Chris’s 3 Rules of Dating

At BayCon, Chris revealed his three rules of dating, which contained enough insight and resonance that we later pressed him to post them for posterity. And after reviewing his expanded version, I have come to the conclusion that they're just as relevant to one's work life as one's love life.

Since I think these are pure brilliance and don't want anyone to miss them just because they're too lazy to follow a link, I'll reprint them here:

Chris's 3 Rules of Dating

I developed these some years back and several people asked me to write them down for them so here goes. Will they work for you? Maybe. I am reasonably confident that they worked for me given the beautiful, competent and intelligent woman I wound up marrying (see Poeso)!

Any set of rules/guidelines should be as succinct and unambiguous as possible which necesitates them being broadly worded. It also means that there are clarifications for specific points (in case you didn't catch the obvious intent) I have included a few. Finally, like Asimov's Laws of Robotics, these rules are in an order for a good reason...

Rule #1: Be comfortable with yourself! If you can't be comfortable with yourself then other probably can't be either. Being comfortable includes being comfortable around people you don't know or by yourself. Don't always rely on the opinions of others. In the end, it is your opinion of yourself that matters. Don't mistake Arrogance for Confidence. The Arrogant need other people to be wrong so that they can be right which builds in weakness. The Confident recognize that there are many viewpoints that can be right and refines their viewpoints by allowing them to be challenged.

Rule #2: Meet new people. There are many people in the world who can be "right" for you. The more people you interact with the more likely you are to meet one of them. Just because someone appears to be "right" doesn't mean that they are not already taken or will ever be emotionally available to you. Take heart, enjoy your time with them and LEARN what a "right" person looks like and looks for. The worst that can happen is you get a cool new friend and maybe learn something about yourself. Sometimes meeting new people means expanding upon the relationships you already have. "Friend of a friend" is more likely to have common interests and come to you "pre vetted" by the people you already trust. Make time for the people who make you feel good about yourself. Who knows, one of the cool friends you have may have been waiting for you to become "emotionally available" and you may not have noticed it. Either way, it helps with Rule #1.

Rule #3: Avoid worthless relationships! Admit it, everyone has gotten into or stayed in a relationship that is just not fulfilling and never will be. Sex, routine, emotional security, what ever the reason in the end all you are doing is keeping yourself from growing as a person. Either work to improve the relationship you are in or get out! Grow or leave. Harsh, but this is the biggest trap most people fall in to: staying in a dead end relationship because they lack the confidence to either make it work or end it. If you are not yet in a relationship, remember rule #1, enjoy being with yourself. You don't need to get hooked up just to validate your self image. Flirt, have fun, be daring, but don't date some one unless you see in them the qualities that make you say "wow, I'd be really happy to tell my friends I am dating this person"

A calm between storms

I am at my best when I am in motion.

When I have a deadline looming over my head, I am at my most productive. When I am in a fast paced social arena, I am at my most confident. When I am faced with adversity and the odds are against me, I am at my most motivated. I love who I am when I'm in full motion.

Then there are the quiet times. With too much time on my hands, I get nothing done. When I am in an unfamiliar social situation, I am shy and incapable of starting a conversation. When I am not challenged, I lose my fire and become lethargic. I hate who I am when I am coasting.

Right now I think I'm kind of in a transitional phase. I have almost completely lost my passion for that which has most defined me for the past few years. I have already found a new passion, but I have not yet gotten a chance to sink my teeth into it and really embrace it. I find myself simultaneously aching for a new side project to keep me busy and feeling completely overwhelmed by the side projects I am already juggling (and making so little progress on). It's a sense of restless anticipation, trying to keep myself from sliding too far into inaction while I wait for Timing to catch up with me.

Transitions are nothing new. What is odd about this one is that it is so mellow. Typically, I would cling to the old, dying phase, stubbornly fighting to keep it in the air, until I finally crack. Then I would descend into a passionate, feverish sort of vision quest. When the fever broke, and all of my demons had finished throwing their worst at me, only I would remain. I would have found the thing I was missing, and have a fresh new perspective and a passion to go out and make things happen once again.

But I think I'm starting to apply a bit more prescience to my life these days. I'm able to see the dying phase for what it is, and distance myself from it enough that it doesn't drag me down with it. I'll keep it around just long enough to get me by until the right opportunity presents itself for my next big passion. There's no great drama, no moment of brilliant revelation. Just a little bit of fidgety impatience and a lot of frustration over not being as in-motion as I would like to be.

So where does that leave me? Working for my favorite company ever, in a position that I have lost my love for, attempting to switch to a new position that everyone seems to think I would rock at - but which is taking forever to give me a handhold. Having, for the first time in a very long time, more than enough self confidence to be able to get out there and start dating again, but not being willing to settle for anything less than the amazing degree of chemistry I was recently spoiled with - still lonely, but a more contented form of loneliness than before. Having nothing in my life that I can justifiably complain about, and yet nothing that I feel like raving about either. Just a sort of calm between storms.

I hope the next storm hits soon. All this coasting is driving me batty.

This I Believe: There Is No God

NPR has a series titled This I Believe, in which people from all walks of life share their essays on what beliefs they hold dear. I just ran across this one from November, in which Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) shares belief that there is no god. Regardless of your own view on the topic, this is an excellent read. My favorite bit, which I think sums up the whole essay is:

"Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around."

A new year. A new chapter.

New Year's Eve has always been my favorite holiday. There's just something inherently satisfying about taking a moment to recognize the passing of time, and to reflect on the things you have accomplished, the changes you have gone though, and the challenges that remain to be faced. For the past month, I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about this past year, and what I see for the year to come. Several aspects of my life were very much in flux throughout December and January, and I hadn't gotten a chance to completely internalize them yet. Finally, though, I am beginning to rise above the confusion.

The story so far, a look forward, and resolutions...

Drawing from the Hoard

In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, there is a leprechaun who teaches the main character how to pull gold coins out of the air. He explains that there exists a Hoard, from which you can merely pluck what you need. And when you are done with it, it vanishes, returning to the hoard from which it came.

When I made the decision last year to sell off most of my physical belongings to fund my job search, I kept this metaphor close to my chest. Yes, I was getting rid of every movie I owned, almost all of the collectibles I had gathered over the years, and even a good deal of the books that I had had for so long. But I was merely returning them to the Hoard, and would be able to retrieve them again when the time came. And now, as I get back on my feet financially and start to rebuild my collections, I do so knowing that anything I buy is merely snatched from the Hoard, and will eventually vanish back to its origin.

The other day, I was poking through CraigsList at work, and ran across a listing that caught my eye. It was a list of about 100 DVDs, priced at $8 each. The titles were largely high quality, and it was apparent that this was someone's personal collection. But the note at the bottom that read "will sell all for $300" confirmed my hunch that the man who posted it was doing the same thing I had done - returning his prized collection to the hoard, to cover his short term needs and retrieve it again later, when fortune permitted. I felt obliged to help him in his quest, as so many of you helped me by buying bits from my own collection when the need was great.

After doing the math, I determined that I could even turn enough of a profit to snatch back a few of my own lost items from the hoard while I'm at it. I stopped by his place after work, let him haggle me up to $360, and felt good when I saw the same sense of "oh good, that covers this month's rent" relief in his eyes that I experienced when my own collection was liquidated. I pulled out the 20 titles that I wanted for my own collection, and the result is a list of 80 DVDs that are ready to return to the Hoard.

On the practical side, I'll leave the list as is for the next few days so my friends can take dibs on whatever they want. Then I'll push the lot to (the Hoard incarnate, you could say) and let the free market redistribute this gentleman's collection to appreciative hands.

On the philosophical side, I think that many of us can learn a lesson from the Hoard. Which of your possessions are truly valuable to you, and could never be replaced? Which could you easily return to the Hoard for a few years and retrieve again later (or not at all) without really losing anything. How much would you even notice if it were to suddenly vanish from your bookshelf or closet?

And now that I think of it, I suppose the metaphor goes beyond physical goods as well. How much money can you afford to return to the Hoard, so those who have lost everything at the hands of nature's wrath can snatch it back in their time of need? How much time and thought can you spare to bring a smile to the face of someone who is in need of one? How much of your riches are really your own, and not just borrowed from the greater Hoard? And how much more valuable would that collective wealth be if everyone recognized its sacred status as a shared, liquid resource?

So, in the name of putting my money where my mouth is, I make this pledge. Any proceeds I get from selling this gentleman's collection (after recouping my initial investment) will be donated to the Red Cross. At the prices I have listed currently, that would come to a little over $150 (in addition to the $50 I had already ear-marked for the purpose).

What do you own that you wouldn't miss if you auctioned it off and put the proceeds to a worthy cause? It's an interesting question to ponder.

Lost and Found

[I'll write a full account of my first Burning Man experience later, when I've had time to rest, rehydrate and unpack. But I wanted to get this bit out while it still has meaning.]

I'm back from Burning Man. As expected, my first year of Burning Man was not the mind-blowingly positive experience that it is for most people. It was, however, exactly what I intended it to be: an opportunity to remove myself from the world and shake the hornet nest that is my mind, and see what demons really are behind my current woes, so I can begin to understand them.

I brought a lot with me to the playa: pain, anger, frustration, distrust, fear, and isolation. Some of that was left on the playa, and swept away in the ashes of the burn. Some remains to be dealt with. But what I left behind was replaced with something new. I do not have names for all of these yet, but I'm sure that will be revealed to me in time. But there are a few things I brought back which I can name.

The first is a fortune cookie that I was given at a little noodle house and bar on Venus, which read: "You must leave something behind to receive something new." I have been repeating this to myself in different tones since then, and have found not only that it is true now, but that it has also been true in the past. Some were left behind in order to purge myself of them, and some were left for safe keeping. I just need to bring a gift to leave behind in order to retrieve them.

Another thing that I brought back with me was a fifth question. I mentioned before the four questions which, if asked enough times, will eventually reveal a truth about you. And I also mentioned that different people live their lives by one of these questions or the other. But I missed one question. "What are you afraid of?" I am amazed at the variety of my answers so far. This question may be the key to unlocking my current riddle.

But one of the most valuable nuggets of wisdom that has been added to my arsenal I didn't receive until I returned from the playa and continued feeding my B5 addiction.

"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
- Marcus Cole, Babylon 5: A Late Delivery from Avalon

One of my fundamental life philosophies is that you have to bend when the wind blows. When you brace against the wind and attempt to resist the laws of nature, you will shatter when the winds blow hard. But if you learn to ride the winds, there's no limit to how far you can fly.

Lately, I realize, I have not been bending. I have been trying too hard to make a stand and sink in new roots, and haven't been embracing the chaos that is inherent in the system. So when the chaos knocks on my door, it comes as a punishment instead of as a challenge. If I keep this up much longer, I will shatter. My first order of business should be remembering where I left that ability to dance gleefully in the winds of chaos, and what gift I must bring with me in order to retrieve it.

I think I know the answer to where I left it. And I'm pretty sure that M&Ms are the appropriate gift. But I might also need to retrieve a few more treasures as well, while I'm there. I'll wait a few more days to see if I get a call that could change the nature of this treasure hunt. If the call doesn't come in, I'll be on my way back to the wilderness to do some digging.

One possible answer

Something a friend wrote tonight jarred an old memory. I ran across this a few years ago, and thought it was beautiful, although it didn't answer any of the questions I was asking myself at the time. I'm not even sure it does now. But I feel compelled to share it, as I have a hunch it might resonate with one or two of you in the days to come.

The Invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living,
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are,
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon,
I want to know if you have touched the center of your sorrow,
If you have ever been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain; mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
If you can hear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul,
If you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even if it is not pretty everyday
And if you can source your own life from it's presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand
on the edge of the lake and shout to the sliver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children,
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and like the company you keep in the empty moments.

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

What do you believe?

Do you believe in mystery? That there are tiny, almost imperceivable currents in your life that prevent you from being exposed to things before you're ready for them, and steer you toward them when the time is right?

Imagine that there is a book, or a movie, or a song that you have been dying to experience for ages, but for some reason or another never gotten around to. Years later, you're struggling with some philosophical dilemma, and you decide to pull it off the shelf to distract you from your quandary. And as it begins, you see every hidden detail of your mental chaos laid out in front of you in meaningful metaphors and pseudo-prophetic dialog.

Is there some invisible hand guiding your path? Shooing you away from metaphors that will not yet have meaning for you, and nudging you toward them when you are finally in need of the lessons they will bring? Or is the language of metaphors such that you will find meaning where you look for it, and would have found just as much meaning in another source, if your need was as great?

If there's one thing that I have learned in my service, it is fluency in metaphor. But being able to speak a language doesn't mean that one necessarily understands the physics of how sound is created and shaped into words, nor the esoteric inner workings of linguistic theory.

Nevertheless, I see the answers when I look for them. I have been asking a lot of questions over the past several months. But as my life seemed to be spiraling into chaos, I was too afraid to look for the answers to most of those questions. I wasn't sure I could handle them if they were as dark as I had feared.

Now that the worst of it is over and I am finally working on getting back on my feet, I have begun to indulge myself in looking for a few of the answers. And, as usual, the answers come in metaphor. They're in magazine articles, on DVDs, in music, in reflections, and even in unexpected software releases. I can see which way the wind is blowing, but can not yet tell if it is a breeze or a storm. If only I could quiet the fury inside, perhaps I could hear the messages more clearly.

What is the question you live your life by? What do you want? Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? Ask yourself these questions repeatedly, until all of your flippant surface responses are depleted and the truth begins to emerge. Which questions bring forth answers that make you feel whole? Which bring forth answers that make you fear yourself?

Which answers are you willing to die for? And, more importantly, which answers are you willing to live for?