The last few days, sulking and feeling a bit sorry for myself because I placed apparently too many expectations somewhere other than on myself, I spent a lot of time working – and then reading as well as talking to friends. It also never hurts to throw in a healthy, large dose of watching wall-to-wall news programs (like Al Jazeera English) – as much as comparatives can be ridiculous, it can put the little stuff into perspective, e.g. “Boo hoo – he didn’t call when he said he would” versus “Oh, a jetliner disappeared and no one knows anything about it” or how many refugees leave Syria each day or how many people lose their lives randomly at the hands of senseless violence, civil war, starvation/famine, etc. etc. The list goes on endlessly. I cannot realistically compare anything about my cushy life with the struggles people have all over the world every day. I have my own struggles and trials, but in the big picture – and we can always stand to see the big picture, even if it renders us completely inert and helpless – this is nothing.
A really close friend and I discussed the feeling of how tiring it can be to have to be completely self-sufficient. Being single you cannot rely on someone to carry even a small part of the burden – and even if there are rewards to being independent and knowing you can do everything on your own, it would be nice to relax and know you did not have to. She said it would help a lot just to have a really close friend who was close enough that you probably talk almost every day, get together several times a week, and when one of you forgets something at the store and half-mentions it, the other hears and picks up whatever that item was at the store – because they anticipate your needs. (I think this happens more often in strong female friendships than in any other kind of relationship, although I have been blessed in the past to have very detail-oriented and attentive relationship partners who may not have anticipated my needs, but they knew what kinds of things made my day, e.g. fresh pineapple almost every day, coming home with flowers now and again just to make the house feel like spring, etc.)
In any case, in the absence of this, it is easy, as I wrote earlier, to become a bit jaded. Expectations have been ground down from the stress (not unlike gnashing and grinding your teeth in your sleep – you don’t consciously feel the grinding and wearing away of the important stuff – standards or teeth, depending on which analogy you’re following – until there’s almost nothing left). Then we accept things we might never have accepted before – the standards have eroded, we convince ourselves our choices are fewer, we make excuses or extend too many “benefit of the doubt” waivers. We have experience after experience, hoping for something different, but it is never different as long as we stick around for what is just lukewarm. That got me to thinking – when has any hesitant, reticent, lukewarm approach or feeling led to something good? It is not just relationships. It’s everything.
A non-romance example of this is something I wrote about before, about attending law school – I knew even before I started that I was not committed. I convinced myself I had reasons to be there – but I did not get into the school I originally wanted, was at the tail-end of a relationship I was trying to keep going with for some reason and it was all just “meh”, and I was unhappy. I thought a different school would help – but no, it was just that I did not want that life.
The same friend with whom I have been having this exchange discussed the principle behind the book He’s Just Not That Into You – nothing revolutionary but a good primer in learning the principle that when it comes to most things – there is not really a grey area. I realize that I operate and function quite frequently in grey areas – but when it comes to feelings, the deep down, gut instinct – we know there is a yes or a no. We just second guess and throw a million variables into the situations we are in and decisions we make, which may add nuance (because life is complicated and there are extenuating circumstances) but also often add unneeded layers that cloud our judgment and keep us from seeing the truth. Quite often, it is obvious that there is NOT a grey area. We just don’t want to see the extreme of black or white.
After our discussion, which I took to heart, I stumbled on an article in, of all places, The Daily HiiT blog (a workout site), that hits the core point more eloquently and profanely – exactly the way we need to hear it. We see ambiguity because we want to be wanted or liked. But there is no ambiguity. (Here is the original blog post source.)
If you (or the person you are dating – or by extension, your career choice or academic choice or living situation or whatever it is) are not exclaiming, “Hell yeah” or, even more emphatically, “Fuck yes!” – You have your answer. It’s no. Accept it. Move on.
Taking this a step further, I recently read an article about getting past excuses. We create a litany of excuses (if only we spent half as much time creating something useful…) so as to avoid doing or committing to something – and this article is a great roadmap for extinguishing excuses and taking action:
“All of my excuses turned out to be blessings in disguise. There’s always a gap between “what I have now” and “what I would like.”
The gap is all of your excuses. All it takes to close the gap is to be creative and work your way through the excuses. I repeat: this is ALL IT TAKES.”
But – I think the first hurdle can be covered by the “Fuck Yes” test – is it something you really feel passionately and want to do? Are you making excuses because you’re scared (in which case you probably do want to move forward and do whatever it is you fear) or because you really just do not want to do whatever it is (and were somehow led to think you did)?