Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Like in the desert when you dream for drops of rain The guest you're waiting for never arrives And all that remains Is your reluctance to admit you're not prepared While you sit there you commit yourself To always be scared You'll always be scared You'll always be scared You'll always be scared --Mrnorth, "Where No One Else Can See One of the best things about growing up, at least that I've noticed, is this: it becomes easier and easier to get over myself. It's something I'm learning slowly (probably too slowly for some), but I'm becoming more and more comfortable with the idea that I'm not the center of the universe, even if sometimes I want to be. The learning curve is weird. I've never been one to learn vicariously. I pretty much have to figure out all the important lessons on my own, at my own speed, or, as I say, put them in my own words (which has made for a lot of conversations over the years with various people in which I offer some grand lesson I've learned and the person I'm talking to says, "I've been trying to tell you that for three years"). C'est la vie, I guess. The problem with this process is that it has a tendency to create a self-reinforcing, "I'm special," loop when I will be (and have for at least the last few years) the first to admit that I'm not special. It, um, it causes problems, mostly because my words and behaviors don't match up. I'm not special, I'm just different in the same way everyone is different. One of the biggest problems with not understanding the difference between "different" and "special" is this: everyone else has to think about me and what my opinions are. It's especially bad when I project on to that other what I think they should be when, in reality, they aren't. I have a friend who took it personally when I left Christianity. In leaving, I somehow failed her. I understand the line of thinking, but it's not my job to stay somewhere I can't for the benefit of someone who really should be an adult and making her own decisions. It's funny to be using these words in this way, but the Apostle Paul did say, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." I can't save anyone and I shouldn't have to. But I think we're all loaded to the eyeballs with drama in that way. We want that knight in shining armor to show up or the princess to give us purpose and lead us to that happily ever after. It's the core of the Christian message and probably explains the continued power of Christianity, especially since the "happily ever after" part comes after we die and, unlike here, there's no one to ruin the magic. That's really what it's about, right? The magic. That's what I always thought. I always kind of had an underpants gnome understanding of growing up. I wasn't afraid of growing up and becoming an adult, per se. I just thought it was supposed to kind of happen one day. I'd be a kid, then I'd be an adult and it would all make sense. So I put myself in to a state of arrested development. The closer I came to adulthood the more I realized I'd have to make decisions. The more I thought about decisions, the more I realized I could make bad decisions. The more I thought about making bad decisions, the more I realized they could carry over for a long time and ruin my life. The fact of the matter is, at the end of the day being afraid of growing up and being afraid of growing up badly is an issue of semantics. Delaying decisions is no different than not making decisions. Don't be afraid to lay it all down Let the chips fall where they may You'll notice you just can't lose Winning by just playing the game --Jason Boots, "Roulette" My sister said something randomly profound* about apartment hunting not so long ago. She said, "You'll know the right apartment because you'll be able to see your furniture in it." The funniest thing about this is that I fully agree with the concept without actually agreeing with the methodology. She's an interior designer, so that's how she sees empty spaces. I'm a storyteller and a writer, so I walk in to a space and see the stories. It's a different way of saying the same thing. Sometimes you walk in to a place or meet a new person and just know. Sometimes you're wrong about that. I've been wrong before, I'll be wrong again. Even when I'm right it won't be perfect. There's no happily ever after, but that doesn't mean it's time to give up on the idea of happy. I was having one of those guy talks with a friend of mine about women and being unsure about the whole settling down and finding the right one thing. I pulled out the idea that you'll be able to see your furniture in her if she's the right one (which is just kind of a funny visual). The problem with finding love v. finding lodging, though, is that an apartment doesn't have much of a choice. It pretty much has to let you try to get the couch through the door. If you love someone but they don't see their furniture in you, there's not much you can do about it. I used to date a girl who was almost but not quite right. I think I was the same thing to her. It was a constant game of trying to rearrange the furniture without acknowledging that it wasn't right for the space. It always seemed like maybe this one tweak or that move would make it okay. What we really did was make each other miserable. We couldn't be together, but we couldn't break it off. As time went on and we were basically a couple who weren't dating -- so we had all the misery of a bad relationship without any good -- I had to confront the fact that on some level I was afraid of finding something new. It was kind of a just in case scenario. I'd stick around because I'd hate to think of what would happen if the next tweak really was the one that got the furniture aligned properly. A half decision or a delayed decision is worse than even a bad decision. There was a 100% agreement amongst the people who mattered most to me that I was in a bad relationship. Hell, I knew it, too. But I was hopelessly hopeful that the bad would be made good. Meanwhile, a month or so ago I went on a date with someone who started reminding me of that most recent relationship. This time I didn't have to go for a couple pointless years and end it bitter and farther behind than I was before. The alarm bells went off and, more importantly, I realized that I couldn't come up with any reason to want to introduce this person to my friends and family. There, um, there was no second date. So even I can learn... On one still morn I found your letter here under the dust Opened up, and I read for the first time in my young life Details of what I had done with the thirst And recognized all those things That everyone always had seen What they always had seen --Mrnorth, "Where No One Else Can See" When someone, especially someone who knows me well, confronts me with something I don't agree with about myself, I tend not to react particularly well. On one level it's because I -- like everyone else, probably -- don't want to hear about my failings. But there's something else. The place of greatest failure is usually the place of greatest desire. No one directs anger at things they don't care about. We see ourselves in ways that sometimes or often don't actually match up with reality. I have an idealized self that I want to be and that I want everyone else to see me as. When I find that I've failed it isn't just a hit at my failing, but at my larger failure to live up to my own ideal. Growing up is about dropping the pretense of the idealized self, confronting failures and no longer imagining that I get to be my idealized self just because I say so. It's about realizing that living in the imaginary world of perfect solutions is counterproductive. It's about work. --------------- *When I say "randomly profound," I mean the way it's applicable outside of the topic at hand, not, "Holy crap, my sister said something interesting."