Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coulds, Woulds, and Shoulds

A friend of mine called the other day, and she asked if she should pursue a guy at work that she really connected with and had "gotten to know" over a fairly considerable course of time.

What are the "rules" for "getting involved," if you are doing it for more than superficial reasons?

Have you ever met anyone that you somehow knew that you could develop strong feelings for? Yes, that's an odd concept--the idea of being able to do so, and yet, having some form of "control" over your emotions, as if will mattered. In fact, we usually assume that we don't have any control over who we care about--or at least, we have minimal control. The whole "will" issue is directly related to the mystery of romance--the idea that we don't understand why we care about someone, but that we just do and therefore, it was "meant to be." Of course, this is usually wrapped up in the idea of the "soul mate" or the "one" concept. We fall in love with someone because, well, that's what we've always been looking for, right? A concrete absolute that is "out of our hands" in one way or another, meant to sustain us until the end of time or some other such nonsense.

I remember watching a "Behind the Music" episode on the American TV channel, VH1 about Bette Midler. She ended up marrying a guy she hadn't known for a very long time, and there was this implication that she was "just meant to marry him" and asking why was a moot point. Instead of this guy being her mystical soul mate, I think he was just one of those people she "knew" she could develop a lasting relationship with.

It's more like taking a survey than it is making some amazing discovery. You come to realize that you "could" care about someone after you talk to them a few times and find connections between the two of you even in those short encounters and chats. When you talk to someone, what you are indeed doing is evaluating that person--this doesn't mean that you pass judgement so much as you ask them questions, learn something about them to see what they are all about. Short discussions here and there are like test pits for an archaeologist--you're putting your hand in the pond and picking up a handful of what's on the floor from completely unrelated places in the water just to get a clearer picture of what's under there that you can't see yet. Realistically, you won't be able to form connections between what's in your hand after one short dig and what you found last week in a similarly small hole. That's for the excavation to decide--and that is indeed what taking a survey of the ground is for. After a few dry runs, you have to ask yourself whether or not doing an excavation is worth it. If enough test pits have brought up evidence of what you're looking for, then, you get out the shovels and call in the interns.

So, the "could" is determined by a testing phase, which goes on whether you recognize it or not.

The "would" happens when you start actively making an attempt to excavate. I mean, if enough of your test pits are good, the chances are that there is more good stuff under there you just haven't accessed yet. That's when you can make your connections between what you found and what is really there. So, you start asking questions, seeking out that person's company, actively making conversation, and all usually starting from one of those points you discovered when testing. It's like taking one of your particularly good test pits and enlarging it--making it wider and deeper so you can see what else is there. Eventually, you start to see connections and new ideas. However, every day is different. One day, you may pull something up that deserves to be vaulted in a museum somewhere. The next day, you may find something you thought was equally priceless, but turned out to be a dirty rock. Other times, you bring out your manual labor, your whole host of technology, and your best tools only to find that it's raining, and you have to go home. All the while, the end is the same--you would develop those feelings because the basis, what you were looking for, is there--and now you know it is.

Now, comes the hard part, the "should." Here's a beautifully picturesque landscape, complete with flowers and trees and grass, even your contentely munching little rabbit hopping by. You know that monastery was there 1200 years ago on that spot--all you have to do is get out the shovel and you'll make history. So you do, and you find it--a fantastic ruin of a place. However, after you're done, you look around you--the tree is lopsided, the grass is wholly gone and so are the flowers, and the rabbit just took residence in another glen. Then, you ask yourself whether it was worth it in the first place.

"Should" is about assessement of what you've found and what you want to do with it. If you've done a careful job excavating, generally, there is some kind of stable relationship there. You've found and strengthened a connection you recognized. Now, you have to ask yourself whether you "should" move that to another level, and if you tell me "feelings" play a part, I'm sending you to the nearest therapist. "Should" is about knowing what you've got and what you're willing to risk--knowing what you may lose. I think that this is more of an important point than you may realize because it takes into account someone else other than yourself. You have to ask yourself whether that other person is either ready or willing, or both, to change your relationship. I am going to propose that usually, unless completely dense, people can tell if a connection is there, and probably ask themselves the same questions. It's about being considerate and aware of others--you knowing your "feelings" and what they "tell you to do" is inherently selfish.

If you "could" and you "would," it doesn't mean you "should"--and if you don't, you may not be missing out on an opportunity. You may be creating one, a stronger one in the form of a good friendship.


Pete Bogs said...

"The heart wants what it wants." - Woody Allen

I've often heard one should not get involved with a co-worker; considering how much time we spend at work, where else are we more likely to meet people?

sparkyc said...

"unless completely dense, people can tell if a connection is there"
Um, if you can't tell, surely that's a pretty good indication there is no connection.

slskenyon said...

Yes, I'll agree with that statement. Perhaps it is more that people tend to recognize it without too many signs of open acknowledgement.

Of course, that usually leads to misinterpretation. Which is a pain in the ass and creates needless drama. I mean, I think we all have people in our past with whom we felt connected, but we didn't say anything about it.

Otherwise, yes, if you can't tell, give up now, your ship is sinking and no amount of water bailing is going to help.

Chris G. said...

amazing, we all agree.

slskenyon said... to leave it to this guy.....

We should note this moment somehow. We all agree--and no insults have been thrown....odd.