Monday, December 2, 2013

Sexless and the Holy City: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I was up late rehashing a relationship (with a guy we'll call Mr. Silicon Valley) that just ended with my platonic life partner over What's App (welcome to the future), when he finally just cut me off, "He's not that into you!! Delete his number, delete his texts, delete his emails and MOVE ON!" I knew he was right. And if the guy really wanted to, he still knew how to get in touch with me. As someone who enjoys uncluttering her life, this felt good. I was able to fall asleep pretty easily after that.

When I woke up the next morning, it was a different story. I still had something gnawing at me. I'm not the type to pine over a guy who isn't into me, B"H. Usually I can confidently chalk it up as: their loss, moving on. But there was something different about this situation. I tried to think - what was the thing that was bothering me the most about the way everything had unfolded? It struck me - I had gone out with a  different guy a few days ago who was really great, but very shy. I was the one carrying the conversation. During the date, I laughed to myself at how the tables had turned. Mr. Silicon Valley was always giving me a hard time about being too shy and withdrawn. I felt like G-d put me davka in that situation to recognize how silly my behavior with Mr. Silicon Valley had been, and to learn not to act like that again.

If Mr. Silicon Valley had been the first one to comment on this behavior, I could chalk it up as lesson learned and move on. But I realized, he was the third guy I had gone out with since January that I really liked, and he was also the third guy to tell me that he felt like I was being too shy and difficult to read, and therefore not want to continue things. That was the source of the discomfort I was feeling.

It's one thing to make a mistake once. It's another thing to make a mistake twice. But my heart sunk when I realized I did the same thing three times, over the period of almost a year. That's plenty of time to conduct a lessons learned and implement changes (as a former project manager, I always think in these kind of terms). I kept trying to remind myself that I did show that I had changed my behavior with this last date, but it wasn't enough to deflate the disappointment I felt growing in my chest, along with a determination to not keep making the same mistakes. I recognized a familiar cycle brewing:

1. Fail at something spectacularly
2. Resolve to change and never do that thing again!
3. Put too much pressure on myself, and inevitably fail

Wash, rinse, repeat!

This behavior isn't unique to me, by any means. The fact is, I can't think of one person I've met here in Israel who isn't a little hard on themselves. In order to make it here you have to be driven. The harder you are on yourself, the easier it becomes to fail, because when you put anything under too much pressure, it's bound to explode.

Fortunately for me, I'm incorrigible (and I bet you are too). You don't get to fail so many times unless you have the ability to constantly pick yourself up and believe in your ability to do better next time. Even if you don't enjoy the constant picking yourself up and dusting off before trying again, know that each time you get up, and can recognize what it was that you did before that was problematic, the more likely you are to not make that mistake next time. Who learns how to ride a bike the first time out? Who graduates college without failing a few tests? Who finds happiness in love without having their heart broken first? Not too many people. So, don't be so hard on yourself (I'm definitely speaking to myself here). If we focus on being grateful for every subsequent opportunity we have to correct these mistakes, to conduct ourselves in the way we really hope to, then the easier it is to align our behavior with our desired outcome.

Not that it will be easy, no matter what it is we are trying to correct. Growth usually only comes through hard work. Ultimately, slowly but surely we'll build the muscles we need to change our behavior. All we need in the meantime is to believe in our ability to do better and wait for the next opportunity to try.