Graceful understanding

There are moments when I think the world is trying to teach me some humility. A person such as myself makes his own luck, bad as well as good. I’m not a passive fatalist content to let destiny take its course. Nor am I inclined to go with the prevailing view. I’m open to advice and guidance, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll act on it. I’m an active, occasionally aggressive participant. I try to influence events, though sometimes clumsily, and often with no more motive than a wilful intent to do something rather than nothing. Over the years it’s cost me a lot – money, women, possibly professional advancement; but it has also gained me much, and given me opportunities that might never have come my way otherwise. On balance I think I am ahead, and regardless, it is the authentic me.

My general attitude can be surmised by my response to these occasional doubts. For a few minutes I consider the truth of it: do I need to be more humble? I assess the situation, recognising as I do the price of I’ve paid for expecting and striving for more than perhaps is my due. I wonder what it might be like to be that gentler soul. For a few moments I am drawn to it. Then slowly the reality as I see it re-surfaces: I am what I am. A man’s character is his destiny they say, and if I am to accept any destiny then that’s it. Rightly or wrongly this is who I am. I can’t be something I’m not, and I realise I don’t want to be. I want to be acting on life, not acted upon. And so invariably I have the same defiant and foolish response: fuck the world.

Though I’m writing of it now, it is not something I wonder at in these moments. The sun shines down. I reflect in hindsight. I am calm, not content, but relaxed with who I am. I think I have mellowed a tad over the years and expect – and hope even – that will continue more. I have hopes also of becoming a wiser man, which I tend to think of as a quiet understanding of the world as it is rather than how I – or others – paint it to be. For all my striving I think there are quieter parts in me, more sensitive parts, parts that use judgement and common sense. And there are those parts of me that perpetually reach, curious and hungry; and those aggressively competitive parts of me that will not take a backward step, knowing even sometimes that it is wiser to do so. If there is one attribute that defines more than any other I sometimes think it is defiance.

This is the subject for the day because there have been many moments lately when I have actively wondered if I am being tested; and because these moments arise from the many challenges I now find myself beset by. It is human nature to wonder how different things may have been with a different perspective or attitude, if I had not chosen one path over the other. Those are questions that can never be answered, and so I don’t dwell on them too much. As I’m fond of saying, it is what it is. When I’m weary though from the battle I wonder if somewhere out there is an alternative life I turned my back on.

Lately I have been very busy, industrious and enterprising. Events have forced that upon me, and in responding to those events I have found myself rising to a new pitch. I don’t think I’ve ever been more able than I am now. I feel razor sharp, switched on. The irony is that it seems to no effect. I don’t know what more I can do, knowing that what I am doing is pretty well on the money – but utterly wasted. I am, on the one hand, more effective than I have ever been before, at least in prospect; and on the other hand have nothing, neither opportunity or task on which to exercise it. It seems cruel in a way, and hence, at odd times, I am apt to wonder if there is intended a lesson in this for me.

Last night I received a message that left me deflated. It’s good to share this because in a way it does teach me a bitter lesson. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am much drawn to women. Though I am often many other things, I am also deeply romantic. The irony is that though I meet and become intimate with different women on a regular basis, it is only very rarely that I find myself moved on the emotional level that I truly desire. In it’s absence I enjoy what I can: a drink, a meal, some witty conversation, a different perspective, the occasional sexual tryst. I have a lot of female friends, and am seen, I think, as a generally agreeable, alluring male companion. It’s fine enough in what it is, but far short of what I really want.

Last week I caught up with a girl I was surprised to find myself drawn too. Not in any deep or emotional way, it was not nearly to that point. Rather I went home thinking this is a woman I might actually find myself drawn to in that deep, emotional, and intimate way. I felt encouraged, enlivened, but less about her really than the remembrance that things like this can be. It’s in me, not dead, just dormant.

She was an attractive woman who looked something like Amanda Seyfried, smart, well read, interesting. A book editor, we had much in common. We caught alight sharing all manner of things. We agreed to catch up again soon.

Last night I received a message from her expressing regret. She had really liked me she said, had enjoyed getting to know me, etc, but that an old friend had come into her life and she couldn’t see both of us. I read the message once and then closed it. I felt all the air going out of me. Give me a break I thought, and it was a sad, almost forlorn thought. I don’t do forlorn well, and though I’m becoming accustomed to having my ambitions thwarted I still don’t take it easily. If you don’t except defeat you’re not defeated – except that sometimes you are.

I picked up soon enough, as I always do. I didn’t respond. I slept on it wondering how I was supposed to respond. There was the polite generic response, not really me, but one I’m inclined to dash off as if to prove it means nothing to me and that I’m above it all. Then there was something more formally authentic. Then there was something authentic with a mix of the real me in it. I woke this morning with the words in me.

I know I’m unlikely to ever hear from her again, and that’s fine. This is for me. I have to represent myself properly. To do that I have to be honest, with myself as much as to her.

I’m not sure of the etiquette in situations like this, but since I’ve never been known for my courtly manners I’ll just wing it instead. I’ll be polite and wish you luck – I hope you find happiness; and honest in admitting that I’m sorry that I won’t get to know you better. I’m inclined to scepticism R, and am a man much too hard to please, but I found you interesting and attractive company. I hoped to discover more.

I’ve probably gone and broken all the rules of etiquette in my few comments, so I’ll conclude quietly. Take care, and good luck.

What does it serve in the end? Life goes on, the days pile one atop the other, and moments like these, and things that might have been, swiftly forgotten. It’s worth marking the moment though, and understanding what it means. Being humble may not be my thing, but having the grace to understand the truth and acknowledging it is no bad thing.

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