I had an epiphany two nights ago, that almost sent me into whoops, and it was simple. The idea can be articulated broadly, but at the moment I applied it to relationships.
I don’t have to get married, ever. And before you make conclusions and analysis about this, let me explain, because I recognize that’s a pretty dramatic statement to just throw out there. You see, our society places a huge expectation on marriage, and it is generally assumed (by most) that at some point in his/her life there will be wedding bells and the like, when love is found. Society also creates an expectation of relationship, and through movies, TV shows, music, and the general media, glorifies and idealizes the experience of being in love, and the focus of having a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other as part of a high quality life. And in this focus, most importantly, it makes individuals that don’t have that, in the present moment, somehow feel inadequate. I’m not saying that every single person feels inadequate, but I would speculate that the general mindset of the single person is to look for another half, whether proactively or not.
I think this idea was pretty subconscious for me, just in the fact that I always assumed marriage, and that the cognition of never getting married, or never wanting/needing to, never surfaced¦ or let’s think about it differently: completely remove any preference and just think about it like not being aware of one’s relationship status. Even before I had any experience with romantic relationship, I assumed it charging down the track towards me. Can a life be valuable without the societal structure of a marriage? Maybe, maybe not, I’ve never thought about it, I don’t know. It’s less about the answer, (because I don’t think that there is one) and more about the thought itself.
What this assumption of couple-ness did for me, was make me slightly blind to the goodness of my reality. I would go even further to say that it affected the way that I viewed myself. I focused too much on what the opposite sex might think of me, how they might judge my style, my choices and thoughts. It’s not that thinking about this isn’t normal, but I think that the assumption or desire for relationship can make the levels off balance, tint our behavior and decisions, and not always in our favor. It can make us tilt towards cognitions that are more questioning and uncertain and away from ones that are more like this interaction/thing/person is AWESOME. Again, the focus is about valuing and enjoying what is as opposed to what should (and if you are an optimist probably will be) and then we convince ourselves that the happening-of that future moment is contingent upon our awareness of it in the present. It’s largely not, and both experiences are best enjoyed when they are actually happening.
My friend and I talked about these two different experiences like baskets. Each one has its own flavorful, wonderful fruit, each to be enjoyed when the time is upon you, when its right. You run into trouble when you are sitting in one basket, and are focused or thinking about or subconsciously convinced that the fruit in the other basket might be better, and as a consequence you don’t fully appreciate the flavors in the basket that you are sitting in.
Back to me. I exist day-to-day, relishing in things like my endorphined-out runs, coming home after a busy day to my explosion of color where I sleep, and beautiful moments of solitariness when I can sit in my pajamas and lick peanut butter off my fingers and laugh out loud watching Scrubs. I can largely spend my time as I please, work when I feel like it, have moments of altruism, selfishness, social fireworks, and calming silence. I guess the realization came to me that life, today, right now, as I’m writing this, in my present state, is really great, but it’s hard to be aware of that.
So it’s not that I don’t think the fruits in the other basket might taste really great, and I do find it rewarding to indulge my frontal lobe in imagining their succulence, but my main focus should be where I’m sitting. And there isn’t any point in trying to compare the fruits. Think about a thought like running into an interesting person, reading a funny comic, or stepping on a rock tomorrow. It’s not something that we have expectations about, but when it happens, we react to it. The same is true for love, careers, and all that. So when I say I don’t have to get married, that doesn’t imply a decision of shunning holy matrimony, now, at the ever-wise and omniscient age of 21 (note sarcasm). It implies letting it happen, if and when it does. This thought, in its meaning, in its simplicity, is incredibly powerful.
So enjoy it when it comes, but before it does, enjoy the now. Apply that to any domain of life, but it’s best done broadly, I think. Deterring part of your focus to the expectation is like putting a clothes pin on your nostrils as you sit in your basket and munch away at your fruit. Becoming aware of the quality of your life right now is like ridding your nose of that pin, and tasting the present. All of a sudden the ambiguous, unidentifiable fruit explodes in robust tanginess and mysterious sweetness. If you don’t taste your present fruit adequately you may (obviously) never fully enjoy the flavor, or react and jump up and down and discover that you can make juice or wine, and then in reaction to its flavor, lob it at someone passing by so they can try it too.
And for the first time, how the fruit in the other basket might taste, or how we are told it will taste, doesn’t even matter.