Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"I'm not a 'good man.' But I'm prepared to be an honorable one."

No I can't change my mind. I knew all the time that she'd go. That's a choice that I made long ago.*

Peeking through the blinds, I just wished he would drive away already so I could start my crying. I'm not sure if it's harder on me when he or I leave after we've had a good visit or when we part after we've been fighting. No, actually, I'm sure that it's harder when we've had a good visit, because I'm sad that we can't have that whenever we want. 

In the last two weeks, I had to say goodbye to my two bestfriends after our official holiday visits. It sucks. Of course, anytime I get to see Moneypenny or TyRoy I know that I'm going to going to have to say goodbye to them, not just "see ya later" to your friend who lives across town, but "goodbye" to someone who is hours or half a country away, who you won't see for a month or several months. Yeah, I know that this is part of the package. And, yes, I'd rather have them in my life in some capacity than not at all. But it sucks. 

It sucks especially when there was a time that you spent all your free time with this person. Because they were your significant other. But you fucked it up. There is nothing you can do about that now. No amount of acceptance makes that sting less. Especially when you're finally back in a place where you would like to be in a romantic relationship again. 

I gave in to the loneliness, but I didn't give up nothing else.**

With every step of the therapy process, I have a little mini-meltdown about the changes I'm about to make, what they might mean for me. I always started questioning if I would still be "me" if I changed this thing or if I will be becoming someone I never wanted to be. My latest meltdown was about how uncomfortable I am with each step I take closer to being an adult. I'm finally at a place where I feel I'm ready to start working a full 40 hour work week at this job and I want to so I can start saving up to get a bit more education and so I can get my car repaired or get a new-to-me car when the time comes. But I never wanted to be an adult, at least not like the adults around me, who were all trapped by the things that they did to be adults. Of course, it's silly. Just because many (most, all) adults I've known have been like that doesn't mean I will be. More importantly, my experience has been that, despite my anxiety to the contrary, I always feel better when I make these positive changes and feel like I've become more myself, with fewer encumbrances and obstacles. 

Another thing I'm working on, after months (years?) of letting my actively ignoring how unhappy I was with it or making rationalizations for why I shouldn't even try, it getting my weight and body under more of my control. I've started off by setting a small goal, hoping that when I achieve it, I'll feel more motivated to keep going and set another goal. But that is life, right? You keep setting new goal posts. With any luck, the goal posts are achievable and you are motivated to keep working. Sometimes the area the goal post is in will change. Maybe at first your goal posts will be in your career, then it will be in your personal life. But when you stop having goal posts, I would think life would become really shitty really fast because all you're doing is struggling with no light at the end of the tunnel, even if the thought of working towards something more or changing your current situation scares the crap out of you. 

My reflection, in the window when I ride, could not save us, but I swear to god I tried.**

In my DBT notebook, at the very beginning of the book, which gives the newbie an outline of what the therapy is trying to do, it lists "Assumptions about Clients with BPD and Therapy." Number 1 is that clients are doing the best they can. Number 3 is that clients need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change. That these things are both true at the same time, that we are doing the best we can and we need to try harder, exemplifies what this therapy is all about. With each marker I hit, I still have more to go. 

The real thing behind my mini-meltdowns is that the resulting change is in direct conflict with the story I've told myself my whole life about who I am, what I want, what I can do. Though it's getting better daily, I've always believed that I was this really shitty person, so of course I'd do really shitty things. But reading this quote below by Ta-Nehisi Coates really flipped the script for me. Though it is in a follow-up post to one about guns, it is really about who we are versus what we do (emphasis mine): 
I've been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I've never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that's not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don't believe in getting "in the moment" and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding "the moment." I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a "good man." But I am prepared to be an honorable one.
This is not just true of infidelity, it's true of virtually anything I've ever done in my life. I did not lose 70 pounds through strength of character, goodness or willpower. My character and will angles toward cheesecake, fried chicken and beer -- in no particular order. I lost that weight by not fighting the battle on desire's terms, but fighting before desire can take effect.
These are compacts I have made with myself and with my family. There are other compact we make with our country and society. I tend to think those compacts work best when we do not flatter ourselves, when we are fully aware of the animal in us. 
That one line just kills me: "I am not a "good man." But I am prepared to be an honorable one." For a long time, I've told myself that who we are is what we do, that I can ignore or work past my own feeling that I'm a shitty person if I just do good things. I suppose this is in that same vein except that it doesn't say that doing good makes you good. It seems to imply that being good is not the point, in fact we aren't good, but that we rise above not being good by being aware of what we are doing and truthful with ourselves about why we are doing it. 

Of course, that means trying. Maybe I'm not prepared to be honorable quite yet, but I am prepared to keep trying. 

Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame. Where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned, but just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die. You've gotta get up and try, try, try***

*Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
**Almost Honest, Josh Kelley
***Try, Pink

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