18 May 2008

Well, Ahead, Anyway

For the past week I have been reflecting on risks and risk-taking.  While I'm not a bungee jumper or one of those people who flies light aircraft into the desert, in the confines of regular-life-living I have taken some risks:  I packed up and moved to England after college; I moved to where I am; I've gone out with men who were not the men you meet if you just hang around usual places, or if you don't make a point of meeting them.  None of these, incidentally, have seemed like risks to me.  They've seemed like the stuff that would make me happy, so they seemed completely logical. I gather that to other people, however, they have seemed risky or bold.  Apparently most people do not do these sorts of things: they don't approach people, or decide to go for the long shot, or up sticks.

I reflect upon this now, as I am about to enter my fifth decade, and it strikes me that none of the risks I've taken has, in fact, brought me happiness.  When I moved to England, I ended up marrying someone I ended up divorcing.  When I moved to where I am, it turned out to be a terribly wrong place for me.  When I went out with unusual men, those relationships didn't work out.  And other emotionally risky behaviours - risky in my opinion - have resulted badly, too.  

I don't want to turn this into The Blog About New Order, but here a mention does seem appropriate.  They have a relatively late song (maybe 1994) called "Regret" - a strange song altogether, as it's not clear whether the speaker is celebrating good luck or bemoaning loss.  At the very end, sort of dissociated from the rest of the lyric and therefore seeming like a random thought, the speaker (or maybe Bernard Sumner) says, "Just wait till tomorrow:  I guess that's what they all say just before they fall apart."  I've always loved this lyric (in fact, this is one of the few songs that gets what I think of as an elemental rule of song-writing absolutely right: leave your best line for last), because of the essential despair and gloomy view of the world it reveals.  Thinking about it lately, though, I've come to love it for another reason, too.  It seems to me to capture perfectly the stupidity of risk-taking.  You decide you'll do something, and you say, "Just wait; you'll see:  it'll work out."  And the next thing you know, as sure as shooting, everything, including you, falls apart.

So, after careful reflection, I've decided to stop taking risks.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to do what's best for my career, but it does mean I'm not going to do things that could end wonderfully or could end horribly, or even things that could end well or could end badly.  This is especially true in my personal life.  I would rather be functionally unhappy all the time, the way I am now, than risk being made very unhappy.  My experience suggests to me that attempts I make to be truly happy always end up making me very unhappy.  So I'm done making those attempts.  I obviously have no skill in recognizing people or situations that will make me unhappy, and I possess no ability to strategize in such a way that I can manipulate situations into going my way:  these two facts lead me to believe that it's best to wait for things to happen to me, rather than going after what I want, and to stay away from doing things that offer me any chance of getting hurt.

Now, I should say that this offers up some real possibilities in the sexual area.  Specifically, it makes brief sexual encounters the sensible option.  So I should get my numbers up in that department.  If I could just get the hang of how you meet people to have sex with.  But I think that'll be easier when I'm a woman alone in England.

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