Friday, June 19, 2009
I fell asleep last night completely by mistake EARLY. I'm still on London time, physically.
Those who know me personally know my watches and clocks are set to GMT: Greenwich Mean Time. It's about 6 hours ahead of Chicago. It's hard for me to actually know the current time of wherever I'm at because it doesn't matter. I tend to go by the sun's position during the day (sun is above me, time for "lunch"). When it comes to meeting people wherever I am at, I give them a range of times based on GMT and let them figure it out. In Chicago, though, I do set my phone clock to local time, because my friends hate when I tell them 6pm (or 18:00) and that's noon for them.
This morning I woke up at 4:30am (10:30am GMT). I decided to head into the office, sign paychecks (my one really good talent), put a sign on the door that said "Grab your check and take off at noon" and met up with a friend for breakfast at 6am. It was a fast day. My friend happens to be a woman who is in the same industry as I am in. There are about 32 people in the world that I am aware of that do what I do. 3 are women. 1 is sexually ambivalent, we're not sure if they're a he or a she, and we're not interested in digging deeper.
The woman, who I will call Cass, has done the same job as I for about 10 years longer. She's pushing 50, I would assume, but her cosmetic surgery keeps her face looking like she's in her 30s, and her body is rock solid. We generally only hang out at odd hours. Our favorite thing to do together is to eat a slab of protein and go rock climbing (the real rocks, not the fake ones at a gym). We've both injured ourselves numerous times, but thankfully our high metabolism and strong physical constitutions allow us to heal faster than most.
Today I noticed she was online (it's rare) so I popped her a question at 5:30 and asked what country she was in. Conveniently, she was in Chicago, her base of operations in the States. We decided to meet at our "secret diner" (I have a lot of secret places that I don't share with my out-of-industry friends) and have some greasy slabs of protein and maybe go and navigate some of the city if the weather held up.
I haven't seen Cass in over 10 months. The last time we met we were competing on a job pretty much against one another. This happens in my industry. Picture the guys from Gross Pointe Blank who had a friendly animosity towards one-another. That's how my trade is: we're enemies on the job, friends after work. That job ended up being profitable and successful for both of us, which isn't that rare when you consider that each of our clients had completely different goals in mind. I like that kind of work.
So Cass pulls up in her anonymous, easy to miss 10 year old car (a staple in our industry) and parks right behind me. She looks fantastic, as always. There's something incredible sexual about a woman of her age who walks with confidence, is built like a tank under her skin, but seems frail and lithe from the surface of her body's appearance. I always smile when I see her.
Cass is Euro-bred, so our welcoming gesture is always a kiss. There's never been more than a greeting kiss. From what I know, she's been with half of my other competitors, a common element when a job is over and one of your friends or foes happens to be a member of the opposite sex. James Bond (not what I do, mind you) always sleeps with the enemy woman or the consort on a job. Anyone who works in international circles on short term projects is familiar with the open-sexuality of both men and women.
We talk about upcoming projects, compare notes on our recent successes, discuss the intricacies of international law and financial matters, laugh about the destructive personalities of some others in our trade, and generally have a great time. We talk about a common topic thread of ours: the lives of loners.
I don't feel lonely often. I know I did about 4 years ago, but it passed when I attempted my hand at a serious relationship and realized that it's almost impossible for me to give a women 100% of what she'll need. They're out there, but they're rare birds that don't cross my path that often. Cass asks me if there is any ONE special person in my life, and I admit that I'm conversing with someone who I am attracted to, but that the likelihood of a serious deep-down boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is closer to zero percent than 50 percent. Lately I've been pushing away people who obviously want true love, soul mate unions and/or marriage ahead.
Cass has a guy in every port. Most guys in my industry have a woman in every port. It's actually very normal for the jobs we do. We find ourselves in the same towns here and there, and many professionals will work hard for the job cycle and then take a month off and shack up with someone, letting them know that the relationship is temporary. I go against the flow even here, not being able to successfully juggle more than one lover at a time.
She asks me why I didn't pursue the woman I felt I could openly and fully love those years ago. I told her that she's blind to the reality of 99.9% of the citizens of the world: they need roots, not just their own roots but to intermingle their roots with the roots of their significant others. I have no roots, not even my small apartment and old cat. My cat has traveled with me before when I have long contracts (anything over 10 days). My apartment can go into full shut-down mode, with only the housekeeper visiting thrice a week to dust up and make sure there's no problems.
"Why would that stop you from dating?" Live moves too quickly for me to actually get to know someone well enough. "You have a lot of time." Never in the same city for long. "There's always here, Chicago." Chicago is my love, my mistress, my wife. She'd be a jealous woman if I focused on one lucky lady. "You need to think about the future, too." That's true.
She's right. The day will come when my body and mind decide it's time to move on. Cass is a unique lady, able to keep her mind and body sharp even as age robs most people of their abilities. I may be just like her in that regard, but I have other goals and dreams for the future. Children? Maybe, but not certain. A farmhouse near a river with fields of grain and cattle? Definitely an option. A place to stay in a variety of urban cities? Yes.
But finding someone compatible with my lifestyle is slim to none. I have a problem with girlfriends that I refuse to overcome: I can't date people seriously that complain about every little thing. In my industry, we're trained to pick up on actions that people process that externalize their weaknesses. Many people will complain about everything in life as an externalization of their own self-hatred. They hate their jobs, their friends, their money situation, their lives in general. Instead of packing up their problems and addressing them, they blame everything else.
I can tolerate that with friends. For the rare few who I accepted into my love life, I can tolerate REAL complaints from random things that are hard to fix instantly but have an effect on their lives. But when it's one complaint after another, I have to break off and move on. In this supposed recession, there are far more complainers than happy people. So I have far more friends than I can handle well, and far fewer possible lowers or companions or consorts or mistresses.
We talked some more about the various options, but none of them smacked my eyes and brain and heart open enough to say "Yes! That's a good idea." Then it hit me: I'm just not interested. I love sex, I love wooing and courtship, I love dating in general. I'm a good boyfriend when I'm in a fixed location, but I'm not ready to make that commitment to anyone or anyplace just yet. If I'm horny, I'll find a lover who I am compatible with. If I'm lonely, I'll find a gal pal who can chill on the couch and watch movies or play cards or cook with me. If I need adventure or excitement, I'll grab one of my many unemployed friends and hit the road for 3 days.
Overall, I can't think of what's missing from my life. The need to be needed? No, I have that. Many people rely on me, and not just for business. Love? Not really, love is expendable because MOST relationships confuse love with lust or crushes or mutual need for attention.
We finished our breakfast and decided to wander to a local book store that was just opening its doors for the day. We wandered together, laughing at some of the fictional novels that obviously are written by amateurs with no knowledge of reality. That's always something to laugh about. A mob friend of mine tells me him and his guys laughed for months when the Sopranos was on, it was that off and wrong. A buddy I knew in the CIA used to laugh about the spy thrillers in theaters or novel form, how off it is. I'll always say the same thing about 100% of "self-help" books or "get rich quick" books that don't do anything for the reader except for inspire confidence. The problem with that is how much the confidence crashes when the person doesn't really get any help, or get rich, after following the book's dictations.
We have a final hug and a pop of the lips as we decide to part ways, both of us wondering if we'll see each other again as friends, like this, or as foes, as we had 10 months ago. I'm glad I saw her, realizing how different my life's path has gone compared to others in the industry.
Even though she makes more money than I do, has better connections, has more lovers, nicer apartments throughout the world, I realize one thing about Cass when I see her: she's just not happy. I am. I am so content in my life. My options are endless, and I take advantage of every day. I'm not overworked, I don't have the ridiculous responsibilities that the average middle class citizen has (school debt, credit card debt, high pet costs, crazy utility bills for their huge homes and old apartments, mortgage debt, gigantic health insurance bill). Even if I made a quarter of what I made now, I'd still be comfortable. I'd still be happy.
And that's what pushes me forward: I can continue on this adventure called life and never feel like I've wasted a day. No one holds me back, and no one I know or love or fuck or spend time with throws me off my game. Even my worst friendships and relationships have been beneficial in reminding me of the overall feeling of being content that I have, that so many people want to duplicate.
And that's how I'll close this: you can't duplicate my contentness with things, or with relationships, or with sex, or with drugs or drinking, or with degrees or raises or new job titles. You can't duplicate it by moving to a new town or country, or by going on vacation for a week. You can't grasp it with your hands or your mind or your heart. It comes from bringing closure to each of life's common stresses individually. It comes from being responsible, very responsible, for a very short period of time, just enough to put to rest many of those common stresses.
I was lucky. I ended the most common stresses between the ages of 17 and 21, when most people were getting degrees that they don't even use right now. I was blessed, am blessed, that I could spend those 5 years working hard so I can have the life I lead today.
Do that, today. Don't worry about guys or gals, don't worry about jobs or responsibilities tomorrow. Figure out what made you sad in recent years, and find the top 5 items that repeatedly make you sad. Then fix it by making sure they can't make you sad again. Take a year of very hard work, get 3 jobs if you must, turn off your cell phone service and your cable bill and your health club membership and eating out, but address it TODAY so that in a year or two (or more), you can put that stress to rest forever.