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My expectation of true human connection contributes directly to the waves of loneliness that swell within me. I feel so disconnected from my friends, my family, the world around me. And when I speak of my loneliness in conversation, it is pushed under a veil of encouragement: “You’ll meet someone. You’re so amazing. It’ll happen.” As if my feelings are incorrect, invalid, and I simply should not feel lonely.
But I am lonely. I feel alone. Despite my ability to talk to any stranger I see or plan a party or perform on stage, I always end up at home. Alone. But the aforementioned positive qualities are momentary. I do not exhibit them constantly. That’s impossible. But they are what people see. Which means their perception of me is based only on a glimpse of truth. They see me in my strong state. As a rock to aid them with their problems. A guide to help them navigate their icy waters. In this action, this relational support, I am seen as having the answers; as being in control. As being above the perils of loneliness and fear. But I am not. I am not immune to the sinking feeling of waking up alone after having gone to bed alone for the countless nights I do. I am not immune to the dull pain of knowing my 10 most recent calls were all outgoing. I am not immune to having an empty mailbox, digital and paper. For me, it’s movies for one, restaurants for one, bars for one, cooking for one, drinking for one, book reading for one, Netflix for one, grocery shopping for one, concert ticket for one, evening walk for one.
I have no better half. I am whole, but swollen with loneliness. It fills in the contours of my puzzle piece which I prefer to be completed by a woman. I am tired of dating. Each woman becomes a two dimensional memory like a Polaroid in a shoe box. Dating is a race to find the flaw in the other so you can be the one to initiate the “I’m just not feeling it” conversation. And I win more than I lose. But do I? Because then there I am again. Alone. That’s when every woman I see has the potential to be the one. And in reality, none of them is.
I drift through first dates. Through crowds of women at concerts, art openings, restaurants, bars, Trader Joe’s. Through dating sites. I drift aimlessly searching for meaning and understanding. Trying to piece together the internal clues about who she is or will be. But the reality is that no one understands me. And the expectation that someone will is fruitless. As always, the answers lie within me, but I do not seem to ask the right questions.
I feel weak. I feel lifeless. I feel the weight of perception like gravity on Jupiter. Perhaps I am not honest with myself or with the way I communicate. Perhaps I have only grown more accustomed to my loneliness and am collecting rust with my lack of social interaction. Maybe the longer I am alone, the more likely it is I stay alone; the more difficult it will be to open up my true self. Without someone to provide resistance to my loneliness, it pushes me further and further from the depth and beauty of human connection. This is what I fear. And this is what perpetuates my loneliness. I’m tired of living life for one.
I have begun to load my writings onto my new WordPress blog. I’ll be keeping the Tumblr indefinitely, but will most likely begin posting new items exclusively to my WordPress in the coming months.
Thanks a mil for the support.
I’ve lived a safe life. I was coddled as a child. I’ve coddled myself as an adult. This year is my last year in the 18-35, middle class, white, American demographic that is considered THE MAN. (Being THE MAN is cool and all, but acting like a man has much more value.) Life has been exceptionally good to me. I’ve enjoyed it with relative safety and extremely low risk. But what’s a life without risk? It’s really not life at all. Now let’s be clear: There’s stupid risk and there’s worthy risk. Stupid risk includes things like driving drunk, eating a piece of gum from under the chair on the subway, taking meth, wearing Red Sox gear in Yankee stadium, things like that. Worthy risk is stuff like letting yourself fall in love despite the reality of potential heartbreak; traveling to foreign-speaking lands and relying on strangers to help you along the way even though you’ll probably feel detached due to the language barrier; quitting your job to follow your passion knowing that health insurance costs, like, a zillion dollars that you probably aren’t going to make in becoming a freelance photographer; creating and sharing something with the world “just because” even though people will likely tear it apart with their internet witticisms.
The high possibility of failure is the scary part of these worthy risks. But I contend that failure is good. Failure is what develops and nurtures the confidence, self-awareness, humbleness, and self-critic within us. It lends us a crystal clear mirror to view our shortcomings without judging us or giving us shortsighted advice. It simply tells us the truth about who we are and how we exist within ourselves.
The feeling of failure is something we deal with quite early in life. When I was home back east for Christmas in 2012, my three and a half year old nephew was throwing a soft toy ball around my brother’s and sister-in-law’s apartment. It was only a matter of time before it hit someone or something that was off limits. And of course it did. That someone who was off limits was my mother. And the something was her face. Bear in mind this soft toy ball was just that: soft and a toy, so my mom hardly flinched when it hit her. But Jack threw it at her face and that was a major no-no. So when my sis-in-law raised her voice sternly and instructed Jack to apologize to his Granny, he turned red, hung his head, and was clearly deeply embarrassed by his actions while giving a tiny, almost inaudible “Sowwy, Gwanny” to my mother. As I bit my tongue and restrained myself from wiping away my welling tears caused by Jack’s overwhelming cuteness in this situation, I knew that he felt like a failure; like he let mommy and Gwanny down. But he wasn’t actually a failure – he just felt like one – he simply made a mistake. One that could be absolved by a simple apology. My sis-in-law was a proper mom and made him man up (toddler up?) and apologize for that mistake. Lesson learned. Ten seconds later he was running around laughing like a maniac without a care in the world. Kids are so resilient.
I look back at my life, like we all do, and I see times and events and actions and inactions that I consider failures: Bad relationships, demotions at work, treating people with less respect than they deserve, not finishing college, lying to myself, hiding behind my own insecurities, being dishonest, contemplating the world without me in it, turning a blind eye to save myself a conflict. I beat myself up because of those failures. I spent so much time rehashing each incident, reliving it in my mind, replaying it and repeating the words or thoughts I had during it. I became so hard-hearted that at times I would self-penalize by not allowing myself to smile, or feel loved, or enjoy music, or a film, or even eat, until I felt satisfied that I had lived down this “horrific” incident. And no one could help me. No one who cares about me would ever encourage or reinforce this behavior, but they wouldn’t even know I was hurting. I wouldn’t risk letting them in.
After time has taken care of the superficial wounds, and years of emotional work have taken care of the deeper ones, I am beginning to recognize that the worst decisions I’ve ever made and the hardest times in my life were immediately followed by the most rewarding ones. It’s no coincidence that in 2007 when I was lying on the floor of my bathroom in tears after a phone call from my ex telling me that I was unreliable, unlovable, and a bad person - thinking my life was useless and all she said was true - that the following few months would be the beginning of some of the hardest and most rewarding emotional work I’ve ever done; work that has created a new me. A me who finally believes in himself, cares for himself, recognizes his potential, and has become a man who could see that someone else’s subjectivity really has no effect on him.
I don’t typically make New Year’s Resolutions. I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat sweets, I don’t drink…too much, so I don’t need to make any broad, sweeping changes in my life; I’ve got my responses to life’s curve balls relatively under control. But if I need to make a subtler change (and there are puh-lenty to be made), I try to make it regardless of the timing. However, the majority of change that has occurred in my life happened to me when I didn’t want it. (I mean, really, when are you presented with a challenging opportunity that you’re prepared for? I wish.) Often I was resisting the change as it was happening or screaming at the ceiling, “WHYYY MEEE?!?!” for hours, days, or weeks after the unwanted change had taken place. This led me to live with my mind planted firmly in the past and to do anything in my power to avoid potential future conflict and big, bad, scary situations that presented me with change, however small or large, even planning hours, days, weeks ahead for conversations or situations that were, in reality, pure fiction when I thought of them. What I’ve learned by opening up to constant and oftentimes unwelcome change: Change is good. Always. 100% of the time. It is NEVER bad. Every change I’ve had to make in my entire life has benefitted me in ways that are unquantifiable by any advanced statistical metric, but are substantially better than the alternative of staying the same. Failure is the beginning of that change. And change is something I embrace now that I’ve recognized my lack of risk-taking.
2014 will be the year in which I fail. I’m going to fail hard. Wicked hahd. I’m going to fail often. I’m going to fail so much that Merriam-Webster is going to put my picture next to the word failure in their dictionary. I’ll be wearing a poorly tied bow tie – that I failed to put on correctly because bow ties are super hard to tie – and holding a self-made trophy put together with scraps of wood I foraged from Home Depot and a little Greedo action figure standing atop. (Greedo failed to shoot first.) Failure will be my new middle name. Failing will be the first life skill I list on my LinkedIn profile. When I walk into a room, everyone’ll turn and exclaim, “There’s Steve Molter! Ooh, what a failure!” The women will swoon. The men will clench their fists with jealousy. And I’ll hold my head up high. By year end, I will have left behind a trail of failure so grand that everyone will know my name and all the things at which I failed.
I’m going to fail so epically this year: At making my first film. At making a new record with my band. At falling in love. At getting out of the country to explore parts of the world I’ve never been before. At encouraging my friends when they struggle and keeping them grounded when they succeed. At opening my heart to new experiences, ideas, and people. At asking the question, “How are you?” and actually waiting to hear the answer. At driving more responsibly. At opening my eyes to the kindness of strangers. At letting myself be loved. At being less judgmental about my creative impulses. At being more inclined to say yes when asked to help out. At taking it easier on myself when I can’t be there for someone in need. At being clearer and more direct with my communication. At writing this essay right now. At photographing portraits. At being a good uncle to my niece and nephew. At being a good brother, brother-in-law, son, grandson, cousin, nephew, friend, bandmate, and general human being.
More risk brings more failure brings more change brings a better and more successful me. How can I say no to that? So this is my (belated) New Year’s Resolution for 2014: Fail more.
It happens the same way every time.
I meet a new woman. The one-in-a-million type. I project all my hopes and dreams onto her. I see my future with her. I genuinely feel that I am able to commit myself to her love. That she is the last woman I am going to be with. I let myself love her. I tell my friends that “This time is different” and “I’ve never felt this way”.
(An exerpt from a conversation with a friend in France.)
The therapy thing is an interesting topic. I have many discussions about it with my American friends, but very few with my international friends. There is certainly a negative connotation to therapy. And in my experience, the folks who judge therapy as something for stupid, weak, uninformed people are often the ones who need it the most. (Clearly not talking about your past self here.)
I give up.
I don’t want to help you anymore.
I don’t want to enable your disgusting habit of self-inflicted negativity and the ease of which you slide into it every time the circumstances lack perfection. You always seem to be waiting for the perfect circumstances: the perfect time, the perfect person, the perfect tone. The imperfections in the circumstances are what reveal perfection in us. The ability to adapt is this perfection. It’s inside of each of us and is revealed only through self-inquisition, self-reflection, and true revelation. Give me any situation and I will succeed. I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do when I get there, but I know that when I get there, I’ll know what to do.
End of Year, Section 1: My 2012 Musical Wrap-Up
1. On October 29, 2011, I began listening to my iTunes library in alphabetical order by song title. On September 24, 2012 (that’s 332 days later), I finished. In the process, I rated each song and created a four-star and a five-star playlist of the corresponding ranked songs. I also deleted every album that contained more one- and two-star songs than three-, four-, or five-star songs. I rediscovered delightful pieces that slipped through the cracks months and years ago, discovered pieces I had procured but never listened to, and found other pieces that once affected me quite profoundly have since left me uninspired. Limiting myself to this task was a lesson in patience as well as observation. In the end, I pared down my iTunes to a hefty group of wonderful pieces of music that keep me company in my time at home and while on the move. I highly recommend setting something like this up for yourself to see what unfolds. (You’ll never believe how many songs begin with a form of the word you.)
(This is an informational entry.)
On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, at 1:46pm, I suffered a stroke. I was rushed to the hospital and admitted a few hours later. But the doctors struggled to find the cause. Then on Wednesday, September 12, at around 3:00pm, I suffered another stroke. The doctors ran another barrage of MRIs, CT Scans, and ultrasounds and ultimately found a small tear in the vertebral artery wall on the right side of my brain. As the body does, it went into healing mode and a clot formed on the tear. That clot ultimately blocked the artery and caused the two strokes. Once they found this, the doctors quickly put me on proper medication to prevent further damage from taking place.
Remnants of the blood red sun gave birth to an orange sky that lay quietly beyond the windshield. I twisted in my seat and fed the belt buckle into the clasp by my left hip. I looked directly at the driver’s face trying to determine who was in control, but the sun’s gaze skewed my view and kept her definable features hidden. Sensing another presence in the car, I inquisitively turned my head to the back seat. My eyes fed the image directly into my heart and it burst open with a joy unprecedented. In a small car seat she sat quietly, innocently looking into my eyes. My body convulsed as if thrown into an icy pool. My eyes cracked like an overstuffed dam. My heart was overflowing. I felt no fear. I felt no loneliness. The sun became a backdrop to this tiny ray of light. She was my daughter. My creation. My intention. I was in love with her. Nothing else mattered.
I immediately woke in the same state of emotion: tears soaking my pillow, chest heaving, heart speeding. The dream was real. It couldn’t have been a dream. My body felt its weight. My heart had never been so full. I clumsily slid open the drawer of my nightstand, uncapped the obedient pen, and wrote as many already fading details as my sluggish brain could recall. As I caught my breath, I felt my cheeks swell. My teeth revealed the impact of seeing my unborn and unconceived daughter only a few inches from the ends of my eyelashes. I had never been in love until that moment. And it was years until I fell again.
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