Several years ago, I had this exchange with an old boyfriend:
“I know what you’re going to say–” I started.
“In that case we never have to talk,” he wisely interrupted.
Uh hmm… well, I do suppose he’s right. If I believe that I already know how people will act, talk, behave, and respond, then why bother talking to or engaging with them, anyway? If I think that all people are is a prescribed set of responses and actions, what on earth is exciting or surprising about them — and, more to the heart, what on earth am I learning?
Yesterday, I listened to the SuperSoul podcast interview between Oprah and Brian Grazer (a Hollywood writer and producer, whose name I’d not known, but whose movies I’ve cherished: Splash, Apollo 13, Parenthood). He’d just released his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, and I loved what he had to say in the interview and promptly downloaded the book. (My most pleasurable way to clean my house is while listening to books — and this one is read by Norbert Leo Butz, one of my favorite Broadway musical actors [yes, with a name like that, I’m sure he had no choice but to become so incredible he couldn’t be laughed at!])
Brian Grazer’s message is apparent in the title, but what struck me was the idea of remaining curious within my own relationship.
At the start of our dating, and for many months after, my current boyfriend repeated the following, partly as a habitual mantra and partly as a badge of honor: “My first answer’s always, ‘No.'”
As a woman who enjoys lots of new experiences, I was frequently given the chance to hear him say his cherished mantra: No. I don’t like movies. I don’t like vacations. I don’t like parties. I don’t…
Yet, as soon as we’d complete one of those new activities, he’d almost invariably (if begrudgingly) admit, “I love…!” or, sometimes the pride-preserving, “I guess ___ isn’t so bad.” Or, maddeningly, “Why didn’t we do this before?!” *insert eye-roll emoji*
Over our year-plus together, we’ve both noticed an interesting shift in his knee-jerk response from “No” to “Maybe.” As his girlfriend, this has been exceedingly wonderful to hear.
However, at times, even “maybe” is too foot-dragging, too oppositional, too much effort for me to convince, and I become disheartened, occasionally pessimistic, and sometimes dour about the prospect of trying new things together, moving into new places in our lives together. And I stop hoping.
Now, while this might be a reasonable reaction to a wall of “no,” the pure truth is that the answer is increasingly, “Sure!” While I may quietly lament a lack of verve or passion for life, the truth is that he’s increasingly taking action, showing verve, and expressing passion.
What I’ve begun to realize is that my own pessimistic reactions have become static, sedate — and outdated. J. is not the man I began dating — he is becoming a new version of himself. Yet I can still react to him as though he is the negative nancy I knew.
I have lost my curiosity.
I have begun to assume what his actions and reactions will be. I have lost sight of what is happening today by pasting it over with a staid version of yesterday. I have limited him to a vision of who he was, rather than who he is and is becoming.
How very sad.
So, my action for myself is to now notice who and what is truly in front of me. Yes, sometimes that is still a nay-sayer, and that can be true, but how about noticing the Yeses, the That was Funs, the We should do that more oftens–
And mostly, the increased Joy.