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An Unreasonable Woman

June 13, 2010

Given the amount of time that I spent studying world religions, I ought to have a better grasp on them than I do. That said, the texts and history that provide their foundation bear scant resemblance to the myriad ways they are practiced in individual lives that I have come in contact with, so it’s a bit hard to know where to grasp the fur-ball of religious fervor and begin to unravel it in a quest for reason – much less understanding. But I do know this, I dated a Buddhist once, and he left a bad taste in my mouth. (He is, literally, the only person I ever dated who had any inkling whatsoever of any sort of religion, and I suspect his was more for affect than effect.)

Every now and then, in moments of my own heartbreak and desolation, I try to return to some of the chats he and I had about acceptance, serenity, absence of desire etc….  And now – as it did then – it just makes me want to scream.

I’m having one of those (protracted) moments now, and I’m looking for serenity in surrendering myself to the flow of things around me. I am trying to divorce myself from my own desire and passion, from my desire to advocate for myself and demand a life (that I am willing to work hard for) in which I get what I want, not just what I need. I am trying to remind myself that I have neither the power nor the right to change the world to meet my will.

The problem is, I just don’t believe any of that. I don’t believe that I am helpless flotsam and jetsam in the currents around me. I love my passion and my desire and I absolutely feel that I have the right to advocate for them to be sated. And I do believe that I have the power – and in some cases the right – to ask things around me to change if we are to continue being around each other.

A few moments ago, I stumbled upon this fabulous quote from George Bernard Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

I am an unreasonable woman. I believe I can change the world by helping everything around me rise to the occasion that is a fulfilled and joyful life. For better or worse, I appear willing to hurt myself in the process – and for some sick reason, I admire that about myself.

There is very little that I believe in, and even less that I expect. I can narrow it down to three things. The problem is that those three things seem to be the very hardest to find.

1. I believe in people who tell the truth. That’s all. Just don’t lie to me, or about me. Not about anything. My reason seems simple to me. When you lie to me or about me, you then build a complex structure of untruths that you have to build the rest of your life around. The effort you put into constructing and maintaining that structure will stress you out, and make you crazy. Further, it will begin to dictate the things we can and can’t do with, can and can’t say to, each other. It will create a prison in which we are stuck. And, almost without fail, you will think it was MY fault, even though we are stuck in YOUR lies. Please don’t. I expect to be told the truth.

2. I believe that you can be true to yourself and still be respectful of other people. Whether it’s sex, religion, food, education or anything else. You can express your opinions and even explain them without having to be “right” or change anyone else. There is plenty of room for all of us, all of our dreams, all of the unique ways we live our lives. I expect to be treated with respect.

3. I believe in admitting our flaws, fears and weaknesses. We only hide things we are ashamed of. If we are treating each other with honesty and respect, then shame has no place in our relationships. If you are afraid, tell me so, and I will comfort you. If you feel flawed, tell me so, and we will figure out if its a flaw or a characteristic – and what we want to do about it. If you feel weak, tell me so, and I will support you. When you do that, you remove shame not only from yourself, but from those you have in your life. If you can accept your flaws, fears and weaknesses then you can accept mine. This is where true intimacy and bonding comes from.  I expect people to admit their true natures.

How does this play into the whole unreasonable woman thing? Because, even though that’s all I really expect from people, I very rarely get it. And I still try. Because, every now and then I meet people so wonderful that I want them in my life, even though they can’t do these three things. I don’t know if its chemical or delusional or what, but goddamned when I want someone in my life, I just do. And I have the hardest time reconciling these things that I believe and expect with the things that I WANT. I believe, unreasonable woman that I am, that I can change these three things about people, and then have WHAT I want with WHO I want.

For me, it’s never about toothpaste caps or toilet seats, or music, or gifts, or laundry on the floor – or even bad fashion, weird music, drugs or sex. The things that get me are always those three things – the rest is set-dressing and seasoning.

More than once in the recent past, people who love me have asked me “why are you sticking with it?” in regards to everything from romance to business to god knows what. And my answer is always the same, “because I know it can work.”

I am unreasonable. Because I believe in and expect so little, I doggedly pursue that which I believe to be true, and right, and workable. Even when I am alone in it.

And, without fail, that’s when I get hurt.

And when I want to, as my pseudo-buddhist boyfriend did, divorce myself from my desires and just let things be what they are in the moment. But I don’t think that’s who I am. I mean, I can let them be, no problem. I can even let them go. But I can’t stop mourning what could have been. Not quickly, anyway.

It always seemed like an excuse to me. Like divorcing yourself not only from your desires, but from the repercussions of your desires – or your removal of desire from a relationship of any sort – was just a way of taking no responsibility for yourself or your actions. A way of letting others decide your life’s path for you. A way of blaming others for the things that you set in motion.

And I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m unreasonable, but I think we are all responsible for the things we do to others.

Now, we are not responsible for how they feel or react – that’s theirs and theirs alone. But if people react in pain to an action of ours, we have a responsibility to acknowledge it and not repeat it. It is our responsibility to let that person know that we are aware of the role we played. Just because you didn’t mean to bruise someone when you punched them doesn’t make the bruise any less colorful and painful.

Maybe I can’t change people. (Ya think?) Maybe my expectations are too great. But, at the very least, I can expect people to acknowledge their own actions, and the repercussions. Or maybe not, because if they did, they’d pretty much have to change, huh. Because you can’t knowingly be dishonest, disrespectful and full of shame, and accept yourself. You’d have to change.

Nevermind. I get it now.

But I’m not changing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2010 4:40 pm

    I admit that I am no Buddhist scholar, but I’ve been revisiting it lately. So, here’s an only-marginally-informed commentary:

    For me, the Buddhist concept of detachment is useful in practice as a method to remind oneself that you needn’t be caught up in the emotion of the moment. Maybe this is a bastardization, but I don’t really care – I don’t consider myself a practicing Buddhist, and it works for me. When I’m being successful at some degree of mindfulness, I’m able to recognize and observe the emotion I’m experiencing, without it necessarily becoming the primary aspect of my existence at that moment.

    As you know, Alyssa, I’ve been going through some emotionally trying times of my own of late – my reconnection with Buddhist thought has been incredibly helpful in pulling me out of the tailspin I was in for a while. When I’m feeling strong and centered, I can get hit with a wave of emotion and let it wash over me, observing it like a wave lapping at the shore – rather than being a grain of sand buffeted back and forth in the motion of the wave.

  2. June 13, 2010 4:45 pm

    I think you’re spot on Stuart…. And that’s how I think of it too…..

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