thinking unenslaved

So, it would appear that all I’m doing up here is posting old poems and photographs, which hardly constitutes “thinking unenslaved”. No one has pointed this out to me, but if someone did, I would, of course be unable to disagree, per se. However, the point of delving back into some of my writings—very particular writings—is that they were, as a general group, written at times when I was comparatively cogent. While it is true (and I’ve said as much before) that some sort of emotional response to an event or a person was largely the driver for my writings in my late teens and early twenties, it is also true that those isolated moments were also when I sat myself down, weighed various options at hand, processed the emotional trappings I had attached to the person or event (the results of which are the poems themselves), and drove off along whatever path I determined to be correct or prudent at the time.

Clarity in thinking is always something I’ve struggled with. As could be expected for any youth growing up in an emotionally abusive household, true moments of clarity were few and far between. The days that I remember are often tied directly to the poems that I remember, now, and when certain words or phrases that I wrote in the past pop into my mind in these latter days, that is a signal that I recognise as me telling myself that I need to stop and think for a bit. It’s probably not the best method, but it does typically work for me. Clarity is mostly easier to achieve, as a result, but it’s also a fairly facile comparative. And it still takes longer than I think it should, sometimes.

And sometimes, foolish human that I am, I am ashamed to discover that I still hold a predilection for obfuscating the “critical” in “critical thinking”: a tendency to twist certain facts (and even logic) to fit a particular outcome. That upsets me the most. For example, back in 2009, after nearly a decade of consideration and rumination on the matter, I finally left my wife because I was “tired of being alone.” I ignored a myriad of things that she did for me, and countless signs that she thought of me and put my needs first in many ways, to reach the conclusion that I should go. Sure, certain aspects of our relationship had gone rather stale, but I had to be blind to a whole lot else in order to feel so alone. So, that’s Disappointment The First. However, part of the well-founded reasoning behind my departure was the very clear sense that I was being expected to be someone who I was not. I would never recommend someone do that to themselves, or allow the other person to do that to them. So at the time, and within that limited context, leaving was exactly the right thing for me to do. (Hindsight is a bitch in this regard, however.)

So, having left that relationship, it’s probably not hard for you to guess exactly what I did with my first “real” girlfriend after that. It started with keeping my hair cut to a length she desired and trimming my beard in a way she found attractive. And within the space of several months, that deference to her tastes had inappropriately filtered into virtually everything: How consistently I kept my condo clean, not getting pets to which she’d be allergic, how I was allowed to spend my money on her or for us, which cologne I could wear, a particular styles of dress, whether I’d make myself lunch or we’d go out during the work-week, how much time I could have with my kids, how often we’d be at her place versus mine, how many soccer matches I accepted, she required the curtailment of virtually all online interaction (a thing which has been with me since the early 1990s), the “Thinking Unenslaved” show came to a full halt because of her resentment of it, and the time I spent as a Referee Assignor was always resented as well.  In other words, I delved right back into the whole self-denigration/deprecation scheme to keep her happy, and I jumped into it head first. Those latter items involve my self-identification, and I set them aside to make her feel more secure in our relationship, all because I didn’t want to be alone anymore. Love is bind, after all, and my love was exceptionally blind to what I was doing, both to myself and to her. Hence, Disappointment The Second.

As a friend recently pointed out (this is a friend, mind you, from whom I dropped all contact for two years thanks to the above), doing those things wasn’t necessarily “wrong”; those were “right” actions in terms of my commitment to this woman. But they were not decisions made critically, at least not holistically so. Just as with my ex wife, I chose with this woman to take a very narrow view of the world, of life, and of myself, and I severely narrowed my critical thinking as a result. Sure, I was doing “the right thing” for her, but that “right thing” really should have manifested itself in a completely different way. Because I also did a grave disservice to her, you see. It would have been a far better thing for me to say, at each of those junctures, something along the line of, “I understand your preference, but we’re talking about my self-definition, and who I am is contrary to what you want. Are you sure it’s me you want in your life?” Instead, I just swallowed it—swallowed myself in a way—which also led to her wasting a few years of her life, too. Because when it finally died, the relationship died hard, and she had reached a point with me where killing it by text was an appropriate recourse for her.

I’m not at all proud of the fact that I caused all that for her. I reneged on self-integrity so much, and so often, “for her” that when I reached that point of over-saturation, I couldn’t hold fast to the things I recognised as my bottom lines without being either rude or evasive about. Sure, she owns her part of it, and in many ways, given how she approached those situations, there’s a level at which she was asking for this outcome. And by her own admission, that’s exactly what she’d done in past relationships—driven expectations to a point wherein the other party had no recourse but to fail—a fact which I studiously ignored. But my part was often willful and deliberate, whereas she just wanted what she wanted, albeit a little blindly. She never specifically asked me to change myself (although, to be fair, I would get a lot of shit until I cut my hair, trimmed my beard, or even untucked a shirt). But, my deference to “not giving up under pressure” and “showing her more commitment than I showed my ex-wife” were ultimately just band-aids on the gaping wound that was “being true to myself”. In hindsight, her incurious disregard for the “Thinking Unenslaved” broadcast, and its ensuing termination were quite appropriate, because by that time, I hadn’t been thinking unenslaved for quite some time.

I share all that with you because I’m never afraid to give my own bad examples as an object lesson. In fact, having a personal basis, such object lessons tend to be more poignant and relevant. I do this when instructing soccer referees as well. More than half the anecdotes I share with referees during classes and clinics come straight from my own repertoire of mistakes made on the field. So, if you haven’t already, learn from my mistakes: Never, ever, ever set your self-integrity aside just to be with someone. If you have to redefine yourself or remove yourself from things that you hold dear (things which play into your self-definition), take a long pause and consider, as objectively as you are able, whether or not those things you’re being asked to give up constitute bad habits or improper courses of action that you really don’t need anymore.

Pulling another example from my own life, at the beginning of my relationship with my ex-wife, I was quite resentful for a time, of the things she needed me to give up: bad habits that included patterns of speech, a deference to insularity, emotional reactivity. I almost bailed on that relationship before it started, but it really didn’t take me long to figure out that the things she needed me to change were actually things I needed to change for myself: to this day I’m flattered that she was attracted to me at all, given all my personality flaws at the time, and to this day I appreciate her for caring enough about me as to want to help me evolve in those ways. So, when I’m talking about not compromising on self-definition, I’m not talking about things that, objectively, really do need fixing. Being human is a process; don’t give up on something that is good, don’t set aside the opinion of someone who loves the whole package but notices there’s a few bad apples that need to be tossed out. Be willing to change when the change being described is about you being a better human being. None of that actually conflicts with the rest of what I’ve said above.

Huh. When did this become a self-help article?

Okay, so back to the point: Objectivity is key. It is not impossible to be objective about yourself or about the situations you find yourself in. We have to be willing to take a step back sometimes and take a good, hard look at what we’re doing, and at the things we’ve surrounded ourselves with. And that, my friends, is what this website is really about, for me. The poems are a very small part of that: reminiscences on moments when I managed to achieve a temporary form of clarity. Hey, it’s not exactly like I’m republishing everything I wrote back then, and what I am publishing is easier to push out while I’m working on longer posts (such as this one). For the rest of it, well, I resurrected those old Blog Against Theocracy posts because they’re relevant, and because I fully intend to write, talk, and interact more on the subject. It’s not like the impetus behind establishing a theocratic state has been diluted or diminished since I wrote those things, and I already tire of the rebuttal that “we’re not trying to establish a theocracy, we just want to [protect unborn lives, make sure all voters are citizens, prevent the taint of “teh gay”, etc, etc, etc].” It’s gotten worse, and it’s worsened multifold.

I also fully intend to “resurrect” the Thinking Unenslaved broadcast. I am currently doing a bit more in-depth investigation into the topic and weighing several options that range from voice-only to saved Hangouts. I think that to do it “right”, I’m looking at the investment in additional equipment, and that will have to wait until after the fall soccer season is over. Regardless, I suppose that the point of all this is this: By no measure do I intend to set myself up as an expert critical thinker, especially since I don’t hold a classical education in collegiate terms, but I firmly believe that discussion on these topics from a perspective that is more critical than the simple here-and-now is worthy of merit. And of course, that expands to just more than the issues which I noted above.

For those of you who have hung in there with me over the past few years, despite my lack of contact, consistency, and constancy, I thank you. I’m getting back up on the proverbial horse and preparing to ride again. Right now, that saddle seems a long way up. I’m getting there, just give me some time, please. And don’t be afraid to poke me if you think I’m not moving. I’d simply ask that you wait until I’m properly situated before you give the horse a good slap on the ass.