The Best Advice

27 Apr

From the movie How Do You Know

Lisa: So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you’ve found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation?
Psychiatrist: That’s a great question, yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.
Lisa: OK. Those are both really hard.

When I saw this movie a while back this particular quote from the Psychiatrist jumped off the screen and slapped me across the face. It is the key to so much of what I do in life. 1) Figure out what you want, and 2) Learn how to ask for it. So easy to see the truth and simplicity of it, but so difficult to put into practice.

You would think that figuring out what you want would be the simple part, but right away we run into a number of potential complications. What if we want something that we perceive as being unavailable to us? It could be unavailable for reasons of legality, morality or economy, or it could be simple physics (can’t be in two places at the same time). Other impossibilities include wanting to change things about the past, or wanting things from certain people that they are not capable of providing. So figuring out what I want will not be helpful if what I want is for Paulina Porizkova to have fallen in love with me instead of with Ric Ocasek but to be OK with Charlize Theron popping by for a threesome every once in a while.

It is a bit like setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Constraining the definition of what you want within those boundaries is likely to lead to a higher level of success than if we insist on longing after things that are vague, impossible to measure, unattainable, irrelevant, unspecific as to duration or any combination of the above.

Like most BWG’s I’d like to think that my wants are pretty straightforward. There are plenty of things that I wouldn’t turn down if they were easily available, but my basic needs don’t seem so complicated to me. That in no way prevents them from seeming inscrutable to my spouse. For example, my desire for some form of logical organization of the contents of the refrigerator prioritized by size and frequency of use is a complete mystery to her. We have a small refrigerator, and the fact that there is only one shelf with the headroom to handle cartons of milk and juice (which are used daily) has never prevented her from loading the front of that shelf with a bewildering assortment of small, seldom-used items which block easy access to said cartons. After 20+ years of marriage I have long since stopped trying to explain how I think the fridge might be better arranged and why. She doesn’t understand, doesn’t care and just thinks I am being a pain if I point anything out.

The feeling that my wants introduce an array of needless complications into her existence might explain my current crisis of not getting what I want. I just got back home after a 2 week  trip – my first such extended absence in almost 6 years. (Note: she has had several such trips over the same time period.) I miss my family when we are not together. I am a physical person and was raised in a demonstrative, touchy-feely family with lots of hugging and physical reassurance. Going without that when we are not together is tolerable in part because I can at least have the illusion that we all feel the same way and that we will make up for lost hugs when we are reunited. (Hugs with my kids, and perhaps more than just that with my wife.) When I got back from this most recent trips my daughter was predictably cuddly, and even my teenage son was the source of several unsolicited pats and hugs. Not the case with my wife. No, she’s not mad at me. She just thinks that things were very peaceful without me around, and peace is what she wants most in life.

Figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it? I want more physical intimacy. I’m not talking about nymphomania, just some sort of indication that I was missed and that it seems good that I am back. How good? Show me. Convince me. As it is, I’m looking at taking more out-of-town jobs because the illusion of maybe being missed while gone is more comforting than the loneliness of returning and sharing a bed with someone who doesn’t hug you back.

Am I asking for something that unreasonable? As a BWG I am used to being considered the bad guy, but am I really asking for too much in this case?


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