Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Makes Me The Way I Am?

This question popped into my mind late last night, after speaking with my wife on the phone. And, as with most serious questions, my all to often used answer is 'I don't have a friggin clue.' And sadly, it isn't a cop out answer, I really and truly have no idea.

A little over 9 years ago, the pastor who was to marry us, asked us in a pre-marital counseling session "Why do we want to get married?"

Well, being young, immature, and parents for only about a year at this point, the words didn't come too freely. About all I could seem to articulate was the idea that I loved my and wanted to be with her as we raise our child in a (non-broken) home together. Apparently the pastor wasn't overly impressed with my boundless wisdom and the ability to express it.

My wife asked me last night what I expect out of our lives as a couple. Well, apparently the last time I gave such a question a single thought was when the pastor asked us that question 9 years ago, and have expertly brushed the thought off ever since.

My wife and I can basically complete each other. Her strengths and abilities are usually found where I would classify my weaknesses, and vice versa. There is little to no overlap. And when she posed this question to me, I struggled to answer and deflected the question back to her. She gave a very insightful and well thought out idea of what she expected out of our companionship. And of course, being the social genius that I am commented (with strong expertise, I might add) that she is definitely a woman, because I've never EVER heard a man say things like that. Only a woman could ever spew out all that stuff.

As I was growing up, I found myself in an odd social position. I had a few close friends, and then there was everyone else. I liked people, but then again I didn't like people all that much. I was a self-professed loner. I like a crowd, for the surrounding atmosphere that simultaneously provides me with a sense of anonymity. I think I re-invented myself about once a year or more in an attempt to 'fit in', unsuccessfully, and it pissed me off, and yet I alternated between almost hatred and apathy toward the people I sought so hard to impress. I was always best on my own. Whether I was just out wandering in the woods, sitting in my room listening to music, or working out in an empty gym, I felt best. Noone to bother me in any way shape or form. My wife can be apart from me or the kids for a short period of time and start to miss us. Whereas I can go out into the middle of nowhere and be gone for extended periods of time and not really be the type to miss people, even my family. Maybe there is something wrong with that?

I concentrated mostly on activities I could physically control. I got lost in my own thoughts of the world. When pushed into activities with others, I just melted into the background as much as possible, or in the event of me being the expert I pretty much tried to run the show according to own expectations. I only assumed leadership when I had to, and was sure of what I was doing. If I was in an unfamiliar realm, like acts or thoughts of emotions being put on display, I was more likely to withdraw to my own world, and let others figure it out, while I just go along with whatever.

I like to think I know where I stand in the world, and yet I am a conundrum unto myself. I am the walking contradiction, at least in my own estimations. I have really complex thoughts inside my head, but when I try to express them, the words get jumbled up, come out way different once they are verbalized. I've never been very confident in speaking out. Writing is my preferred method of communication, and even then my thoughts (just like this writing is turning into an unorganized and directionless rambling) still come out in type different than in my head.

I want to say that what I expect out of marriage would come out all eloquent, and yet I know it will come out not so much that way. I want to be able to spend time with my wife, have conversations at length with her that don't center on our jobs or what needs to be done concerning housework and bills. More often than not, she does the talking, and I hang out with my great barely monosyllabic retorts from time to time. Something I learned as a teenager and in my early 20s was the more that I spoke, the balance of credibility and baloney tipped more towards the latter. I felt it easier to save my credibility by just shutting up. Better to be silent and assumed stupid, than to open one's mouth and confirm it! That and I sometiems feel I have nothing new to say, and since I hate repeats, I project that onto others, especially my wife.

I've noticed also that when we get onto topical conversation about whatever, I hate it when we disagree. Not that we disagree in itself, but that I marry myself to my idea and end up making some counterproductive statements that may support my side the argument that go so far as to crush her spirit of wanting to even talk to me. And that does bother me. I hate conflict, despite the fact that I'm highly competitive, and always have been. I love winning, and hate losing--at anything. I've been working on avoiding going for crushing defeats in arguments. Not that my arguments were ever truly sound, I just used the bully-pulpit and a loud voice to ensure my opponent's forfeiture, and then bask in a glory that soon felt rather empty. Of course, if my wife and I are talking aout something and she agrees with me, it for some reason ticks me off, especially if she spouts out something that makes my point, only in a much more eloquent or decisive way.

In my mind last night I thought about this some and compared it to the Cold War. During the Cold War, there was the sphere of influence from the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Those were the clearly defined sides. Then Reagan goes and spends the Soviets into collapse, essentially. I remember loving that idea, that WE (the U.S.) won. Like I said, I love winning. And then as I was thinking through this, I had the oddest thought. Did Reagan just commit the ultimate act of dividing the population? Sure we always had partisan politics, but ultimately we were unified against this "Evil Empire." Sure, it's an oversimplification, but it was 'us and them'. Once we beat them, things changed and became more openly complex in the public arena. Maybe those Presidents before him who engaged the Soviets as a matter of the opponent to be tolerated had a higher wisdom, and Reagan ultimately committed a true evil by shifting the balance of power. Yeah, I know, odd thing to pop into my mind when the thought started out as a question posed by my wife, but it relates to my thinking a bit...

It has always been my wife and me. It just "was/is". And now she's (in a loving way) trying to make me think more complexly, and drive me out of the shell of my comfort zone. I work, I blog, I clean sometimes, I play basketball sometimes, and I think. She, on the other hand, FEELS. And she wants me to consider my feelings as well, so that we might be more compatible with each other, and expand our ability to communicate with each other.

As I'm sure I have mentioned before, I easily can emote anger or excitement at things like sports, board games, or certain "mike-type" activities. But when it comes to FEELINGS and EMOTION on the other more humane side of the scale, I have always turned them off. I view crying as a weakness. If I cried for someone else, like a friend or family member, that would be different. but the few times I have allowed myself to cry in my life, it was always for me and my own pity party, which only made me hate it even more, because that's just stupid, in my mind. I hate the fact that I'm ticklish, because its a weakness. And expressing myself in a more beautiful way makes me feel like I'm speaking 'sissy.' And that bothers the living crap out of me. I know, intellectually, that such thinking is farcical, and that a true man is capable of a balance between being the stoic rock to be leaned on, and the caring loving and communicative man. And yet, depsite the truth in that statement, putting it into action is so foreign to me, after all these years of trying to eliminate what I perceived to be weaknesses.

I begin to wonder if I missed something important, some type of life lesson, during all those years of trying to re-invent myself to make my life more exciting than it really was, instead of just being the me I was and accepting it and growing from there.

I mean my wife and I can talk about dreams and hopes and goals. I can dream with the best of them. I usually get to the end product, but the stuff in between to get there...not so much. And of course this frustrates my wife. She wants a partner to share the experiences of the journey and a clear cut plan put into action. I've always been an idea guy, and get myself lost from there. Rather than expose myself to my weaknesses and charge forward to overcome them, I slip back into my comfort zone and continue to churn ideas tha may or may not ever leave the confines of my head.

I guess that's why I like politics so's easy to pick a side on an issue and go with it. There's always a way to objectify anything and keep it as simple, even if that's not the reality of the situation. I can attack it with the exuberance of a 5 year old on a jar of cookies,a nd I don't necessarily have to move past it. And sometimes I wonder, despite my thoughts on what is mature, immature, stupid, or smart....maybe I never matured past the adolescent stage in life. And maybe I need to get past that.


scotterb said...

One quibble -- I think communism would have fallen without Reagan, and that the idea Reagan's spending was the cause is misguided -- though Reagan deserves credit in other ways. But we can discuss that later

There is something paradoxical about your post. Your post is very much about your feelings, very complex, very introspective, and seems to reflect those things that you say you lack. Perhaps your wife's questions are working -- or maybe you communicate better in print. After all, in print you can control how your emotions and reflections are expressed. Perhaps you should write your wife some nice love notes!

I admit, I find that I cry easily, though I don't consider it weakness. I mean, I know that I'm pretty emotionally strong and stable, and I'm egotistical enough not to care if someone else thinks I'm weak if I cry at a movie or watching the news. Yet...

My mom always called me "Spock" because I would be so logical and cool. I handle pressure really well, and am pretty calm when things go crazy (you should see my wife and I working on our yard project, she'll be cussing a blue streak at a boulder underneath the ground in the way of our trench, and I'll think 'oh well, we'll get this out... and she says 'don't you DARE say something positive!')

So why are you, me, your wife, my wife, and everyone so different?
I see my two sons with very different personalities, but also reflecting how we are raising them. Genetics, nurture, culture, peer groups...

Anyway, I hope now that you realize I'm a weak sissy you'll still read my blog. :-) I doubt any of us can change who we really are, and maybe that's why marriages are good things -- nobody is perfect or complete, but if a couple at least tries to communicate, they can learn and complement each other, and maybe get glimpses at part of themselves that stay hidden. My wife is a CPA who loves numbers because they give right answers, problems that can be solved, and she can work on her own. She doesn't like to undertake something unless she's sure she can do it -- a perfectionist. I tend to throw myself into things, make lots of mistakes, embarrass myself, and then do the same thing over again. I think we learn a bit from each other.

So I'd say keep up that communication! Find a way to express what you feel without it having to be gushy or overly sentimental. I don't think crying is a weakness, but not crying isn't a weakness either. But clearly if you didn't feel, didn't look inside, and didn't reflect, you'd never have written a blog post like this one!

Mookie said...

On the Reagan issue, yeah, oversimplification I know. But my ADD mind wouldn't let me get too deep into things, just a basic idea that sticks somewhat to the point. What I forgot to write at the end of that section, was that for decades, if not the entirety of U.S. history, we always had a foreign obstruction in our eye to galvanize us as a populace, and once the Soviet empire fell, we had no place to look but inward..the scariest thing we can imagine doing, looking for our own faults. And some politicians have seen this, and used their best efforts to create more foreign issues so as to distract us from maybe their political shortcomings domestically?

" Perhaps your wife's questions are working -- or maybe you communicate better in print."

Perhaps, and perpetually yes.

" and I'm egotistical enough not to care if someone else thinks I'm weak if I cry at a movie or watching the news. Yet..."

I think you mean you have a healthy self esteem or confidence...I differentiate between this and ego. For example, I have a very massive ego, which my wife has said in the past is a cover for my low self-esteem. After thinking that one over, I have concluded she may be right on that one. She usually is, as she is good at dealing with people.

"My mom always called me "Spock" because I would be so logical and cool. I handle pressure really well, and am pretty calm when things go crazy"

I am too. I might cuss things out, but its more of a self-expressing sense of "do I have to do everything?" I remember when we brought our son home from the hospital after the birth, he had a moment all of a sudden where he just stopped breathing. My wife started freaking out and crying almost immediately, which I can understand. I on the otherhand, just calmly stepped over, removed the boy from her and shifted him around a bit, smacked his back lightly and VOILA...breathing baby returns. As for the boulder issue your wife had, yeah I'd be cussing too, and if you said anything sounding remotely pollyanna-like positivity, I surely would've beat you with the shovel and then gone about removing the damn thing! ;)

"My wife is a CPA who loves numbers because they give right answers, problems that can be solved, and she can work on her own. She doesn't like to undertake something unless she's sure she can do it -- a perfectionist."

Yeah, I'm sort of the same way. That is one of the reasons I like board games. For instance, in checkers, the minute my opponent sits down, I've already determined the outcome of the tic-tac-toe, I've learned to force the draw with flawless perfection. I don't have to win in order to win. Domination and frustrating my opponent is enough to satisfy me. Is that a bit sadistic? With games like Stratego, I can place about 9-10 out of the 40 pieces and guarantee victory EVERYtime, without fail.

"I tend to throw myself into things, make lots of mistakes, embarrass myself, and then do the same thing over again."

See my hooker story! Only one example of embarassing situations I manage to get myself into.

"Find a way to express what you feel without it having to be gushy or overly sentimental."

there's the hard part. Anything remotely romantic always sounds "canned", and I have been told this before by my wife, which sticks me in a catch 22, at least in my own mind, because she wants the romantic stuff, and for it to be and sound sincere.

Either way, thanks for the thoughtful reply and the encouragement. You can send me more of your thoughts on the Reagan issues and the fall of the Soviets to my personal email (, so as not to overstress the issue on your blog, and our vigorous 1 1/2 sided debate can remain more focused. And maybe..just maybe, you can coach me on how to be more of a sissy like you! :P

Becky said...

Just going to touch on a small point in your very interesting know, oddly enough it's not just men who can view crying as a weakness. I don't see it as a weakness in others, but I HATE it when I cry. And you know me, I cry at the freakin drop of a hat. However, I never want people to see me cry, not even my husband. Unfortunately for me, I have little control over the waterworks and will cry anyway. And unlike ScotterB, I find my propensity to cry particularly embarrassing when at the movies or watching TV.

I don't know why you and I are so uncomfortable showing vulnerability, Mike. It seems I'm more ok with it than you are, which may be due to gender roles, but it still is an issue for me. Maybe we shored up that tendency in each other with merciless sibling torture growing up :b

scotterb said...

Hey, I'll get back at you with wild indecipherable posts about quantum mechanics on my blog. That's the tactic of the sissy -- CONFUSE the guy with big muscles!

Though, perhaps we need a pseudo-science here. I see you are a Taurus by clicking your blog profile. So is my wife. I am a Pisces, and so is your sister. Hmmmm... (On a serious note, Becky, I clicked your blog and see that you're about to have a baby -- CONGRATS!)

Danielle said...

I like scott's love letter idea very much! you used to write me those very frequently....and i think its been years since the last one. More seriously, honey, i am not looking to 'force you' into becoming a 'sissy,' it's more a request to round out your emotional palette. being a taurus myself, change by brute force was tried a long time ago...and only succeeded in frustrating me and demoralizing you. I love you too much to do that again.

Becky said...

ScotterB, thank you :)

Dani, yeah the brute force method doesn't work on us Lovells. We just dig our heels in! Big surprise, eh?

renaissanceguy said...

We're all works in progress, no? The important thing is to participate in the process, which you are doing, including with this blog post.

I got married because I believed with all my heart that God meant for my wife and me to be together. I believe that we were created to complement one another. After lots of soul-searching by both of us, we realized that our goals were so compatible as to make us perfect life partners. It has worked for nearly 20 years now.

On crying. . .

My wife hates to cry, and I have hardly ever seen her do it. I, on the other hand, cry during movies, when I am touched at church, when my children are suffering, and when people that I love die.

I used to be embarrassed by it, but I have surrounded myself with several male friends who are quite masculine but who are also sentimental and tear up at appropriate times.