I hate cleaning. My mother and sister thrive on it. They somehow don't feel whole if they can't observe extreme clean. And it de-stresses them to do it. I really am trying to be motivated to be like them. It's not working - part of my unchangeable personality which makes me the black sheep. Not that I like mess and dirt, just that a) I'd rather have someone else clean and b) I can ignore it easily.
So, how much of our personality is changeable and unchangeable? During my first months of lay-off, I was obsessed with doing personality tests to try and understand just what career path I really should have, would have, and could have taken if I had really asked myself "Who am I?"
I found that taking the on-line tests over and over again got me a result I didn't want, and wasn't who I perceived myself to be. I took solace in the fact that although I may have this nature, I can also nuture myself through behaviour modification. However, I have possibly over-cooked it on the nurturing end of things, trying to supress my true self through almost my entire academic and professional life because I was afraid to be me. I haven't read James Altucher's recent book yet, but I am imagining that is what it's all about.
As I try to find balance in what I do, and what I will get paid to do, I have also been thinking about nature versus nurture concept in the context of marriage or long-term relationships. And I realize I am bastardizing the notion of nature as a genetic phenomenon, to which I clearly have not inherited the cleaning gene. Nonetheless, my friends and I often have the conversation about whether chemistry (I am beginning to hate that word) is just there (you know when you feel it) or whether that is something that can develop over time. And which one really leads to long-term bliss?
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the Proposal with my daughter. It struck me that one of the remarkable things that happens seems too good to be true: An editor (driven female) and her assistant (younger male) who have a very close working relationship (albeit an unloving one on the surface) figure out they love each other over the course of a long week-end. Having faked an engagement and being asked to kiss at a party, the male character reveals later that he "knew it" when they kissed. Was it nuture? (3 years of working together) or nature? (it was going to happen regardless).
How many rom-coms have we seen where there seems to be very little relationship development and couples just happen to fall in love? Or started out as friends only to realize later that they have actually been in love this whole time? Is this fantasy or can you actually intuitively know that you were meant to be together? How do you decipher a "sexual piquing of interest" versus "this just feels right"?
I had a brief conversation with a friend recently about "transference". About how we bring all the experiences of our past relationships into our future ones, including the relationship with our parents. I was one of the first in my group of friends to adventure into serious coupledom (age 17!) which led to marriage after nine years of dating and a lot of waves to ride in-between and after. It ended in divorce. Were we too young to know any better? Our brains had reached maturity (just) by the time we married at age 26. What I think about now though, is why didn't I follow the pattern of my parents in their marriage rather than how they raised me?
I was raised to never give up with a strong push on independent performance. So, that transference makes sense - I think I just didn't want to give up and get a poor score on my life's record. Failure was not well embraced by me or my family. And for 18 years I tried not to fail. If I had really paid attention to my parents, and listened to what they were really trying to teach me, I would have realized that my failure was that I didn't give up sooner. I always give the excuse that I had to wait for my two children to be born. And maybe that's true. I can't of course imagine this world without them. No parent can.
My parents don't have a perfect relationship and they also haven't given up. My kids once asked me why Omi and Grandpa weren't divorced because they fight so much. But, there are two things that seem different to me when I compare them to my experience. One - they were engaged after a relatively short time. They were 10 years older than me when I first started my relationship at seventeen with my now ex-husband, but I don't think the age factor is as important as I previously thought. My parents knew each other for 9 months before they were engaged. My grandparents for 3 months. My sister and her husband (who I set-up through a friend of mine) dated for less 3 months before they moved in together and were engaged within the year. They all have or had successful relationships. Not without work, or what I am calling "nuture", but somehow they figured out the nature part early on.
The second thing is there seems to be an underlying bond they have that I am not sure I ever had. In my marriage there was always chemistry, but perhaps not the right kind of chemistry, or mixing of natures that could continue to be nourished through the long-term. Is that love? I don't know. But, relationship gurus will tell you what to look for with respect to longevity. How can couples who knew each other for such a short time learn all that "experts" claim will lead to success?
I do support the concept of "know thyself and know thyself well" as I mentioned above. I have been exploring "me", or the "lost me" for sometime now. Whether this must be in place first, however, is up for debate. Maybe if it is the right person, you can find yourself alongside them. Without being absorbed by them. In essence, their nature support yours.
I think, and I hope, I can do this now - combine the work ethic from my parents that includes not giving up on myself or the relationship, but also ensuring that I pay attention early on. I am going to follow the advice from my sister. She once said to me you "will know" because from the beginning it is just "easy" to be with that person. It feels "natural". You don't really have to think about it and nothing they do really bothers you. I need to transfer that learning, and understand that although the seeking is not easy, once found, it will be. Nature=Easy. Nuture=Work on top of easy.
And now a little bit of funny...
At dinner the other night, my friends and I made our first list (because there are so many more) of statements we have heard on first dates which were good indications of our "not the ones":
- Mensa I: "Let me stop you right there - I don't read"
- The un-funny Seinfeld: "'Johnny' likes his pasta" (referring to himself - and yes, it's true)
- The really, did you say that: "Are your hands dry from washing so many dishes"?
- Mensa II: "Is that fiction or non-fiction? I always get those two mixed up".
- The date interviewer: "So, what drives you?"
You may be thinking "those bitches, the guys were probably just nervous", and that may be true. But, if our natures had allowed it - we wouldn't have noticed, or even remembered.
I dedicate this blog to my sister and my best friends. To my sister, who found Easy. To my friends - I am not giving up on us finding our Easy! Or as I like to call him...my Edward.
Laugh. Out. Loud.