Monday, May 25, 2009
I see it often, in real life, on blogs, via email: people making decisions to change something about themselves, something significant.
I'm not talking about getting your hair cut, bleaching your teeth excessively, or trying a new style of clothes. I'm talking about a lifestyle decision.
Recent ones I've heard in the past 2 weeks:
"I'm going to stop sleeping around with guys who are bad for me."
"I'm going to lose weight."
"I'm going to go back to school."
"I'm going to find a second job."
"I'm going to move to New York." (times 15 people)
"I'm going to pay off my debt."
Some of these, on the surface, are really important changes. The difficulty that I have with all of these statements is that they have a fleetingly temporary feel to them. It's not about permanent change, not internally, but about making a change to some part of themselves they don't like RIGHT NOW.
When I've changed, it was more adaptation than an actual change. The changes I made were not forward-going but even backward-going. I didn't change something for tomorrow and on, I adapted myself so that I could look back and see the bad parts of me as temporary then. The adapted me is the real me, the permanent me, the me that I want to be and that works on me.
When I gained a ton of weight (thank you, long term live-in significant other), that was not me. I didn't decide one day to just lose weight, I decided that I was fat. "What happened to me, this isn't me." I returned to my preferred weight quickly, because that is who I am. That is who I was. This fat, digusting bloke was not me. I'm not sure who he was. Maybe one of the many neighbors I have. So I adapted permanently.
I have friends who are in a boatload of debt, but they're not ready to adapt back to their pre-debt selves. It's sad, actually. "I'm not going to Starbucks anymore." No, but you're going to keep paying $1200 a year for cable TV. It's like trying to take a shortcut through a public park in your Hummer: you'll do it successfully a few times, but then you'll be back to driving the long way. Real change isn't about tomorrow, it's about yesterday. Adapt by going back to who you were before you became the person you are now.
And then there is moving. People feel that moving brings change their lives, but in reality it just causes a rethinking of daily processes: where you eat, where you sleep, where you drink, where you shop. A city doesn't make you. Your job doesn't make you. Your friends don't, your lovers don't. It's not the clothes you wear or the realization that you always need to have a warm body next to you. What makes me, what keeps me the most sane person you'll meet, is that what makes me is the path I am on. Location means nothing. People, even, mean nothing.
I like the path I am on. I like where it took me, even the bumps and potholes and veers to the left or right. Not one thing in my past is anything more than the path I continue on. I'm here, aren't I? Moving won't change my path. It might mean a new job or new friends or a new lover or a new apartment, but the actual path is not transitioned. It's still a solid line that I can trace from where I was to where I am. The future is about the line, not any single point on the line.
Lovers. Sex. Fucking. Oops-who-are-you? Here's a big one for me. I am a complete manwhore who turns down sex more than some of the prettiest boys in Chicago. I love a naked woman, I detest a boring nude girl. I seek out sex as nothing different than a cup of coffee or a trip to ALDI: they're activities that I do when I need something for me, and I have something for the person who can provide it. At ALDI I trade a few dollar bills for cheap bologna. ALDI and I both profit from that transaction.
Sex is the same: I have something I need, you have something you need. There's nothing immoral about both of us making a decision to take care of the other person's needs, but we're doing it for ourselves. We're selfish fucks (literally).
The problem I have with all of my friends who are trying to cut down on sex is that they're mixing up the act of sex with the parts of themselves they need to adapt from, taking many years backwards in steps to find their true selves. Are you hooking up with people because you're drinking? When was the last time you DIDN'T do that? Go backwards. I don't pick up women when I drink, or when they drink. Rarely ever. A first date can end up in my bed or hers, but a first date comes AFTER the first time we meet, usually. Because I've gotten to know them, and because we're relatively clear-headed, sex is just a matter of an exchange of needs with another individual seeking the same.
Once alcohol is out of the picture, the second biggest problem I see with sex is the self-destructive friends (I would say 90% of them) who just need someone in their lives to feel a sense of completion. It could be a fuck buddy, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a side lover, or a bunch of one-night-stands. You can't change yourself from this once you have the feeling of loneliness if you don't have someone you can text message at 1am to come over. You have to step backwards through your path and discover why this is the case. The path we take can sometimes bounce in reverse significantly, but it's still a path. Find what causes you this ill thinking or emotional emptiness, and adapt back to before that point. It's just a point on a path, it can be retraced.
I went to see one of my best friends last night, a lesbian girl with a ton of headstrong attitude. She missed her lover, who was out of town on business. We generally hang out when she's alone. She doesn't need me there, but she likes me there. She does fine when she's alone, too. She always asks me why I don't sleep around more, why I don't date women more than once or twice in general. For me, the path is important, but the points along that path are ones I don't want too many of. It causes clutter in my head, in my heart, even in my soul. I know a great many wonderful people who regret so many points in their past that they can't look at the point they're on now, or the next point in their life upcoming.
I don't regret things, not much. Regret means you wish you could go back and remove the point, or change the path to another point in time. We can't do that. The only way to overcome regret is to track backwards to the place where you feel you made a regretful error and fix it. Running around in circles means you will still see the point of regret over and over and over. Running in a new direction means you'll still see that regret when you look back over your shoulder. It doesn't disappear, and you can never remove it entirely without tracking back and taking a closer look.
So I will never change, ever. I will adapt myself to a previous place, a previous person I was at a previous time. To do so means real work, sometimes traveling back over roads we've long since forgotten, finding people who were us but are unrecognizable to us. I've done it often in my life: "Holy cow, I was like this guy?" I was that guy. I passed him on my way backwards in time, in life, and discovered the guy I used to be that was more like me than I am today.
I don't regret. I don't fear the future or the past. I don't decide to change myself one day and then hate myself for not doing it 6 months later. I move forward in time, but sometimes I circle back to a place where my life took a shift to the wrong. I address it, figure out why I did it, and then move forward again to a different point.
I am this path. This is who I am. I love the adventure, the excitement, the boring days, the days of lust and love and loneliness. I love the frustrations, the angry moments, the feelings of sadness and gladness. It's not any one point, or any ten points, it's the entire arc and curve and circles and loops and dives and jumps that I call the path. This is my path, and I'm glad yours intersected along the way.