My boyfriend and I have come up with a system to get things done. When we’re both in our respective homes with a block of time, we list our tasks and tell each other what they are. After a few hours, one of us will call to see how much progress was made. So far, it’s working out great: I’ve never gotten so much done!
So while this system of ours is making me more productive, it’s also doing something far more important: It’s allowing me to finally tap into all the unused potential I’ve been wasting. Along with procrastinating on mundane tasks, I’d also been wasting time — and my potential — in other areas, namely, art and writing.
Here’s my story: I went to art school but promptly stopped making artwork after graduation. I did teach art, but that’s completely different. I told my boyfriend about it, and his response was, “Maybe now is the time to get back to it!”
He is a man of his word. Less than a week later, we met at an art supply store and found some sketch pads on sale. Then he signed us up for drawing classes at the Art Students League here in NYC. Before I knew it, I was seated in front of an easel, charcoal in hand, blank paper in front of me. I smiled at him, standing at a nearby easel, and he smiled back. The last time I was taking a drawing class, I was half my age. I felt like an artist again, for the first time in half my life.
Another time we were perusing a museum gift shop and came across a book of postcards. He suggested buying the book so that I’d send them to him, one by one, with something — anything — I’d written. So far, I’ve been sending out two or three every week. Everybody wins: I get to write, he gets mail. What a great idea!
Then it hit me: In doing all this, he was bringing out the person I was meant to be, until adult life got in the way and I went off-track. I know it sounds lofty and far-fetched: one relationship can’t do all that. Certainly my previous relationships are proof. But I am certain that it’s not far-fetched, because this one seems to be doing so effortlessly.
This got me thinking about the false self/true self idea. In the most reductive terms, the true self can be looked at as God’s will, who we were created to be. It’s who we are when we strip away all our facades and defenses. Our false selves are what gets stripped away: our egos, the identities that others formed of us, or that we formed for ourselves, with no regard for God’s will.
I wondered if I ever thought about preserving my true self in any of my prior relationships. It was a huge epiphany to think that before this, I was completely willing to enter a relationship at the expense of my true self. Part of it was because I wanted nothing more than to be accepted by a potential mate. Because of that, I threw myself headlong into the effort to become someone else’s idea of who I should be.
One of my favorite pop songs in the ’80s had the lyrics, “Love is a stranger in an open car/to tempt you in and drive you far away.” For years, I thought that was the most romantic idea.
See the problem?
The very idea that a relationship would take me away from my true self was appealing to me. What a dangerous precedent I set, and I paid mightily for it. I recalled all the years, all the dating disasters, all the failed relationships and heartache that arose from this idea.
It makes sense: How can we be fully present in a relationship if we’re not fully present within ourselves? How can we expect to know our partner’s true self if we don’t know our own? What kind of relationship happens at the expense of God’s will? If we’re single and looking, which self are we presenting on dates? Which self do we feel we have to be around someone we like?
I’m infinitely grateful that I’m realizing it now and can avoid another 20 years of living in my false self. And I’m even more grateful that I found someone who saw the true self in me, accepted it and let it come out.
I encourage all members of CM — single, dating or otherwise — to think about this.