I have a man crush on Brad Pitt.
No seriously. I crush on him. It’s true. Let me explain.
Recently, I was reading an interview Brad was giving about Angelina. He was talking about her reaction to life and some of the problems they were having. Or more specifically some of the problems Angelina was having and his response.
My wife got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and children. She lost 30 pounds and weighted about 90 pounds. She got very skinny and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the mornings and got tired very quickly during the day. Our relationship was on the verge of a break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon… But then I decided to act. After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on earth. She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her. I began to shower her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised and pleased her every minute. I gave her a lot of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became better. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much. And then I realized one thing: the woman is the reflection of her man. If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it. – Brad Pitt
Which brings me here. One of the truths I’ve learned about myself is that I’m more a sponge than a duck. Some days I wish I were a duck. It would be great to have things roll off my back but instead I’m a sponge. I soak it all up.
As such, I tend to soak up the attitude and energy of the people around me. If you are angry, resentful or bitter, I tend to end up angry, resentful and bitter too. If you are cold, I’m cold. If you hurt, I hurt. Then it becomes a chicken and egg argument.
Like a sponge I absorb and absorb but if you squeeze me I’ll give it right back to you. It takes a great deal of energy on my part not to get swept up in other people’s emotional tsunamis. It can leave me exhausted.
Let me give you an example.
Recently, I met about seven strangers through a Google geocaching game we play called Ingress. I left after three minutes because one of the players was loud and negative, complaining about other players and the game. I’m sure he thought he was being manly, trash talking another player. I thought he was being obnoxious. I wanted to vomit because his attitude was so negative. I had visceral physical reaction to his negativity.
He started in on the hypocrisy of one of the other players and that she, “is a whiny bitch.” I replied, with some philosophical perspective, that the world is full of hypocrisy and we are all hypocrites about something. I just couldn’t keep quiet. I couldn’t resist opening my mouth.
He was seriously harshing my chill.
I said my good-byes and left.
A long time ago I learned the importance of avoiding loud and obnoxious people. They are vexations on the spirit. So part of my solution, to paraphrase George Carlin, is simply to not put myself into situations where other people’s “shit” gets in the way of my “stuff”. As such, I selectively avoid needless conflicts because their anger, fear or general stupidity causes me physical pain. I try not to shoot my mouth off in anger or in a knee jerk response. After all, who am I to judge your opinion or life.
The closer I am to you, negativisms and criticisms shred me – family, teachers, coaches, girlfriends, wives and peers. Caught unprepared, I am left more hypercritical of myself. I repeatedly stab myself with your criticisms – both the deserved and undeserved. I start to see only my shortcomings and failings – some real, some imagined.
Taken to an extreme over a period of time the criticisms saturate me and bleed out my pores. They end up pouring out all over my life and I end up battling a bought of depression and anxiety. I collapse and isolate until I can clear myself of some of the toxins I’ve absorbed. Usually a long walk in the woods is best. A long car ride to nowhere in particular. Smelling my dog.
Okay, the last one is weird but I like the smell of my dog. Dogs make me happy.
The more time I spend with you the more tied I am to your emotions. A relentlessly critical partner, a loud and bullying family member or a rich sophist on Fox News just pushes my buttons. I’m a sponge. I soak it up and I give back exactly what I’m given.
And in truth, I am wired this way. I was this way at the earliest age – I feel everything. It is not a maturity issue or a toughness issue. It is hardwired outcome…and throughout my life it has caused me much consternation. On more than one occasion I have hated myself for what I thought made me weak. There are several consequences of this hardwiring and my intense desire to sometimes be something I am not. Most of which end in some type of spectacular relationship failure. To cover I tried being a jock, a Marine and a hard-drinking tough guy. The truth is I was never good at any of those things.
My reactions are fairly obvious: I respond with a spiritual arrogance and pride and I think I can handle it all. To solicit help is a sign of weakness. That is also part of the oldest child, hero syndrome, where I was taught I am responsible for everyone’s happiness and well-being while neglecting my own well-being and happiness.
There are probably a few other reasons too and if you can relate you already know.
The end result is, at times, I don’t act like my need and wants are important. At times, I become so resentful that I end up being self destructive and hurting really good people that I care about and that care about me.
What I want those closest to me to understand is that my reaction isn’t about them. It is about me. My reaction is who I am.
However, my reaction is not the real problem.
The real problem is I don’t always do a good job of expressing what I need and want and cover with bravado or silence or some other less than helpful non-verbal communication. Or I just become a moody ass for a few days.
So knowing all this what is the solution? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex? Rock and roll? None of those are particularly helpful when trying to deal with a problem. Instead, I’ve learned to focus on placing myself in situations where people are positive and upbeat. One of the many reasons I love artists, musicians and teachers. You have to be incredibly positive in order to counter all the social negativity that surround those disciplines.
And dogs. I love being around dogs.
I try to avoid sarcastic and angry people. I let people know what I need and want and act on it regardless of what they think. I try to have people in my life that understand what motivates me and if they don’t understand, I try to teach them.
Life is too short to spend it trying to simply fit in and belong. It is too short to go along to get along. It is too short to pretend to be something you are not. If you want to be a painter, paint. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a traveler, travel. If you want to be a builder, build. It doesn’t have to be grand or grandiose. It simply needs to be done.
Surround yourself with people that know you. That love you. That aren’t afraid to show it and tell you even if you cannot always hear it or appreciate it. People that believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. People that know that at your worst you are worth loving.
People that, like Brad, love you to the point of madness.