Throughout my routine of work, errands and gym, people are obstacles and annoyances to me. I have moments of friendly banter, but for the most part, especially when I am in a hurry, they are just in my way. I suspect I may be missing out, but I also feel I don’t want to give up the time I dedicate to my job of (obsessively) making art. I don’t really treat people as people because it’s too difficult to relax and be present when I’m in a hurry.
Before making decisions, Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat would take five hours to walk, smoke a cigar and think. It was, and remains, a radical process for a politician. Political culture is thick with extroverts who wrongly believe that those who make immediate decisions are strong leaders. On the contrary, immediate decisions are generally unprocessed decisions. Introverts know that decision-making is not about timing; it is about the authenticity of making a decision. Similarly, when people are genuinely engaged in the creative process, they are profoundly connected to their inner core. For example, your daily routine is a time to (consciously or unconsciously) begin the first phase of the creative process: thinking. President al-Sadat’s walks were in protected areas, so he was not forced into unwanted encounters. But you are, thus the internal conflict: Shall I protect my time, or shall I love others by offering the attention they clearly require? Choosing to give others attention means seeing them as whole instead of making unprocessed decisions about them, such as believing they are annoying obstacles.
People are often difficult. Love is a Sisyphean task, but the effort can be instructive. “Attention means bringing something or someone into focus so it is no longer blurred by the projections of your ego; thus, it requires genuine interest and curiosity about the mysterious and surprising truth that is you,” wrote psychotherapist David Richo. “In attention, you are heard and noticed.” When you attend to others, you’ll delight in their brilliance and in their messiness. In your case, doing this also would require that you give yourself more quiet space to process, perhaps through meditation or sleep.
I am considering marriage to a man who was in the military 10 years ago. Our views on the war with Iraq are completely different. He was almost obsessed with watching war coverage on TV. He told me he feels guilt and helplessness for not being there to help our troops. What if he continues the obsessive guilt? Can we coexist with genuine love while having such different views? What would we teach our children? I don’t feel comfortable getting any more serious before these questions are answered.
A healthy romantic relationship requires attraction, a shared belief system and good communication skills (including conflict resolution). If you and your beau differ on issues of war and peace but have a conflict-resolution process in which you can listen, respect differences and agree to disagree, then there is no problem. You will teach your children how to love someone who holds an opposing worldview. If your beau’s emotional life revolves only around what he could do for our troops, counseling is in order. Missing the camaraderie of combat is a nostalgic pastime for some, but when it slips into obsession, much deeper issues are at hand.