obstacles, part III

or, "What you resist persists."
[Carl Jung]

Why don't I do what I want to do? Why don't I do what I know I should do? Why can't I make the good changes, the right changes, the big, necessary, positive changes? Why won't I take that first step?

There's always a reason, and the reasons are always good. I should walk to work (get more exercise, conserve gas, it's insanely lazy to drive that distance), but...I can't get to work on time even when I drive, so it would be much worse if I walked. And it's [cold, hot, raining, snowing, windy, too sunny]. And I've got some errand that I've just got to do on the way to or back from work, or something heavy to carry.

My job makes me crazy. I really want to be doing something different, making better money, using my education or my creative skills, but...the economy sucks right now, so there are no jobs available even to those who really need them, much less to someone who just wants a change. And my combination of education and experience renders me nearly unemployable anyway. And even if I did find a job, I'd still be workin' for the man instead of doing what I really want to do, which is to write, for myself, all the time.

I shouldn't even start on relationships; November is shaping up to be just like the last few. I can't seem to meet a guy who's not married, psychotic, clingy, weird, deviant, annoying, addicted, way too old, stupidly young, damaged, cavalier, cruel, living more than 90 miles away, and/or utterly uninterested in me. What the fuck kind of radar do I have that makes it possible to attract these amazing combinations, especially when they are often so well hidden, or even disguised? And why, if I am not the dumbest person ever, do I keep making the same stupid choice?

The "answer" to all of these questions is surprisingly easy: I can't, or won't, or don't, because I don't want to. I choose not to. I will not--or, put another way, I will it not to be. Rather than seeking what I claim to desire--health, conservation, new employment, a guy who doesn't completely suck--I instead seek the comfort of my familiar obstacles. My discomfort with waking up early enough to walk. My stage-fright in interviews (and deep confidence that this is the best [just work with me for a minute] job I'll ever have). My honest pleasure in solitude combined with bone-deep weariness of give-and-taking through the dating process. This "revelation" (which no longer feels so epiphanic) came to me like a lightning bolt ("OMG COOL!") and a skillet to the skull ("Duh, I should have realized this decades ago!") while reading Adam Phillips' On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. I selected the book expecting that the essay on kissing would be the high point, never imagining that that one would be pretty dull (but really--been there, done that) and that the ones on Phobias, Risk & Solitude, and most definitely Obstacles would be endlessly fascinating. For instance: "But the existence of that extraordinary phenomena, the wish, always implies a prior perception of obstacles. After all, why would we need to wish if nothing were in the way?" I think that's brilliant.

If I just went and did all those things I can't, won't, or don't do, then why would I need to...be? I'm not trying to turn Descartes on his ear and claim that I complain, therefore I am. I only mean that some sense of striving, of unanswered questions, of goals as yet unmet, is necessary to the fulfilling--not fulfilled, I'm not dead yet--life.

Phillips goes on to say, "To feel hunger is to feel a growing obstacle to its gratification."

When I'm hungry enough, I will walk to work...start sending those resumes...and stop this madness with the Unavailable Men. It really will be fine.


  1. Or, you just haven't hit bottom yet.

    Not that I think that addiction is the same thing as what your talking about, just that there does need to be some catalyst for any big change, something that feels like being boxed in.

    WV, ever-helpful, says: fulaties (which I read as "futilities")

  2. Yep, that's pretty much it. When I'm pushed far enough, I'll push back. Until then, all the arguments in the world won't convince me.

  3. sometimes stuff takes time. that's why we feel life it too short for all the stuff we want. please be patient with yourself, and keep writing. I see that as the key.

  4. I do tend to get frustrated when I discover an answer that seems like it should've come sooner. Why didn't I know before? Well, I didn't, and fretting or steaming about it isn't going to turn back time, so...there.

    Thank you for encouraging me to write. I'm tempted to photograph my desk (at home) right now, so you all could see the plethora of writing ideas that have piled up, waiting for their moment in the sun. Sometimes it's not a dearth but instead an embarrassment of riches that causes a block.