Say No: The Distracted Creative and…LOVE!
Here’s a thought. Maybe you’ve had it before?
Love is distracting.
Ughhh, I don’t [necessarily] want to write about love stuff, but yes, it relates to creativity. So don’t freak out.
The fact is that when work autonomously, the required self-discipline is often more difficult to impose than when an employer simply tells you what to do.
If you’re a creative on top of that, you’re probably already easily distracted.
So . . . yikes.
If your guard is down, romance will creep in and drown out your smart brain while nudging you toward texts and meetups.
If you’re not strong about your romance stance, you may well be toppled.
I teeter. And often.
Why We Play the Romance Game
Let’s have a closer look:
I really really enjoy being single. That’s a special part of the frustration here. Why am I bothering with romance at all? The single eras of my life have been some of the most enjoyable and growth-inspiring of all.
Though a romantic younger me pined for a boyfriend throughout middle and high school, the lack of takers led me eventually to realize that being alone wasn’t so bad after all.
I’m thankful for the absence of suitors. Without that, I probably wouldn’t be the independence-craving lion I am today.
Once I reached my twenties they came and went . . . and came and went. And that just keeps happening, mostly.
But hey—the more fails, the more learned.
But something happened when I hit thirty: I discovered the inverse relationship between the enjoyment of my own self and the value of trying to make things work with someone else.
Recognizing this tradeoff was liberating. I could finally begin ignoring that culturally-indoctrinated voice within me that ever-whispered:
“You’re supposed to be in a relationship! People are going to think you’re a cat lady! I don’t care if you don’t have cats!”
Yet, despite my attempts to avoid romance, it tends to show up anyway.
Though resilient and happy without temptation (indeed, that’s when it’s easy), some man comes along and I see all this potential (imagined or real) and think, “ahh shucks, might as well give ‘er a go!”
Because a lot of times, love is distracting and it’s worth it.
Healthy love offers acceptance, comfort, inspiration. And some other things, I guess. It teaches you about what it is to work and sacrifice for another person. Selfless giving and all that.
There are certain experiences that simply cannot be known without tons of effort.
We can’t know what it’s like to share ourselves with a person for decades unless we do it. Lifelong careers and babies are like that too.
But if we do those things, we also won’t know what it’s like to live a life of freedom and whimsy and pure cultivation of our own self.
They all seem like rewarding and alluring options to me. (Maybe less-so the baby one.)
When I subleased my Hollywood bungalow and popped over to Italy to isolate myself for a month, I made a promise not to find any spicy Italian beaus while I was there.
So you know what I did? I found a man before I left. It was an accident. I think?!
He just came along and seemed too good to pass up. And with two weeks before my departure, we figured we’d spend way too much gooey-eyed time together before I left and see where things stood once I returned.
After 25 days apart (far longer than we’d spent together), it was difficult to grasp whatever essence had tied us together in the first place. A pressure-less thing suddenly became inexplicable and murky.
Things grew confusing (surprise!) and I grew distracted by my brain’s attempt churn out explanations and solutions. With my useless jumble of stress-laden emotions, work output was pathetic.
My guess is that you can relate.
Some radio silence then occurred between us, and when he reappeared after a couple of days asking forgiveness, the very same emotions that had been shot with stress and confusion were now optimistically telling me to give it another shot!
But, I knew I had to ignore them because the truth is that we can’t always trust our emotions.
The romantic in me cries out:
“It cannot be so! We must trust our emotions, our hearts! We must be vulnerable!”
And I get it. We need to be led by our emotions sometimes. We need to be vulnerable . . . sometimes.
But if emotions keep leading us to places that are painful, then something is wrong with the system.
The Culprit? Patterns.
When I met this man, I sensed that he was not in the best place for a relationship. But my romantically-delusional emotions urged me to ignore this sentiment.
This was not the first guy whom I’d dated despite an inner voice telling me “Nooooo!”
In fact, this is a bona fide pattern of mine.
I’m not trying to cop out (stay with me here), but here’s the thing:
Humans are creatures of emotional pattern. The more subtle and layered they are, the better. We live for a good pattern.
You know those times you see a person and your heart sparks and tingles? That’s really just your emotions picking up on some hidden layer of the other person’s personality and saying,
“Ooooh! Here’s a great opportunity to repeat a pattern!”
This is why a battered woman consistently attracts abusive men.
This is why an emotionally abused man consistently finds women who treat him like dirt.
This is why your lovers have consistently been unfaithful.
This is why your bed is consistently turning out narcissists.
The strength of unhealthy emotions enables us to unconsciously recognize another person’s ability (or disability) to help us fulfill an emotional pattern. Magnetized to pattern-fulfillment, we’re tricked into thinking there’s a romantic spark, when really it’s a recognition spark.
Usually these emotional patterns are established as we grow up based off the prominent relationships of our lives . . .
You had an alcoholic father, so (no matter how upsetting it was) you grew comfortable with that dynamic. You seek lovers who are something-oholics (work, substance, fitness, etc) and thus emotionally unavailable to you. Pattern fulfilled.
You grew up physically or verbally battered by a significant caregiver, so you seek out the repetition of this behavior in lovers. Pattern: check!
You know these patterns, these people. Maybe you are these people.
It’s not because we consciously want it; it’s because unconsciously our system seeks the pattern. We love comfort and familiarity and we just looove patterns.
Use Your Brain to Mitigate Your Heart
Here’s the truth: If a person does not love him or herself wholly, their ability to love others is severely diminished.
Now, feeling emotionally whole does not mean being emotionally perfect.
Accepting people who aren’t working toward emotional wholeness tends to always work against us. Especially in intimate relationships. But, duh.
And I’m not saying I’m at my best. I’m not. But I’m trying. Really.
I am saying this: if someone is not in pursuit of their highest emotional potential, they aren’t ready for a relationship. Don’t bother with the distraction.
Adhere to that rule simply because emotions can’t always be trusted. Especially if you’re like me and have a track record of being blatantly led astray by false emotions.
So, use logic to temper emotion. More than anything, that is the most important thing, at my flimsy 30 years, that I’ve learned about love…
Pattern-loving emotions will play tricks on you. They want nothing more than the comfort of knowing how to exist in the realm to which they’re accustomed. Like a magnet, you will be drawn to a situation in which your emotional motherboard can plug itself into the pattern.
So, here’s the truth:
If our emotions are gonna play like that, we have to anticipate the game. As the great fictional representation of Alexander Hamilton would say:
“When you got skin in the game you stay in the game”
So, the question is this:
How can you beat emotions at their own game? How can we stay all-in without forfeiting ourselves? How can we avoid letting love-laced distraction ruin our creativity and worklife?
Here’s the good news:
Patterns can be disrupted. It takes work and discipline. It often takes trusting your thinking mind instead of your beating heart, which is haaaard. And though emotional patterns often surface as “emotional dysfunction,” they’re not that. They’re just part of a system that needs adjusting.
Creating a System
In the face of bonkers Emotion Town, we should have a logical system in place— a filter through which emotions can pass and be balanced by the mind.
Have questions about prospective partners and decide in-advance how the answer will affect things.
For example, if you know you don’t want to date an addict, one of your questions is: Is he/she an addict? If the answer is yes, it doesn’t matter how charming they are (and oh, aren’t they charming!)—you’ve already decided that it’s a non-starter.
Putting emotions aside, if anything stands out at red flag status, I can’t be that potential-seeing girl that says:
“Oh, just give it time…that will change…that will get better…love will show the way!”
Because most of the time, all that is untrue. It pays to consider ‘most of the time.’ It pays in time not wasted, creativity pursued, and just general well-being.
Am I always successful at adhering to my partner question/answer system? No. Nope.
But think about this:
How many times do you actually see people change for each other?
Not just behavioral things like going to bed earlier or cutting back on smoking, but really changing the deep traits of personality?
Why not take the much simpler route of establishing in the beginning the willingness to accept the person at face value?
If yes, stay.
If no, go.
If statistically (let’s just say ‘statistically,’ okay?) people don’t actually change for each other, let us enter a relationship saying:
“If it came down to it, would I be able to accept this person as presented today for the rest of my life?”
A system like this could make life so. much. easier. Why get with someone under the hope and premise that they will change for you? Why not wait until someone comes along whom you don’t want to change?
Meet someone strong on his or her feet, someone who resists being toppled. Only then can you stand strong beside him and not get sucked into some all-consuming struggle to “make something work.”
If we boil it down:
Affirmative answers to these three systematic questions are indicators of a solid prospect:
1. Does he/she inspire me?
2. Does he/she seem “complete”?
3. Can I trust him/her?
Feeling inspired precludes boredness. It’ll make you better.
Complete doesn’t mean finished learning and growing. Complete means whole, as in accepting the dark and light of everything. If they’re complete, they’re not just looking for someone else to make life better.
And trust? That’s just mandatory.
Establish your red flags and stand by them, because they are the buoys that can keep you from getting sucked down the whirlpool of distraction.
Trust your mind and its ability to see things that your emotions might ignore in exchange for a romanticized version of some better tomorrow.
Because the latter, my friends, is what we call Distraction.
You want to waste all that time pursuing tomorrow? The good stuff is passing you by today.
Don’t You Forget About You
Of course, I cannot say all of this without mentioning the importance of working on one’s own self throughout.
The path to self-improvement should be a consistent daily process. Acknowledging our pitfalls, understanding from where they come, and praising our own successes.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying”
If you constantly find yourself caught in the same pattern, use your brain to mitigate your emotions, but also work to understand the underlying cause of why you pursue the patterns in the first place.
Mow the weeds, sure, but if you don’t get the roots, they’ll keep coming back.
One book to get yourself started is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.
If you’re not ready to buy a book, then the best things you can start doing for yourself right now are meditation (want some proof? Click here) and journaling. A meditation primer I love is from straight-talkin Dan Harris:
Really, the goal of all this is to get to a place where we can actually trust our emotions to work in conjunction with logic. For our own selves.
I’m no expert on love (not by a long shot), but I’m working things out…hopefully? It’s hard and vulnerable to talk about this stuff—especially the failings therein—so let’s lean in, shall we?