That’s worth a lot of suffering
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I know there have been times when I have described myself as a happy person. I remember saying it, though I don’t remember when. But I also remember watching the women at my first job out of college. It was an office job and most of the women I encountered were white-collar workers. The vast majority of them were married and most had kids or planned to. I watched the women with kids and husbands. Most of them looked tired most of the time.
They also seemed happy. They picked their kids up from soccer practice in their minivans and went to church on Sundays and did their boring jobs and that was that. I didn’t sense any longing for more or deep dissatisfaction in their lives. I also could not fathom that existence. I look back and realize that I was actively planning for a life that felt anathema to me.
I sit here brokenhearted, without a partner (or any real prospects for primary or life partnership) and I wonder why I haven’t been able to make anything romantic work long-term.
I don’t remember ever using my happiness as a rubric for major life decision-making. Who knows what will make any of us happy in the long run? For as long as I can remember I’ve made big decisions based on what will make my life more interesting.
There’s a balance everyone has to figure out for themselves. On the one hand you have a more interesting life. You get to experience the long tails of the bell curve. You chart new territory. You get a lot of questions answered. On the other hand, you have more of a boundedness to your likely outcomes. Your potential rewards are capped, but so are your risks. You plant yourself in the fat middle, along with everyone else.
Sometimes I want to put myself in the fat middle. Sometimes I want there to be a boundedness to my experience. I want desperately for there to be a nice, solid floor to how sad, lonely, disappointed, broken, and desperate I will ever feel.
But I can’t live there. I know, because I tried. I know, because I know myself.
I am a person who simply must try to find out what it’s like to live at the outer reaches of my experience. I use drugs and meditation to explore the outer reaches of my brain. I’m in therapy to explore new ways of relating to myself and the world. I seek out experiences that I think might change or enlighten me. If I commit to a project or cause, I’m going to try to do something no one else has been able to accomplish.
And if I love someone, I’m going to try to love them in a way I’ve never loved before. I’m going to try until it’s clear they aren’t here for it.
I cannot stop trying to find out what’s possible.
Sometimes I wish I were different. But then I think, the world needs explorers. We need those weirdos at the long tail to do weird shit and get unexpected results and report back. We need people who can’t tolerate life in the fat middle. So you’re all welcome. Not that I really had a choice.
I may not be among the happiest motherfuckers out there, but one thing I am is curious.
I am simply too curious about what long-tail love looks and feels like now to settle for bounded love.
Perhaps if I were a happier person I could be happy with a more bounded love. Perhaps that would be better. It would be less suffering, certainly.
Which leads me, inevitably, naturally, to the best thing I can say about existence. Despite the obvious drawback that existence is a lot more suffering than non-existence, it’s also much more interesting. And when I look back at my feelings and my choices, it seems like that’s worth a lot of suffering to me.