Sunday, August 9, 2009

One-Hundred Per Cent

The initiation of this project was my response to my parents dying, my marriage ending, and my fear that I was closing down emotionally. I had situated myself geographically (the void) where I could easily prepare for a sort of social death in a humorless apartment with my two awful cats, close enough to work to not have to travel too far in ice or snow, and far enough away to get some exercise. My neighborhood, if you can call it that, is filled with young families with far too many children, young, under-educated people trying to strike out on their own, and very old people who seem happy enough to patiently observe death approaching. My proximity to the shooting range behind my apartment and its steady stream of gunfire is an unvarying reminder that I have settled for a life which is a preparation for death. Fortunately, inhabiting the intermittent quiet of complacency was not as easy as I had imagined; I could not watch death approach as the older people could, and it seemed that to my surprise, I would choose life, via the Craigslist dating boards.
Many of my friends warned me that this would not be safe or even effective, but I was in a place where I felt I had little left to lose. Two of the three people in the whole world who had to love and support me had just died, and I had left the other with the break up of my marriage. The men I chose to date forced me to dig deep and remember who I was, and more importantly, who I might want to be. The dates gave me a reason to travel outside of the void, to travel outside of my comfort zone, and to remember me.
While many of the people I dated were not my type, it didn’t matter, in fact, I actually learned the most from those who were in some way jarring or surprising. There is a certain rush that comes with having one’s world view questioned by an almost complete stranger: Initially, you write off the question with judgment, obviously the person who questioned you is an idiot. But, after several days pass, and you are no longer forced to look the fool in the eye, you reconsider, and you begin to realize how tenuous your belief system is. On several occasions, my dates would lament the fact that it was so hard to find “someone like me”. While I certainly shared their sentiment, I started to question the logic. If I grew more when I was with people who were different from me, if I was able to question my world view because I was exposed to an individual who saw things differently, how was this of lesser value than being with someone who only served to fortify a belief system which could do with some healthy questioning time and again? Why, if I am to believe that I am a stable person, can I not endure the proximity of someone who is different from me? Is this my real fear, that I am wrong?
People travel the world to find themselves, to interact with individuals from different cultures, to eat food that is foreign to them, and to live in a way that takes them out of their comfort zones. I wonder though, if that isn’t a “safe” way to meet people. If, by traveling thousands of miles to interact with people who are different, you aren’t subliminally sending yourself the message that they have less to do with you than the guy across the street who plays his awful music too loud on the weekends. Is it the geographic proximity of strange that keeps us from being open to them? Is the real fear that I will find out that I have more in common with the couples with too many kids and the old people waiting to die than I want to admit? What would happen, if instead of judging people I have the inclination to write off, I gave them and myself an opportunity to know each other?

I thought I wanted to be in a place where I would stop questioning my actions and motives, but what I realize is, much like getting used to the death of a loved one, I must get used to the questions that contradict my world view. It is the opposite of the social death I had planned for myself when I moved to the void, and a path that might show me that instead of having people in my life who have to love me, it might feel just as good to have people in my life that want to love me.