Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Good Things Come… (Prologue)

…To those who wait
I’d like to think the title of this mini-series is also a statement of fact regarding the post-frequency of my blog, but hey, even I’m not that full of myself. So instead, let’s just say that the title speaks to something much more practical, but perhaps a little decadent as well; something spiritual in one sense yet ultimately tangible in another.

The familiar adage, Good things come to those who wait is a nice, “patience is a virtue” kind of cliché, but for the most part we all know that in today’s reality, it is…well…it’s bullshit. After all, this is the age of instant gratification, right? People want it, and they want it yesterday.

If you stop and think about it, nobody’s life is really all that much better if they’re forced to wait, is it? They may appreciate things a little more if the earning requires time and/or effort, but I mean, really, does anyone want to burn down Burger King? Dismantle their microwaves? Say their goodbyes to the Friendly Skies?

Nah…we’re all way too spoiled for that. Can’t un-ring that technology bell, now, can we?

And why is that, anyway?

It’s all about expectations, boys and girls.

Pavlov’s Blog
We humans are a predictable lot. Doctor Pavlov conducted his famous study on a pooch, but it may just as well have been you or me in that cage, salivating at the ringing of the bell. You see, we humans love routine too. We like knowing what’s coming next. We thrive on expectation, whether you’re talking about the comforts and conveniences of modern technology or the security and warm fuzzies of a personal relationship.

We love knowing what we’re getting, as well as what we’re getting into. Oh we like surprises too, but just the good kind. We don’t care for curveballs. We love living in a manner to which we’ve grown accustomed.

And what does all this rhetoric have to do with patience? Oh, quite a lot, actually. Our entire lives are built upon a foundation of expectation, from the cradle to the grave. This is particularly true in marriage. Expectations are a reasonable part of any long-term relationship, but can be a double-edged sword as well.

We greatly value a person with whom we have grown to know and love, based on a level of comfort and dependability. However sometimes there is a fine line between dependability and predictability; between sameness and staleness. We talk about “keeping things fresh,” which means for the most part, thinking outside the box with regard to our partner; purposefully changing our usual tendencies for something better; something new.

Successful relationships require time and effort if folks are really serious about making them work. That effort requires balance — it can’t be one-sided, although women are usually way ahead of their male counterparts on that particular score. It almost needs to be a sort of competition; a game to see who can surprise the other with some new show of thoughtfulness and respect.

Maturity (both emotional and financial), learning the kind of things your partner really responds to — these are things that take time to develop in most people (particularly we guys).

That’s where the patience comes in.

Expectation, reciprocation, mind control, sound of soul
Let’s just get one thing straight. No one that I know of — whose name isn’t Jesus or Mother Theresa — is truly selfless. We all want something, especially out of our spouses and partners. A relationship is an investment, not a charity; if you put something in, you expect to get a return.

Oh yeah, I forgot — you still think you love your sweetie unconditionally. Well, hopefully you’ll grow up snap and out of that delusion eventually.

Every person alive has some expectation that the love they express to others will be reciprocated in some form or another; it’s how we’re built; it’s a large part of what makes relationships tick.

And that particular expectation is quiiite the sticky wicket in modern society. How much; how little; who makes the first move? And it’s no longer the man only whose needs must be met. It must be a level playing field for both partners if a relationship is to succeed long-term.

But once again that fine line develops. When does reasonable expectation become entitlement? At what point can we say with true justification, “I deserve this?” And how does that differ from, “You owe me?”

This is a story of my history, subsequent struggles and ultimate reconciliation (such as it is) with the concept of self-entitlement. It’s not a blueprint for happiness, nor is it a cautionary tale; it is what it is… because I am who I am, and Michelle and I are who we are, together.

It’s about the present Michelle gave me for my 50th birthday — versus the one she didn’t give me.

Next: Worldview adjustment
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