Sometimes being miserable is so draining and exhausting that the moving-on process starts organically out of the realization that life can't be lived like that for long without driving a person insane. I don't know how permanent it is, but for the last two days, at least, I've been able to throw off the continous dominance of my life by certain thoughts. While I have at least some ability to do this, what better time to reexamine my committment to trying to grow as a person?
I think in a lot of ways it's pretty clear where I need to go and what I need to be working on. It's a big issue for me, a fundamental one, a long-standing one, and one that most clearly needs to be resolved. Working on it will help me deal with what's currently going on with me (although there are certainly other parts of that which this could never help), and the direction my life seems to be going is one that's really appropriate to focusing on it. It's simply the extreme difficulty I have in being satisfied with myself and my life in a self-contained way.
You see, what I value more highly than anything else in the world are close personal relationships. For me, that's the center and foundation of all that has meaning in life. I'd trade any sort of material wealth or well-being for meaningful relationships and love in a heartbeat; it's almost laughable to ask the question. And while I'd love to (and intend to) have both, I must admit that educational fulfillment or career fulfillment would be secondary on my priority list to human relationships.
I guess that really for me, relationships are what make life meaningful. And so I consequently put them at the center of my happiness. As I think back over the twists and turns of my life to this point, the pattern is clear and simple. The times I think of fondly as the best times in my life have been those characterized by warm and close relationships-- usually with one particular special person. But, at least so far, "everyone I know goes away in the end." Times without these relationships have been the most lonely and unhappy times in my life. My emotional state has been largely unimpacted by any other characteristics that would affect the quality of my life-- sure, I was happier for the first months at Northwestern than the time immediately prior, despite the lack of any particularly meaningful relationships, but even that had worn off by winter and especially the beginning of spring quarter. On the whole, the story of my satisfaction and happiness with life has been the story of my relationships with people.
Well, this needs to stop. It's as simple as that. When my happiness is based outside of me, instead of something I can find for myself, it makes me dependent on other people, unhappy a lot of the time, and unhealthy and unfair in relationships.
I'm really starting to come to terms with this for the first time. In the past, I never really thought of my focus on relationships as a problem, as something unhealthy, as something that needed to be worked on. Sure, I was pretty miserable and lonely when I had no close relationships to hang on to. But the problem was always, of course, that I didn't have those relationships, not the way I was approaching life. To say that my unhappiness came from the way I dealt with being alone would have felt to me like saying that the growls of the stomach of a hungry person came from the way he or she thought about not having anything to eat, instead of its obvious roots in the lack of food. How could I possibly not be unhappy when I was lacking the sustenance of life, the most important reason for living? The answer was to seek that sustenance; it was ridiculous to consider changing my outlook as a way to be satisfied.
The flaw in this, though, is not only how torturous it makes being alone feel, but the way this worldview affects actually being in a relationship. It leads to feelings of paranoia, insecurity, neediness, and flat-out dependency-- none too healthy for a relationship. When things are near-perfect, one can feel very, very happy. But when problems come, the fear of the torture of being alone is reactivated in an instant, and it just isn't pretty.
So it's time to say, "Screw that." Yes, close relationships and love continue and will continue to be what I value higher than anything else in this world. But that doesn't mean I can't find genuine satisfaction and happiness on my own, without anyone else's help. I really don't think I have ever before experienced any time of deep and even temporarily sustained happiness during a time when I was "alone", without any profound links to others. That's something I need to learn to do. Now's a good time to start.
And then maybe, when I'm able to be happy with my life on my own, I'll be able to add to that happiness in a healthy way through a profoundly special relationship with someone else. Or maybe not. I'll certainly be hoping so, because I'll always think that personal relationships are supremely important. But I think it's only when a relationship is something I want, not something I need-- when it adds to my happiness, not when it's the entirety of my happiness-- will I be able to get the most out of it... and make it last.
6 December, 2002
Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002