Recovery Share: What’s the Right Lesson to Learn?

Sometimes the hardest thing in dealing with “setbacks” is knowing which lesson to learn.

What goes on in here isn't always helpful -- or even clear.
What goes on in here isn’t always helpful — or even clear.

Life throws something at me, and in my head a whole committee gets together to decide what happened and what to do about it. But which voice is correct? Which, if any, should be banned? How should I start to wrap them all together into some kind of consensus?

It’s especially true with things that happen a lot. A common one is the latest:

  1. meet a woman, find her attractive and interesting
  2. spend time around her, start thinking about asking her out
  3. get no particular response from her that she’s thinking the same thing
  4. decide to go for it because not doing so would always leave me wondering
  5. get turned down
  6. convene the committee

Of one thing I am pretty certain, although I write this the morning after #5 has occurred again and #6 kept me up a chunk of the evening: Once I get to #3 on that list, nothing other than #5 has ever occurred. That is, I’ve never gotten a surprise “yes” from somebody who wasn’t already giving indications it would be forthcoming. (I had a therapist once who called #4 on this list “charging through a yellow light.” And sometimes failing to recognize it was red all along.)

So the first lesson it occurs to me to learn is this: If you’re at #3, proceed no further. That way lies only disappointment, frustration, awkwardness and no possible return to #2. There is a long list of names on this list, and swearing I won’t do it anymore feels a lot like waking up with a hangover and swearing I won’t drink again.

Overreaction? Sure. Doesn't mean it's uncommon.
Overreaction? Sure. Doesn’t mean it’s uncommon.

This lesson, though, can be just the start of a pretty ugly process. One should probably not turn over a question like “Why does #5 always happen?” to the committee. That way, in my head, lies only self loathing, torture and catastrophizing. For now, I am just leaving it there as a practical matter: If she doesn’t seem interested, it’s almost certainly because she isn’t.

And maybe the lesson for today is that I can stop right there. This isn’t about a deep personal flaw, or about a lifelong curse, or whatever else the committee comes up with. It could be just a simple piece of dating advice: if a light isn’t pretty clearly green, slow the hell down. Leads to fewer wrecks.

After that, it’s a matter of letting the hype settle down — getting from “I will never have sex again and die alone” down to “well, it didn’t work out with her.” Only then can I move on to something helpful. And in the meantime, it’s okay to just be disappointed it didn’t work out.

Thanks for reading.

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