Monday, January 25, 2016

"Ooohhh, shiny!"

Way back when I was a kid, (you know, like 100 years ago), I spent some time living with my biological mother, Judy. We didn't get along real well but I did learn a few things from her. Lessons I didn't even know I'd learned back then. One of those lessons recently came flying back at me while I was out with friends the other night. 
I hadn't seen some of them in months, some in a year or so, and some I met for the first time that night. It was a good night. There were about 10 of us sitting around eating, drinking, swapping jokes and stories, and catching up on lost time. It was like a family really. I was actually surprised when the conversation turned towards philosophy and religion. 

There we were, a group of people, all having had different religious upbringings and rationally discussing the differences or origins of major religions. That's a pretty impressive feat these days. Normally someone would be offended if you poked holes in their beliefs. 
Not us. We would sit back and go, "ya know, you've got a point about that." Or, "hmm, I never looked at it that way." 

I felt comfortable and at home. Some of these were people I'd just met and they were smiling and laughing as they accepted me just as I am. Now, granted, several people did point out that some of my behaviors are vastly different than they were even 6 months ago. Not "bad" different, just more..."I'm holding back what I say so I don't upset anyone" different. 

Took me a good little bit to relax myself enough to remember that these people enjoyed the objective yet honest, uncensored me that they'd known for nearly a decade. Although I was oddly uncomfortable loosening up at first, I eventually swung easily into talks of philosophy, religious history and even got into literary discussions with a few people. It was great fun. 

We were there long enough that our original waitress, the one who'd been dealing with "socially awkward, reserved and self-censoring" me ended up finishing her shift. So waitress number 2 was around for the bulk of the philosophical religious discussion. You know, "round 2", where we (ok, mostly just me) orders more food and the evening starts to get its second wind. 

I guess she'd been hearing snippets of the conversation and asked where I was from. I don't know if it was my lack of an accent or what but she'd determined I definitely wasn't a local. So I start talking to her about Florida. Seems she visits there a bit, herself, and had recently returned from a trip there. 
Well, as a proud dad, I started showing pictures of the boys and our trips together. By then we had stepped away from the table so I could better show her pics of my kids. She was wanting to know what I'm doing so far north and I point back towards the table and say, "visiting family." During the brief discussion it came up that I'm a truck driver, which she thought was a nifty job. 

Once she found out that I also write a little (I'm not sure if writing the occasional poem qualifies me as a writer but it's just easier to explain it that way) she wanted to see some of what I write. Next thing you know she's wanting to look up my website on line and asking how to keep in touch.
It wasn't until I was leaving that someone pointed out that "look" in her eyes. Ah. I'd accidentally sparked some type of interest. Oops. Somehow I'd become that "shiny".  Everyone loves that "shiny". 

Which led me back to thinking about the first time I'd seen that look of someone stricken by the "shiny". Back when I was that kid living with Judy, she introduced us to what I think was soon-to-be-husband number 4 or 5. I lost count along the way. But I do remember that she was all "in love" with him for a while. He was her new shiny. She took me and my sibling to his house fairly regularly for a while. She started talking about a future with him. The whole nine yards. She was "finally going to be happy", etc, etc, ad nauseam. 
The problem was, with her, once that shiny wore off she'd get bored and go out looking for another shiny to play with. And that's where the pattern starts to show itself. That's where problems come in with people and relationships, it seems. 

People like that endorphin high of their new shiny. Right up until the shiny wears off. Then, suddenly, the traits you found "refreshing" or "endearing" become annoying. I've seen it my whole life, that pattern. 
We go into relationships or friendships or even business partnerships because we enjoy that shiny new person or situation. Many times we enter into relationships hoping the person will change and they don't. Or they do but not enough or in ways to our liking. Or hoping they won't change but then the shiny mask wears off and we either don't like what we see or we need to find a new shiny because it's really just the shine that we are attracted to. Like cats attacking garland. They just can't leave that stuff alone. They're drawn to the shiny, literally.
Or, worse case scenario and my personal favorite cat astrophe, when the person changes but then you realize you liked them better before and hate the "new and improved" version. Man, that scenario SUCKS. I've been on both sides of that one. That's like watching a deer get hit by a train in super slo-mo from multiple angles...just ugly all around. 
We look for reasons why it's "just not working out". When, in fact, what we aren't happy about is that it's not new anymore. It's just not what we signed up for. We signed up for "new, exciting, shiny" and what we end up with is "boring, predictable and not shiny anymore". That's when we start reasoning out excuses to leave instead of reasons to stay. Our tastes change if our partner won't. Or our partners have to change to meet our changing tastes. 

Where have we gone as a society? Is it that humans are evolving to just enjoy that "rush"? Or have we always been that way? Maybe that's part of what has spurred mankind to seek new continents, explore the stars or take to the skies. Our need to find that next shiny thing. Maybe that's really all it is, curiosity. An attraction to the unknown or unexplored. Something deeply ingrained in the human psyche that can never fully be ferreted out. 

Now, I've talked to some friends about just this problem. We've "round tabled" it because it doesn't make much sense to me. The best solution we've been able to come up with is that it's a generational thing. Maybe my generation is the last of the "fix your problems" generation. We remember when effort was required just in making telephone calls. We remember when working at something was just something you did. 
Perhaps it's because the newer generations have been taught that everything is disposable. There's a new phone on the market? Throw the old one away and get the new "greatest thing". In relationships I call it getting "better dealed." It's like people think "yeah, I'll stick with you until something that seems better comes along." The only problem is that that "something better" is only better until the shiny wears off. 
This "disposable generation" seems willing to toss things out, even if they're perfectly good, rather than put in any effort. Or rather than to actually work for it. There's a distinct lack of accountability or responsibility that goes with this generation. Feeling fat? Lipo it away. Instant gratification, throw away what bores you. Meanwhile, more and more marriages and relationships founder, the next generation coming up learns to be even lazier, we remain driven towards whatever is fun while disregarding everything else. 

Now, in the interest of fairness, yet another opinion was posited to me by another dear friend. Looking at things from her point of view I can see where she makes a lot of sense. Psychologically, it's pretty sound as well. I don't normally just directly quote people but I can't find a better way to put it. So, in its entirety, (the only edits I made were to clean up a couple colorful words here and there) here it is:

"I have an opposite view of the new generation. Maybe it's because at work I train all our new employees, who are usually 18-24 years of age. As a Captain here I have the opportunity to see both the "gimme" side of these youth (as I call them) and the "I gotta make the world better" side to them. Because they're the first generation to come from mostly divorced parents who WANTED children, they're prone to feeling drawn to "shiny", as you call it, because their parents fought for their attention by buying them new things. Mom bought you a phone, son? Lemme buy you a computer! See these kids' parents both had jobs, and money. Ours did not. It was ingrained in these kids at a young age that "things" equal "love and acceptance". Because they come from this background, they try desperately to be better than their parents. They actually tend to make better relationship decisions and they don't marry young like most of our generation did. They may date for years before even talking about marriage, because they don't want to divorce. They are also waiting longer to have children, because they're scouting out an appropriate mate extensively. They may get every shiny new thing on the market, but they'll earn it themselves before allowing a member of the opposite sex to make them feel inferior by buying it for them. At least that's my perspective. I work with the strong-willed ones, though. It takes a strong personality and a tough outer shell to do what I do. So I have a chance to see what these youth are truly made of. They're the first generation to feel like they need to leave the world better than they find it. They contribute to charities, they volunteer, they recycle, they eat organic farm-fresh vegetables because they believe they're contributing to their community farmers, they buy local, they shop in trendy local-owned clothing stores, they buy old homes and fix them up to breathe new life into the community, they feed the homeless (and feel good about it). I think our generation tends to turn toward every shiny new thing more than the younger generation. In my opinion, that's because we were kids of the 70s and 80s. When our parents divorced, our dads didn't remain. There was no fighting for our love, we were left to wonder if one parent gave a shit about us. So we became the generation that found solace in the excitement of someone loving us. We cling to every hope that someone might love us. But as soon as that love requires effort, we lose interest. Because we feel like someone should just love us. We feel like we're good enough now, damnit. We shouldn't have to change or grow for someone. Eff that. Our dad left us and we'll be damned if we're gonna "change" ourselves for someone else. We deserve love just the way we are. Eff it, we'd rather be alone than try to make effort....only to be left by that person later. Because our generation were mostly abandoned by one parent, we feel like we'd rather let go of someone when shit gets hard, than have them leave us. These new kids have a different view of the world, for sure. But it's better. They view it as a group effort. They want to feed the poor, and save the hungry, and adopt abandoned children, and get a job that allows them time to be active physically, etc. Sure it seems like they lose interest in things like relationships. And they do. If the relationship isn't a good business decision for them, they will leave it in the dust without even looking back. But when they marry, it's for a purpose. It's because they've thought long and hard about what they want. They don't marry someone they can live with. They marry the one person they can't live without. That's why they'll give up on relationships that don't work out effortlessly. They want a best friend and partner in life. And when they realize someone isn't for them,  they're done"

Maybe she has a point. Maybe being children of divorce where there is a vast difference in income between the two houses also factors in. 

Anyway, there's your food for thought for the week.