Flexibility + control = superpowers (life is more than meets the eye)
It was love at first sight.
OK, maybe not love. But I was purely smitten.
She was the new girl at work. It was her first day, and she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen.
I asked her out to dinner and she said yes.
So we went out to dinner, that same night. I thought it was going well. Surely, I’d found my new girlfriend. Maybe we’d get married and make babies someday.
Oh, and I was 17, by the way. I am not sure if that matters. Maybe I am trying to play off any ridiculousness on my part as folly of youth. But I am still ridiculous at 35, rest assured.
Anyway, there we were. At dinner. All seemed excellent. Then, two consecutive wrong turns.
First, I told her she had the most beautiful blue eyes ever. I meant it. They were breathtaking eyes. Bluer than the most sublime sky. Deeper than the ocean. I wanted to live and die in those eyes.
Then she, with an almost completely straight face, took out her contacts and looked at me with a sympathy usually reserved for lost puppies or raggedly-clothed children.
Her eyes were brown. Still nice eyes, though.
The second curveball came, when we were about to leave.
“So do you have a boyfriend?” I asked, delusional in my certainty that the only rational response after our hot date was, “I do now, you sexy beast.”
All she said was, “Yep, I do.”
Oh. Oops. Well, that went well.
I built hopes and expectations out of nothing. A girl I was attracted to agreed to go to dinner with me. My inner needs took over from there and constructed a narrative. Then, it turned out my narrative couldn’t have been further detached from the reality of the other person’s narrative.
A variation of this happened a couple years ago, with reversed roles. I had been hanging out with a guy. We hit it off amazingly well. We understood each other’s minds. We hugged a lot. Said, “I love you,” a lot.
During all of that, I never once thought of him sexually. To me, it was potentially the ultimate platonic relationship. And I had no idea that his narrative was any different than mine. But I was mistaken.
One night, he casually spoke of our relationship as though we were lovers. He said it so naturally, I could tell he thought (no, knew) that we were on the same page. I realized, all those times we’d hung out, our narratives had been written from dramatically different perspectives.
When I told him the truth, he couldn’t believe it at first. He had been living in his own hopes and expectations, that did not match mine.
It’s so easy, in this world. To hope for things that can not be.
I think it is unlikely to avoid this completely.
It’s difficult to make it through each day, without getting attached to some of the hypothetical scenarios that form in my mind about potential futures.
It is probably not even desirable to transcend that habit. That habit is how we build our lives. By imagining possibilities, embracing them, and devoting ourselves to making them real.
But when our imagined possibilities involve other people with other ideas, then what?
Flexibility is imperative. Having a loose but provocative grip on the hypotheticals. A grip that manifests prolific potential when appropriate, and lets go without incident.
As a writing tutor, I was trained in the contrast of “flexibility and control.”
To get from point A to point B, every step you take is a form of drive and control.
But what if there is a wall between A and B? Do you keep walking in a straight line, bumping into the wall over and over?
A desire and drive to reach point B is not adequate when there are barriers. Flexibility is required. Adjust the mission.
Then, maybe you get to point B and there’s nothing there. Your ambitions get shot down. The pretty lady across the table removes her stunning blue contact lenses, and you realize she’s not that into you. Then what?
“OK,” 17 year old me could have said. “She’s not that into me. It was still a fun, time though. And maybe I’ll still be telling and learning from the story when I’m 35.”
That’s not what I did back then. I pestered that poor girl for months. I was as inflexible as it gets. I kept striving forward, into the wall. Instead of adapting, moving on, saving time, saving face. Really, instead of being a decent and tolerable human being.
Yes. Flexibility makes us tolerable human beings. Control has its desirable traits as well. Together, flexibility and control combine into a superpower. I recommend using it for good, but that’s just me.
Know when to let go. When to adapt. Be guided by respect, compassion, and empathy for others and for yourself.
Know when to move forward. Make sure you’re not about to run anyone over, or go flying off a cliff. Again, be guided by respect, compassion, and empathy for others. And for you.
Actually, just be guided by those things all the time. Can’t go wrong.