I am taking a psychology class at the local community college. It is a prerequisite for a course of study that would have led to a two-year certificate in which I am no longer interested. But I am sticking with the psychology class nevertheless.
Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living.” (According_to_Socrates) Perhaps this is why I continue with the class. I am fascinated not so much because of the actual science in the course syllabus, but by my own curiosity about how people think, how they make choices. My reasoning goes something along the lines of if I can understand more about the science of psychology, the brain and the mind, it might lead me to better understanding why so many of the choices I’ve made in my life seem to have gone awry and caused me and others so much pain.
abandon all hope of a better past.
I know I have no hope of “a better past.” I would like to understand what I don’t see or am not aware of and why I so often seem to fuck up. Moreover, sometimes I labor and debate things so much before making a decision that I end up not making a choice at all. Underlying all of this is a belief that I’ve screwed up two marriages by going into them unaware both times (guilty). That it’s my fault my daughter Paige hates me (guilty). That there have been affairs (guilty). That I haven’t been able to find satisfaction in a career (guilty).
The way I have approached life until now seems to have been with such a lack of clarity as to be grossly negligent toward…me. My choices are like keys thoughtlessly tossed somewhere. I go to find them when I need them and they are nowhere to be found.
In the movie “Defending Your Life,” Albert Brooks was asked to explain to a court in the afterlife whether he lived in fear or with courage. If he succeeded in convincing the judges that he lived life fully, he got to “move on” to some higher plane. If he didn’t, he was sent back to earth to try to learn it all over again. I would be headed back to earth as a repeat offender.
It is not just that bad things have happened to me. We all have stuff with which to deal. I can handle life not going according to plan. But maybe I’ve caused myself much greater misery because of the lack of presence and awareness with which I’ve made choices when I’ve had them to make. I need a correspondence course on Buddhism or to sit with the Dalai Lama to get enlightenment.
Is my daughter angry with me more because I decided to leave her Mom and be with someone else or because of how I’ve handled my role as her dad? Is my ex-wife bitter and non-cooperative because of my affair (ok, reasonable) or because of how I wasn’t the husband she desired and expected when we were still married? Is my confusion in my career due to something I should have learned in high school or college, or is it due to a deeper question about the way I process the world? Or, could it even be to a lack of awareness about how I actually view the role of work in my life overall?
some people get it.
These are the types of questions I confront regularly. and for which I hope something might offer some clues. And it’s why I read blogs such as Danielle LaPorte, Penelope Trunk, Chris Guillebeau, Kelly Gurnet aka Cordelia, and others. I read book after book like The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, and many, many more, hoping for clues into how my mind processess.
I realize it could become quite boring, all this navel-gazing and rehashing of an unchangeable past. It’s a habit I have had trouble breaking. I know why I do it: Like Socrates, I believe that in reviewing my personal history I might find the flaws in my thinking that led to why I messed up and learn not to repeat them. But all this “examining” might cause Socrates’ head to hurt.
So you know I’m not trolling for sympathy here. I hate appearing pathetic. This is how I debate things. I’m fascinated by the ways people process the world and make decisions, because almost everyone seems to do it better than I. What is truly remarkable about life is how people think about their lives and how they overcome challenges. I’m not talking about the celebrities who have a bottomless backpack of resources to employ to deal with things. I’m talking about the sort of people you sit next to in a coffee shop or at the offices of the district court.
Conflict, challenges, hurt, pain, disappointment. Everywhere. And, sometimes: redemption, growth, acceptance, even happiness.
That is what I am after. Because ultimately, I know that I control only now. I have a limited time to figure it out.