Consistency

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One of the biggest but toughest things I attempt in life is to remain consistent. But as I have written about (and thought about even more)…. Consistency isn’t perceived as consistent for everyone.

With some people, I am steadfast and completely consistent in my actions and words. With others, I come across as a total flake and don’t follow through on things – and even then it comes down to so many factors. Was it important to me in the first place? Probably less so than it was for the person who was expecting something from me. Was I in a place where I could deliver? Probably not.

“Someday is today”

But I am becoming more aware of my behaviors and the mismatches in what I say and do – and to whom I make statements that will come across as most inconsistent. Where I am particularly bad – and selfish – is when I tell people that things will calm down in a few weeks or months and then I will have time for them. This is flat-out wrong. It is possible that in a few weeks I will have more time because X will end. But I am 99.8% likely to take on something new in the intervening time, so by the time those weeks pass, I will – once again – not be free. And it is not as though I am prioritizing one friend over another. No, I am prioritizing work or study over the friend, and this all depends on where the friend is in the world. If seeing them would involve my having to travel, I don’t have the energy for it any more… so I don’t do it. It’s shitty – but this is just how and who I am now. I need to make my words match up with what I do and want to do.

And I need to do this now because, as one of those hopeless, simplistic, but nevertheless kind of thought-provoking, internet memes chides: “Someday is today”. Yes, all those things we postpone and put off – all those “somedays” need to happen right now. I am a master of “I’ll do it later”. There are so many ways I have fixed this, so many things I am willing to do or not do, let go of or hold onto now in a more decisive way than I ever thought I’d be capable of. But there are still plenty of gaps in my seizing today, particularly when it is uncomfortable to do so. Sure, some of it would be easy to remedy: do something uncomfortable and unlike myself. But some is not as easy, especially when it involves other people and potentially hurting them, confusing them. The alternative, though, is to slowly succumb to the erosion of having them in my life, letting them believe I am okay with how their presence and words affect me.

Percolating

“People would have fewer pains if – God knows why they are made this way – their imaginations were not so busily engaged in recalling past trials rather than bearing an indifferent present.” -Goethe

I thought a lot about the pervasive and persistent influence of the past, its people and its events recently because I have been confronted by words of anger, annoyance and frustration regarding distant and not-distant pasts, but I find I don’t believe that the anger or annoyance is as real or as fervent as claimed. The purported anger and annoyance leads to behaviors I myself might have engaged in at some point, following curiosities that are best left put to rest, leaving all options open… who knows why?

In some distant past, I didn’t love myself enough to leave the past well enough alone, opening the door wider to those elements that made me feel more alive, even if it was only because it was making me feel more annoyed. As though by knowingly inflicting pain and hurt I could at least pat myself on the back for feeling something. But that time in my life is long gone. Even if I understand it in others as viscerally and completely as though it were me living through these contradictions of words and action, I say if something is that annoying, close the door. Lock the door. Don’t open it and explore the knocking that keeps getting louder. Without going into details, which are irrelevant, it occurred to me finally that these deeply human but very dangerous questions have long been out of my life, so I don’t need them snaking their way into my life through someone else. I want to be able to know that when someone close to me tells me something, it is the unnuanced truth, not a sanitized version that will sound best for the therapist – that the actions following the words are not going to be completely contradictory. Ultimately I don’t have time – or trust – when faced with the mismatch.

Cheerleaders or bullies

A recent Tweet from an acquaintance posed the question: “What could we achieve if our inner voices were cheerleaders and not bullies?” and I pulled that out to retweet.

This question is applicable in so many phases of life, whether in love, in learning or in work, it is also applicable to how we live, what we accept as a part of our living, and the people we surround ourselves with. We can be bullied by our own inability to speak up for ourselves, by being silent when we are dissatisfied with or hurt by what we hear or receive (or don’t) from others.

And expecting consistency from others, and demanding it from oneself, is a place to start.

“reality is only interaction”

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“Probability does not refer to the evolution of matter in itself. It relates to the evolution of those specific quantities we interact with. Once again, the profoundly relational nature of the concept we use to organize the world emerges.” -from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli

Principles of physics come to mind for me frequently when I think of connections with people. It may be illogical, but somehow the way things are described in physics overlaps how things unfold. Do I feel this way because I am older, and I want to see connections where there are none? Physics is bound by rules, and connections between people are not, necessarily. But as Rovelli states in explaining concepts of physics, “the profoundly relational nature of the concept we use to organize the world emerges”. Every concept seems to come back to the principle that everything happens or is real because of how it interacts with other things. “Or does it mean, as it seems to me, that we must accept the idea that reality is only interaction?”

Reality is relational. Relationships, obviously, then are relational, as denoted in the word itself. We choose when, where, with whom, and how often to interact to create our reality and the relationships in that reality. And we make choices in allowing feeling to form or grow. We shut some things down; we slow other things down; we accelerate some things; we destroy others. Our reactions are individual, but also mutual and sometimes collective. And these interactions are sparked, changed, moved, freed by all these other interactions. Nothing much happens without interaction.

“The difference between past and future exists only when there is heat. The fundamental phenomenon that distinguishes the future from the past is the fact that heat passes from things that are hotter to things that are colder.”-from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli

And in our immediate moment – the now – in our interaction, skin to skin, we keep each other warm?

Present possibilities

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How foolish you can feel after everything is said and done. First that you let yourself walk down the path, however gingerly, with however much trepidation felt and caution you thought you exhibited, in the first place. Winding up steep hills, when suddenly, the path ends, and you’re lost and deep into the woods. It’s getting dark, and what shadows and figures you can faintly make out are unfamiliar. How can you not want to cry, get angry and overreact in frustration? It’s temporary, as all things are. Light will return. You will find your way back, the biggest, self-effacing wave crashes over you, leaving you feeling more foolish than ever for the overly emotional, panicked reaction. But how could it have been otherwise? It is as though, suddenly, you wandered off the safe, clear paths to which you were accustomed. The sense of adventure, openness to feeling new things, awakened. You were confident you could keep your footing, but a whirlwind of different circumstances conspired to… knock you on your ass. In hindsight the whole thing is embarrassing and laughable. Oh, the misguided, animated imagination, once aroused.

And how far away from these minor misadventures you can so quickly feel. One moment fretting and regretting, hot tears welling up as you ask yourself what you were thinking going up there, climbing deeper into the woods. The ground underfoot covered in damp moss, becoming increasingly swamplike. The very next moment, feet on the ground in cities new and old, concrete and cobblestone, breathing in the world of literature read long ago, reminiscing about people you once knew, tasting everything like it’s the first time – and sometimes it is. There are always the phantoms of the past haunting, keeping certain addictions flickering, but mostly faded into some archive of past transgressions. They return sometimes, and it is almost a relief in some way to feel the pounding familiarity push-push-pushing its way in. As if the past can breathe new life into the future, and push you on your way to the new.

But what of the limbo of the present moment? Or, as Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians propose regarding time: it’s all happening at once in different dimensions: past, present, future, life, death.

It is within these present moments, when the mind still wanders back to what might have been (Kierkegaard’s ‘future you will never have’), when your guard should be up most of all, but isn’t. In one moment or another, roaming in the Baixa or Belém or Katowice or Kraków, dredging up images of the dreary recent past, only to live moments of Invisible Cities as though they were almost your own:

“But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time” … or more fitting, a “city where the foreigner hesitating between two (wo)men always encounters a third”.

The present opens and widens the world and its possibilities again, anew. You regain footing, and it is then that the possibilities present themselves.

Past is past

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In 1987 I met a girl who would be, for many years, my best friend. Like all teen relationships, it could be emotional and rocky. Eventually we grew apart, as people do. Back then, though, even after graduation, I still subscribed to the idea that friends are always friends – not in the sense that you remain active in each other’s lives. No, I felt that the love and care that one felt for one’s friends in youth was particularly important – the intensity of the way we feel about everything when we are young almost demands that the love is residual. Again, it need not be active. This friend and I fell out of touch, even though I did try to stay in contact foolishly. All I wanted all along was to let her know that I loved her unconditionally. I learned after silence set in, after I’d heard some unpleasant tales about things happening in her life, after she had changed her address and my letters were returned to me unopened that she had some fear or perception that I judged her, that I thought she was a “fuck up”.

I have written about all of this before – extensively. For ten years after the silence started, I tried to let go but never really had closure, so she haunted my dreams for years. I occasionally attempted to find out only that she was okay (by writing to her parents, who never replied).

In the last ten years or so, she and it faded away. Life marches on, and I did finally let go. She has no digital or online presence, which does not much matter to me except that virtually all the people with whom we went to school have come online, found me and want to know how she is doing. They assume because we were so close in youth that I might be the only person to know how she is. Little do they know, they have a better chance of running into her and finding out something about her than I do.

All of this is immaterial because it has nothing to do with my current life. Except for whatever reason, I happened to look at her mother’s Facebook page recently – which did not exist many years ago when I last thought of her. I had a look at her page and the pictures there (one of which is a two-year-old picture of my friend; seeing the picture nearly took my breath away somehow – to see this person who had been so central to my existence 20+ years ago but who simply does not exist to me for all intents and purposes. It affected me in ways that no other “absence” of that kind has).

I never assumed that there was any negativity or bad blood between her family and me. I took a chance and sent her mother a Facebook friend request. She apparently rejected it in less than 24 hours. Even though it has been nearly 20 years since I saw or talked to her family or her, I suppose the passive rejection still hurt the 13-year-old me but also definitively shut the door on the idea of resolution or closure… or most importantly, just knowing that my former friend is okay (I suppose the picture her mother posted is the closest I will get). It could be selfish that I am so concerned about knowing. I am sure my friend has her own personal and perfectly legitimate reasons for leaving the past completely behind, and I respect that – now more than ever. At the same time, I wish I could tell her – or that she just knew – how dear she was to me, how much I loved her, how much potential and intelligence and “vision” I saw in her. Hopefully the life she leads is guided by love, potential, intelligence and vision that are inherently hers.