Several years ago my mother gave me a small glass plate with a poem by Pete Hein, Shun advice at any price, that’s what I call good advice.
Eleven words I didn’t understand.
But I toted it from apartment to apartment.
Because it was hers. And then it was mine. And I believe in history.
Thing is, the older I get, the truer it seems.
The more time passes, the more weary I am of small and pithy pieces of advice.
Be more casual. Don’t be too honest. Don’t say too much. Be light and breezy. Don’t reveal all of yourself too quickly. Do this. Don’t do that.
I have found that advice is generally unhelpful. And worse, distracting.
If people want to share their experience, by all means. But to try to overlap one person’s story, on to another’s…well that’s just silly. Beside the point. A gigantic and befuddling waste of time.
To begin, you really can’t learn something until you’re ready to learn it.
And beyond that, there is no such thing as a roadmap, a template, a specific set of instructions for this life. (And thank God for that).
There is only the direction you want to go, the desire to move in that direction, and the willingness to figure out how to get there.
The older I get the more suspect I am of absolutes. And ultimatums. Of anything resembling a black-and-white, this-and-that dichotomy.
The older I get the more stock I’d like to place in the notion of “loosely adept.” Adaptive. Empathetic. Aware. Intelligent.
I had a friend who recently said to me on the phone, Oh Meg, you’re so shiftable, so easily swayed. It was condescending and unkind.
And I told him so.
At which point he casually laughed me off, Oh, what does shiftable even mean? I certainly don’t know.
And while it’s true that shiftable is not a word, we both knew what he meant.
Maybe I am shiftable. But maybe what it means is I’m doing the best I can to make the most out of changing and imperfect situations. Maybe I’m altering my view to allow for different experiences.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Maybe it’s just a little bit of synthetic happiness coming into play.
I’m especially weary of advice where dating and flirting and relationships are concerned because oh-me-oh-my do people like to give it.
And the older I get the more I realize that affection and attraction are out of our control.
Which means, advice ain’t worth a damn.
All you can do is show up and make a go of it when the when your frequency happens to hum along with someone else’s.
But you don’t get to choose the hum, or force the hum, or coax the hum. Yes, this can be a tremendously difficult thing to stomach, until it is not. Until you give over and realize it is the very best thing in the world. Because if it’s out of our hands then all we can do is honor what is actually happening. And that has nothing to do with small and pithy pieces of advice and everything to do with listening to the gut.
This is what I know to be true: I’ve never hooked a man with a perfectly-worded phrase, never lost him with one either. I’ve never tricked a guy into liking me by softening my edges and making myself more palatable. Attraction tends to be a big-picture thing. It happens in that wordless place—it is a combination of synapses firing and smells registering and our bodies reading symmetry. All of this happens on a mostly unconscious level. And if we are really, really, (really) lucky we are aware of it—in so much as, we know something is happening and that it is bigger than us (and so get out of the way).
I’m old enough to know now that there are levels of attraction, and when you happen upon that highest level—that penultimate level that leaves you breathless and nervous, then everything else is a cheap imitation. And suddenly good is just not good enough.
Which means occasionally, we must wait.
There is no such thing as one-right-way. And the older I get, the more I am in awe of ambivalence. I say in awe because it a thing. Like, it actually exists. That I can be standing in one spot, looking at the one person I want to speak to more than anyone else in the world, and having but one thought: please don’t let him come over here.
Because fear is a thing. And it sits on each of us differently.
And just because one person does one thing, one way—well, that doesn’t mean anyone else will (or should).
The world is mostly painted in shades of grey—each of us calling it black and white according to our whims, muddling the landscape.
I just keep thinking about feeling the fear and moving towards it. Up the hill, water sloshing from my metaphorical buckets.
Because the view at the top…well, that’s the thing.