up my morning reading habit. That is unforgivable — and that’s what caused the crime.

So right then and there, with one witness to the event, Dickens met his demise.

Sometimes we need to stop what we’ve customarily done, if it’s no longer working for us — particularly if it’s keeping us from our best, dragging us down, or robbing us of precious time.

In another situation, I have three musicians in my life who hear me play regularly and who offer critical comments. Of those three, there is One for whom my playing is never good enough. Comments about sloppiness or mistakes bury the rare word on what I’ve done well. My progress is seldom mentioned. Few remedies, tips, or solutions are offered. The other Two musicians, always offer positive comments before the criticism and along the way, when they see I’m struggling, they offer words of encouragement. They work with me to learn new techniques for improving my playing. With them I believe I can play better. The criticism of the three may be the same, but the way it is delivered is quite different.

It’s like I have a musical bucket that needs to be filled every once in a while. The Two give me enough positive comments along with constructive help that I continue working and improving. The One, on the other hand, has created a hole in my bucket — a bucket that cannot hold nourishment or sustenance for the journey. I only experience discouragement and defeat.

Like Dickens who didn’t engage me, the One musician drags me down, offering no enticement or interest to keep me forging ahead.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That’s the way life is. I always want to tip the balance toward the best of times. This week I’ve been reminded to examine some habits and routines and experiences and people who fill my time.

Life is too short — to spend it with people who bring us down, activities that keep us from our best, and habits that are no longer effective.

Check your bucket for holes.

Until next Tuesday. . .

 

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2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Joanne -

    Indeed. Life is too short. Doing some re-examining myself so I can relate. On another note, Dickens though, he was required reading for me in A-Level and I loved him; my assigned Dickens was Great Expectations though so maybe the choice of book made all the difference.

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