Sometimes the hardest thing in dealing with “setbacks” is knowing which lesson to learn.
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:
- meet a woman, find her attractive and interesting
- spend time around her, start thinking about asking her out
- get no particular response from her that she’s thinking the same thing
- decide to go for it because not doing so would always leave me wondering
- get turned down
- 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.
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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