John suffers from character spectrum disorder like the rest of us, possessing the gamut of qualities from awful to awesome, some qualities more than others. And he does his best to try to improve himself, sometimes harder than others. Just like the rest of us.

One of the things he does that I am very fascinated by is taking on huge tasks, that require an inordinate amount of time to complete. He just keeps chipping away on them until the end.

For example, he built an airplane. For those of you who don’t know, he has only one arm. He built an airplane despite that. And it wasn’t an assemble-it-yourself box of parts (which I always imagine coming in a wooden crate from the Acme airplane company, like in a Wyle E. Coyote cartoon). It was a home-built ariplane from a set of drawings and a pile of materials. It took six years, and he got maybe a few hundred hours of help total from me and a few other people. The rest? All him.

As impressive as that is, I’m actually more impressed by other times he shows this amazing stick-to-it-iveness. The mundane times. If you stay focused on the airplane project, at the end you get to fly this really cool sporty airplane all over, woohoo! But the 40’x70′ shop we bought with the land came with the floor coated in roughly 1/4″ of caked-on, baked-on, dirt-infused grease; soot and grease covered parts and tools and walls and equipment and, well, everything; along with the accumulated clutter of decades — some of it old, some of broken, bent or otherwise hinky, and some of it useable, but most of that at least in need of tuning. Think Pig Pen only with black grease instead of dirt. Every week John just chips away at cleaning, decluttering and repairing.

Sure, at the end he’ll have a clean shop so we won’t get black just walking in the door and we’ll have more storage for our things, but none of that seems to be worth the effort it will take to clean, repair and make safer all that needs be done in there. On top of it all, it’s always needing cleaning just from daily use.

Some days I think we should have an “accidental” oil spill next to an open flame, right after we’ve taken the good stuff outside to “give it some air.” (My luck, we’ll have an accidental fire now, and the insurance company won’t pay up because I said that, but I’ll leave it in — flirt with danger.)

The thing is the cleaning, repairing, etc. is the right thing to do. It’s functional as is, but it’s not right, so forgets the size of the entire task and he just chips away at it.

He explains it like this: It’s like eating an elephant. You can’t sit down and eat a whole elephant for lunch. You just have to keep taking bites out of the elephant and, eventually, it’s gone. You’ve done it.

Once I get past the fact that the imagery is gross (I always have to imagine that the elephant is cut up and wrapped in neat white packages labelled “burger” or “steak,” and it’s all kept in a giant walk-in freezer to prevent bloating and spoilage) and I disregard the fact that John hates leftovers as if he grew up privileged (one of the annoying characteristics he’s changing for my sake — and because I repeatedly tell him “Supper is leftovers or whatever you want to cook”), I really admire his method of keeping himself motivated.

Some days he’ll walk into the house and declare, “I took another bite out of the elephant!” and he sounds proud and happy … and not overwhelmed.

That’s a good thing.

It’s the inspiration for the plan behind the Year of Living Give-A-Shitly. In fact, I was going to call it the Year of the Elephant, but I kept forgetting the name (message me privately if you need that joke explained).

To be honest, he’s been blamed for worse at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

 

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