Monday, June 6, 2011

A Closet of Armor

Trust is a very delicate thing. For a lot of us, it's as easy to open up to someone as it is to perform our own surgical procedures. It seems that people are constantly breaking our trust more often than not. But the hurting and the healing begin in the same place. Childhood.

For those of you who don't know, I grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who did what she could to keep the family together, though sometimes that meant enabling him. My father drank himself to death when I was nine years old. My grandfather had died two years before that of an aneurism. I grew up in a house dominated by women with very little male influence. A lot of my years were spent trying to win acceptance by being a doormat. I've had bouts with depression. I've had bouts with bottles of Jack. And I use that as a frame of reference. I'm not saying things were all bad, but Life has a way of making you reflect more on the bad than the good because somehow the bad is more memorable. Hmm.

At some point in my life around the age of 23, I started changing some of my personality traits that I was noticing and didn't like. Some of those things like being honest, holding myself to my word, things that I saw in other people that I didn't like seeing and didn't want to be a part of. Around that time, one of my uncles, one of the last important figures in my life, passed away. I got into a bad relationship because I tried to convince myself that I needed someone who could push me in another direction in my life. I quit my band, kept drinking heavily, and held all kinds of grudges for those people that had ever wronged me. Ever. But you see, keeping things inward destroyed everything else. I suddenly found myself alone, with no relationship, no band, no idea what to do next.

I had a rough time with trust because I had a rough time with God. I had a closet full of suits of armor and I was trying on different ones everyday to see which one "protected" me the best. The armor of course, not letting anyone too close and not letting anything out, started to rust around me. And I realized that keeping everything to myself was destroying my relationships. It was killing my work ethic. And I had always been the kind of person to lead by the example of word and deed. Now it was just word. I was letting those suits of armor weigh me down like an anchor. And when you're weighed down by your problems, it prevents you from moving forward. It prevents you from growing. Especially if you try to carry all that weight for years.

If we're honest with ourselves, a lot of the blame for a lot of the things that scar us falls right back on us and I say that because we can control what we perceive and how we perceive it. We dictate what we will wear our armor for. And a lot of it is just being human, but a lot of it is also because we haven't learned that forgiveness means we can really let go of the weight and begin to start moving.

Here's another thing I learned: You can't spend your whole life living in the past. Living in the pain. Living in the flames that have burned you. It's worthless and it steals the joy from your life. If you're not living for that joy, I can see how some people can work up the courage to get on a ledge and threaten to jump. It seems hopeless, it seems desperate. It seems joyless.

I have lived with a lot of that hopelessness before. But one thing I came to ask myself was if I am so unloveable, then what am I doing wrong? If the answer is something you can fix, fix it. Because a lot of getting past your demons is being honest with yourself, even when it nearly kills you. And during the whole process, we may feel like dying, like giving into the fatigue of the day in and day out trying. But that's a good feeling. It's a sheep in wolve's clothing.

It means you are truly changing. Your old habits are dying and your new habits are finding their bearings. I'm not saying that changing is ever easy. But it is necessary. Part of the reason people rarely change is because they recognize how hard it is and don't think they're cut out for the work. But no change is ever worthwhile without the work, and all that work is truly worth the change. And one day, we will all forget why we even had those suits of armor in the first place and throw them all out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What We Put it Through...Part 2

Another argument I hear a lot about why people choose not to marry is how marriage seems to change the way we treat each other. This argument is crap on a stick.

Of course marriage should change the way you feel, the way you act, the way you carry yourself. It should change the way you interact, it should change the way you relate. It should change everything about you, for the better. But mostly, it should intensify your commitment to your partner. So why doesn't it? Well, simply put, we are becoming worse and worse people by the year. By the day, even.

Let me explain.

As the years go on, for some reason, we stray more from the conventions of wisdom. We become convinced of our own wisdom. We've come to a place where, because of the way we have continued to "advance", we have become less honorable. Think about it. People break up over text or Facebook. We have people constantly cheating on their partners. We have become a society that takes the easy way out. Why would any of us think that we have anything right?! Because, as I have said before, we have erased the guilt. The guilt used to be a guard in the tower purposely missing, but coming close, to let us know we were overstepping our boundaries. But guess what, we fired back, took the guard out, and now the warning shots have stopped. Which is a relief to most of us. As we have become more politically correct, more technologically advanced, and overall more lazy, we have become stupid.

And, yes, I mean to offend. Why do we think that a commitment that is smaller (in terms of meaning) is any less of a commitment? Because of the legality? That's why you're supposed to take your time. Because of something else I'm not aware of? What is it? Will we continue to trick ourselves into thinking that not trying our best in every aspect of life is good enough? Guess what? It's not!

The only end we are achieving is settling for what we can get, not what we deserve. We are all deserving of at least some love and some self worth. But there is a large percentage of the population that don't feel that they are worth anything. Why? Because our parenting has failed. I believe it has been failing for years, and I believe that it has reached the point of failing when parents want to be their child's friend. I don't believe that being your child's friend is a bad thing as long as it is coupled with actually being an authoritative figure. Whether they like it or not, kids need discipline and structure. When they don't get it, they make up their own rules. Rules that never quite grow out of the childish stage. Then what do we have but children living as adults and scheming to create a world with child like rules.

I've grown quite sick of people not taking responsibility. Or not taking charge in their roles. I don't even have that many roles compared to some, and I feel like sometimes I take on too many roles for too many people. That's really the whole point of this rant anyway. To say that in the last 50 years, we have declined so rapidly as people, and our marriage statistics and current attitudes are very telling of how awful we have become in comparison.

All of that to say that we need to take more responsibility for ourselves and the people underneath our charge. Let's raise our kids to be respectful and productive members of society. Let's return to a time when what we did and how we did it mattered. Let's start paying what we owe and making this place better, not by some 70's hippy slogans, but by actual effort.

I'm challenging you all to do something better. Better than what we know of ourselves. I know that, for myself, there are a few people to whom I have been shirking some responsibility towards. I'm working on that. Let's say you help someone you might not otherwise help or go the extra mile just once in the coming week. Let's see what that does to our conscience, collective and individual. But it starts with the individual.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What We Put it Through...

I feel compelled to write something about the subject of marriage. With so many people I know either dead set against it or having already been through the life crushing nightmare that is a divorce, maybe some of this aimless rambling can help some of you in one way or another.

Recent statistics are hard to come across for 2oo9. I'm sure 2010 stats aren't done being figured. There's no constant figure that I seem to be coming across but the latest figure from 2008 that I come across frequently is around 40 percent divorce rate. Jumping from about 18 percent in the 70's. That is quite a jump for only 40 years. So, is marriage an overrated and outdated institution? Well that is for each individual to decide, but I aim to present an argument explaining how people have, do, and always will make excuses to avoid it.

It's no surprise that marriage is a huge commitment. You have to want to do it, you have to want to struggle sometimes. You have to know that it's largely about compromise, and you must know how to compromise. So what's wrong with a less serious form of commitment? I will now pick apart the cohabitation argument.

When two people in a relationship live together, it allows for you to see the other person in a fairly new light. There's no more impressing them or hiding anything from them. Unless you're really good at that. There is often no more doing what you want, or going where you want when you want. Cohabitation, however, is the popular choice for people who don't want to deal with the legality of marriage. But, let's look at the downsides.

Regardless of opinion, living together is a commitment. It is something with which you will have to compromise. You have to consider another person's opinions, wishes, feelings, etc. So, this is different from marriage how? Well, no divorce proceedings, no lawyers, and less money lost. But in my experience, most people who cohabitate before marriage expect the relationship to fail. A friend of mine had once told me that he set aside money for when he knew the relationship would be over. This is just ridiculous. Nowadays, we EXPECT relationships to fail. And this is a cause of trying to take the easy ways out. The messed up thing about it is that we know the other person could leave at any point, but so could we. It's kind of an illusion of control or a reactionary upper hand. But illusions usually look better than consequences.

Now, everybody seems to think their relationships will stick. Even with no real intent to commit. Why do we think that because we want it to, yet we refuse to put effort into something, it will succeed? Another friend of mine asked me if I thought love really existed. I, of course, said yes. The truth of the matter is that love does exist, because there is proof of it in the world. Real, true, life changing love exists. The only reason some of us don't think it does is because we think that love should be able to survive what we put it through.

Would you like to know the true thing? Love absolutely CAN survive what we put it through. It's us who can't survive what we put each other through.

Maybe we should be considering this when we start a new relationship or work on keeping an older one more fresh. In a sense, the institution of marriage is just a piece of paper, in the sense that we should be treating our relationships like they will last forever. But when we consider that marriage is really a living, breathing, organism that needs to be nurtured, it brings a new perspective to an old idea.

An NYU student did a local study about people who cohabitate before marriage and how long the relationships last. She also cohabitates, mind you. She discovered that within three years, 50 percent of those couples will marry, with most of them ending in divorce. The remaining 50 percent end up lasting, or dissolving. I would say that statistics local to NYU would be the same just about anywhere. It's not a geographical problem, it's a stupidity problem. And there's no shortage of that. Living together puts your relationship on a fast track either to break up or to marriage. But why rush either of those things? The popular saying that life is about the journey, not the destination applies pretty well here.

In conclusion, marriage is, to me, an institution worth respecting. It is something worth reaching for. And those of us who don't see it that way usually have poor excuses to justify that. Without marriage, what we're left with is a huge percentage of the population who cohabitate serially and will never really commit because it's too hard, or because people don't want to try. Why don't we try? Why don't we want to prove our worth? Because of the prospect of failing? That is weak, and those of us who harbor those opinions WILL fail. Those of us who want to try at life may actually succeed. Sounds like trying has the better success rate.