This week, I traveled around the state for work. I headed an hour and a half south of home on Monday, and then about two hours north of home on Wednesday. I returned home for the weekend yesterday evening and, on this beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon, I’m once again sitting in one of my favorite spots downtown: on a black, faux leather couch in the cheerful orange corner of the room at Saturn.
When I first checked into the hotel in Madison, Alabama on Wednesday evening, I thought to myself: “Now HERE’S a good opportunity to get out and about; to explore the city, meet new people, and possibly find a local skatepark, cafe, or burrito joint..” I spent about a minute contemplating the idea of leaving the hotel room and imagining how the evening COULD go. I removed my work clothes while doing so, turned on the shower, and finally decided: “I’ll just lay down for a couple of minutes first. Then I’ll go have fun.” I laid down for a couple of minutes, fell asleep at about 8:15, and didn’t wake up again until 6:30. It was a solid 10+ hours of sleep, and I really needed it. Why? I’ve been running on empty.. and not because of work — work is pleasure for me. And not because of excessive skateboarding, either.. I haven’t even taken my board for a spin in WEEKS. So why am I – mentally and emotionally – so tired all of the time, running off the ghostly fumes of dwindling reserves and foregoing adventure for a prolong stated of comatose?
The honest answer is that I’ve been exhausting myself and another human being by continuously debating whether or not I wanted to stay in our relationship. There was so much back and forth about it — 7 yes’s followed by 8 no’s — that it was, as you could easily imagine, maddening for both people involved. We both craved stability. And there was obviously only one way of getting it. We’ve unanimously decided to exchange our on-and-off, nerve-wracking, and unstable romantic relationship for a warm and supportive friendship.
I still love the person unconditionally but feel entirely unready and unwilling to commit to them (or anyone). The mere idea of dating is exhausting. In addition to shunning all forms of commitment right now, I just don’t love the idea of feeling like I have to “report” to someone outside of work. I don’t want to be so “tied up” with someone that I’m held accountable for my actions, questioned about my decisions, or seen as failing to meet the expectations of being a constant companion (IE staying gone all day, skating and writing and gallivanting about, when that person wants to spend their time with you, and you should want to spend your time with them, too). I’m in need of decades of “alone time” right now and that 100% disqualifies me from being an eligible candidate for a healthy, romantic relationship. It’s that simple. And we’ve both acknowledged that.
I also realized, recently, that I couldn’t really love someone and feel good about “choosing” them and “settling down” when I still don’t know who I am or who I want to be with in that way. At the same time that this realization dawned on me, I also discovered that I hadn’t yet identified what exactly I was looking for in a significant other.. as strange as it sounds, I never really had. I’ve never experienced issues with commitment until recently, and now that I have, I can see that it’s a widespread phenomena in my life. Where everything and everyone once received a “yes” and a “sure” an easy “I do”.. well. That’s just not happening anymore. It all has to do with commitment, you guys, and I’m not big on the idea of it these days.
A few definitions for commitment:
- The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
- An engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.
Some synonyms for the word commitment:
responsibility; obligation; duty; allegiance; devotion.
Commitment starts at the grocery store.
You’re slowly shuffling down the aisles at Whole Foods.. wrapping your fingers around the cart’s metal “pushing” bar and watching as the ceaseless parade of canned, boxed, jarred and frozen goods dance right on past you. Your list – which you entered the store with – looks like something along the lines of
- orange juice,
- salad ingredients,
- granola bars, and
- 5 boxes of tomato soup,
but then you start noticing things. Like the fact that your favorite brand of malt vinegar-flavored, cooked-in-avocado-oil potato chips are on sale, 2 for $6. “Oh YES, definitely!” you think to yourself, effortlessly plopping two airy bags into the cart. You mosey on to the next aisle and see that they have your bunny-shaped and rainbow-colored organic cheddar cheese crackers priced 50 cents lower than usual, and you obviously can’t pass that up, so into the cart they go. One box, two.. maybe even three, if it seems like a fantastic idea at the time. And then arrives the infamously grand cherry on top: Mr. Butterpants — the organic, fair trade, all-natural, 150% raw + WHATEVER chocolate and peanut butter-flavored craft ice cream calls your name from behind the see-through door of its frosty prison and you quickly and valiantly reach your hand in and save it. While doing so, you reason, to yourself, that “considering how amazing it tastes and how health-and-world-conscious it is, it’s pretty reasonably priced,” so into the cart it goes. Bam, bam, and BAM. Your simple, modest, and quiet list has very quickly become rattled by this random assortment of “impulse buys” — cookies, crackers, desserts, and other ancillary items that you really don’t need but couldn’t resist. Your total easily doubles at checkout and now you’re suddenly wondering– “Wow! Did I really buy that much?”
The point of all of this: Spend your money wisely. If 5 “unplanned for” items beg to make it into your cart and leave the store with you, ask yourself: “Which 2 or 3 do I REALLY want to leave with? Which ones will I be seriously bummed to NOT have when I get home?” Let nutritional content and pricing – not dominate – but help you in your decision-making. Orrrrrr not. That’s entirely up to you.
Commitment continues with paint colors.
When I first bought my house, I knew exactly why I was doing so. I understood and could explain what made it a good decision.
A. The place was a wreck and priced to sell, making it a great investment opportunity. The upstairs AND downstairs flooring needed replacing, the water heater was nearing 20 years old, there was a gaping hole in the ceiling in the hallway, and only half of the electrical outlets in the entire house were functional. That’s just a quick overview of its most prominent problems. It was a fun challenge for me. Chris and I were both, as a team, committed to the work of fixing the place up and improving its overall look, feel, and functionality.
B. Location: It was within 10 minutes of my work, Chris’s work, AND our community college. You can’t beat that.
C. It had a backyard for the German Shepherd, lots of big windows, and it was so totally full of character.
When Chris and I decided to split late last year, I knew that I’d soon be living elsewhere, so I created a bullet point list of what I expected to have in my next home. Call these specs and features “must haves”, if you’d like, but the list looked just like this:
- 1200 square feet or less (the bigger a house it is, the more cleaning you have to do, the more maintenance you have to deal with, and the more it costs to cool and heat the place).
- Within 17 driving minutes of work. Very specific. I know.
- A decently-sized backyard for my ridiculously hyper dog.
- Lots of windows.. windows make a home cheerful, and, as I don’t like to use harsh chemicals, the sunlight is an excellent, natural germ-killer.
- A sliding glass door in the shower area of the bathroom (this is usually only found in older homes, and I love it; it’s cute, and because I hate having a fabric curtain – aka shower curtain – hanging in the bathroom, it’s a perfect substitute and fix).
- A window (specifically located) above the kitchen sink. You spend a good bit of time cleaning dishes.. might as well have a nice view while you’re doing it.
As it turns out, I’m NOT moving (you’ll see a ribbon-cutting-ceremony blog post about the whole thing in a few months here), and I’ve happily begun the process of selecting colors and painting the home (its inside and outside), customizing it perfectly to my liking, but just entertaining the idea of moving helped me realize that it’s important to know what you want in a home. Entering the home-shopping-arena blindfolded, with no ideas or expectations, has a certain allure and excitement to it (everything’s a surprise!), but I think that it’s far wiser and more important to consider and then prioritize what you do and don’t want in a home, as well as how much or how little work you want to invest in the place (aka do you require something move-in ready or would you be okay with a real fixer upper?).
So, to quickly recap what we’ve covered thus far: It’s important to know what you want in a home. And in your shopping cart. And in your significant other.
It (your comfortability with commitment) really matters when you’re entering into (or backing out of) relationships and social engagements.
Weekends are precious to me. I’m sure they are to you, too, whether they fall on a Saturday and Sunday or 1-2 other days. I stay booked all throughout the week, so – on the weekends – I have a sort of routine that I follow, and it’s as firmly etched into my schedule as my full-time job is. I literally schedule fun on the weekends. On Saturday, that “fun” equates to me ordering a mocha, spending a few hours writing in a cafe, skateboarding at the park, and then window-shopping in antique and thrift shops downtown. It’s what I do. Friends will ask to meet with me for lunch or dinner.. to collaborate on art projects or attend movie showings or grab drinks.. and where I was once afraid to say no (“If I say no, they won’t like me/be my friend anymore!”), now, when it’s necessary, I don’t hesitate to say no. I want to iterate that it’s very important to make time for people and to spend time with people.. especially people you like; to rekindle and reinforce those friendships. But it’s just as important to carve out and take the time that you need to relax and rejuvenate and clear your mind. It’s a fine balancing act. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of it yet, practice saying no to someone in the upcoming weeks or months. I view it as a learned skill, and in the realm of skills, it’s a crucial one.
As far as romantic relationships are concerned, I now have a (short) list of what I’m looking for in my next relationship. I’m not kidding. I know what I want at the grocery store, in a home, and what I want to hear on Spotify, and I also know what I want in a partner. I’ve decided that, unless a person is exceptional and phenomenal and meets all of my criteria, they’re not worth me giving up my absolute freedom and relinquishing my independence. I might sound like a real jackass, but I’m being very serious. To flip the table, unless I meet all of their criteria, I’m also not worth them settling. Because that’s exactly what it would be: settling. And why settle? Why be in a relationship with someone if, intuitively, something about it feels off? Why stay in the relationship if they aren’t challenging you and making you a better person, or if you just don’t like who you are when you’re with them? It could be that you’re staying out of fear — the fear of being alone and unloved forever. If you think that that’s the case, then get a dog and love yourself. There you go; both problems solved. Side note: A dog is going to be a way cheaper date than a boo.
And then the weightiness of commitment really begins to make sense when you start dreaming about it.
During my ten hours of sleep last Wednesday night, my subconscious set to work “sifting” through deep mind matters; demystifying strange emotions, following the trail backwards from effect to cause, and seeing past my actions and behaviors to their underlying motivations. Upon finishing its research, it shared its knowledge with me in the form of a dream. Here’s what I dreamt.
It was mid-day. I was standing, alone, in a room at work; one of the training rooms. The air was silent and still; perfectly neutral in temperature and laced with tension. Anticipation fluttered near the bottom of my stomach. It felt like something, or someone, was coming. As if on cue, an enemy appeared in the room with me: a stern-looking woman who I’d peg as being in her late forties. Deeply ominous and foreboding in her bearing, she was the very picture of a grim reaper.
Frightened, I rushed to the phone in the room and tried to dial her extension; my finger slipped and hit the wrong button. Panicking, I released the receiver and quickly dialed the number again.. 1, 2, 3, 4 numbers. The woman was directly in front of me now; we were both standing in the middle of the room with less than 2 feet of space between us. Cara’s voice came onto the line.. rising out of the receiver, lifting into the air, reaching every single corner of the room and filling my ears with sound. I listened to her, hanging onto the tone and texture of her voice like a lifeline, and I did so while maintaining careful eye contact with this dangerous woman.
“Did you accept it when she said that you were hers?” Cara’s voice posed the question softly and soberly and then paused, waiting for a reply.
She was talking about before today. I knew this. She was asking about something that had happened way earlier on in my life.. dating back to a time that was so long ago that my mind couldn’t even see that far back. But I knew the answer.
I paused before responding. “I think that I did..” I whispered slowly. “On accident.” I already knew that it was over.
Hearing this, the woman surged forward and opened her mouth. Instinctively, I inclined my body towards her and blew a strong guest of wind into her open mouth, believing this would make her leave. But it didn’t. She responded by leaning her body forward, pressing her lips against mine, and then sucking what felt like the breath, blood, bones and life energy from my being and taking all of them – all of it – into hers. The room fell dark like nighttime. I was cold.
I woke up, heart racing. The meaning of the dream was instantly clear to me.
“You’re overextending yourself again,” my internal therapist stated in a monotone voice. “You can’t belong to anyone right now. It’s literally killing you. Protect and look after yourself now, Jace. Before it’s too late.”
I wrote a song last week about depression and saying “bye” to a relationship. It’s appropriately titled Buy Bye. Watch a live, acoustic performance of the song by yours truly by clicking below.
A few words of unsolicited advice for my friends: Use your time discriminatingly. Allocate your funds wisely. Bond yourself with others cautiously, and paint your world with the most beautiful colors.
And here’s some really solid advice from the interwebs:
On a lighter note..
On evening number one in the hotel, I realized, while unpacking my suitcase, that I’d forgotten to pack toothpaste. Of course, I mused to myself. I remembered to bring my pointless dinosaur ring (pictured below) but forgot the stupid toothpaste. I still attempted to brush my teeth that night, using only water and the friction of the brush itself, and it was a very disappointing experience.
So I left a note on the bathroom counter the following morning that read: “Hey, forgot my toothpaste at home; is there a charge for a small, travel-sized tube?” If there was, I wanted to make sure that it was charged to me, personally, and not the company I work for.
When I returned home that evening, dropping my backpack onto the floor and beginning to unbutton my suit jacket, I saw a reply pinned down onto the counter top by a bulging tube of Colgate:
“Have a wonderful stay.” -HSKP
Should you commit to doing so, readers.. have a wonderful stay.