I opened my notebook to a blank sheet and wrote “Things I want in life” on top. I allowed myself to begin with material things to get me started, but material things immediately disappeared off the list. That’s not to say money isn’t necessary for having some of the things on my list, but having stuff really isn’t that important to me. I wrote for about ten minutes, writing down all of my gut instincts. Upon later reflection, a central theme seemed to be weaving throughout all of my answers. I want to feel like I’m living my life, having new experiences, and living up to my potential. For me, that means traveling and experiencing the moon in different landscapes, seeing trees not found outside my window, and just being out in the world. It also means spending time on things that I want to do, like writing my book and listening to music. Nothing on my list was very far-fetched (except probably immortality for my dog), just maybe slightly closer to the horizon.
A couple of weeks later I turned to another blank page and wrote “Things that make me happy” on the top. I was relieved to discover that the lists were closely related. I’ve sometimes felt like I deliberately, though unconsciously, sabotage my own happiness, but the lists reaffirmed that I truly do want to be happy. That’s a start! A lot of the things on my “happy” list were about nature, which was another manifestation of travel. I don’t have much interest in seeing different cities. I’m attracted to places because of the natural landscape or the history of the place or both. Love also showed up. Romance, passion, sex, being loved—these things make me happy (when it’s right).
Curiously, that kind of stuff didn’t show up on my want list. One of my explanations is that it was so fundamental as to be implied or a given. The other is that I’m really independent at the heart of it. In my daydreams of the future, I’m usually always alone and in my own spaces. But I don’t really want to be single and I certainly don’t want to date anymore. I want a partner, but in partnership, I need to be close and I need to be free. It’s a constant paradox that I’ve struggled with and some of my partners have struggled with. I crave intimacy, passion, trust, dedication, and the vibrant and frequent exchange of words and ideas. Like an astrological report accurately said of me, “Carolyn is a passionate, intense, hungry creature, full of the need for shared emotional experience and shared emotional release. The urge for sexual pleasure is perhaps stronger here than in other people, but Carolyn’s drive is for grand passion, and that is every bit as much a psychological and intellectual process as a physical one.” But for me to be happy and able to realize that “grand passion”, my partner needs to respect my autonomy, my introverted nature, my beliefs, my desires, and my quest for freedom, where freedom doesn’t mean being unfaithful; it just means feeling unchained and unstifled.
I’ve been dealing with this paradox a little in the recent months. I always gave my punk friends shit for not dating other punks. I couldn’t imagine how two people could be in a relationship and not share such an important thing. Then I met David and while he wasn’t into punk, we shared similar ideals and he liked tattoos, motorcycles, and other things that initially put me at ease. Also, at the time I met him, I had become convinced that dedication (i.e. not sleeping with other people) was the most important thing to me in a relationship. It was rapidly obvious (and remained true) that I never needed to worry about David having feelings for or sleeping with anyone else. Shedding that worry felt really good.
But I recently realized that monogamy isn’t the most important thing. It’s simply a basic requirement of a serious relationship. What became more apparent were the things that really are important. When I started singing for a new band a couple of months ago, David absolutely hated it. He refuses to talk about the band, has a renewed interest in calling punk stupid and terrible, threatens “big problems” when I go on tour, and thinks if he ever saw me perform he’d be totally turned off to me. Consequently, I can only listen to music when I’m in my office, in the car, or at shows. I’m someone who took great pleasure in turning up a record as I cooked breakfast and dinner, did chores around the house, exercised, you name it. Now I sit on my rug and pet Calista, which isn’t bad just limiting. We’ve been fighting about punk, which is just stupid. There’s nothing he can say that’s going to stop me from being involved in punk or change my mind about it. He once said that my friends are like the kind of kids he made fun of in school. I yelled back, “You listened to the Grateful Dead!” and there we were—Israel and Palestine, drawing lines in the sand.
Obviously punk is very important to me and has been a big part of my life for over ten years. Going to the Chaos fest in Austin brought those emotions back to me in full force. It is one of my favorite things to go to fests, be surrounded by hundreds of punks partying, laughing, telling stories, and hear some of my favorite bands play. In between sets, an old Los Crudos song came on. The two kids next to me spontaneously began singing along, like I was in my head, and exclaimed, “I haven’t heard this song in like ten years.” I remembered loving that song. It was a simple moment, but one that hinted at the connection that we all share.
I don’t really care that David doesn’t like punk, but it’s frustrating to seemingly have to fight over the freedom to do what makes me happy, aside from the fact that it’s a little personally insulting. I’m not trying to talk shit about him or our relationship, but make a point. It’s important to know what you want in life and what makes you happy. Not only does having clear intentions around what you want make it easier for you to move towards it, but it can help you see what you really need and want in a partner, which can be the most important part of some people’s lives. I finally realized that I need someone who helps me do the things that make me happy and fulfilled and who can share the experiences. I’m willing to work hard and make sacrifices to take cool trips and have adventures and I’d expect my partner to do the same. Like the astrological report again accurately said, my natural mate has a “high degree of mental curiosity and the simple, innocent hunger to encounter new experiences and perceptions—and to share them.” According to the report, my natural mate also has a need for independence within the relationship and has a “warrior’s nature—lots of passionate intensity, an appreciation of directness, healthy physical appetites.” It’s not that I want someone just like me, but there are some things that we shouldn’t and probably can’t compromise.
I don’t know why it can be so hard to realize these relatively simple things that become so obvious once you’ve had the right thoughts. It’s true what the Buddhists (or some people) say, “Enlightenment is only a thought away.” Only I don’t think it has to take sitting in a monastery for five years (though that probably wouldn’t hurt). Simply asking yourself the right questions and being willing to give yourself honest and meaningful answers can open up a whole world of perspective and make it easier to get the life you really want.