Love and Life and Writing

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People are like creative work.

You have to go through a lot of mediocre ones, bad ones even, to end up with something good. Even then, it doesn’t mean it will always be good.

Nothing is linear.

You learn which ones you want to spend time with and how you want to spend that time. You know not to waste any on fruitless pursuits, and you know not to settle for what’s good enough.

You search for it. You work for it. You suffer for it.

You open yourself up to ridicule, criticism and ignorance because of it.

And it’s worth it. Because good stuff begets more good stuff. Where you find awesome people you’ll likely find more awesome people. Maybe not right away, but at some point.

It’s what fuels my writing and my relationships.

When I started dating a new boy, it was a bigger deal than I thought it would be. Correction: a bigger deal to everyone else than I thought it would be. It was certainly a big deal to me.

At first, I spent a lot of time trying not to piss anyone off. And anytime you do that, with people, with work, with anything, you’re done.

You’ve let fear get the best of you. Sometimes it’s a valid fear, like when doing something might result in your and your loved ones’ exile from the modern world.

But compared to that, everything else doesn’t seem so life and death.

Because it isn’t.

I looked at who had been with me at my best and my roughest, and who would be with me beyond that.

I looked at myself. How my personal self affected my writing self. How I could push for good work and surround myself with good work but not push for the same thing in my physical world.

I couldn’t.

What happened next was painful and terrible, but also kind of great. On one hand, I had people I hadn’t talked to in ages telling me all about my horrible life decisions. On the other, I found someone I could talk to about anything and everything, with much self-deprecation and humor.

It wasn’t as simple as that — nothing is — but it was simple in truth. You can’t achieve anything great without risking anything great.

It’s a truth we’re all familiar with, but one that needs repeating when we most need it. Like when we’re about to take the last shred of toilet paper without replacing it. Or quit a job to pursue something completely different. Or do something that makes our lives great fodder for a telenovela.

I had to let go of parts of myself and people I’d loved so I could be more like who I was becoming.

How people responded to that, I decided, didn’t matter. At least the ones who didn’t matter to me. There were plenty of moments when I thought: How dare they? They don’t know me and what I’ve been through!

And that’s just it. They don’t. They probably never will.

In life, whether we do something great or terrible or just okay, everyone will have an opinion. We’d all like them to be informed and educated and smart opinions, but that doesn’t always happen.

What has happened is the big players are still big players. The minor ones have faded into the background, like I thought they would.

And it didn’t hurt. Too much.

If I had to do it all over again, with the power of hindsight, I would.

Because if good begets good and bad begets bad, then strength must also beget strength.

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How to cross the street

You can tell a lot about a couple by the way they cross the street.

On Saturday, I witnessed four coupled-up street-crossers in the span of about 30 minutes. That’s what happens when you’re strolling down Fifth Ave in search of the perfect suit.

(The suit wasn’t for me, by the way. I spent most of the shopping portion of the day reading on the so-called boyfriend chair.)

On Saturdays, Fifth Avenue becomes a fashionable version of football. The teams are shoppers decked in their best leopard print ensembles, sizing each other up from opposite sidewalks. The “walk” sign flashes, and each team – a herd of maybe 20 or so – must reach the other side in the time allotted with little injury.

You must be ruthless. Standing between you and the end zone are a clueless tourist pointing at the sky, a mom who refuses to carry her barely mobile toddler, a grandpa recovering from a hip replacement. An elbow here, a jab to the ribs there. All’s fair in the sport of crosswalk.

Further, you must be prepared for the unforeseen. A stiletto-wearer might step into a crack or a carriage-carting horse might sideswipe a straggler.

Most interesting is how people reveal their true selves in the face of possible death by cab. In most cases, they will fall under one of two categories: Leave No Man Behind or It’s Every Man For Himself.

It is in that split-second decision that the couple is put to the test.

At Crosswalk No. 1, I watched a man cross just as the light turned green. Behind him, his wife or girlfriend was just stepping off the sidewalk. She was on the phone. She stopped.

“We can’t go yet!”

But it was too late. The man was almost across the street, barely acknowledging her.

At Crosswalk No. 2, another possible death by cab. This time, the woman was stepping out into the street just as the light turned green. She wasn’t looking. The man, waiting with the rest of us, reached out to pull her back.

As cars passed, they looked at each other, she with the sheepish “Oops” face, and he visibly annoyed.

At Crosswalk No. 3, the couple was hand in hand. They stepped out into the street together, confident the cabs were going to stop for them. They kept talking, never missing a beat.

At the fourth crosswalk, the couple was in the midst of conversation. A cab approached, but there was enough time to get to the other side. The woman darted across the street; the man hesitated.

“Ha,” she told him seconds later. “You’re always hesitating.”

It’s likely I’m looking too far into this. (Lucky for you, dear reader, I’m a fervent too-far-into-this-looker who likes to inject stories where they may not belong. As for the rest of you.)

Where the rest of you might see a man who saved a woman from certain doom, I see a woman so used to the man shielding her that she doesn’t even bother to look both ways anymore.

After all, relationships are made of little crosswalks. They are unpredictable. They are risky. You never know if, in the face of adversity, the person you’re with is going to look out for you or leave you behind.

Which makes it all the more frustrating. I mean, life would be so much easier if we could employ a reliable test to gauge a person’s crosswalk mettle. Like: Hey, you, let’s meet at a crosswalk, where I will close my eyes, step out into the street and, though I will not tell you this beforehand, you will pass my test by making sure we both make it to the other side.

But that’s not exactly foolproof. For one thing, you could be crushed by an overzealous texter should your mate be distracted by a unicyclist, a no-pants-wearer, a Uniqlo of epic proportions.

The more accurate measure, I think, is the one taken over time, time and time again. Because should you both survive one crosswalk mostly unscathed, albeit clumsily, there’s always the next one.

And maybe, hopefully that one will be a hand-in-hand kind of thing.