Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Curse, Part 5: Countermeasure: Self-Improvement

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Whatever the hell was going on, it was due to something in me. This was obviously an "in-here" problem, not "out-there". The world doesn't organize itself around me. By my own definition ("Maturity is the correction of the misconception that you're the protagonist in this drama"), I'm mature. So the only thing to do was to work on me. The next few installments will be about the countermeasures I used to try to address this bizarre turn of events.

I need to emphasize that the Curse was not a matter of people reacting poorly to my brash retorts, my sarcasm, my abrasiveness, assertiveness, over-enthusiasm, or whatever other personality traits might have rubbed people wrong. First, as I explained previously, even remaining silent didn't help, so it wasn't a matter of what I said, or how I said it. Second, I gave most of those traits up. Like bacon cheeseburgers, they were indulgences I could no longer afford.

I've always had a cutting sense of humor, but I extinguished it. No more teasing or sarcasm, except with old, trusted friends. Lots of other stuff was disposed of as well. I had no choice. If people were getting the (hopefully false) impression that I was a horrible person, my best move, obviously, was to expunge as much bona fide horribleness as possible. Honestly, I'd never felt particularly horrible. But what horrible person does?

If I responded to extremes with extremes by becoming especially non-awful, it might not help my situation, but at least I'd have the high ground. I'd know for sure that it wasn't me; that my real self wasn't being mirrored back at me. Such knowledge would be like salvation. But so long as I was the least bit genuinely awful, I could never be sure!

This is actually is a musician thing. The following credo is shared by every excellent musician I know: if you play badly at an audition, go home and practice your ass off. If you play better than anyone but still don't get the gig, go practice your ass off. If someone fails to acknowledge your ability, even if they're incredibly wrong...practice your ass off. If your girlfriend breaks up with you, practice your ass off. If your car gets towed, practice your ass off. The answer to every bad outcome life throws at you is: work to play even better. Don't waste even an microsecond contemplating how good you already are. Channel all bad results into a voracious drive to improve. Betterbetterbetterbetterbetterbetterbetter!

I took that approach. I responded to each sneer and rebuff as if it was fully deserved. Not out of masochism or self-pity, but a cheerful eagerness to detect and extinguish selfishness, self-centeredness, impatience, and neediness. Saying "No, no, no!" to the universe is rarely beneficial. My attitude was "You're absolutely right!!"

Above all, I'd make everything super, super not-about-me, and I'd enjoy that repose. A fun project!

It mirrors this, a little.

Continue to Part Six

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