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OPINION

The Flatlander

Everything's Not Fixable

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Sometime around the middle of August back in 2020, I asked Leader Editor Lori Freeze what she’d think about me writing a weekly column. I’d already somehow fallen into the weekly routine of designing the paper’s editorial page each Monday (probably because it’s a pretty standard design and good practice for a newbie) but I also believed I could offer something of value on that page that would occasionally inform and occasionally entertain readers.

She considered it a while and gave me the green light.

Today marks my seventy-third consecutive weekly column. It’s not a bad run, though far short of former Leader staffer John Berry who didn’t miss a weekly missive for a decade.
I may not even live long enough to approach that record.

Each week whether it’s drive time to work, a few moments in the shower, or lying in bed early in the morning waiting on the right moment to start the day, I give some thought to what I might share here that would have some value.

I’ll admit to struggling a bit this week. It came Saturday afternoon while splitting some fireplace kindling. (Also good thinking time.)
It’s about a lesson I’ve learned during the last year. A lesson I’m still learning, but one that as I learn, I believe is helping me grow into a better person.

To put it in proper context, it helps knowing just a bit about my last week.

The cyber-world and bank accounts took required lots of attention. Much of it was central to a personal PayPal account.

I’d used the account several weeks earlier paying necessary fees for a conference I’d chosen to attend in San Francisco next month. Two weeks ago, as a safety precaution against a new Coronavirus wave conference officials canceled the live event making it virtual and online only. This was of no interest to me, so I requested a refund. No problem, they said.

Two weeks later I’d received two different notices telling me the refund was made. The conference officials received the same notice indicating the refund was paid. Problem was, no money showed up in the bank account either time. Five hundred dollars lost in cyberspace.

This went on for days.

On a lesser scale, there was a problem with three pairs of boots I’d bought about the same time. (Note to self: Always have a suspicion about name-brand boots on sale when they’re listed at 20 bucks per.

The boots never showed, I filed a complaint, and the seller produced a USPS delivery notice right to my workplace that was as genuine-looking and authentic as you’ve ever seen. Again, the problem – I had no boots, and USPS had delivered nothing despite the fraudulent evidence.

I filed my second complaint of the week and I’m not even a complaining sort of guy.

As it turns out, the vendor I ordered the boots from had a history of defrauding PayPal clients and PayPal refunded the money immediately. Crisis experienced but mostly averted.

The crown jewel of the week came first thing that Sunday morning.

Still enjoying a small windfall from a pickup truck I’d sold to the dealership, my wife and I decided to make the best of it and pay off a few debts. In the process of transferring some money into a checking account to pay off my beloved John Deere Gator, I noticed something strange.

Overnight, there had been six consecutive $120 withdrawals from my checking account to purchase crypto-currency at some New Jersey location. I don’t even understand what crypto-currency is, and I’ve not been to Jersey in years. The checking account balance read 26 cents. Someone had drained it.

This was a problem.

And these things in addition to a week where our family is selling two houses, two children are planning two weddings within the next six months, and I’m doing all I can to help them.
And finally, the cherry on the cake. An old 1992 Toyota 4-Runner junker I bought for tooling around in Round Bottom Valley broke down on the roadside during a newspaper assignment in Fifty Six late Thursday afternoon.

It is never a good sign when someone walks in your direction with the words, “Is that your truck smokin’?”

Laugh? Cry? I knew not what to do.

Now, here’s the lesson part.

All those things and a few more momentarily weighed heavy on my spirit through the week. Sitting behind the steering wheel watching the radiator steam float skyward from my new-to-me 30-year-old truck, they all passed before my eyes.

Then, the sudden realization.

There was nothing I could do about any of this.
I needed to relax and stop trying to fix things that were unfixable and out of my control.
This is something important I’ve learned in 55 years.

Walk away from things. Say no. It’s not always selfish to take care of yourself, or at least try to preserve some sanity.

So, that’s what I did. It was the third time I’ve made that decision in a year, and it was a good one each time.

As Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza would say, “Serenity now.”

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com).

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