Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thoughts from Your Friendly Neighborhood INFP Gemini

Now, as an INFP, this is my own personal danger zone. You want an idealist? That's me. Plus, I'm just enough of a rebel to be like an annoying two year-old and want to know "why" we have to do any particular thing.

Why drop bombs on another country when most of the populace has done nothing to us? Especially when there will be "collateral damage"--that heartless Eichmann-ish way of saying "I'm not responsible; I was just following orders; all these dead people are just part of the deal." Who says we can't just talk with whoever is causing the trouble and work out a peaceful solution?

(I can hear the realists snickering at me.)

Have wars ever really solved any problem long-term? Not if you look at the great span of human history. It's the story of one war after another and the rise and fall of empires. Who said it had to always be this way? Aren't we smart enough as a species, creative enough, to figure out another way?

Well, that's a big issue, a global one. All I'll say on this is that if it weren't for the idealists, nothing would ever change.

But there's a flip side to the idealism coin, and that's the continual frustration of shattered expectations. So as I've aged (and since I've given up drinking alcohol), I've also had to face the wisdom of that old AA saying: "Expectations are just premeditated resentments." There are reasonable expectations, silly expectations, and then things that should be relegated to the "hopes" corner. Otherwise, this idealist is going to pick up the tequila bottle and start doing shots just to shut up the disappointed committee of voices in my head.


It's a reasonable expectation that some of my students will try their hardest in my classes. It's a silly expectation that all of them will. It's definitely a hope, though, that I can motivate enough of them to try their best to feel that I've done a good job.

Once upon a time, it was a reasonable expectation that one day I would find a partner I would settle down with for good. It would have been a silly expectation to think that we would never disagree about something, or fight about something, or hurt each other, or go through a rough patch in which we would consider breaking up. Here, I wouldn't even hope for a conflict-free marriage. It's the conflicts and overcoming them that make you grow together, make a history together, invest so much in the relationship that you're not willing to just toss it out like a sandwich that's gotten stale.

My new book that's coming out: I don't think it's wise to have expectations beyond the fact that some people will buy it and like it, and some people won't. It's a silly expectation to think it will sell a million copies and go into ten reprints within the first year and sit at the top of the NYTimes best sellers' list for months on end. That can be a hope, but I seriously doubt it. My real hope is that I'll sell enough copies to recoup the wages I lost taking two semesters off to get it written. And maybe, just maybe, even see a little profit for my effort. But I know better than to count on that.

So here's the thing. Idealism, hopes, are great things. They make us strive for the better. But they're a two-edged sword. If you live your life expecting your dreams and hopes will all come true in exactly the way you've imagined they should be, you're going to live a life of constant frustration. Let life throw some surprises at you. Things that you may not have considered would be good can turn out to be life-changingly awesome. Things that you thought would be heaven on earth can turn out to be hellishly awful. And nobody ever said life should be a state of constant bliss, anyway. Continual contentment is pretty darn good, though.

Try to see the forest despite all the trees. But never forget that, sometimes, sitting and contemplating a single tree is worthwhile too.

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