When I was a kid my mom used to tell me that I could be and do anything I wanted. That all it took was hard work. MAYBE a little luck…but that if I set my mind to anything that I could do it. And I bought that, hook, line, and sinker. For the most part, she was right. I wanted to play basketball so I spent HOURS on the court getting my teeth (literally) knocked in against older, stronger kids and eventually, I got damned good at it. Music? Easy enough. Take lessons. Play and play and play and suddenly I was in the All New England Choir and playing in a band in my HS. Acting? What’s so hard about this? Work on your lines morning, noon, and night and emote, baby. Done.
I was class president, well liked, athletic, musical…whatever I wanted to try and do, I just did it. Generally speaking I did it very, very well at that. I found that it was true; if I worked hard enough at it, I could do it. This continued right in to college…then the Army…and out in to the “real world”.
Well, sort of.
I took that attitude in to just about everything I did. That nothing was out of my reach. Nothing was out of anyone’s reach. If you couldn’t do it, you weren’t working hard enough.
Then, a funny thing happened on my smug road to moral superiority. I started to realize that I wasn’t as able to do anything and everything I wanted…no matter how hard I tried. That as a human being we have limits. We have things we are good at and things we aren’t good at…our strengths are balanced by our weaknesses. It’s not a lesson I learned early, so I think it was harder for me to learn late. The great irony is that I didn’t learn it on a ball court, or in competitions of different types. I didn’t learn it failing as the last out of a big game and I didn’t learn it when I got knocked down in the ring. It didn’t come by being unpopular or any of the ways that it normally comes for people.
For me, it came with women and relationships. And not in HS and College…for me it came AFTER all of that.
No matter how hard I tried to be in a successful relationship (which is something that I really, really friggin’ wanted after seeing just about everyone I knew fail at it) it seemed the harder I tried, the worse I got at it. I would wind up in some of the situations that I described earlier only to fall off that horse and get on one that was just as bad, if not worse. And I would get warning signs…oh GOD would I get warning signs. But to me it was just …well, conventional wisdom is for conventional people. That’s what I would say.
The one great (truly great by whatever standard you could want to hold it up to) relationship I had when I was much, much younger? Well, let’s just say that at that point I was so full of myself that I fucked it up. Totally took it for granted.
The one that I thought was it and I was all kinds of settled in to? Pulled out from under me.
Now a days, I’ve realized quite a bit about the error of my ways. Some of the highlights?
1) I liked the drama more than I care to admit. Something about that feeling of working for something made it more real. The risk/reward ratio that came with fighting and arguing and really fucking struggling…well, that’s love, right? You have to FIGHT for love…you have to really want it. You should expect trouble and turn that in to mistrust so that you can fight and let it out and…yeah, ok. Kind of umm..heh heh…you see it’s funny. I think I totally misunderstood what you meant by that “fight for love”…oh, you said WORK for love…mea culpa.
2) Great sex is not a great relationship. This one really really friggin threw me for a loop. Did you know that it’s actually kind of easy to have just flat out amazing sex with someone in a high drama scenario? All that energy and tension and passion from such artificial and superficial means…wait? What? Artificial? Superficial? That’s BAD? DAMN. And just to put a fine point on it; you CAN INDEED have amazing sex with someone that is NOT constantly drowning you in drama…but you need to open yourself up and be ungodly vulnerable with them. That vulnerability? Yeah, that REPLACES the insanity as the new risk/reward, creates the same level of intensity without the unhealthy side effects, and allows for sex that is just as, if not MORE, intense. I hate that this one seemed like someone speaking Gaelic to me.
3) Extreme and constant highs and lows DO NOT a good relationship make. There is a middle ground…and if there isn’t, much like a good economy NEEDS a strong middle class, well…there will be a revolution, baby. It’s a high, constant middle ground with good sweet peaks and well handled inevitable lows that are not the norm that you need to have. Again, doesn’t this seem self evident? But how many people miss this? I did.
4) Take everything you think you know about relationships, especially how you’re judging who you get in to them with…and throw it out the fucking window. We all have these checklists of what we want…and if you’re having good relationships but just not clicking with the ONE, then good for you. It’s working. If you are having my life, IT IS NOT WORKING. So instead of just allowing yourself to go along on cruise control, STOP. Just fucking stop it, you are kidding yourself. It’s not an accident that you wind up in bad relationships…and in admitting that you have to first look at how exactly you are getting in to these realtionships. NOT what you do once you are in them. Numbers 1-3 are all AFTER you get in to it…what is it that you are attracted to? That is the nut that cracks the whole thing wide open. But how many people, much like the me I’m writing about, will actually tell you they know what they are doing… when in fact they clearly do not? We CLING to this like a crackpipe. DO NOT think you are taking it away. We have to throw it away.
So what does all of this MEAN? What tangible change does this cornucopia of knowledge do for me in my every day existence?
Well for one, I’ve found that despite everything that has happened, I don’t feel quite so …what’s the word? Reactionary. With all of this realization that came before, during, and after exFiance I find that it feels like I’ve stepped out of a pattern…a loop that I was in is gone and I’m not a rat on a wheel chasing cheese that gives me heartburn and I don’t like the taste of anyhow.
Also, I am wide open to the possibilities. I don’t feel like this knowledge restricts me. The idea that all of what I was doing, including the ex, didn’t work out for radically different reasons doesn’t make me feel like the world is smaller. It makes it feel bigger. And I’m not just referring to relationships.
Amazingly enough, learning that I am limited and that there are things that I can’t just pick up and do has made me feel capable of more. Like there are more possibilities out there. It’s a pretty bad ass feeling…
Then again, it could just be that it’s spring.