Dating In The Chocolate City? A Humorous But Impotant Excursion Into Beltway Dating Rituals

singles-dc

You would think, for a man recently reentering the dating game in a new city, living with two beautiful D.C residents would be a huge added benefit. My sisters are both attractive, accomplished young professionals in the DMV with goals and ambition and laid back [broadly speaking] demeanor. They must have insight into the befuddling and majestic alien creature that is a beltway woman. In all seriousness, I recognize that all women are individual human beings with their own wants, desires, strengths, quirks and insecurities. Yet, I also know that each region has it norms and regional ways of going about social interactions. I was hoping my sisters, DMV veterans that they are, could enlighten me. Yet let’s examine how these conversations actually play out.

[**Disclaimer the following account is a fictionalized account of true events. Everything in this account happened but the timeline, names, and minute details of the dates were changed for illustrative and entertainment purposes** **Irritable Bowel Disease is a real condition and if you identify with any of the symptoms, please seek out medical attention**]

Sister #1 [we’ll call her…Lindsey.] is currently wearing sweat pants and flowing flowery shirt. She is rubbing her stomach and smiling a satisfied smile.

Lindsey: Hey, have you noticed anything different about me?

Sister #2 [We’ll call her…June] is currently wearing her red dreads wrapped up the Do-Rags Lindsey bought for the community clean up last month. She eyes Lindsey and gives her a patented “really?” look.

June: [looks at me now, one eye brow raised] Don’t say anything…maybe if we ignore her she will go away.

Lindsey: [Has lifted her floral shirt above her belly and is now unabashedly rubbing her stomach that is significantly smaller that it was yesterday] I finally had a bowel movement…I just lost like four pounds.

Me: [In a true testament to how not-at-all-out-of-the-norm this is] Yeah, you look great Linds. [I give her a proud look like she just chugged a beer and smashed it on her forehead.] That’s a lot of shit kid.

June: [Clearly disgusted] Tsk. Don’t encourage her, she needs to go to the doctor.

Lindsey: No, I think one more bowel movement and I’ll be good.

The Conversation continues like this until we wake up. My sister’s bicker back and forth for about 10 minutes.

June: How was your date?

Me: It was great. She was really nice, smart and pretty. We had a really great conversation; I’m hoping to see her again.

Lindsey: Hm, did you pay for dinner. [June gives Lindsey her “WTF?” look] It may be the 21st century but a man should always pay for the first meal. [June’s look now says seriously cuz?]

Me: Well, I…

June: See this is way you should come to me with this. [Pause. Looks at Lindsey and back to me.] Some people [look back at Lindsey and rolls her eyes] No, I’m playin’. But seriously. What was she like?

Me: She was really cool. I had a really great time. I’m starting to really love the life I’m been building for myself in D.C. Being proactive, meeting great new people…it’s nice. I’m not sure if I should write her today or wait…I

[simultaneously]

June: call her now, it’s not the 90’s

Lindsey: Wait a few days. You’re a grown man, you have shit to do. You don’t have time to be writing her every moment.

Me: Uh…I feel like… I should just be able to…

June: [fainting anger] What kind of shit is that Linds?

Lindsey: What? He shouldn’t appear needy. Just wait a day.

This continues until they get distracted arguing about their exact same opinions of “The Rachel Ray Show.” I have learned nothing from this conversation other than that my sisters are two very different people. I enjoy it because they are hilarious in their sibling bickering. They are polar opposites who have grown eerily similar due to prolonged exposure to each other’s idiosyncrasies. As they continue to argue I turn to Google to solve my dilemma. As I type in “dating advice” into Google I revel in the butterflies flirting through my stomach as I think about the date. It is been a long time since I’ve had butterflies and so they are a welcomed feeling. What is even more welcomed is their background presence in my day. They are a dull echo compared to my college crushes.

The online advice is basically ten different versions of be yourself, don’t do anything borderline rapey or stalkerish. Check. Check and Check. Phew. I’m glad got out of the clear there. It can never hurt to make sure you are not exhibiting rapey or stalkerish tendencies.

[**Disclaimer. For real though, EVERYONE should check themselves for rapey or stalkerish tendencies. Just because I joke about it, doesn’t mean it’s not serious. I’m looking at you “I’ll get few drinks in her before I go for the kiss” Happy Hour Dude**]

While this confirms my hope that I am perhaps not as out of the loop as I thought, it provides little insight into my current situation. Undeterred, I type in “advice for e-mailing after a date,” and I try my best to wade through the sea of rules for dating.  I lack the focus to stay on task and end up reading a series of variations of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus [MFMWFV.] I’m fortunate at least that as writer this is now no longer procrastination but will be referred to as “research.”

I continue my research as I try to find the nuggets of truth in the universally misguided and oft times bigoted glimpses into out dated courting rituals and blindly binary hetero-normative written projections of loneliness. I am slightly encouraged by the fact that these thirty and forty somethings whom deem themselves worthy of bestowing their wisdom to my generation still believe in being yourself. A few young millennial writers note that people are just people, and therefore women are in fact not from Venus but Brooklyn and Hyde Park and Tarrytown. I am heartened by this but am still left thinking, great, but do I write her today or tomorrow? How do you tell if a person [any person really ‘cause it might help with these job application follow ups] values immediate communication or if that seems too eager? Do I tell her she’s beautiful or should I tone it down a bit? How do you know whether someone is a hugger?

After about 30 minutes of distress I decide to call back on my sisters. I try and channel my mother and project the face that always gets them to stop bickering pleasantly. They see the face and, reminded of my mother, are ashamed for a second. June in turn imitates my mother’s “I’m listening intently but also kind of mocking you face.”  After listening to my blown-out-of-proportion-because-I’m-really-bored dilemma, June says that older people [read: in their 30’s] call this dating etiquette.  I relax a little and peruse those articles before finally settling on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/dating-rules-better-than-3-day-rule_n_3403137.html.

I silently thank Arianna Huffington for solving my immediate problems and write a heartfelt message about how much I enjoyed the date and plainly asked for another. I feel much better at this point and am glad that, unlike 18 year old me, I feel confident that I can go about my day without waiting for a response. The more I think about the series of MFMWFV articles though, the more unsettled I become. The feeling of unease creeps up on me like after you get off the 90 in D.C or the Redline in Chicago and aren’t sure what to make of the man selling apples out of a biohazard bag. You know it’s not okay but you are unsure as to the extent to which it’s not okay.

I was concerned with the lack of practical non-patriarchal relationship advice for men. Again, I’m super excited that there is a lot of advice on how not to be a creepy needy slightly rapey date. And, admittedly, dating etiquette was helpful for the more banal questions like what to wear, what to say, where to go. Yet what about the more meaningful concerns. Even though I’ve only gone on first dates my mind inevitably wandered to questions about more serious relationships. What does courting look like without patriarchy?

[**Disclaimer. Mom/Dad/ random other adult figures in my life. I’m going to talk about some adult themes so if this is going to make you slightly uncomfortable or[ worse] make me slightly uncomfortable, please stop reading**]

How do you bring up physical intimacy and sex without offending someone or worse pressuring them?  How do you clearly state where you’re at and what you want at the different stages of courtship, dating, and being a couple? What if you’re not sure if you what kind of relationship you want? Is there a way to bring it up without your date being like “dude I’m not even sure if I’m going to peace out on you when my friend calls to see if I need an excuse to leave?”

I tried relationship advice but found that far too broad and again, obvious. Thank you Doctor Phil, now I know that I probably shouldn’t talk about my emotional scars from previous relationships in the first or second date. Really? I probably shouldn’t pretend to be interested in a committed relationship if all I want is sex? I then tried “dating advice for feminist allies.” This advice was only slightly more relevant to me. There were some interesting discussions about not using the word rape to describe things are not rape and how you can show women respect [ http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/11/deconstruction-how-to-be-male-ally.html ]. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the article is awesome. I think everyman should read it and if everyman took it to heart we could end large swaths of rape culture in America.

My concern is, are there really so few men in my position? Most of this discussion is, quite frankly, obvious to me. This would be fine if I were some saint of new age maleness. I would be fine if it meant that I was so far past my Neanderthal-lite contemporaries that I didn’t need this advice. Unfortunately, I struggle with and perpetuate patriarchy every day. I still am not sure how to confidently approach sexual topics with women as equals. How do I make my wants and desires clear and respected while giving her space to do the same? How might I ethically navigate a hypothetical partner’s “sex-positivism” with my odd mix of slightly old fashion views on “common decency” and unique sexual desires? Basically how and when do you create a safe, non-awkward space to talk about physical and emotional intimacy from kissing & sex to commitment issues & mental illness?

To be clear, my concern is less at the practical lack of easily available discussions of these sorts of issues now that I’m dating, it is about the symbolism of the absence in our discussion. Past experience has told me that often these sorts of things resolve themselves organically in my own relationships. I’m fairly confident that if I continue to be the honest, open and caring person I try and often succeed at being it is unlikely that any potential partner will feel uncomfortable pressure or offense. Yet what does it mean that there is no cultural conversation about this. Do people either accept offense and pressure as hazards of dating or possess some sort of brazen honesty on these subjects that risks scarring off potential partners in order to avoid said pressure and offense.

And if I’m perfectly honest with myself [and by myself I of course mean the 20 random people who will read this], it would be practically helpful for me too. What if I’m wrong about things working out organically? What if one of my many unknown unknown’s was that I am doing things in my organically developing relationships to offend women? It’s been known to happen [ “nice guy patriarchy” or back when I used to dance beside girls and pretend like I was dancing with them in college].

So, Facebook friends, random bloggers, fellow allies, womanists, feminist, queer theorists and free thinkers: how do you date ethically in the modern world? I suppose I should also ask, is it reasonable to expect to be able to date, hold true to your needs, wants and beliefs without inadvertently benefiting from or perpetuating patriarchy? I’m not asking about how to date without getting your feelings hurt [mom I know that probably what you’re about to send me a heartfelt message about…send it anyway just in case] I thinking dating, like all human interactions, come with risk and miscommunications. My question is can it come without rape culture, patriarchy, emasculation and WTF moments? Not only would I like to know but I think this conversation (which is undoubtedly taking place somewhere in the interweb) needs to be more main stream. Please, if I’m simply missing out on a great conversation out there, post it in the comment section. Can’t wait to hear from you!

p.s. what’s the deal with :)’s. Is that deal breaker? What if I’m really excited about what I just said?

All Happy Families Are Happy In The Same Way

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. –Leo Tolstoy 

 

So, here I am living with my two amazing sisters and wonderful niece in a house in Washington D.C. My sisters and I had a heart to heart a few nights ago. One of my sisters looked at me and said “You have got to be one the luckiest SOBs I’ve ever met.” My first reaction was agreement. Not many people have a the family support, friends, and opportunities that I’ve had. Then I thought about it. I remembered the year spent living with my parents because I couldn’t afford to go the school. I remembered the hours spent in the library studying. I remembered months spent feeling like a failure after graduation. I remembered working 60 hours a week at a school in Englewood. I remember hours of meetings and mountains of stress living in a homeless shelter in Back of the Yards and I was reminded of the all the work. Then all I felt was anger. “I made my own luck” I announced before recounting all the things that had happened to me over the years that I never told anyone because I knew that they would worry. I realized that I always make my life seem easy and make every good thing that happens to me about chance because I hate to brag about my accomplishments. It is not humility, I wish it was but its not. I realized in talking to my sisters that I don’t tote my accomplishments with my family sometimes because that is not the role I’m expected to play.

I am the lazy but brilliant slacker of the family who is always content to have others do for him what he could do for himself.  That is the expectation, the default narrative. I realized that I purposefully reinforced that narrative as the path of least resistance. They was no way that I could foresee convincing my family that I was no longer the baby, that they didn’t need to treat me like one. So instead, I decided to reap the benefits to fullest extent possible. My sister was amazed by my rant and realized that I had never let my self admit that fact before. My sisters then went on and talked about the roles they felt forced to be in our family and whether or not they want to change them. It was really transformative to hear their accounts of our childhood.

We all viewed arguments, vacations, presents and statements very differently. I realized that while I have a happy family, I think it must be a happiness unlike any other.

This left me wondering what it is like for other people becoming adults along side their siblings. How did or are your relationships changing now that you are becoming adults? Do you have a role to fill in your family?

My family. I'll always be the baby

My family. I’ll always be the baby

Justice As An Imaginative Act

I was recently reading a counterstorytelling post about “sex-positivity” as only being positive for white, middle class, heterosexual women.

 

http://counterstorytelling.tumblr.com/post/41102914582/sex-positivity-isnt-so-positive

 

It makes the familiar argument that sex positivity is only liberating for a small group of women for whom the idea of virginal purity was oppressive and limiting. For women and queer people from minority communities who have a history of sexual fetishism and exotic sexual exploitation sex positivity reinforces extremely harmful and limiting stereotypes. While I had heard this argument before, the author mentioned an idea that I had not remembered ever hearing before: justice as an imaginative activity.

This seems to mean that justice in regards to issues of identity and oppression is essentially about reimagining our identities and rethinking the social templates for interaction. I think this is an interesting lens to look at justice in identity politics. The implicit idea seems to be that seeking justice through changing laws and systems of oppression is not sufficient if we still operate on racist, sexist, homophobic, classist etc frameworks. It is the idea that in order for a man to no longer be sexist we would have to do more than treat women as equals he would have to start thinking of women as equals.

This resonates with me on a very personal level as I have been rethinking my essay on the American Male. While I still agree with much of what I said, I still wonder how much of it was simply me projecting my own hang ups onto a larger social problem. I was never really able to find many men to talk about the essay with so some amount of projection was unavoidable in a sense. Yet most of the women I talked to said that they didn’t think the men in their lives had all the emotional stunting and sexual hang-ups that I was talking about. Though, to be fair, they were also women who actively avoided stereotypical men and bro culture.

Since publishing that article on my website I’ve done a lot of what in retrospect I can call the imaginative work of justice. I have explored my inability to talk to women outside of a sexual or romantic context and I have become more focused on learning about other people and that has inadvertently made me less self-centered. I am slightly embarrassed by how some of my issues seem to have been a result of being self-centered but mostly happy that I have at least grown as person in the last couple of months.

I realized the extent of that growth as I was sitting with a female friend of mine the other day and was able to talk to her without the barriers that our multiple identities sometimes create. I was aware that she was an attractive, middle class, college educated, young, white, woman yet that was very much in the background. I was able to talk to her as just another person in a way that I am rarely able to talk to anyone, male or female. It was a way that was just in the imaginative sense. She was not a character in my Socratic dialogue, a model on a pedestal to impress or a supporting manic pixie dream girl character in my romantic comedy.

I’m not sure how or why I developed the habit of making people supporting characters in my life story instead of fully realized beautiful individuals. I could probably blame my obsession with characters on writing or movies but in ultimately it is an odd form of self-centeredness. I am now going to commit myself to increasing my engagement with the imaginative aspect of justice. I am going to seek to rethink how I conceptualize my fellow human beings and recreate my template for interacting everyone: male, female or zir.

A Step Along The Way

A Step Along The Way [Prayer for Oscar Romero]

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent

enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of

saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an

opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master

builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

             This last line resonates within me. I have met a wonderful cast of characters in the past six months who have, in our intense discussions and arguments, shown me many of my formerly unknown unknowns. While I may not believe in the Kingdom of God that the Bishop who wrote this homely did, I have realized how far out my vision the future is. The unknown unknowns that my new found friends showed me also showed me how much of the present world, what is happening right now all around the world, is beyond my present vision. The past few months have challenged me to examine almost every aspect of my life and question many things I used to believe firmly. They have shown me things about the world I never would have guessed. There is a beauty to the world that I find for the first time. Ironically, this period of intense questioning as ended my years long angst filled quest to “find myself.”

             I feel that when I stopped needing to impress people with wit or conversation skills I found myself more curious about those around me. I began to listen more intently and found common ground with people with whom I had nothing more in common with than the fact that we were both human, making our way through the world. I found out a lot about myself too. I learned that care about listening to other people’s truth. I care about my principles. I care about doing the right the thing. I care about the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve built.

              I find this quote to be very liberating. It always me to comfortable with what a friend once called “my potential for small greatness.” He was referring to doing create work on a small scale. I don’t need to move mountains to make a difference. I just need to seek out seeds in need of watering, injustices in need of correcting and a cause worth fighting for. I’m not sure what seeds I’ll tend to yet but the fact that I know longer buy into the idea that I need to fundamentally transform the world on my own takes to pressure off finding it today. I think instead I will try exploring the world to find what it has to teach me and drop as much water as I can each step a long the way.

The Depressing Pursuit Of Happiness By The Petty Bourgeois

So, I’ve just finished reading Karl Taro Greenfield’s Book “Triburbia.” Its about being a middle aged artist turned businessman in Tribeca New York.  The main characters have made it by most American’s standards yet feel relatively impoverished by their wealthier banker neighbors. These men all have beautiful wives and successful careers, children who love them but no real connections. They are, to a man, too self centered to have real connections. They spend decades getting rich, hoping that winning the rat race will make them happy and they find themselves more depressed than before. Oddly enough, unlike Eddith Wharton’s “House of Mirth” or Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” it provides no alternative for happiness other than move to California and start over.

I have been thinking a lot about the book though because it makes me wonder about what I want out of life. What kind of life do I want to lead? As I consider employment options, my anger at working a minimum wage job with a college degree wanes, my fears of being a failure subside, my passion for writing increases and I am still at a loss. What do I want to do? What would make me happy? I have moments of wanderlust punctuated with moments of extreme unease with my life. My life is happy over all I guess but there is still something missing. Something intangible and ineffable. There has got to be more.

Yet all that being said, I am happier now than when I made 3 times what I make now. I am also much more content with life even though I think that the work I was doing a year ago was nobler. I was making a difference a year ago that I am not now.  Yet, I am much more content and less angsty. Even as I contemplate these same questions with less certainty I am less stressed than I was two years ago.

I think it has a lot to do with my being more intentional about my life now. I am spending more time thinking about what makes me happy. What I want out of life and finally actually going for it. I am constantly working on creating positive relationships. I am meditating and praying trying to understand more about myself. Yet still managing to serve others and not become completely inward focused. Heck, even as I oscillate between resignation and aversion to where I live and work I must admit it just doesn’t seem that bad compared to a few years ago.

I have a nagging suspicion that this is what adulthood feels like. Less passion, fewer butterflies but ultimately less drama…in everything. I have a degree of control in my life that is unprecedented in my history. I am less impulsive, less defensive more confident. Yes, this is adulthood. I’m becoming my father, slowly but surely.  That’s not so bad I guess. My father’s pretty awesome. He’s gearing up to ride his bike 150 miles soon. He’s 63 years old and in better shape than me. I wonder if he ever felt what those middle aged men in Triburbia felt though? He lost his job even before the great recession of  2008. He had always been pretty concerned with maintaining a middle class life. Being unemployed had to be hard on him. I’m not sure if we ever really talked about it though. I mean we had family meetings about cutting back but it was always his job to provide for me so he could never really open up.

My parents both decided to cut down on expenses. They sold their house of 18 years and moved to Canyon “nothing-to-see-here” City Colorado. They started living the kind of lives that you see on movies. The kind where Ivy-Leauge educated professionals are forced to move back in with their middle class  hippie parents and realize that maybe they had it right all along. My parents don’t smoke weed or walk around naked but they have permanently excised themselves from consumerism. No more Christmas present rush, no more new SUVs, more black whatever day sales. I think they compost now too.

There’s a picture my mom texted me of her standing on top of a mountain, age 65, with her hands above her head and infectious smile: triumphant. That could be on the cover of AARP magazine with tittle “Life At 65!” None of that ? b.s. from the nineties [Life at 65?] when baby boomer all though retirement meant times shares in Reno, Nevada before you slowly come to accept the home your kids put you in. I’m starting to think that maybe my parents have life figured out.

Maybe I won’t go follow the Depressing Pursuit Of Happiness By The Petty Bourgeois. Maybe I’ll pare down my life, move somewhere cheap, get to know my neighbors, pass out wisdom to my children, teach my truth and continue to learn till I die…when I’m 90…from exposure…in Tibet. It is a comforting thought, until I remember the look on my mom’s face after coming home from a 9 hour work day and seeing my older sister covered in eggs…along with all the furniture. My parents put in 40 years of adulthood before 150 mile bike rides and hiking mountains. I’m not sure if I have that in me. Is their a middle way? Is there that good life in America? I’m twenty-four, my parents are supposed to envy me and my life!

Well…at least I know how to text properly…oh wait…mom and dad do that too now…

Living Life Intentionally

I realized recently I’ve spent so much time worrying about updating this blog with enough stories and poems to keep this blog fresh that I haven’t thought to update people about my life. What good is having a blog if you can’t put every thought out on the internet and pretend that the people who are reading think it is profound? I would be certifiably derelict as a self absorbed, fame obsessed millennial if I didn’t devote any time on my blog to writing about me as a real person. So, for those of you know me and for those of you who don’t [yet] what have I been doing?

Well, honestly, if I had to sum up what I’ve been spending the last year doing it would have to be spending my time trying to live my life with increasing intentionality. I spent a number of months, years really, going about my day to day life being intentionally about one or two things. The rest of my life was almost on auto-pilot. I took a lot of things and people for granted. Towards the end of 2012 I began to feel increasingly dissatisfied with the way I was living my life. My work was stressful and seemed like one crisis after another in a way that was completely unsustainable for me. I spent most of time outside of work escaping from the stress of work in way that were very unhealthy like eating and retail therapy. Around December of 2012 I knew that something had to give.

I decided to leave my job as a paraprofessional at a school in Englewood. It was a very difficult choice for me but looking back on it, I am more and more convinced it was the right one. While I still love the kids I worked with I felt that, for a variety of reasons, I was not helping them develop in positive ways. This started a few months of unemployment and spending money that would quickly run out. I eventually got my act together and applied to live at a Catholic Worker on the southwest side of Chicago. Around the same time I got a job at a book store in Hyde Park. After a few days of getting settled into this new life I begin to spend more and more time inspecting my life and my beliefs.

During this time one of oldest and best friends also got married right as I started my new life at the Catholic Worker. We was married to… the Girl of my dreams for him if that makes sense? I firmly believe that you should not look for a wife to complete you yet I think my friend and his wife complement each other in a way that is truly magical to behold.

I often worried about this particular friend because he had tendency in high school to give more to girls he dated than they deserved. I realize that he did this more out of a fundamental belief in what it meant to be a good person than in some naive romantic beliefs on dating. While I’ve always found this to be admirable I did worry that he, as a man clearly destined to be financially and  personally successful would either end up with a wife who didn’t appreciate what he had to offer or a wife who merely recognized he was a great guy but didn’t offer anything of equal worth in the relationship. Fortunately he found himself someone who was equally smart, funny and driven. Someone who would give as much to the relationship as he would.

At their wedding I realized several things. One was that how all of my oldest and most dear friends viewed me. They all mentioned how proud they were that I quit my job and did what I thought was right. They were all proud that I had chosen to continue being my brother’s keeper and all called me successful. I was shocked because I had felt so unsuccessful and lost for numerous months previous to this. I also realized how much I missed out romantic love.

Compounding this feeling, my other equally old and equally dear friend was also at the wedding and a member of the wedding party. No one has taught me more about the meaning of the word loyalty than this friend. He also reminds me about my younger self. He reminds me of the moral, self righteous and hopeful 17 year old I was when we spent the summer working at a call center in Colorado Springs.  8 years ago he said that he could imagine the three of us meeting once a every view years for the rest of our lives. The three of us committed to that idea and it is the only promise I made as a teenager that I intend to keep.

At the same time, so much time had passed since we last hung out. We had changed in so many untold ways. I was amazed at how easily we feel into a similar routine and accepting we were of how we had all changed. My conversations increased my desire to explore what changes I needed to make in my life because I knew that regardless of how I changed, I had at least two friends who would stand by me.

On my last night at the estate where the wedding was being held in upstate New York I called another best friend. [All this talk of best friends reminds me of a Mindy Kaling quote “best friend is not a person, its a tier] This friend lives out in the Bay Area is by far my most honest friend. I think of him like family now more because he embodies the blunt honesty and stalwart support of my mother’s family than because of the length of our friendship. Though honestly, our five years of friendship would be enough.

I talked to him about my odd mix of elation at seeing my friends and a feeling that something ineffable was missing. He said something that resonates with me still. He said that most adults he knows usually only have involved relationships, meaning the kind where you spend almost every night hanging out, with romantic partners. He suggested that was part of what I might be missing.

Living at a Catholic Worker was very challenging for me. I met a lot of new people and was forced to live and work with them through all the false assumptions, misconceptions and misunderstandings that go along with diverse community life. I decided that as part of living in a community I wanted to understand my roommates as much as possible. I quickly began to realize that things that I had thought so universal believed as to be assumed to obvious were often vehemently disagreed with.

I lived with people who didn’t believe in human progress only change. I lived with people who considered themselves Christian but believed that all religions held equal truth about the world. I lived with white straight middle class christian men committed to be an ally to oppressed people in new and startlingly refreshing ways. Slowly my paradigms about people and the models for human behavior that I developed started breaking down. As these things broke down I continued my introspection.

One of the many results of this introspection as a rapid evolution of how I thought of myself in context. I was talking to people about their identities as they inadvertently said things that challenged mine. I spent a great deal of time thinking about gender and race and privilege [which resulted in The American Male]. I spent a lot of time coming to terms with being both oppressed and oppressor.  The more I thought about that duality, the more radical I became in my desire to stop being complacent in patriarchy and rape culture. Yet at the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious and disturbing to me how difficult and murky a path exploring how I sustain patriarchy and rape culture will be.

As all of this was happening I met an extraordinary young man whom I who considering entering the Catholic Church. Those of who know me well, know that my views on religion have shifted a lot of the years but I was recently in a strongly anti-organized religion state of mind. Yet, despite initial impressions of thinking me and this bible thumbing, show tunes humming, cheese and fruit eating Michigander could never get along we developed a very strong bond. After hearing about his faith journey and opening up to him about my feelings of something being missing, I came to realize something very important about myself. I had never resolved my feelings about God. Oh, I had resolved my thoughts on organized religion and by extension my thoughts on God but not my feelings. I realized that so much of my anti-religious sentiment was based on a child hood of being told that I was going to go to hell for not being a christian and emerging into an adult world that I couldn’t reconcile with my faith.

I was also raised by two very religious parents whose faith journey, for lack of better term, was never very compelling to me. My parents have always given me logical and emotionally moving stories of why they are Baha’i but not why they believe in God in the first place. This lead be internalize a lot of the Baha’i faith’s morality which I feel has served me well but left me at a loss for explaining why I believed in God because God’s existence had always been assumed as a child. By the time I began to question it I was too upset with religion to respectfully hear my parents out.

My friend, the liturgical Michigander, suggested that I visit a spiritual director. Had he suggested this a few months earlier I would not have laughed in his face I actually would have probably been offended. Yet time and conversations had changed me. I was open to change and open to explore my inner-self. I went to Loyola University and meet with a Jesuit Priest about my feelings of lacking something in my life. He was a sort of no BS kind of guy and challenged me on every statement. Fortunately it was exactly what I needed at the time.

The Jesuit Priest and I talked about my goals in life and a increasing feeling that their was something more out there. I briefly brought up my concern about being single and he said “Are you seriously asking a celibate man if he thinks you need romance to be a healthy, happy person? Have you ever had a Dog? I guarantee you a puppy will give you more affirmation and a sense of being needed than any girl friend.”

While I don’t think that a dog is the same as getting married but I do think he is right about a relationship not being able to fill the void i was feeling. It was something deeper, something…well…spiritual. I came to the conclusion that I need to resolve my thoughts on spirituality and God and then decide on what I want out of life. Over the next few days I came to realize how much of my spirituality that I repressed out of anger, fear and stubbornness as opposed to just stopped feeling.

I decided to go with my friend, the liturgical Michigander, to the Baha’i gardens in Wilmette. There I was flooded with warm memories of my childhood spent in 19 day feasts and winter schools. I was reminded of my mother teaching me the remover of difficulties and my father explaining how he became a Baha’i. The experience almost brought me to tears.

Before I left I made sure to buy a prayer book, the Book of Certitude and The Seven Valleys. I committed  myself to explore this rekindled spirituality.  As time passed I realized that I could no longer consider myself to be an atheist but I also am a long way from being okay being in an organized religion.

So, with all of these things happening I am hoping to reinvent myself. I’m eating healthier, exercising, meditating, praying, working within a budget, reading, strengthening relationships with friends and family and being proactive in the dating scene for once in my life. This has all lead to hilarity, schadenfreude, a lot of apologies, a lot of stress, hunger, relief, catharsis and growth.

So, in conclusion, I’m changing things up. Hopefully things will work out for the best. I feel healthier, more stable and more…adult (?) than I ever have before. Ready for the challenge and it’s not even new years. I’ll write more of each individual aspect of my wellness plan but yeah…that’s how I’m living.

Happiness and Pain

In order to be happy one must have an end which is infinite and in which the journey is enjoyable. By that I mean that you have to have a goal which you are striving for, a goal in which you can take pleasure in trying to achieve and not just in the achievement. I think that is true happiness, the pursuit of a noble end. True happiness is devoting yourself to something intrinsically rewarding.
Therefore true sorrow is to find yourself without purpose. Lost in a sea of opportunities, looking for something to want.
True pain is wanting something you can’t have.
The road of life is a long, unpaved, overgrown path. The key to satisfaction is learning to enjoy the walk.