—John Milton

I was 11 years old and hanging around with my older sister and some of her friends, and one of our neighbors, Annie Scoales to be exact, said that somebody we all knew was suffering from “raised expectations.”

This would have been 1960 and Annie used the phrase as if it was already a cliché. And maybe it was, but that was the first time I’d heard the statement and it had the ring of truth.

Even my weak grasp of history indicates strongly that there have been worse times than these, there have been worse troubles than my own. Think famine. Think polio. But when the basement floods, I still feel cheated. As if a dry basement were one of the rights guaranteed to Benjamin Cheever by the U.S. Constitution. No matter how fine life is, I often find that I was expecting more.

On weekends, when the boys were small, my wife often had to work, and I had to take them out in the car. I’d feel victimized. Here I was going out to look for shelving for the garage. I should have been at home and writing a great book.

“That one talent which is death to hide.” I loved that line. That one talent which is death to hide was lodged with me useless. Me and John Milton. Two peas in a pod. No wonder I felt crappy.

Here’s the whole poem by Milton:

On His Blindness 

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: ‘God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.’