I was asked recently if I wrote anything other than what I am experiencing. In reality, I’ve written fiction, poetry, research papers, and an outstanding grant application.
I am compelled to write. And I am compelled to write for me.
Years ago there was a plan to write and video record the artists, communities, places, and people I met as we traveled by van across the country. That plan went on the backburner as I threw myself into my relationship with C, while working to cover up my shames and humiliations.
Infidelity is exhausting.
However, one of the central realities about my relationship with C is almost from the moment I met her I felt compelled to love her, be with her, and care for her. (We’ve discussed elsewhere how the latter is a bastardization of loving someone.)
In truth, I never wanted to be anywhere else that with her. I was compelled to share everything with her…except my deepest emotional vulnerabilities and failures. I believed she would only love the best version of me.
When I was driving away from C, or towards her, I would count down hours and miles and text her notes and songs. In many ways I genuinely like who I was in my life with C.
Frankly, I was compelled to love her. I never had a choice in that matter. She was never the option.
There isn’t a lot of logic in how I felt about her. I always believed in her. I knew she had Ugly but I considered her perfect for me.
I always believed in Us even as I was struggling.
Our baggage made the relationship complicated emotionally, mentally, financially, and sexually for both of us. And because of the Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic, and the few other things, being compelled to move towards her compelled her to move away.
That approach to intimacy leaves little room for error.
I have never experienced that depth of commitment or passion. There was never anything logical or strategic to it.
Nearly twenty three months to the day, the habit of her still takes my breath away.
Nearly twenty three months to the day, I know logically our relationship needed to end.
Which brings me to a chat with the Good Doctor about how compelled I felt to love C and how many wonderful things that brought out in me and in my life.
And then, on balance, how confused I am about how willingly I made decisions and choices that worked against my best nature, interests, and desires, and my own life, heart, and self.
This clash of my values versus my behaviors created a fault line in my life that still shakes me to the core.
I’m terrified I won’t feel compelled to love this way again and those qualities that blossomed in my relationship with C will be locked away forever.
In the course of the conversation the Doctor made a good observation: “We do what we know. You’ve gone from one abusive relationship to another. From what you’ve told me what you need and want has never been a priority to the women in your life if it is inconvenient for them. You’ve been conditioned to be responsible for other people emotionally and sexually and so you carry the those skills like a banner into your relationships. The women that come to you are drawn to those banners — else they wouldn’t chose you. The question is what banner are the women you are drawn to carrying? What are they offering you? Until you recognize what these relationships are reflecting back to you, you will struggle with choices.“
There is nothing wrong with being compelled to love.
I’m honored I felt such a deep longing for another person. If you have the connection with someone embrace it. Not everyone gets that gift.
It is a very first world option. It is an option of the entitled.
Knowing how I failed, over the last twenty three months I find myself compelled in a new way to confront my own ignorance and arrogance. Perhaps because it isn’t constructive to focus energies on C, I find myself compulsively curious about my own emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual needs and wants. Curious in a way that allows me to bring a more authentic and vulnerable self to my relationships.
Being once compelled towards C, I find myself compelled towards my own center to learn the skills and tools to try again with someone else. I feel compelled to embrace my pain and loneliness. Today I am compelled to make friends with those very parts of me I have been compelled for so long to hide from.
This conversation with Red and the Good Doctor reminded me of something I wrote on a now hidden journal I kept about C and our travels.
Below is the story of artist Christopher Gulick and how he is compelled to create. When I first watched his interview I knew exactly the passion and excitement he feels.
I felt that way about my life with C every moment.
What Compels You?
I’ve been researching the business of art and the art of business. In the process, I came across a Wichitalks two minute video of artist Christopher Gulick. Although impossible in a two minute video to know someone, I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm for his life. It’s a refreshingly upbeat and positive perspective in the age of cultural cynicism and American fatalism.
Gulick reminds me the future belongs to those that live in it. Specifically, I really appreciate how he discusses his creative vision and his place in the world.
Here are four of his thoughts resonating with me.
“Do whatever the hell you want to, do it as best as you can, and don’t necessarily expect financial results from the town you live in.”
For reasons big and small, I think this the most important line from his video.
My general disregard for the rules of conformity for society’s benefit is both my strength and my weakness. Sometimes abandoning the concept of going along to get along is necessary to live a principled life. Sometimes my unwillingness to go along to get along is the reason I never was invited to the cool kid parties when I was in middle school.
It’s the reason, I abandoned jobs, careers and relationships midstream to jump ship and try something new and different. It’s the reason I was able to live on a sailboat in Maine and travel the country in a motorhome before I reach 50.
It’s also the reason some of the most important relationships are fractured and my finances are complicated. It’s the reason my retirement plan is to keep working.
None of this is a complaint. It is the reality of living between doing “whatever the hell you want” regardless of what the neighbors’ support and doing what you have to do to keep the electricity on.
In the good moments those vectors intersect. Often they don’t. There is no magic bullet to make adulting easier. Adulting is hard.
“I’m compelled to do what I do regardless of how difficult it is sometimes. How frustrating. How discouraging the results can be whether financial, or how the project goes.”
I’m not money motivated. I am mission motivated.
I learned long ago, the mission cannot be, ‘mo money. The mission has to be about people. The mission has to be tied to service. The mission has to be tied to a meaningful outcome. For this reason, I couldn’t sell bomb shelters, religion or fast food. The outcome may be shiny but it is hardly a meaningful mission to me.
Which doesn’t make me anti-you, anti-capitalism, anti-American or anti-anything. Although there are some that may disagree. Perhaps they see the money as the solution to every problem. It is their only tool, making every problem look like a nail in search of a good pounding.
Nearly every positive outcome in my life was enhanced by a willingness to embrace the mission. Nearly every negative outcome has been because I was chasing the shiny. I lost two marriages, partially, because someone ignored the mission and chased the shiny.
Given a choice between abandoning the mission or abandoning the shiny, I’ve learned the mission makes me richer and embracing the shiny leaves me poorer. I’m compelled to contribute, create and innovate.
Find a compelling mission for your life.
“I am passionate about culture. I like all of our cultures from everywhere. I like all the tribes…I like this great big molten, melting thing we’ve got going on here.”
Out of the entire video, this is the line that truly stuck with me. Maybe it’s simply the election season and Trumplican’s xenophobic, misogynistic and anti-intellectual rhetoric getting to me.
However, when I hear a microphone clown and their jingoism masquerading as patriotism or using politics to scapegoat “those” people” or whitewashing “that” behavior I intellectually vomit. Just because I don’t have an experience with a cultural heritage, religious indoctrination or sexual disposition doesn’t make it wrong or evil.
I’m fascinated with people and their innate, indoctrinated and adopted heritage, religion, music, foods, sexuality, moralities and anything else that helps shape culture. As Gulick said, “I am passionate about culture.”
Culture can only threaten my identity when I’m insecure with who I am.
“We’re all in this thing together and nobody gets out alive.”
I’ve been saying this to family, friends and strangers for years now. Perhaps my wordiness is to blame. When someone thanks me, I will often respond with, “Of course, we’re all in this together” or “We’re all on the same team.” It isn’t a platitude. It isn’t intended to be condescending. I believe it with my whole self. I’m compelled to believe it.
I believe in the principle: our actions either support one another or destroy all of us. I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. It is the reason I’m on the Village Board. It is the reason I started the YoYo Town Meetup. It is the reason I support labor unions, quality universal healthcare and education. We’re in this together.
By helping you, I am also helping myself and I’m ensuring the future for those that come after us and for those that I love. I know it sounds quaint. I know it is idealistic.
Perhaps, I watched too much Star Trek.
I’ve never met you. I probably never will but we are better together than apart. Working together we are only limited by the lack of imagination.
My motto: E pluribus unum; Out of many, one.
Watch the video from Wichitalks below.