Out of Control

Remember being a teenager? They expended a lot of effort trying to teach us how to be efficacious human beings.

One of the tools I recall was the circles of control. Basically, you envision yourself in the center of a circle of things that you can control: your reactions to other people, what you make yourself for lunch, how far you run in your morning workout. Outside them is another concentric circle of things not in your control: the weather, the stock market, who wins the Republican primaries, etc.

The line between these two circles is a fuzzy gray are full of things like job interviews and personal health. If you have wide circle of control, it includes much of these gray areas; if you have a narrow circle, it doesn’t.

I was up late one night feeling a little depressed about what one friend refers to as my romantic life. And then I thought: why am I even thinking about this? There’s so much else in my life that requires concern that I can actually do something about, why am I obsessing over this particular lacking?

Because there’s a limit to how much you can do to get yourself married. You can learn how to dress and act. You can learn what to say and what not to say on a date. You can take hundred-dollar photographs to attach to your shidduch profile. You can even learn how to gaze demurely up through your eyelashes while breathlessly clinging to every word that your date says. But ultimately, you can’t force anyone to marry you.

Maybe I’ve been carrying the whole dating thing too far into my circle of control. Maybe it’s time to admit that while I’ve done a whole lot, I can’t force the process.

Maybe it’s time to just let it go, and treat it like the weather, the stock market, and politics: something to deal with when it happens.

Maybe it’s time to just live without it.

Maybe all that’s easier said than done.


If She Could, I Could – by Fauna

I haven’t really got time for a post, but I came across this item in Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, a slim novel in which matchmaking plays its part. (It’s a sequel to Cannery Row, for Steinbeck fans.)

Anyway, a character named Fauna is trying to sandbag the local most eligible bachelor with a girl Suzy, who just blew into town. And she has a truckload of advice for Suzy on how to make herself appealing.  She has enough advice, she claims, to write a book entitled If She Could, I Could.

So, in the spirit of advice being only worth passing along, I have transcribed the short volume for you. This being a family-friendly blog, I have expurgated anything bleep-worthy.

Rule 1:

They ain’t  no way in the world to get in trouble by keeping your mouth shut. You look back at every mess you ever got in and you’ll find your tongue started it.

Rule 2:

Next thing is opinions. You and me is always busting out with opinions. Heck, Suzy! We ain’t got no opinions! We just say stuff we heard or seen in the movies. That’s the second rule: lay off opinions because you ain’t really got any.

Rule 3:

There don’t hardly nobody listen, and it’s so easy! You don’t have to do nothing when you listen. If you do listen, it’s pretty interesting. If a guy says something that pricks up your interest, why, don’t hide it from him. Kind of try to wonder what he’s thinking instead of how you’re going to answer him back.

Rule 4:

Don’t pretend to be something you ain’t, and don’t make like you know something you don’t, or sooner or later you’ll fall on your [derrière]. And there’s one more part to this one, whatever it is: they ain’t nobody was ever insulted by a question… The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.

Rule 5:

Nobody don’t give a particular about [you] one way or the other. It’s hard to get them thinking about you because they’re to busy thinking about themselves. There’s two, three, copper-bottom ways to get their attention: talk about them.

Rule 6:

If you see something nice or good or pretty, tell them. Don’t make it fake, though. Don’t never start a fight, and if one starts, let it get going good before you jump in. Best way in the whole world to defend yourself is to keep your dukes down.

Additional warning:

Now look, Suzy – tonight, just before you say something, say it first to yourself, and kind of dust it off. …Sometimes if you look at it you don’t say it. A whole lot that passes for talk is just running off at the mouth.

All of this goes a long way to polishing Suzy me. One  item Suzy discovers herself, on her date:

She then lifted her glass slowly, looked at it carefully, then sipped and held it a moment before she put it down. S-l-o-w-ness. It gave meaning to everything. It made everything royal. She remembered how all the unsure and worried people she knew jumped and picked and jittered. Just doing everything slowly, forcing herself, she found a new kind of security.

This little epiphany occurs after she manages to bite back a “Whattaya think I’m an invalid?!” when he opens the car door for her going in and out. I definitely identified with that one.

And Fauna’s final advice:

Just remember a lot of things:

first, you got to remember you’re Suzy and you ain’t nobody else but Suzy.

Then you got to remember that Suzy is a good thing – a real valuable thing – and there ain’t nothing like it in the world.

It don’t do no harm just to say that to yourself.