Falling and Missing the Ground

High school and middle school were tough for me. Or, at least, for the person I was then.

Toughened and nearly defeated by four years of mostly total (“No I will not go out with you. Please go away.”) and partial rejection (“Oh the movies, right, uh, sure I’ll go with you, but my friend is going to come along, too. That’s OK, right?”), I looked forward to nothing more than getting a fresh start somewhere else.

Once I was out and away in a new place (we’ll call it “college”, because it was), I finally had a chance to sort out who I was and, more importantly at the time, who I wasn’t. I went through my baggage and started sorting the useful from the troublesome.

It took about a year, two odd relationships (one actually dating, one… not), a near complete nervous breakdown, and some really good friends for me to really get a handle on things.

At one point, I decided to just have fun with the concept of asking people out. Instead of going in to it thinking “I’m going to get her to go out with me,” I began entering the situation thinking “I’m just going to ask and enjoy the interaction.” It was like diving form the high board–the first step is a bit nerve-wracking, the landing may be rough, but the ride down is something quite impressive.

To say I didn’t care if someone would say “Yes” would be an exaggeration. At least at the beginning. After all, if I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t bother asking at all–even for entertainment value.

I got into habits of asking people out. Often the same people. Often frequently.

There was an entire table of girls I would ask out every Friday. I knew all of them, they were all part of the same organization other friends of mine were in (for those keeping score, it was InterVarsity Christian Fellowship… my tastes run wide and are varied) and, by the third or fourth week, they were ready with their answers when they saw me coming.

The answer,  sometimes in unison, was usually “No.” Usually, but not always. I got at least one honest to goodness date out of that and, if I recall correctly, someone still owes me a night at the movies.

The key was to go in with  little to no expectation of getting an actual date. The whole process of asking people out become more fun for all involved. They knew saying “No” wouldn’t hurt my feelings or disrupt our friendships and that, if they changed their minds, I’d be back next week. I knew that they’d start smiling when I showed up, that I entertained them, at least a little and could brighten their day.

Experiences like that opened  a lot of doors for me.

Some of those doors were external–more interesting friendships, introductions to new people, a slowly growing reputation as a decent and fun person. All quite useful and very different than what I had been used to.

Others were internal–I gained the ability to separate my wants from the reality around me, I learned how to take pleasure from just the excitement of possibility, I became more comfortable with myself.

Sure, there were still more than a few women I fell for so completely that I was a mess for hours before and after I’d see them. Yes, more than once did I really care if the person would say “Yes” or not. But when the noise in my head would get bad, I’d just remind myself that what I want may not be what they want.

A relationship isn’t about “me” or “you.” It’s about “us.” If our wants and needs don’t match, things are going to be rocky or maybe not at all. It’s a simple fact. There’s no sense in getting bent out of shape about it. Better to just accept it and move on.

Simple facts, simple words, simple ideas–very difficult execution.

We are emotional and often irrational creatures. I continue to be reminded of that every day. But we have control over what we do and we can learn to choose what we take away from different situations.

Falling for someone is easy and exhillerating. Taking control of that and doing something with it, well, that’s like diving–once you jump, enjoy the ride. It can only end three ways: you nail the ending, sliding gracefully into the water; something goes wrong and you hit the water hard, ending up in considerable pain; or you manage to miss the ground entirely, continuing the joy of the journey no matter what.

That last option… that’s what being happy with yourself allows. That’s how you can crush without being crushed.

Get Adobe Flash player