Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Roller Coaster

I recently saw a video on Facebook in which a man breaks up with his girlfriend on a rollercoaster ride.   I’m going to assume it’s real and discuss the implications of and reasons behind this breakup.  In the video, the man is very clearly scared and upset.  Although he is already strapped in next to his girlfriend, with the ride clearly underway, he keeps repeating that he doesn’t want to be on that ride.  She on the other hand is trying to comfort him and enjoying the ride.  As the ride progresses, he gets more and more terrified.  At one point he says, “You always make me do this!”
Then in the midst of his screams of, “I don’t want to do this!  I don’t want to do this!” he screams out, “I want to break up!” 
It takes a moment for it to register, and the girlfriend replies, “What did you say?”
He repeats that he wants to break up.  She begins to cry and now neither is enjoying the ride.  When the ride is over, she says something inaudible to him and walks away.
How does something like this happen?
Again, assuming it’s real, I would say the man is what Dr. Robert Glover calls a “nice guy.”  He is a man who is afraid of conflict.  Perhaps he is afraid of his girlfriend or of losing her.  Perhaps he is afraid of conflict.  Most “nice guys” are.  Then finally what happens eventually to all nice guys is that they can’t take their own duplicity any longer and something snaps.  All the resentment and anger and fear erupt to the surface and then they say or do something regrettable and sometimes irreversible.  Before that moment though, they are often sullen, passive-aggressive, and withdrawn.   They might make sarcastic comments under their breaths. 
What they won’t do is deal with the real issue. 
I understand this man.  I too hate roller coasters.  But at the same time, I don’t like him, because I used to be a lot like him.  It took me a long time to learn a very simple secret to happiness:  “Ask for what you want.”  (I put that in quotes because the idea isn’t mine, but I don’t know who coined this now-popular phrase.)
However, I’m going to go a step further and say, “Say what you want.  Don’t ask.  Tell.”
Tell it clearly.  Tell it respectfully.  Tell it without whining or complaining or venom.  Tell it with as few words as possible.  Tell it with no expectation other than to express yourself.  You may not always get what you want.  Or you may have to compromise.  Or you may even have to give in.  But if you do, it’s only because you have chosen to do so, not because you are trying to please others.  (Sometimes in these situations conflicting emotions arise and it’s okay to say something like, “I want to do what you want, but I really don’t enjoy that.  Can we keep talking about it until we resolve it together?”)
Let’s go back to the man on the rollercoaster.  Obviously he needed to make his needs known long before he ever got on.  Though potentially difficult, he should have said, “Honey, I love you, but I really hate roller coasters and I don’t want to go.  Can we talk about this?”
His girlfriend might have been annoyed, but she would have gotten over it and respected him more. Until that point she seemed to genuinely care about him, so she would have most likely accepted that she would always like roller coasters and he never would.  Differences, even crucial ones, do not have to tear a relationship up, but instead they can build it up.
When I was 15, my best friend was Rudy Santillanez.  He and I had nothing in common. Nothing.  He was introverted.  I was extroverted.  He liked cars, photography, and Boots Randolph.  He liked guns.  I cared for none of these things.  I was an actor and a writer.  He was almost always serious and I was usually lighthearted.  As I said, we had nothing in common, except our friendship and our love and respect for each other.  Our differences did not detract from our friendship.  They added to it.  Our differences also added to my life.  I learned new things.  Rudy pushed me have a wider view of life, like a camera lens.  I came to have new respect for cars and photography (though I still don’t care for Boots Randolph.)  I saw the world through Rudy’s eyes as well as my own.  Our friendship with all its differences was one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Now I have a Muse and we aren’t that different, but she has also pushed me to have a wider view of life. Since I met her I began writing.  I found God and learned to forgive and accept others.  I made some difficult choices and I found myself and my path.  And now I tell people what I want. I don’t do it always and I don’t always do it perfectly.  I make mistakes, but I’m happier and more honest with myself and others.  I finally began to Get Started and Keep Going.  Best of all, I got off the roller coaster.