Saturday, January 2, 2016

Adult[s] swim

About a dozen years ago, I was seeing a counselor and working on some stuff. (Obviously. Why else do you seek counseling?)

 One day after I had been rambling on about what my family wanted and what the Carmelites wanted and what my  friends wanted and so on, she asked me, “And what does Michael want?”

I was stumped. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had no idea what I wanted. What I wanted was to know what you wanted, and then I would want that. So you would like me. I guess I wanted you to like me.

A few days before I had been talking to a bunch of guys and had mentioned that I felt like Bruce Banner, the guy who turns into the Hulk when he got angry. 
“Don’t get me angry,” he/I said. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” 
And one of my best friends immediately asked, “And what would happen if we didn’t like you?” 
“The world would end,” I said without blinking, half-joking and more than half-fearful. 
As I pondered the questions, what did I want and what would happen if people didn’t like me, I began to realize that it had been so long since I let myself think about what I wanted -- instead of what was right or what should be done or what was important or what other people wanted or needed -- that I could not answer a very simple question: What do I want? 
 Ask me what I want to eat and I can be thrown into a quandary. My usual answer: “What do you want"

Ask Tom and he will tell you, I am far from over this. He asks, “Where do you want to go to eat?” and even though I want to go for Indian, I will always say, “I don’t care.”
Okay, I am getting better about saying i want Indian food, so maybe that's not the best example. But you get my drift.
When we were building the house, he would ask what color I wanted for walls or what furniture I wanted or what to do about the garden. 
“I don’t care.” 
At a certain level, this was true and is still true. I don’t care about an awful lot of things. Having spent all of my adult life in a monastery where the walls were already painted, where the furniture was already in the room, where the schedule had been in place for centuries, I had learned to just go with the flow. But I was going with the flow to such an extent that I had forgotten how to swim.

And sometimes, you know, adults have to swim.


Mitchell is Moving said...

I know this feeling. Any year I had birthday candles to blow out, I would make an obligatory wish. But I always wished for something for someone else (my brother's mental health, my sister's physical health, my friend's wellness, peace... It all sounds very altruistic in retrospect, but then someone asked me what I would wish for for myself personally and I didn't have a clue. I wasn't happy but I had no idea what I wanted. And, interestingly, as I write this I realise that after that revelation I simply stopped making wishes. More therapy!

Anonymous said...

You come across as someone who has done a lot of living and growing. Considered on the big things and go with the flow on the small stuff?
Shalom, Kato