Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Instinct

Sparrows don’t have to worry about freezing to death. They have a little cue in their primitive brains that tells them it’s time to head south for the winter. I can’t tell you if it’s triggered by wind direction, falling leaves or a dropping barometer. Maybe a little birdie tells them...

We, on the other hand, live in places like Greenland, Siberia and the Yukon. We defeat the problem of it being too darn cold with our big brains. We invent things like engine block heaters, down coats, and electric foot warmers. In effect, we circumvent any instinct that may be asking us “Have you thought about Hawaii this time of year?”

In “Who Moved My Cheese?” the author is basically saying that our human ability to get hung up on the way we think things should be derails us from making the most of life. In his novel, “Galapagos,” Vonnegut takes it one further asserting that our big brains will be the cause of our evolutionary undoing. I think he may be on to something. Without the ability to daydream, expectations would never be unmet. Without the ability to pine for someone, a relationship failure could never hurt. We’d just move along, finding the next cheese. For better or for worse though this, along with the opposable thumbs, is what makes us human.

I believe a happy life rests somewhere in between animal instinct and heady reasoning. The trick is finding the right balance.

As a young woman I always heard married women talk about finding him. “You just know he’s the right one.”

How? You just know didn’t seem like much empirical data to go on. I was a geek and an outcast and tried to learn life from watching the cool kids. Give me behavior patterns to research, popularity to track. Telling me I’d just know gave me nothing. A boyfriend remained the ultimate unattainable cheese. Through college, I would hold my crushes up to this rubric. Is this knowing? Is this flutter in my belly love? Or just the Snickers I had for lunch? Instinct seemed furthest from my dating failures. I looked for guys who fit lists I’d made or who seemed, based on observed behavior, to be boyfriend material. I once dated a sweet guy who had recently lost a lot of weight. “He still thinks of himself as fat and therefore undesirable,” I reasoned, “I have to get to him before he realizes he’s a commodity.” I think the President would have approved of my strategery. But it still didn’t work. What sounded logical in my big brain didn’t touch my confused heart.

Then one day it happened. I met I guy I hadn’t planned on and I just knew. I became one of those super-annoying happy people that goes around spouting platitudes such as “when it’s right, you just know.” I got obsessed with trying to fix up all my single friends with all of his single friends while we planned our wedding. Reason was out the window. I was basking in just knowing.

But in the end, it wasn’t right. It didn’t last. I didn’t know. And then a whole new terrifying chasm of doubt yawned before me. If I couldn’t reason a love and I couldn’t rely in instinct to know one when I found him, how on the Sam Hill am I supposed to not be alone forever?

I know women are supposed to have great intuition. And I work on honing mine, I do. I knew John Kerry was going to win the election. I felt it. I knew John Taylor was going to be my new best friend. I saw the planets aligning. I knew that last script was going to be the flawlessly hilarious one that had the studios in a bidding war. The pages spoke to me.

“Learn to listen to your intuition” my girlfriends tell me. Why would I keep listening to someone who keeps getting me in trouble? Unless you’re trapped in Leave It To Beaver, you eventually learn your lesson and stop listening to Eddie Haskell.

So now what?

“The Universe is just getting him ready for you, and you for him,” one friend tells me.
“More will be revealed,” says my yoga teacher.
“God has a plan for you and a love for you,” my sister says.
“There’s a lid for every pot,” philosophizes my Irish aunt.

But I want someone to love. Someone who loves me.

"You can't push a wet noodle," intones my dad.

OK. Forget the noodles. Back to the cheese. So if the cheese book holds any water, I should eschew emotional entrapment and just putter on my merry way and I’ll get to my cheese sooner rather than later. Meanwhile I’m focusing on relishing my singleton-hood as much as possible. Much to my big brain’s annoyance I can’t explain it but I feel that someday I’ll look back and think “I can’t believe I was ever worried about this. I just should have known.”

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3 Comments:

Anonymous alexandra said...

Oh Honey are you just waking up from the dream? Poor thing, reality has set in, me thinks.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Webs said...

Sparrows and chickadees do overwinter up here in Montreal. Well, they try. I bet many of them die.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

Caring is the first mistake. Like the sign says, abandon all hope ye who enter."

Sometimes hopelessness is our only hope. You misplace a sock from the laundry basket and you tear your home apart, Harry Caul-style, searching for that damned sock. You finally give up. "Aliens stole my gold toe!" That sock is GONE, man.

And then, later, while rewiring the toaster or hot waxing the Corgi, you suddenly look up and shout "BEDROOM" and run straight to where you were using that formerly misplaced sock as an emergecy drink coaster the night before when your Stoli -n-Delaware Punch was sweating all over the nightstand as you read.

You find the sock when you stop looking for the sock, grasshopper.
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ohm B

8:40 AM  

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