Have you ever seen the bus you want to catch depart before you could get to the stop? You run across traffic, wave your hands and shout to the driver, but you are too far away, and your baggage and the traffic and the weather seem to conspire against you. You stand alone at the stop, tasting the exhaust fumes mixed with cold rain, and in your heart, you know the fault is your own.
Today I offer a response to a number of readers who have written to me about missed opportunities and related chagrin.
I'm a great one for setting down personal rules because they propel us forward and keep us from wallowing in our mistakes. Saying I never should have is fine, but saying From now on, I am going to is better.
I bet I can get you to ten without a stretch.
- I WILL CHART MY TIME. Unless we chart it, we tend to be unaware of how much time we waste doing things that are not high on our list of priorities. (Oh. Did I mention that you should have a list of long-range priorities? That rule is so terrifically basic, I won't even include it in this list.) If you want a boyfriend, turning over frequent half hours to viewing Golden Girls reruns won't help you. A half hour spent with Bea and the girls seems like such a little thing. Those half hours add up and create distance between you and that bus.
- I WILL BE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT SOMETHING. I recently covered the New York City gay swim team trip to Fort Lauderdale, and watching these happily engaged men and women reminded me that one of the basic rules of attraction is enthusiasm. You need to be passionate about something. It doesn't matter what. Knitting. Architecture. Disco. Jesus. Whips. Cupcakes. Volleyball. Choose it, follow it, love it and do it wholeheartedly. That is sexy.
- I WILL QUESTION MY PREJUDICES. I have heard them all (and I've even said some of them). I don't date Asians. I don't go to Brooklyn. I don't eat sushi. I don't go to the ballet. I don't believe in anything that can't be proven. I don't have sex with women (men). I don't talk to guys (gals) who are over 45. When you limit yourself, you paint yourself into a very lonely and boring corner. Children are by nature explorers. The saddest thing about growing up is letting the explorer in you die. Bring him/her back to life.
- I WILL BE LESS ANGRY AND MORE ACTIVE. While it is OK to be angry over social injustice, it is not pretty if you do not translate your anger into action. If all you do is grouse about religious bigots and republican haters, you don't interest me and I won't befriend you. If you take action to correct bad things, I will admire you deeply even if your actions are modest. If you are often consumed with anger about the supermarket checkout line and other people's driving, I may find myself backing away from you, even if I agree that you are right and they are wrong. Why give over such a huge portion of yourself to things beyond your control?
- I WILL BE A BETTER FRIEND. I've already written about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. Friends are not old sweaters destined for the Good Will. They take some work, and if you are more energetic about the needs of your countertops, pets or hair than you are about your friends, some adjustment is needed.
- I WILL BE A CONSTANT LOVER. Even in the best of relationships, we could all swiftly list ten things wrong with our partners. Most of them can be chalked up to human nature. If you are alarmed at feeling distance growing between you and your partner, your first reaction should be to dive head first into your partner. To savory the person in depth. His/her response will remind you why you first loved him/her. It is so sadly easy to cultivate the distance between us and our lovers. Bridge it rather than turn your back on it.
- I WILL CONFRONT MY ADDICTIONS. There is nothing attractive about slavery. Face that master you hate. Now. Ask for help. Addiction is probably at the root of more regrets than anything else we can screw up. I wish I knew the secret to successfully battling addiction. Nobody knows why some win that battle and some lose it. It is a mystery, even for the winners. When you are a slave to addiction, not only will you not catch the bus, but everyone on it will urge the driver to shut the door and hit the gas when they see you coming. Sometimes, it is only in that isolation that an addicted person finds resolve. Don't wait for that to be the case.
- I WILL CONFRONT MY FEARS.
- You are not rich enough.
- You are not pretty enough.
- Your tits and your dick are not big enough.
- You are not thin enough.
- Your parents are not good enough.
- Your marriage is not good enough.
- You are not smart enough.
- You are not young enough.
- You are not talented enough.
- You are not successful enough.
Now that we have settled that, and have realized that those things are true for ALL of us, what the hell are you so afraid of? Accepting the premise of imperfection is the first step to perfection. Recite that list every day before breakfast and then smile and kiss the mirror.
- I WILL SLOW DOWN. It is our needless and frantic behavior that is actually keeping us from getting to the bus on time. Decaffeinate your schedule because it is killing you slowly and insidiously.
- I WILL STOP MAKING SMALL TALK. I saved this one for last because I feel strongly about it and because I think it is currently the most dangerous human malaise. We are addicted to small talk. To mindless chatter. To half-baked and worthless assertions. To killing time on the phone, blackberry, and internet. To sampling what everyone else is doing to kill their time. This desire for small talk is an addiction that helps us avoid the more challenging aspects of our lives.
You run the risk of missing a real and beautiful world when you shut out the sound and sights around you. You wonder why you are not meeting the man/woman of your dreams. It's because you are no longer making eye contact with anyone! I extend this sickness to listening to music while walking on the sidewalk or driving to work. If you cannot learn to find, create and embrace silence, and to generate well-crafted opinions, you really are missing the bus.
And if you walk down the street while texting madly, you deserve to be hit by the bus that you miss.