To do or not to do? Being Type A makes you lose sleep.

You could say that I'm a little...Type A. That's not to say that my neuroses follow what society would like me to be Type A about but I have those tendencies nonetheless.

Let's talk a little bit about being Type A first. There are two basic strategies: To approach success OR To avoid failure. You can be the best by beating everyone out or you can be the best by being the only one not to fail. Either way--you win. What I like about being Type A is that I win; who doesn't like it? Who doesn't want to do the most? Who doesn't want to do the best? Who doesn't want to know that everyone around you is slightly less competent/capable/willing than you? Even by a small margin, that victory is completely cathartic.

The problem is when you find yourself in competition with the whole world. You cooked that meal better than your mother ever could have. You doused that floor in ten kinds of inhuman cleaners until years of dust and grime melted away and it didn't even look that good new. You swept the dirt out of cracks between flagstone; but not just any dirt--the stuff that wasn't hard and packed down to cement the flagstone so as to beautify the dirt underneath it. That's right, even your dirt looks better than everyone else's. So what do you do? You look at your best friend and realize that you fold pants slightly better so that they stack just a slight bit neater. You look at your older brother and realize that you're closer to a degree now than he will be in the next ten years. You look at your father and realize that while you have the same personalities, you've made yours slightly more adaptive in terms of real-world functionality. You look at your younger brother and realize that at his age you were working, going to school full time, and taking care of the family. You look at your mother and realize that even though she brings home the bacon you cook it, store it, clean the area you cooked it in, then bake cookies for desert. Then you look at yourself and wonder why you're surrounded by people who don't live up to your standards.

Having a social life should always be separate from your professional life for that very reason. You shouldn't work with family because there has to be an inherent hierarchy to suit the needs of the business that will rarely coincide with the needs of the family or the interests of the individuals. You shouldn't work with your friends because if one of you progresses beyond the other you're not together any more and it creates a rift. And it's hard to stay together when one of you views the other as anything but equally capable, competent, and willing. Studies have shwon that social networks are the easiest and fastest way to reduce stress thus lowering the amount of excess hormones raging in the human body. Less stress = less adaptors to reduce/prevent stress. Less adaptors = a happier, healthier you.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the work me and my friend Sarah have been doing. There is a four year difference between me and her which isn't enough, especially at this time in my life, for me to be able to say that I vastly outweigh her in experience or expertise. We have been volunteering at Talking Talons and, believe me, my Type A has shown itself through each and every day we have been there. We have been going about three time a week for the past few weeks and it's been great! I'm having the time of my life working myself down until I can barely drive home. But I find myself more and more yelling at my friend as though she were some worthless, entry-level, child laboring factory peon that I plan to kill the moment she steps in the building.

It's not that what we're doing is particularly hard. That is to say, that I have done far harder things for far longer in my life.

The first thing we did there was paint.

I chose the signs that would make it easiest for me to cover up that we were making changes knowing that the likelihood of having matching paints to make the changes was going to be low. So I essentially chose the one sign that was going to give me the most problems so that I could fulfill some sick masocistic need to have something harder to do thus making it a greater accomplishment. Sarah was left to do more signs with obvious changes because she also had the problem of not having matching colors. But my Type A said to choose the one with the least obvious changes so that my instances of failure were less than hers.

Our second project was cleaning out the fruit bat cages. I was on her just about every moment we were in there. "Did you ________?" came out of my mouth like every five minutes. And if it wasn't it was because I was telling her that she missed something or did something wrong. And she just rolls her eyes and scoffs like I'm the bad guy. Am I? Is wanting to do the best the wrong thing? Is wanting to do it correctly bad? Because let me tell you, every time she makes those sounds and that eye roll comes out that's how it feels. Then again, for me to scold her probalby doesn't make her feel very well, either. But for me it's not done until it's done because otherwise it would be incomplete.

Our third project was labeling folders and envelopes. Because I have the better handwriting of the two of us (Sarah is, unfortunately, a complete and utter success of the computer's ability to desecrate handwriting) I did the envelopes. When I finished the envelopes I looked up at her labeling and saw that three of them that had been flagged hadn't been added. I scolded her there, then in front of Janet (the office manager we were helping), and the rest of the day. The fourth project was on the same day at the Thrift Store organizing clothing. I had a vision in my mind on how we needed to do it so that all of the same types of clothing were together then sorted by size so that each size was not just a random stack of clothing but a progression of one type to another. We also had to sort jeans and that was a nightmare for me. I'm not OCD, as Sarah would suggest, because if I was OCD my room would not look the way it does. My grandmother had taught me when Iw as five years old to fold pants in such a way that when they were stacked they laid flat and wouldn't fall over when you carried them. That's how I did my section of pants. But when I looked over at Sarah's with pants just crammed to the hilt, none of the colors together, and one side left undone I nearly came uncorked. I spent the rest of the day scolding her and making her look like a fool while being a pretty big jerk. When I asked her why she wouldn't even try it my way she said, "I don't know, yours is too complicated and it takes too long." Is there such thing as too long of a route to doing a job correctly? She said it was not like we were getting paid but, seriously, what good is having a volunteer around if they're not really going to do anything but shuffle things from one side to the other? When I asked her later why she persisted at being unwilling to try or do the new way she said that it was because she guessed it was because she was stubborn and just didn't want to do it. So I'm not sure if I was in the wrong or if she was.

Our fourth project for Talking Talons was doing the bird mews. We had to cut screens to a certain length, put gromits in them, put hooks along the cages, and hang the screens. Sarah must not have a strong bone in her body because the way she uses a hammer she gets herself more than anything and the things she does get rarely stay together the first time around. When I say, "Smack it like you mean it," I mean, "Pound the s*** out of it." One thing that I realize comes from my Type A that makes me not want to work with others is knowing that I have very little control over their output. I can yell, scold, make jokes and poke fun at their work but unless I take it away from them and do it myself I really have no control over quantity or quality. No matter how many times I explain something, it means nothing to them unless I show it to them in which case I could have done it faster if I did it myself meaning I could also be assured it's the way that I want it. You can't control that in other people. But when you ask for help because you've had your arms above your head for the better part of two hours bent in every which way, you're sweating and exhausted and not even sure that you want to relinquish the reigns only to hear, "I can't help you, dude, it'll make my arms hurt," really grates on the mind. Seriously, that kind of shit keeps me up at night. And I realize that she has a possible diagnosis of fibromayalsia and is being evaluated for the possibility of lupus but, really, the only things she did that day were hold my hammer, hold my hooks, and hand me things smaller than the palm of my hand (and my hand is pretty small). She did one staple from the staple gun (which she assures me she's afraid of), and permitted me to use the electric drill once (which she also assures me she's afraid of) but other than that I did most of the work. I had to line up the screen and hold back my temper when she's complaining that it's "just fine". It's never "just fine". It's either right or it's wrong. Sometimes there's a "close enough" if you have more right than wrong in there but if it even approaches the midpoint it's all wrong. She was better the second day of this because she was able to do grommits. But after the whole 'the staple gun makes my arms hurt' thing she asked if she could be the one bent backwards over a ladder to hammer in screws to make holes for the hooks rather than doing the grommits on a flat surface in any position she deemed comfortable. So I told her straight out that I didn't want her to hurt herself. She asked me if she could at least try and I told her no on the basis that if she couldn't use the staple gun there was no way to assume that multiple concussive forces on her arms and shoulder would be any better. I had to show her how to do the grommits then I cut out all the screening and did all of the hooks.

One day we had to do some vacuuming and dusting but I can't really remember what day it was. She likes to vacuum--just not her own house. Fine, whatever. She chose to vacuum so I started dusting. I wiped down the walls, the mantle, the pieces on the mantle, etc. Sarah said she had dusted them but it was pretty apparent on most of the pieces that she did not share my enthusiasm. So I redid the ones I could with a cloth and let her do the other ones with the vaccuum and duster (like the taxoned birds and bird houses with loose things on it).

My cousin came with us last week and we had to do weeding.

Sarah looked like she wanted to get more involved but I was pretty torn between having her hurt herself with her fibromayalsia or letting her do more. Either way, my 11-year-old cousin put both of us to shame. Her dad is probably a good model for what I'm going to be when I grow up; I have no doubt of that.

My cousin also came with us last Thursday when we finished up the janitorial work. They spent the first hour counting out meal worms for the reptiles while I swept and mopped the floor that probably haven't been done since WWII. I mopped each floor three times and the water was still coming up pretty dark but I had to go help them outside so I went out there after sweeping and mopping for two hours to find a pretty dismal pile. After about an hour and a half I whipped the dismal pile into four magnificent ones.

We go there again tomorrow. I'm not really sure what we're going to be doing but I know that I'm not going to sleep well tonight. Because for as guilty as I feel scolding my friend like some child for not doing things the correct way, I would sleep twice as less knowing that I didn't finish that corner in the backyard (which we didn't and I thought about it all day Friday) or that I cut the sheet too short in Admiral's cage or that the grommits are going to fall off because they're not tight enough or that the pants are going to be a mess because we didn't fold them flat...

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Comment by Sarah on June 23, 2008 at 3:49pm
I don't know whether you're insulting me or apologizing to me. So, I'll solve it with this: I'm Sorry and Thank You.

Sorry for being such a 'tard sometimes. I'm working on it (slowly but surely).

Thanks for putting up with me, too. Not many people can do that because of the way I am, so I really am grateful for your friendship and I don't know what I would do without you.


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