’Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries’. -Bonhoeffer, Works, iv.165.
This whole thing started when I discovered this website, verysmartbrothas.com. The site is great: smart, funny, witty to the point of biting. Engaging. But sometimes, and only sometimes, there would be a sentence here or there that would betray a certain bitterness towards women, downright hatred in some places. And I would be like, “really?!”
I used to be a little merciless towards men when I was younger. I used to say, “what’s the point of men? I don’t see the point of them.” I don’t know how long it took for that to go away but it’s gone now. Maybe it’s ’cause I read my Bible more, maybe I just met enough good men, maybe a combo. It’s funny because the information itself is no different. There really seems to be no point to men. So says the woman, whose creation was almost entirely utilitarian. Maybe it’s my nature to ask “what’s the point of you?” Not as an insult, merely a conversation piece. But men were created on a whim. Literally, God was like “hey, you wanna do something cool? let’s do this.” And it was good! Yay God, yay man! No one disputes that.
Anyways, I came across an entire article that was pretty damn hurtful. It was entitled: Why (Some) Women Are Reluctant To Accept That “Game” Works. I was drawn to the article b/c I was its target audience. Game doesn’t work on me. At least not very well. Sometimes a guy is running game on me and I just let him, either b/c it’s easier than having to embarrass the poor dude or b/c he’s trying to get me to do something I already want to do. I’m not talking about sex or anything but I could just as easily be. I think a lot women are in this boat. But there are sometimes you come across a smooth one. In some circles, you could call him a “sociopath.” It might take you 3 weeks, might take you 3 years to realize you fell into a trap he had set for you. And you’re like “sonofa…”
But according to this article I was in denial. I’d seen game work on other poor women of ill repute, so I knew it worked, just not on me. Well, this article set me straight with its first point:
1. Admitting that game works completely contradicts one of the most prominent and protected tenets of womanhood: All women are unquestionably and undoubtedly unique.
Ever since the day they were born (or, if you’re a woman from Harlem, The Hill District, or Lincoln Heights, ever since their mothers decided to name them “Shauntananique“), most women have had the idea that they were extremely special and extremely precious repeatedly beat into their heads. Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Any good parent is going to do everything they can to make sure their daughter has a healthy portion of self-esteem. I mean, if I ever decide to have a daughter and she comes to me crying about not getting invited to a classmate’s sleepover, I probably won’t tell her “Hey, young daughter of The Champ, don’t worry about it. You weren’t invited because you’re not really all that special, and, well, you’re not really all that special so get used to disappointment.”
But, with this perpetual positive reinforcement cunninglingus comes a natural aversion to accepting the idea that game works because, well, game works by reinforcing the idea that each individual woman isn’t really all that special. The sense of ”Well, maybe that happened to her…but that damn sure aint gonna happen to me,” doesn’t fly because, with slight variations, the same techniques that worked with Debbie in Des Moines work just as well with Tisha in Tampa, Brittany in Boston, and Changpu in Chicago (she’s an exchange student).
Well, after reading that I had a choice. I could’ve taken the information to heart. Had the statement been subtle, I might’ve taken it in without knowing, but this wasn’t a flaming dart, this was a meteor. It was big, it was slow, and it was coming towards me. Was I going to dodge it, or was I going to let it hit me? I decided to dodge it. I said, “no. I see what he’s trying to say but it’s unfortunately not true and ill-informed.” But it wasn’t the end. I even left a comment thinking that a little truth combat would resolve this feeling I had. But it didn’t. I had dodged the meteor but it was now lodged in the ground, smoking, killing the plants. It was an impertinence, and I couldn’t help wondering, “where did it come from?”
The comment I left was something like, “the schemes of the devil work too, don’t make it right.” Which was true but kind of beside the point. It bothered me that this guy thought we were truly predictable and refused to admit it, to give up this illusion of uniqueness because we’re so delusional and irrational. But it bothered me more is that I didn’t know how to prove him wrong, I just knew that he was wrong. Yes, there are a lot of people who eat McDonald’s, yes there is a high rate of success for people who own a McDonald’s for this very reason. Does it make the people who eat there predictable and average? No. But sort of. And the fact that diabolically tricking women to get what you want out of them seemed to not be an issue was really flooring me. The funny thing about using tricks to get people to do what you want is that the more you do it, the more you lose respect for them. They do become less like individuals in your eyes and more like pawns, easily led by…whatever. Surely there is a choice guys can make. Is this really what guys have to do to get us to see a good thing? Are we really this contradictory and complicated?
Luckily, I had a random guy message me the other day so I was able to ask him what he thought about it. He went on about the old tennet that hot guys don’t have to do much of anything, and yet some guys who are average or less than average manage to get these attractive women so “game” is the missing link between these outliers that makes sense of their world. Then I responded:
I have to say, that just seems like a terrible way to go about things. I’m pretty attractive, smart, funny, interesting, easy going, I like sports, I cook things, blah blah. I’ve been single for a long ass time. But from what I can gather, all that goes under the category of “that’s life.” That shit builds character.
Right then…RIGHT THEN. I figured it out. That…shit…BUILDS……
Believe it or not, that is what we’re looking for, whether we know it or not. Why? Because that’s what we’re made to do. We are not only man’s mate, but we are helper. We are incentive to do good and to be the best. When man is struggling through this shit world, and they want to quit and they think “what’s the use?” we are the use. We say “yaaay, go man go.” And they are made to love us, therefore they respond positively to that type of reinforcement. It’s a beautiful, natural synergy.
But somewhere along the way, something happened. Some man said, “this is too hard. How can I just get the beautiful woman?” Maybe they saw how easy it was for some other guy, or just decided they were never gonna be good but they still wanted a mate. And call me crazy I’m just gonna throw this out there, maybe at some point having women became a sign of personal power, strength, skill, prowess, etc. etc. So some men decided to forego the natural way of things and decided to make the prize the main thing, over what the prize can do to benefit you and others. It would be like if the old proverb about “teaching a man to fish” became so highly regarded, that everyone lied about how many people learned by their hand and fishing pole sales went through the roof.
At some point, word got out that desperation in a man is unattractive. It’s annoying, I know. I’ve been desperate for things I wasn’t able to get. Seems like when you’re desperate for something, that’s precisely the time you should have it, right? In most cases not really. What should you do then? Stop being desperate. How do you do that? Wait. See that not having what you’re desperate will not kill you, not even a little bit. That’s very hard. But life responds to this way, which is the natural way.
What you shouldn’t do is pretend to not be desperate. Unfortunately this is what most men do. So when men say things like, “when you see a beautiful woman, pretend like you don’t want her,” what they’re really doing is mimicking something that looks like good character. Because men who have the experience of being around beautiful women realize that all that glitters ain’t gold, so they stop trippin. This is known as developing character. But perhaps you have not yet developed this. Perhaps you know the truth about beauty in theory, but are still desperate to test said theory out. So you run game. Let’s say game works. Well guess what? That character trait you’re faking? You can’t maintain it very long. And surprise! The relationship doesn’t last.
Is this how the average modern relationship is built???!?! *shudders*
No wonder everything is a mess.
My recommendation to men would be this: build character. It’s harder than just scheming, it’s true, but in the long run, it will be much better for everyone. Because at this point, the current system is filling this world with deceit, and you don’t want to be reaping all that for the rest of your life (or in Buddhist terms, karma is a b$*#!
And you might be saying, “well…building character is hard and it takes a long time.” ding ding ding! That’s why it works. And guess what else? The harder your life sucks, the faster your character will grow, especially if you do it intentionally. Don’t have a woman right now? Every day that you deal with that is building your character. Worried about what to do when you do get a woman? Challenge yourself. Do something that scares you. Pick a fear then conquer it. Then you won’t have to wonder if you’re the man nor not, or wait for me to say it, you’ll know. And I won’t matter so much. Take a ballroom dance class. That will help you with about… 80% of all women-related things you’ll need. “But that’s totally weird and I’ll feel like a weirdo doing that.” Hi, did you just get here?? SUCK…IT…UP. CHARACTER.
Listen, I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but the women out here are building character themselves. They’re learning, growing, getting better, getting over themselves, being single and learning to love that. And if guys are doing nothing of the sort, then relationships are going to be forever unequal. What we’re asking for doesn’t take long to build. Quit complaining that our standards are too high. You wouldn’t ask anyother institution in life to do that. Juliard is not lowering its standards for you, nor is Burger King. Yet take solace in the fact that nothing is fixed. If you’re not good enough this year, try again NEXT YEAR. THIS IS HOW EVERYTHING ELSE IS DONE. And surprisingly, the person that didn’t make it last year can, with time, be the golden standard the next. Why is that?
Because people grow. They develop. They build character.
If we expect this from every aspect of society from performers to pee tests at Fed Ex, why should we make an exception for what is supposed to be the most important thing we’ll do in life???
I had a pretty decent childhood growing up. Had a mom and dad who loved me, lived in a safe neighborhood in a safe part of the country, where I could be a kid as long as I wanted or needed. There were still difficulties, both subtle and not-so-subtle, but I grew up in a Christian household where God was an active part of reality and my parents modeled it to a tee, despite their flaws. I knew that we all answered to God, that though my parents were in charge of me, God was in charge of them, of all of us. Early on I talked to God, or I think God just talked to me. We had a cool relationship. We talked about things I felt like other people wouldn’t understand. I went through phases where I asked a lot of questions about God, apart from just church. I was a sensitive, introspective person, even as a kid, and I was plagued by fear. A lot of people called this “shyness” as I was growing up. “She’s shy,” people would say, then walk away. To me, it was like being out in the open with kidnappers and not able to escape. I was stalked by fear, who dictated even the smallest, seemingly irrelevant gestures of my life.
When I got to be in high school, life was never at its lowest before or since. This was about the time I felt really prompted by God. Fears were at their height, destructive practices and thought patterns too, and I wouldn’t realize this until it was years behind me. At the time I thought this descent was synonymous with getting older. At some point I started having demonic dreams pretty regularly, things tapping on my brain and telling me they hated me and disguising themselves as family members and doing or saying strange things, all kinds of craziness. It was an inheritance of sorts, since both my mother and grandmother also had these nightmares. About this time I was considering medications for anxiety, and even for the nightmares. And I talked to God, as I always did, honestly, saying, “God, I’m not even trying to be a Christian. I don’t want to fight any good fights, I’m not trying to overcome, I’m in no way a threat; you know that, I know that, they surely know that, so why are they bothering me? Don’t they know this is a bad idea?” It was a bad idea b/c beneath all the anxieties and fear was a dormant Xena warrior princess badass, that I knew was there, but I had really no hopes of that person ever being brought out. Because I did not provoke, nor was I ever provoked, and like most people, who you are must be brought out by circumstances. If I was the devil, I would never provoke me; but maybe I give him too much credit. Maybe there are some things that I know that he doesn’t.
When it became clear that I was in some sort of spiritual debacle whether or not I signed up for it, I became more serious about getting some permanent protection. Eventually it persisted to the point that I was ready to fight. I decided that I was going to be a full-on Christian, though I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was going to transform me into a super obnoxious person with lots of duties. Early on I tried to fit that mold but I don’t think it was meant to be for me. I don’t remember doing much changing aside from an internal intention and trying to do “more.” Go to church more, read the bible more, pray more, etc. I thought I wasn’t on the right track a lot, and that I was making a lot of mistakes, that I had gone from being a piss poor human to a piss poor Christian. Over time, at some point, I guess I began the process of getting free from fear, or just the process of transformation in general, because I am now a different person, and I know in five years I will be different from now. Whether it is spiritual or just a characteristic of being alive, I do not know, I’m sure it is both. Are there really people who stay the same for decades, and even their whole lives? I cannot imagine this. Similarly, the change was not immediate. I always envy these people who have these dramatic conversion stories with a beginning, middle, and end. I still have fear, but I am not afraid. I still have dreams every now and again, but in them I am not helpless. Everything in my life has been on a steady incline. I’ve had ups and downs, but the general quality of my life has only increased, like interest in a bank. I know it is because of God. I know b/c it is not worth leaving God just to test this hypothesis, though I’ve never been without God, and perhaps none of us are.
I wrote this b/c God says we are his witnesses in the Earth. People always say “share your testimony” in church, and this term has no legal implications the way they use it, but it could. Maybe it should, since a lot of people do seek to bring charges against God regularly. Lately I’ve been frustrated with the concept of God’s “glory” and what it is, and what it looks like, and how it is attained, and how it can be so great on its own. One aspect of it is apparently us living and talking about God and what he means to us. I don’t know if that means it means something to him and is therefore glorious or if it is glorious apart from that. Well God is everything and all. He is every thing. He means meaning to me. I hope you’re inspired to share in God’s glory.
The following day after the last post I heard a brilliant sermon preached by the magnanimous Timothy Keller called Praying our Fears. In it, he outlined the subtle difference between fear and anxiety, citing a proper psychologist on the matter of whom I cannot think of the name. He used the illustration that fear, its healthy form, is that thing that moves you out of the way of a moving car and to safety. Anxiety is what you have left after that experience. Anxiety. I think that’s what I was getting at in my last posting. He gave four practical steps, only three of which I can remember. At the time I was overjoyed, I felt it was an immediate answer to a prayer. I still feel that way. But it’s not changing my life’s circumstances, and aside from doing a lot of thoughtless things, there’s really nothing that can.
I am plagued with a lot of anxiety. I do remember the last step he gave, which was “remember the people.” Basically find something outside of yourself to focus on. Which I would totally do if I could remember what the step was RIGHT before that one, which I can’t. I try to focus on other people, sometimes I think I really am focused on them. But it ends up being sort of clinical and kind of “oh well.” Because the way I see it, people are a powerful force. It’s damn near impossible to control or predict a person. Not that I think that’s the only thing one can do with people, I just mean it’s difficult to set your intentions to people and also maintain happiness. Especially me, who has a tendency to just get dragged around once a new person enters my life. It’s a gamble, to say the least. I’m not happy now, and everything about life suggests that having people in it is not only ideal but intended. But it’s the uncomfortable stuff, stuff that I am in no way used to (e.g. the cornucopia of ways there are to get hurt) that seem to outweigh the whole people in your life thing. I get that everyone is beautiful and all that. No one understands that more than I . But we’re also all human. Filthy, flawed, extreme, evil, blind humans. Having people in your life still beats out root canals and all that, and I’ve had some success in finding people I like that also like me. But to me, meeting people is about as tenuous as finding a job. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy, but you don’t succeed by doing just anything. This is not really the point, mind you. I don’t need to meet new people. I’ve got plenty of people to focus on already.
Yesterday I was sitting at my computer listening to a bunch of teenagers being teenagers, and I had the fleeting thought that I should say something to engage the entire room. The thought was dutifully rejected. I had it in me to do, but I didn’t do it. A lot of my discontent comes from this trope that I have about myself, which is that I don’t do anything. People try to tell me, “oh pish posh” but that doesn’t help, nor does it change the fact that aside from a few things, I literally don’t, and haven’t done, anything. It bothers me. I go around thinking, “what should you do today?” “What have you done today?” “Well you’ve got to do something today.” When I do something, anything, I’m like, ready to throw a party for myself. For awhile I thought I was maybe being too critical of myself, which may be true. But the thought struck me that I don’t do anything because I don’t try. I don’t try and I don’t think to try. I tried to think back to a time where I wasn’t afraid to try, and I don’t think there was one. It was my natural disposition, made worse by various life incidents. I could probably lay out to you all the reasons why I don’t try:
Sounds harmless enough. But it’s actually quite frightening. In movies, on tv, the characters try, and it usually turns out well. Even if it turns out disasterous, there’s usually some point to it that you can readily see, because it’s not real life. Life hasn’t been written by anyone, and life is far more complex than any room of overpaid writers. You don’t know WHAT is going to happen. People are crazy, and they don’t have any clue that they need to go easy on you b/c it’s your first attempt at something and if it doesn’t go well you may never try again. I get a picture in my mind of when, like you know when you’re playing a video game, and you have to defeat this big scary monster thing, or a “boss.” In some games, nothing will happen as long as you don’t start shooting at them, you both just stand there. But as soon as you start attacking, that thing starts doing all this crazy unpredictable shit, and it could spur you to do something brilliant, or it could just kill you immediately and you were stupid to think you had a chance. That’s what I’m talking about.
#2: NOTHING could happen.
My biggest fear? Not the worst thing, but the non-thing. What if I do something, and NOTHING happens? It literally does nothing? And then I have to try to convince myself that it was some self-augmenting thing that would change me somehow.
#3: What happens after you try? MORE TRYING.
It doesn’t just end after the one thing you try. One try will put you on this endless path of having to try more new things. It’s basically like deciding that you’re going to run a marathon and then suddenly being in it.
#4: It hurts
I can’t tell you how taxing it is at this point to try, especially now. I’m thinking back on all the times in the past that I have tried to try, and I gave up because… it just feels terrible. It’s so blindingly unpleasant, it’s almost impossible to see past it to whatever reward could be awaiting you on the other side. I convinced myself that anything that is that harsh and elaborate couldn’t possibly be real, because no other experience on earth is really like that for me. There’s no immediate perk, only the promise of a perk, and it just doesn’t add up for me. I’m usually all about the long run but with trying, I need something NOW. Right now. Perhaps if I had a source of undying support or something it would be easier. Maybe I should’ve spent more time with my dad, or maybe I didn’t eat the right vegetables, I don’t know. What’s done is done.
You could say that what I’m describing is the same situation everyone faces. Maybe that’s true. I don’t think it is, because I’ve long observed people and have found little evidence for this. Even if it was, that doesn’t help me. Either I’m a special case, or a wuss. Neither is ideal. It’s likely the latter. I’ve been told this in one way or another for a good portion of life. I hated it, but what could I do to prove them wrong? Certainly not write this blog. I’ve seriously told God that I was seriously considering just phoning the rest of this thing in from here on out. I mean I get life, I get it. And it’s great. It’s nice for all that it accomplishes but I really just can’t do most of it. The trying thing is just…I mean it could be the source of all my misery, but my misery is still beating it out by a fairly notable margin. Everything I’ve ever done or accomplished in life was because it was easy for me, beneficial, a combination, or I was just ignorant at the time that it was something that I would never want to do. But trying to reach the heights I see other people reaching, as inspiring as it is, it would just take so many consecutive miracles, and I do believe in miracles, I have seen miracles. But I’ve no reason to expect it. I can’t even get perfectly reasonable and feasible things to happen for me.
With all this said, I’m still going to try to try. I just wanted you to get a feel for just how goddamn hard it is.
A good friend of mine who also writes for the blog Black Girls Like Us refers to the last ten years of her life as “the vault.” The stuff in the vault doesn’t get brought up, or if it does, you’re not allowed to feel any kind of way about it. It’s like evidence inadmissible in court. Yeah, it’s there, but it can’t be used against you. I don’t know if both good and bad are in the vault, mostly bad I assume, but the metaphor is a powerful one. It’s really stuck in my mind. What are vaults? Visually they’re pretty arresting. Thick titanium or some other intimidating alloy, complicated locks, frighteningly secure, made to hold much more than that of a safe, and far more inconvenient to go digging around in. You can almost forget about what’s in the vault once it’s in there, and even why you put it there. It frees up your brain to think of other things.
I do not have a vault. I carry anything I’ve ever said or done good or bad, what other people did about it or felt about it, with me everywhere all the time. You might say I’m a hoarder. Why? The same reason why people hoard in the natural– you never know when you might need it.
I might need that scenario that happened when I was 16 because if or when it happens again, I can compare the two incidents and maybe get further to the reasons why I do what I do, so I can learn and thus grow.
I’m obsessed with self-improvement. I was thinking today that a good bit of my life is devoted to it. Immediately after that I was trying to think of ways to remedy that. If there’s a way to stop doing it I haven’t found it. But I’m thinking about this vault. And I’m thinking, what would it be like to put everything in a vault and just… Because it’s not like my techniques have really helped me. I don’t know that any self-imposed behavior has actually helped me. The things that have helped me have almost always been external.
This whole job thing that happened, for instance. It still sucks. But I’m going to be fine. Mostly because I’ve been through similar things before, and I just have hope. That has almost nothing to do with my self-improvement system. The frustration of each circumstance was because I didn’t have control over anything.
Forget a vault, I think it’s time to take all this stuff to the dump. I don’t think I need it at all. I think perhaps at some point, someone said, “If you don’t understand your past, you’re doomed to repeat it,” and I took it and ran with it. Context is one of my strengths, after all. I’m also strategic. I think I’ve tried to use my strengths on myself too much. Maybe any is too much. In fact, it might be that I think that I’m only entitled to try my strengths out on myself. People give you funny looks and get all out of shape when you try your human stuff out on them. They like when you can make them laugh or be otherwise moved, do something for them, and…I don’t know. Answer their questions or something. Actually, they don’t always like the last one. So I try these things on myself to try an help myself. After all I know me, I understand me well enough, I know where I’m coming from.
A lot of it’s fear. Fear fear fear. Fear is stupid, in theory. Fear in the moment, however, is a door that’s always open, a light that’s always on, an option that is always…ALWAYS available to you. You can always run away, always say nothing, always lie, always do the easy thing. It’s a choice that you know will always yield, often immediately. Like everything else, there are consequences to fear, but they are often far less complex and/or abrasive for you. Judge me if you want but I, for one, like that. Fear might be the only thing that gives me that. Fear is addictive. Or at least… a force of habit. It’s sad really. Because fear was once my worst enemy. And now it is an ally of sorts. Fear is really desperate for me and longs for me. Fear has been after me. I don’t know why. Seriously fear, just like, let it go. It’s so tiring. But I don’t know just what is responsible for that.
I’m trying to be new. I was thinking about the fact that a lot of my interaction is just me mimicking other people. I’m not actually interacting with you necessarily, just recreating a scenario that I saw or was once in, one that I think you would understand and/or appreciate. It’s me offering something that is perhaps familiar, but is not actually me. Sometimes I am actually myself and there’s a noticeable difference. If I were to make a vault, this would all have to go in it. This whole “self vs. semblance of self” thing. A couple things have happened lately that made me think of how I’ve been shaped through life and I’m an unsure person. I’m unsure of myself. It’s a permanent place that I’ve made to make things easier. If your personality is strong enough, you could probably get me to tell you that the sky was some other color, either because I’d just concede or I’d be partially convinced. I generally don’t like it because I don’t think it’s a good thing. And I don’t think it’s a good thing because I feel like one of those paper table cloths at Macaroni Grill. Everyone just draws on me, just draws whatever, frivolous or not. And I offer them a blank spot on me because I feel like I can spare it. And maybe I can, maybe I can do that forever. But then I see that other people are drawing on themselves. And then I’m angry. It’s not fair that you get to define both yourself and me. People don’t see it, they don’t see it a privilege to get to draw on themselves, nor a they feel like it’s not okay to draw on someone else. I see all these other people with fully formed personalities and traits and identity, and I think “I want that but I was denied that. I’ve got all these other people’s graffiti on me and I don’t feel comfortable. I’m showing you me, telling you about me, but I’m just showing all the things other people have written. Is that me? I don’t think it’s me.” Unless everyone else is right about me. But should I be putting my faith in other people? If I told you what I’m really like you would laugh. I would laugh. Because it contradicts what’s already on me. It’s too late for new graffiti. It’s been years and the graffiti has already made a pattern.
Could I really be new? A brand new tablecloth for me and only me to write on? Or maybe not even me, not anybody to write on? No evidence for me to consider, really a new person? A clean slate? My God. My God that would be… beyond anything I could ever think to ask for.