Determined distraction from experiencing sensations we are uncomfortable with.
I haven’t been posting for a while.
I’ve been very busy preparing for our move to Vermont, and all the chaos that an interstate move entails, including buying and selling houses, finding a new office in Burlington for our bicycle company, getting out of old leases, beginning to say goodbye to friends. And lots and lots of plane flights back and forth from where we’re living now to get things set up.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is my tendency to say, “when all this is over then…”. When this move is over then I’ll finally have time to enjoy myself. When all this is over then we’ll get to start living our lives again again. When all this is over then (fill in the blank).
I’ve noticed this phenomenon with my work, too. There’s this idea that when this new (totally incredible) bicycle model finally arrives then I’ll be done with it and I can finally relax. When I finally finish the book I’m writing, ditto. But then I finish, and it’s something else again.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not the easiest guy to live with in the world. First of all, I just love changing things. Some of this is just who I am, and some of this is clearly neurotic. I’m uncomfortable if something isn’t going on, if I’m not busy and on to the next thing. I sleep terribly, which makes me grumpy enough of the time, and if my work isn’t going well, I’m even grumpier. Patient isn’t the first word people use around me. If I’m not interested in something I tend to space out. Not the best recipe for an easy to deal with husband and father.
So, naturally, I drive my wife crazy. And there are ways that she drives me crazy, mostly because she has to find inventive ways to deal with the fact that she’s living with a maniac.
Being a clever person, I notice this, and even though I know what’s she’s doing when she gives me a wide berth some days, it bugs me. I find myself thinking, if she could only stop doing (whatever) then we’ll finally be happy and we can get on with the relationship. Or the opposite — when I finally stop being such a selfish jerk then everything will work out just fine.
Then I’m a selfish jerk again, and it starts all over again.
Anyway, it’s finally dawning on me that I’ve been deluding myself.
How many times do I have to finish some critical project, does the final set of perfect bicycles arrive, does my wife finally apologize for (whatever), do I get around to apologizing to her and we kiss and make up and I feel just great… for about 15 seconds. And then there’s another, totally different problem I hadn’t noticed before. And it starts over again.
I was talking on the phone this afternoon with a close friend of mine who is in a rather complicated relationship with a woman. It’s everything he’d want from marriage: love, romance, communication and good companionship — except they aren’t married. Their relationship isn’t physical and she has so far declined to make a commitment. My friend loves her, deeply, and for obvious reasons wishes she’d get over it and make a decision. It’s been going on for years.
What we came to realize is that waiting for her to give in to him is senseless at this point. Focusing on an outcome that may never happen is extremely painful. On the other hand, even though he’s fairly miserable about it, there is no reason that he should quit the relationship, either. It isn’t what he prefers, but what is happening is still interesting in a disastrous kind of way.
If the path is really the goal, this means that what’s going on right now must be worth paying attention to, because even when things really suck there’s no other place than where we are. My life is usually fairly dramatic (in a good way), occasionally very painful, and always interesting. It’s interesting when something happens that I expect (gift = happy wife) and interesting when something happens that I don’t expect (gift = ignored by wife). The perspective shift comes when we realize that it’s the map itself that is worth paying attention to, not just our position on the ground.
What is very strange about human nature is that even though we do not get to hold on to anything for very long, each time we do our best to convince ourselves that this time it’ll be different. This time, if only this one time things would change, finish, arrive; if I just get paid, can pay my bills, if she would just commit, if I could just get myself to make a final decision about the house I’m going to live in, THIS TIME ONCE AND FOR ALL — now, this instant, forever — then it’ll finally be over, done, finished, complete, perfect.
What is remarkable is how blinding this illusion is. I mean, it goes on over and over for a lifetime and most of us don’t get around to noticing that things never work this way. We keep our eyes on the mountaintop, willfully forgetting that there’s always another one on the other side.
There is no end. There is only this disaster, this triumph, this long, boring wait in line at the Verizon store where I’m finishing typing this on my cracked smartphone.
It’s not so hard to see the pattern. Stepping back, what happens when I finally make it to the font of this line doesn’t really matter so much. There’ll always be another line to get into when I’m done with this one.