Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Matter of Perspective

Last week I wrote about how uncomfortable I sometimes feel when I don't know what role I'm supposed to play in a dynamic or a relationship; what, specifically, I am supposed to give. I got a lot of really great and supportive emails from friends, telling me that they have always simply enjoyed my company, and also that my description of my new (straight) male friends was hilarious, since I basically stated flat out that I very rarely considered the kind of cooperative, thoughtful and respectful attitude my new friends have to be normal compared to my other male friends.

But you know what? That's a lie. The more of my friends I thought about, the more interactions I remembered, the more I realized that it's not true: that for a really long time, I have been surrounded by men that are respectful, capable and helpful, but I was too busy focusing on the the douche bags to notice.

In a mass communication theory class in college, the teacher spoke of The Marketplace of Ideas: essentially, every idea, outlook and point of view is available for us to peruse, but we tend to go looking for information based on what we already believe to be true, therefore strengthening our case and proving that we're right.

It doesn't have to do with just men, either. Recently I was discussing codependency with a friend of mine, and she told me that she knew she was codependent when she realized that if 100 people told her how wonderful she was and one person told her she was stupid, she would believe, listen to and internalize what that one person had said because it came closest to what she thought about herself in her own mind. It made me realize the same thing: that for all the wonderful, supportive, helpful friends I have, having a conversation with one person who misunderstands me will send me into a tailspin of self-doubt and disbelief. Because I was so focused on being afraid to hear that kind of feedback, I would find myself much more capable of glossing over all the great things people had to say and instead waiting, flinching, for the blow that would come and prove I was right -- that no one understood or supported me.

I saw what I wanted to see, invisible audience; my reality was the one I created. Not only am I guilty of judging all men as equally incapable, I would take the capability out of their hands to better prove my point: I would take a capable man and reshape his role with my disbelief that he could possibly be anything but a video-game-playing meat-no-vegetable-eater, then gloat with glee when he became what I told him he was...right before I lamented self-righteously that there were no good men out there.

For all the great friends' boyfriends and husbands, all the amazing fathers out there that I know, one idiot douche bag who won't take out the garbage was enough to send me running to the hills, screaming that all men were like children and not a single one could put the toilet seat down to save his life, let alone wash a dish or avoid peeing all over the seat. 

I don't think it will come as a surprise when I say this has been a tough week for me. It's tough to realize that you've been making your life harder than it needs to be, and I've been having a lot of those realizations lately. Two small pieces this week made it hit really close to home. One, a Panamanian friend of mine asked me if I had left a boyfriend behind when I came here. "Wow, you must REALLY like to be alone," she said when I answered no: no, I hadn't had a boyfriend when I left; no, I did not have one here. The second came the next day, when an emotional man talking about his alcoholism said that his daughter had told him, "Dad, you're supposed to raise me, not the other way around."

I had to stop myself from sobbing -- stop myself from letting the hard knot in my chest over my heart rise up into my throat and come out in a keening wail. At first I didn't even know why it hurt so badly, and then I realized why: I don't actually want to be alone, but in the reality that I had created in my own head, my only choices were be alone, or care for a man who was less of a man and more like a child: in my own head, there was never any equality or autonomy; instead, all I did was give, and all he did -- whoever he was, the poor pre-programmed sap -- was take.

Someone was recently talking to me about the idea that the Universe will give you what you need, if you just ask for it. This person was talking about what a load of crap that was -- that it was delusional and ridiculous. While I don't necessarily agree with him, I am also unsure how much of it is actual serendipity, and how much could be a simple change in perspective. If you believe there are jobs, you'll look for a job like there's one out there for you -- leading you to a job that you optimistically think could be the one. If you think that you'll never be happy, you won't be, because you'll be so busy focusing on the reasons you're not happy that the potential for happiness may walk right by.

Most importantly for me, if I am focused on what is missing, I'll have to focus on the people that it's actually missing from. With that sort of concentration on the problem, I'll never see the responsible, respectful, mature and toilet cleaning solution, even if he's staring me in the face; even if he's offering me a scrub brush as if it were an olive branch.

Love and perspective kisses
Morgan