I don’t write about relationships (specifically relationship problems) much nowadays, beacause I have [CM], and CM has me. To be sure, we have our ups and downs: we have our misunderstandings, we have our overreactions, and we have our skirmishes, but at the end of the day, we’re in a great place together.
I went out for drinks with my co-workers from the National Children’s Youth Law Centre on Thursday. It was a good choice– CM pushed me to go to it because since I got to Australia, I’ve been making very few efforts to make (and maintain) new friendships. I guess in a strange dependent kind of way, I rely on CM for all my companionship while here. I wouldn’t say I’m a very emotionally needy person, but I did notice that while she was away in Asia to visit family for the last 3 weeks, I’ve been living in a very mechanical way. I mean, for the first 2 weeks that she was gone, I didn’t do any groceries. All I did was go to summer school or to work, come home, and survive off of our home stockpile of things like frozen dim sum, dumplings, canned food, rice and pasta. Not once did I cook something that I would serve to guests, and that’s the point– despite being someone who really enjoys good food, I’d never go to a great restaurant alone. Company, specifically CM’s company, but generally any company, makes things taste better.
These past 3 weeks that CM has been gone (she’ll be back tomorrow night) have been useful though. They’ve given me the chance to recallibrate myself totally. Even my roomies were out of town for most of the last 3 weeks, so I basically lived in solitary. It’s the first time I’ve been like that since South Korea.
What did a solitary version of me look like in South Korea? Well, at first, it wasn’t pretty. But like now, it’s a cathartic process I think. It’s what made me reiterate to myself that for all the relationships to others around us, fundamentally, we need to figure out who is “I” first. The benefit of being alone is that for every thing that happens, you only have yourself to blame or credit.
These past few weeks, I’ve been doing well for myself. I started exercising a lot more regularly… usually about 4 out of 7 days, I go and do some work on the punching bag, on top of biking 20km or so every second day. I’ve dropped my weight from 156 pounds (soft, but not quite fat) to 147 (lean, but not totally mean). I might not be in nearly as good fighting condition as I was back when I was at MAC or training for the black belt, but I think I’ve reached something different– it’s a peak physical form for a normal lifestyle. I guess to some of you real martial arts devoutees out there, martial arts are part of your every day routine. For me, it’s not. I have difficulty sticking to one school or one club, and hence, my involvement is usually sporadic– and I consider it a ‘special’ period where I can train and maintain interest. What’s different about this now is that, unlike a school or club where there is a social aspect of pressure (as well as a monetary one), my current method has no pressure– I can quit any day. Which, conversely, means that every day that I do train, it’s a conscious choice, a decision I make to push myself. I’ve also stepped forward and been planning stuff to get the Baduk Club off it’s ass, and I’ve started stirring up shit at the faculty board meetings. Last week, some coworkers and I put the finishing touches on a huge submission to the Australian Government, regarding the proposed condolidation of anti-descrimination legislation. Considering that I’m only a 2nd semester law student, I consider it a pretty big deal. Today, I’m going to be working on my final paper for my summer class, which I’ve chosen to do on feminism.
Yeah, make no mistake– I’m patting myself on the back.
And I’m not saying that I was only able to do these things because CM is out of the way or something. Actually, without anyone in my life for the last 3 weeks, I’ve been able to do things just for myself, with me as my boss, and that has made me a better person. And being a better person means that I can be better at being us.
It’s the difference between “doing something for yourself,” and doing something for yourself. They both kind of lead to the same observable result, but only one of them is sustainable in the background.
The version in quotations has to do with following through with an empirically good practice, but the reason behind it is that you’ve put yourself in a situation where you feel guilty for not doing it. For example, you spent X dollars on that gym membership, you go to church because it’s what you’ve always done, or you get dragged to parties you don’t want to go to and really don’t enjoy. You’re in those kinds of situations not because of the actual benefits of the practice– the benefits turn out to be a side effect. But deep down, the only reason why you got that far is because don’t want to look bad to the people you know there by not showing up, or beacuse you “already started so you might as well finish.” The bottom line is that this is a modus operandi driven by guilt.
The second version, in italics, has to do with you doing something for yourself. It bears all the daily strain of wanting to do something because you know you can just quit, but you must satisfy the your own expectations. This method is driven by thirst, curiosity, willpower or dissatisfaction. There’s lots of ways you can fuel yourself, emotionally. Heck, you can even draw on jealousy or revenge.
But certainly, I’ve learned that guilt is one of the poorest of all fuels, and it’s dangerous specifically because it’s a lot harder to notice working than the other sources.
It goes in stages though. There’s that saying that the first step is the hardest, and that momentum will carry you through. It’s all downhill from there. You’ve heard them before. But I think that the application of these ideas is more nuanced thant he proverbs relay– sure, once you start something, you may very well want to finish it. But what do you get out of it? Did the acts really make you feel more whole, or did they just further disconnect your actions from who you are by setting the subject of your actions outside of you? Is all that momentum just from guilt?
It’s a dangerous trap I think. And you see everywhere how lots of technically “successful” people are extremely productive– yet they seem to have no actual control over their lives. Not everyone, of course. But a fundamental recurring problem is “selflessness” or “being social.” I’m not talking about the work you produce– I’m talking about the goals we set. It happens because acts are done to satisfy guilt, rather than to simply will a better future.
There are the goals we set and the result of the work we do. Our goals need to be selfish, and they need to be individual. Yes, I know that people will spout all this nonsense about how you should put others before you and all that– but the truth is, you need to love yourself before you can love others. You need to make sure you are satisfied with who you are, and if you’re not, you need to be working on that. Otherwise, you’re in a zero-sum game– for all that stuff you do for others, you’ll be spending just as much time being propped up when you break down. Some people call this give and take of emotional tampon-ism “friendship” or “love,” but I call it un-commital parasitism. I don’t call it symbiosis, because symbiosis meanas that it’s good for both– I’m specifically framing it as parasitism, because both people are actually poisoning eachother. They’re just so inept at it that they can’t kill eachother.
A partner in life isn’t someone shouldn’t be someone you’re tethered to for the very air you breathe– they should be someone who helps you grow, so that you can love them (and the world) more.
Everyone needs to understand that in all relationships of unknown people, the only common denominator is you, yourself. So, do the math: is it more efficient to change and improve every relationship and person you meet, or maybe, you should just improve yourself, and start everything from much higher base stats?
I don’t think I’m explaining myself all that well.
I guess what I was trying to get at is that last thursday, when I was at drinks, a lot of the conversation revolved around relationships. I should point out that in most cases, I was the only guy in a circle of 6 girls talking about things. And this is what I observe.
Whenever there are relationship problems, it usually has to do with people not knowing what they want. By knowing what they want, I don’t mean things necessarily like predicting where you’ll be in 5 years, how many children you want, or whatever. Nor do I mean that, before you get into a relationship, you know excatly what kind of guy or girl you’re looking for. By knowing what they want, I don’t even mean knowing, as in it’s done and here’s the answer. I guess I’m assuming that everyone should KNOW that they WANT to be better at being themselves. I guess what I mean is that people need to accept responsibility for their lives. It’s not enough to just pledge it– you have to start taking actions that put you out of your comfort zone, which is the only way to get you to that better place. You need to be be ready to endure mistakes and hardship. And you need to want more happiness than you have.
All the girls at the table who had problems usually had them in terms of some issues of communication with their others. Lack of communication is a huge problem, because then you can’t figure out if you’re on the same track. On one hand, it’s a problem because they make it sound like the communication is the only problem– as if, if the channels were opened, then the boy could somehow just make everything better. No. It doesn’t work on that alone. The “solution” doesn’t come just from just the other side– it needs to come from you, too. You know why the feminists killed chilvalry? Because they realized they didn’t need balls to change their world. Girls: yes you can. Guys: stop being so mysterious about your shortcomings. If you don’t know what you’re doing, tell her. Put all the cards on the table, play a round open hand so you can learn how to play together.
And if you really, really don’t like what’s going on? Dump him/her. It may be a mistake, it might be the best thing you’ve ever done, but at least you’ve made an action based on your thoughts, and it’s something you can learn from.
Of course, there is always that debate about finding the balance between love, as expressed in your tolerance (or ignoring of) of their bullshit, versus love, as expressed in your wanting to make the other person better. But you’ll never figure out what this balance is unless you set it, and stand behind it. Communication, really, is just a declaration of your balance. The only real advice I have for people is that they should make their own advice. Seeking advice is largely a way of scapegoating responsibility in the event of mistakes. I’m not saying that you should have an immovable “take it or leave it” stance to relationships, but what I am saying is that you ought to be transparent to the best of your ability, and you ought to expect transparency from your other. Because if there’s no communication, that means there’s no connection– and you’re really just infatuated with who you think they might be, or how they treat you, rather than who he/she is.
On the flipside, sure, you can a learn a lot from others– but I guess what I’m questioning is people who seek more and more advice and wonder and wonder about what’s wrong, but still can’t get it right? If the advice route isnt’ working, the problem is that you’re having difficulty internalizing others’ theories and applying it to your unique circumstances. That’s normal for a lot of people. Because you are who you are. Some people can take advice and really make it work for them, but not everyone is like that. Again, you need to stop feeling guily about failing other peoples’ standards. Heck, maybe even this post makes you feel guilty. STOP THAT.
If the general rules don’t work for you, then stop trying to fit triangles into squares– stop being so masculine and thinking that everything can be solved with a hammer. Understand instead that if the current dialogue doesn’t help, you’ll have to start a new one: your own.
For the record, I have a great relationship with CM. I’m saying that because I want to gloat. I’m saying that because I have so many emotional, physical, economic, educational and whateverelse battlescars from building myself up to be the man who finally met her one day– and that’s how I make my end of us work. It’s only because I’ve been selfish that I can be selfless around her. I know that it sounds like this is all “me me me” but really, my point in this post is that that is just the start. The real product of it all is how I have so little to write about relationships, because I’m happy with mine.
That said, I’m really excited that she’s going to be back in Sydney tomorrow night. I’m really quite tired of trying to sleep alone, and eating frozen food. I think I’ve had enough “me” for a while, and I need her to balance things out, reconnect me to the world.