36. the arc or change (part 2)…aka Cusack vs Giamatti
Current mood: rejuvenated
Victimhood. Everybody’s a victim. I used to look down on people who pointed to problems in their youth as an excuse for their present inability to play well with society. And then I realized that I had been doing the same thing in my own life. Instead of using past problems as an excuse for behaving badly towards others, I used it as an excuse to beat myself up.
Here’s an example. I’ve had very (make that VERY) bad luck when it comes to women. More accurately, I had very bad luck with one woman in particular (long, ugly story…I think I may have touched upon it in one of my older blogs). That episode (along with something else that happened at the same time…but she was the worse of the two) affected me so deeply that it became a kind of turning point. Before the Episode, life was wide open and the possibilities were endless. After the Episode, life was a closed circle with the cool, happy people on the inside and the sad, lonely losers on the outside. And I wasn’t inside.
From then on, bad luck with women was a given. I accepted the thought that for whatever reason, I was chronically unappealing to women. I thought that perhaps because of some genetic defect, instead of releasing come-hither pheromones when attracted to a female, my body released a subtle, toxic go-yonder scent that made it impossible to hold the attention of anyone I was remotely attracted to.
It sounds silly but I was convinced that I was doomed with women – more specifically, I was doomed with women I was attracted to. I mean, there have been women I’ve known who were attracted to me, so I know I gots swagga, but I didn’t feel the same way in return so this pessimistic pattern didn’t apply. I just thought I didn’t have a chance with women I wanted to have a chance with. In my mind, Randall-attracted-to equalled Randall-doomed-with.
Here’s how stupid I became. Let’s say there’s this woman…let’s call her Kim. Kim and I got to hang out in social settings. She seems to be really smart, funny, and cool. Maybe she even has short hair and glasses (big points in my book). We seem to get along and so later in the week I start thinking maybe I should call Kim and ask her out. The instant that synapse fires, it triggers another one called the synapse of pain and humiliation. Once that happens, any chance I thought I might have had becomes overrun by predictions of doom and gloom of the worst sort. I mean I was so mental that in my head, I’d actually go through a scenario where Kim and I start going out, things work out well at first but eventually we discover an impossible to overcome conflict and we break up in the cruelest way possible…so I change my mind and don’t call her.
All this because I haven’t been able to free myself from being the victim of one bad relationship. Writing it now, it seems as retarted as it must read but at the time it made more sense to me than peanutbutter jelly = sandwich.
A few weeks ago I saw the movie, Unleashed, starring Jet Li. Li plays a character who, from a very young age, has been trained to kill at the whim of his mob boss master. He’s a human attack dog and his master treats him that way, keeping him shelved away in a cage under the floor of his office.
Li gets away and after meeting up with a blind piano tuner and his daugher who take him into their home, he learns humanity, acceptance and the value of home – all without the benefit of therapy or psychotropic drugs, just love.
I can’t remember what line or situation in the movie did it for me but I realized something that showed me how wrong-minded I’d been about hypothetical Kim and I. I realized that for the most part, past has nothing to do with the present – at least it didn’t in my case. Mistakes and mishaps are meant to teach us lessons, not to serve as a template for the future.
I wrote mainly about relationships but the same holds true for other areas in my life. In so many cases, I used one bad episode after another to define the outcome of all future situations and so I shut down the dream machine, parked it in the basement of my mind and walked away because what use are dreams that will never come true?
No more. Every day, the sun rises on a new day. God designed it like this because he wants to drill into us the idea that as soon as we’re ready we can pick our sorry selves off our ass and get back at living the life extraordinary.
However, patters once ingrained do not release their grip so readily. I still catch myself responding with the familiar (and comfortable) pessimism. It’s a habit and a crutch but I’ve begun the hard work of weaning myself. It takes discipline (catching myself every time) but it’s kind of fun. I mean it’s so much nicer trying to stive towards hope than to wallow in self-pity.
One of my favorite movies is Say Anything (John Cusack and Ione Skye). I was listening to the director and cast commentary and they talked about how they wanted the main character, Lloyd Dobler, to be someone who embrased optimism as a revolutionary concept. I love that idea. There’s so much bullshit and negativity in this world that optimism CAN be a kind of act of defiance.
Funny side note. I told a friend of mine that I used to want to be Lloyd Dobler when I grew up. He commented that I reminded him more of the Paul Giamatti character from Sideways. I had to laugh because it was true. Well I say from now on, fuck that. Giamatti’s character was a whiny, pushover bitch. Once again, I want to be Lloyd Dobler when I grow up (and I’m 33 so I’d better get to it).