How I Got Over

There must be someone smarter than me, more scientifically minded, who has done a thorough study of this issue.  I should find that person, and quote him/her extensively.  But I’m not going to.  I’m going to sit here with my avacado and opine without the benifit of scientific evidence or a study to back me up.  This, my friends, is going to be straight up anecdotal. 

The assertion that words matter isn’t going to be a new one.  They are the means by which we interact with and understand the world.  A select few get past the words-only forms of intercourse, and the importance of the communication that takes place through touch should not be underestimated.   But mostly, we fight with words, we promise with words, we agree and we contract and we explain ourselves and we share and we grow and it all happens through language.  I am in awe, always, at the power of language. 

But that’s all external.  What about our words and the internal life?  After all, doesn’t most of our thinking come to us in words?  When you look in the mirror and find a new line that you didn’t notice the day before, the image is just the image.  It’s the words that carry the judgement.   Our opinions are in our words.  The images exist without judgement, it takes words to make blue the wrong color of blue. 

Once upon a time, I was dating a man.  He was an interesting man.  A strange, unfamiliar man full of football and fishing who made me laugh sometimes and made me cry sometimes and seemed (at the time) like the whole world.  It didn’t work.  Of course it didn’t work.  But my heart and my head weren’t in agreement on that.  My head was sure that it ought to be able to corral my heart by berating it for its irrationality.  Or more precicely, my neo cortex had a good explanation for what should happen and my limbic brain, upon seeing his shirt comingled with my shirts, said “but I love him.”  On it went.  Head: this isn’t worth it.  Heart: but I love him.  Head: not worth it.  Heart: but…  love, damn it. 

The pathway between seeing the shirt and the voice that said “I love him” was as well worn as a deer path in the direction of a salt lick. 

I did stop loving him, and I did it deliberately.  I didn’t pull off this feat of sensibility with my logic or my rationality or with any kind of evidence.  I just stopped saying “I love him” to myself when I saw the red shirt.  I picked neutral over affirmative.  I’d start with the cascade of those three words “I…” and I’d divert.  “…see a red shirt.”  Oddly, it didn’t take that long.  Of course, he helped me out by saying something completely assinine and that was the end of that, but even before his ill-considered mouth, I broke the grip he had on my emotional state by changing the words I used when I talked to myself about him. 

You don’t have to change your mind.  You have to first become aware of the things that you say to yourself.  You have to hear them, really hear them and ask questions like “Is this true?” or  “Would I say this to someone I respected?” or  “Would I like it if someone said this to a person I cared about?”  You can’t change it if you don’t know it’s there. 

Then you have to replace the words.   Or just stop saying them.   “I…”  <insert sigh>  “oh, nevermind.” 

This is another one of those things where we mistakenly think there is a how.  There isn’t.  It’s a bianary system.  You’re either on or off, you either do or you don’t.  You wake up one morning and you decide this isn’t working, and then you stop.  You stop incrementally, but it’s the decision that counts, not the speed of your implementation.  You’re allowed to stop telling yourself something and then backslide and then stop again.  We all do it, these things take practice.  It took weeks, if not months of concerted effort to short circuit that voice that told me I loved the football fisherman – I’d been telling myself that I loved him for at least a year at that point.   But if I hadn’t, I might be married to him and just as miserable as I was dating him.  By that measure, the time it took was totally worth it. 

So there you go.  Change your words, don’t worry about changing your mind. 

How I Got Over

what they don’t tell you…

It isn’t like you’d listen even if someone tried, not when you’re 16 and so certain that there are right answers and wrong answers and you are supremely confident of your ability to differentiate between the two.

Now, at the grand old age of 35, I am slowly giving in to the reality that there are only costs and consequences.  Right and wrong are only available in the extremes: hurting things that are less powerful than you, stealing, drive by shootings.  Most of our choices don’t fall into those categories.  Most of our choices are between decaf and regular, dinner out or dinner in.  Those choices aren’t particularly problematic either.  I mean really, beyond the fact that our days are like slips of rice paper – inconsequential until taken in aggregate – the hundreds of choices we make every day don’t matter.

But between the extreme and the inconsequential, there are choices about love and relationships, about who we’re going to be to the people we meet and how we’re going to handle ourselves.  And the “right” answer to those questions, to what loyalty looks like in practice, to how compassion is to be put into play, to how far you go or what you owe to another person, those answers evolve.  Sometimes by the second.  Opinions on the subject are multiple, but the consequences, those are yours and yours alone.   And maybe the consequences are not as permanent as a murder, but words are permanent for as long as they are remembered.  What you do matters, and it matters profoundly.

I’ve been vacillating.  Wildly.  Silently.  I’ve given up several times a day over the past week, but it always comes back to this, to the things that seems true beyond the facts of the matter.   Giving up on a friend is a sad choice of last resort.  Shouldn’t there be someone for everyone?  Someone that believes positive outcomes are possible and will stand without judgement as a witness, as a “withness,” not to do the work for the person in question, but in quiet support of that work?  How can you look at someone within the boundaries of non-psychotic/sociopathic humanity and say that they deserve to be left to rot in their own limitations? How do you just give up on someone?  It doesn’t compute.

Still, its one thing to think it through, to arrive at a conclusion that has the resonance of  truth and agree with yourself.  This is how it should be.  It is quite another to live it.

I’ve been on the down side of this circle.  The people who let me work it out for myself and maintained a sort of bland attitude about how I wouldn’t always be exactly where I was and that I’d get back to good in my own way in my own time…  their conviction that it would get better in combination with their non-judgement of when or how I got there…  what a relief.  Both the company and the expectation-free faith (if there is such a thing.)

And why should I not be that for someone else?  I can’t think of a good reason…

what they don’t tell you…

Control

Excuse the writing theory for a minute…

Even in the business world, people talk about story.  It is all about being able to predict what comes next and (in fiction) enjoying the surprise when you have gotten lost in a red herring, but you suddenly arrive at the end and everything shifts into perspective and suddenly, all is clear.  For an example, look at Professor Snape.

We all like to be able to predict what comes next.  Even those surprises that we enjoy must have an antecedent.  We are most comfortable as readers and in our real lives when even the unpredictable can be revisited with an eye towards cause and effect.  Everything has to fit into the narrative framework.  Changes must be earned, there has to be a fall before we can rise.  It is intrinsic to our expectations of the world and our person-hood within the world.    We view our lives as narratives and (unfortunately) some of us hang on to those narratives with a death grip so tight that, when something comes along that doesn’t fit with our narrative, we excise it with a ruthlessness that is as unconscious as it is definitive.

And because we want to predict the outcome, we do what we can to establish control.  Some people turn to religion as a way to force their worlds into cause and effect.  I grew up with the type: if we just shut out enough of the larger world, than nothing bad will happen.  If we’re good enough, it will all be okay.  If we pray hard enough, we’ll be able to sway the future in our preferred direction.  There are a million ways we try to establish control.   (By the way, if you are trying to tie the book to a real-life experience, growing up in a conservative christian community is it.)

Me?  I’ve given up on thinking I can control the external world.  Instead, I’m trying hard to control myself.  How much external input am I willing to internalize?  How far under my skin will I allow someone to get?  How much distance can I put between myself and my attachment to the outcome, to my opinions?  How patient can I be when it comes to letting people and situations tell me what I need to know?  How much neutrality can I hold on to?  How far can I take the understanding that it just isn’t about me?

I like brie too much for anorexia.  I hate sweating too much to take on a marathon.  I think too much to get back into organized religion.  Nope, I’ll be over here trying to exert all the control I’ve got governing my little mental domain.

Control

Things to Do

So there I was, searching Indeed.com for job postings with the words “creative writing” in them and came across someone looking for a ghostwriter.  Most of these ghostwriter positions are a little baffling…  why would anyone want to ghost a “spicy romance” only to hand the story off to someone else?  That makes no sense to me.

But then there was a guy looking for someone to ghost a love letter for him to a woman he was afraid of losing.  That may almost be sweeter than writing it yourself…  I’m not quite ready to join Elance and join the crowd of people vying for this guy’s $30 to write a love letter, but I’ll offer myself up to y’all for the same purpose.  Need a love letter written?  I think I can manage that.

Things to Do

Welcoming 2013

…with a not-so-welcome virus – my roommate says I sound like a transvestite – and Miss Marple.

Thank G-d for Netflix, for I think I might find myself deeply suicidal if I were ringing in the new year with commercials for depends and kinder, gentler catheters.

Seriously.  I’m in my 30’s.  Not that I’d want to be out drunk somewhere with drooping false eyelashes, red lipstick clinging to the corners of my mouth, and some guy accusing me of being a lesbian because I had the bad manners to not want to see him naked.  But a game of scrabble, perhaps?

Blame the two year old and his germs.  Not my two year old, heavens no.  A borrowed 2 year old with snot pouring out of his nostrils.  “Green blood, mommy,” he said.  “Green blood.”  Apparently, when you’re two, every bodily fluid is blood.

<sigh>

There’s always next year.  Here’s to a rhino-virus-free 2013.

Welcoming 2013

Long Ball

I am, of course, using this term all wrong.  Or at least mostly wrong.  Long ball is a football thing (which automatically means you should start laughing) and it’s about trying to get the ball down the field to the goal post.

Which is sort of what I mean when I remind myself to play long ball.  But what I am telling myself is to stop playing like today is the only day and that all of my answers need to happen right now and all of my feel better had better show up immediately or my little world is going to crumble before me and nothing will ever happen again and … the anxiety is already showing up just from typing that.

When you’re playing long ball, you can ignore the little ups and downs, a few yards lost here, an inch gained there.  Because you’re playing for where you want to be, not where you are.

And don’t ask me how this fits into the aforementioned radical acceptance, show up, business.  Maybe because you can’t get to the goal if you don’t show up first and you can’t show up if you are so busy spending energy on the shoulds that live in the gap between what you are and what you want to be.

Also, no one is saying that I’m going to get to the goalposts, just that I need reminding that I’m playing for them.

Long Ball