Back in 1848, Joseph Brackett wrote a song called “Simple Gifts” for fellow members of the Shaker religious group.
The tune starts by saying...
“Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be...”
It took me a while to realize the song was a tidy version of my life’s journey.
The hard part was admitting it.
It’s not like I didn't try and make something else of myself. My efforts just never produced the desired results.
For a while I wanted more than anything else to be as cool as the kids that danced on American Bandstand. I gave it a shot, but it’s hard to be considered cool when you play bassoon in the high school band.
During a stretch of college, I tried to be sophisticated. My role model was the original James Bond—Sean Connery.
When he wasn't saving the world or killing spies or driving his Aston Martin, Bond hung out with a pretty sophisticated crowd.
These people wore tuxedos to dinner, ate food I couldn’t pronounce, and thought nothing of jetting off to the French Riviera for the weekend. None of the “in crowd” worked for minimum wage.
I didn't have big bucks so I improvised. Instead of the French Riviera, I drove my Karmann Ghia to Panama City for a weekend. One day I ate French Toast. With grape jelly. So much for sophistication.
I’m honest enough to admit I got down on myself a time or two. I whined and moaned about my situation.
But I’ve always been blessed when I least expected it and sure enough, the good Lord came to the rescue. When I needed a life adjustment most I found it watching a film called Magnum Force starring the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century: Clint Eastwood.
I was sitting in the theater enjoying the action and at the end, I almost jumped out of my seat.
Eastwood had just solved the case. Then he pulled out his .44 magnum, shot his crooked boss, and said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Bingo. There it was. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that if I wasn't the best at something I was the worst. When I realized that accepting my limitations and doing the best I could was fine, a huge burden fell away.
Spotting my limitations has never been a problem. The trick was learning how to deal with them.
I can’t fix a car so I made friends with a good auto mechanic. Problem solved.
I’m a lousy hunter but a decent fisherman. I’ll never starve as long as I can find a cane pole and a fishing hole.
I still have more limitations than a piece of federal environmental legislation, but no longer let them get me down.
I’m satisfied to have family members that tolerate me, one good woman to love me, and a few good friends that never say no when I need a hand. Plus, I finally learned how to cook grits.
I don’t take myself seriously and don’t expect anybody else to. I look and listen and write what I think and if folks don't agree I don’t fuss about it.
Thanks to the grace of God and the wisdom of Clint Eastwood, I wound up right where I ought to be.
Being simple suits me fine.
Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter and author of There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love. He can be reached at: email@example.com.