This particular post is a bit harder to write.
Mainly because it’s about something I’m not particularly good at.
In fact, it’s rather remarkable that for lesson that I’ve learned over and over again, I still manage to resist doing exactly what I’m about to tell you to do. But hey, I never claimed to be a role model; I’m just as stuck in the “hard times” I’m trying to help make happier as anyone else.
Admit the love.
Part of the problem is that there is a lot of resistance out there in the world trying to keep us from doing what we love. There’s a lot of disapproval. It’s far easier to go through the motions of doing what it is we’re supposed to love – whether it’s Monday night football or that high-paying job or that “perfectly good” relationship – than to strike out on our own for what it is we really want.
There are rewards for settling, as well. Social reinforcement. The knowledge that most of your cultural memes (stories, TV shows, op-ed articles) will all be in your favor, they will help reassure you that yes, you are normal. Not that there’s anything wrong with being “normal.” If you do actually love all those things, then more power to you! You should be all-out passionate for your team, and when I see you in the bleachers wearing a black and yellow clown wig and body paint with stars across your belly, let me tell you, man, you are beautiful.
Lying is Lubricating
On the other hand, some of us lie. I learned in my teens that my grandfather was always disappointed that I didn’t like sports as much as he did. So before I would go visit him, I’d study recent events, so that I could drop a “How about that Rollie Fingers!” here and there. Sure enough, it made him beam, and I still think that it was a kind thing to do.
But it was also a lie, because I never really cared about Rollie or the Brewers or the Packers (then again, this was pre-Superbowl, pre-Favre, so perhaps I can be forgiven). I also have lied about jobs (“Yes, I’d love to come work for you!“) and about fights (“No, really, it’s ok, don’t worry about it.“) and about money (“Of course I’ll be able to make the payment on the 15th.”). Lying in those cases makes life seem to go a bit smoother, whether that’s a visit to a relative or getting the bill collector to stop calling you over Christmas.
The worst lie I’ve ever told, though, was to myself, and it usually was about relationships. I recall as my first marriage was falling apart, I couldn’t even look myself in the eye in the mirror. Not because I’d done anything wrong, but because I couldn’t stand to look at what I’d done with myself. Why are you cheating me out of my life? my reflection seemed to say. I knew that the relationship needed to end, but I put it off, because it was easier to lie to myself about it than to face my parents, my friends, or my wife with the truth. The truth was that we did not love each other – we’d married way too young because it seemed like the right thing to do, the thing that our families expected of us. Without going into morbid detail, we married long before we really knew what we actually wanted out of marriage, until that was exactly what we wanted: out of marriage.
But neither of us could be the first one to say so. And I felt a coward, letting her down, letting myself down, because we were lying about love.
The Direction of Greatest Courage
A wise man named Franklin Veaux has written a lot about love. He writes about communication, and jealousy, and non-traditional relationships such as polyamory. In one interview I heard him say that “Life rewards those who move in the direction of greatest courage.” I don’t know how much I believe that life rewards anything in particular, but I do have to agree that it seems that the good things seem to happen to those who take the direction of greatest courage.
Sometimes figuring out what direction that is can be hard, however, and that’s part of why we lie about love. It’s easy to think that it’s more courageous to “stick with it”, or more noble to “sacrifice” ourselves and our potential for passion in favor of “staying the course.” I put all of these in scare quotes because they are the buzzwords used by ourselves and by others when we’re trying to figure out what to do.
I found the answer though. Wanna know what it is? Wanna know how to tell what the direction of greatest courage is?
Look for the Monsters
More on that in a future post. Meanwhile, you might want to go take a look at of FluentSelf‘s take on monsters and cookies (big thanks to Sonia Alexandra for tipping me off to it). It’s going to be relevant in what I have to say next friday…
I’m off to Vancouver this weekend to facilitate an Open Space with a bunch of passionate people!