I try to be proactive and balanced with the major components in my life: work, friends, art, romance. If I made a pie chart of how I divide my time between them, I like to pretend that each slice would be about the same size.
But that’s not how my mind works. Or my heart. And all too often, I’m overwhelmed by the rush of excitement that happens when someone new penetrates my world. Before I know it, I’ve handed that person the entire fucking pie, not just a slice of it, and I’m left wearily cleaning up the remains of the feast.
Having spent the better part of a decade with one person, I’ve never really had to confront this behavioral pattern. In fact, it wasn’t a pattern until about two years ago.
Without realizing it, dating became my favorite past time, going hand in hand with excessive drinking and smoking until dawn. While I rightfully justify my lifestyle in the sense that I love meeting people and making new friends, I just recently became aware of my tendency to let a new guy be the focus of my attention, to hand him the pie, when really I should only be giving him a sample bite of the pie after he earns it, after he takes the time to appreciate all the ingredients that go into it and why they’re there. Hey, you know that moment when someone takes a metaphor too far? That just happened. But you get my point.
My best friend Lauren pointed this behavioral pattern to me around New Year’s Day. When she told me she was thinking about the things she wants to give up for Lent, she suggested I join her and give up men. Lauren and I aren’t Catholic, by the way. We also don’t have any desire to live out the plotlines of mediocre, decade-old rom coms. Lauren believes in the idea of sacrificing luxuries (or in some cases, vices) for a significant but specific amount of time, because it gives you a chance to break bad habits without feeling completely overwhelmed by not knowing when you get them back. But with Lent, you can have whatever you give up back after a mere forty days. Not to shabby! The conversation essentially went like this:
Lauren: I’m giving up my favorite vices for Lent, and I think you should, too. No drinking, no smoking, and I want to eat better.
Me: That sounds good. I’d like a change.
Lauren: Well, if you want to give up those things, that’s cool. But I was thinking you should give up men.
Me: (long, disbelieving pause) You mean, like, I can’t make out with men?
Lauren: As in no men whatsoever. No making out, no dating, not even text flirting. Nothing.
Me: (throwing things at Lauren) I hate you! Why would you want to see me unhappy??! You’re not my friend. YOU’RE NOT MY FRIEND!!!** **minor paraphrasing
She was smart in approaching me with this idea well before the forty day ban on fun was to begin, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have agreed to it. But the more I thought about it, the better her suggestion sounded. I mean, I don’t spend all of my time dating, but I certainly make too much time available to it. That’s time I could spend doing more important things. I became really curious about what I’d spend my time on if it not my social life. And I’ve been mentally preparing to quit smoking for a few months, so the timing could be perfect to do both. And since I don’t drink unless I’m socializing, that would take care of itself.
So five days in, I’m dry, smoke-free (thanks, e-cig) and my vagina has seen less action than the high jump at fat camp. I’m writing a LOT, collaborating on projects that fulfill me creatively, and spending my time with people I love who love me back. Oh, and watching Downton Abbey.
We’ll see where it goes from here. But if this start is any indication of the things to come, it’s gonna be a great forty days to fill, followed immediately by Coachella, which means I’ll have ample opportunity to catch up with my favorite vices. :)