A friend challenged me to use this lonely time of my life to discover the man that I want to be and to become that man.
At first I was dumbfounded at this suggestion. I have always been highly introspective, "self aware" and conformable with my strengths and weaknesses. But the more I think on it, the more I think that she is right. I am not trying to change who I am, but I am trying to bring submerged or atrophied aspects of my personality to the forefront.
Here are some of the things I am thinking about and working on:
- I want to be a physical entity as well as an emotional and mental one. Until the last year, I have always dismissed the physical aspects of my life. Since I have started to work out and to lose weight that has changed. I now view the three as completely intertwined. I am so much richer for that. I just started at a new gym with a type of workout called "crossfit." All I can say is OMG. I have only done three workouts with them so far, but each has been exhilarating. I can barely make it through their workouts, and I am coming in a distant last place in their scoring but I LOVE it. I ran 1600m today (in 400m chunks, with other exercises and no breaks in between segments)! I haven't run much that since junior high. I feel so powerful. This has changed my whole outlook on myself. It is only in this last year that I have ever though of myself as "sexy" (which I find strange due to the complete absence of a sex life during this time).
- Earlier today I read the post I Dance for You Because I Love You. I definitely want to become the type of guy that will dance in public for his beloved. I am that guy inside and in private, but I have a hard time publicly showing him to the world. There is a freedom from fear of rejection that I long for that is exposed in that story.
- My first post on Open Salon was about listening. I definitely want to refine my listening skills. I am better at it than that post gave me credit for, but I can always get better.
- I am already working on expanding my social world and getting over my discomfort in new social situations. This separation has pretty much forced that--I either get out and meet people or sit and be lonely. Dancing has been tremendous for helping me here. I added 4 new friends on Facebook last week after the dance! I have learned more new names in the last year than I have in the last 15.
- I want to change my "default" face to a smiling face, or at least smile in photos more. Very few photos have been taken of me since high school. In 90% of them (and in most of the ones from my childhood for that matter) I have a slight curve of the lips at the most. My eyes always look sad. My friends and housemates comment on this all the time. "You smile so often, but when I just see you walking around you look sad or distant. " I am fundamentally happy and optimistic. I think that I just get lost in my thoughts so much that I go into neutral face more often, and that it just looks sad.
- I want to become more financially responsible. I have a hard time budgeting, saving and otherwise managing my money. My current lean times are good for me. I am reading a basic personal finance book. I am very lucky that I had the ability to grow my income fast enough to mostly keep up with our medical expenses, because I wouldn't have gotten through that in any other way.
- I want to begin climbing the seniority ladder at work again. My career has been so focused on health insurance and on "getting by" at work while supporting my wife that I haven't reached any of my potential there. I feel a little elitist saying that, because I am pretty accomplished at work--but I can be more. I was hired 8 years ago as a "level 4" and I am still a level 4 even though I have been doing level 5 or 6 work for years. I just haven't had the energy to grasp for the rewards for that work. I generally avoid confrontation and that means that I have not grasped for what I have earned.
- Maybe instead of the seniority track, I should figure out how to kick-start my art career again. I have a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in printing and publishing arts. I have always been better at the imagination and craft aspects at art than I was at the creative parts. I don't come up with new ideas easily, but I do/did have the skills to execute my visions and to take existing ideas into new directions. I gave that up in 1996 in the search for health insurance for my wife. I have done so little that was artistic since then. I really miss that aspect of myself. I have no clue how I would make this a career again at this point so maybe I just need to integrate it more in my hobbies and social life. In direct opposition to my financial goal, I recently used my credit card to buy a pretty nice camera--the nicest I have ever owned. I have been using it all the time. It is helping with this aspect of my life. Now, I have to restrict my eating out (something that I already am working on) to pay it off quickly.
- This isn't at all new for me, but I always want to be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning and to respect the man I that I see. I always want to be able to say that I made the best choices that I knew how to make up to that point in my life.
One thing that I have found about change is that starting it is the hard part for me. Once I started to change even one area in my life, I found it much easier to change many others. This has been exhilarating. I feel like when you are on a bike going down a hill so fast that you can't pedal and you just stick your legs out straight while holding on screaming with glee as the wind goes by. In the past, I think I would have been screaming in fear and clutching the handles tightly at even a 1/10th of the change that I have experienced. The reality is that fear paralyzed me. Change is setting me free.
Me a year ago
And two recent pictures.
In some ways, I feel like a blind man must feel like when he suddenly gains sight. Everything is so sharp, painful, beautiful, exquisite. I feel almost manic sometimes. Very strange for such a self-controlled man. I think I could like him.