Struggling with Isolation

I was in bed at 11 and have been up since 3am.  Dove into reddit for a bit.  Then some clash of clans.  Can’t sleep.  Thought about going for a run.. but I hate running.  I’m struggling here.  Grabbed my laptop thinking maybe I would work one out and de-stress.  Ended up here instead.

I grew up surrounded by friends.  Whether it was me and a best friend adventuring around the city as kids, or me and the crew hanging out at my place on a Friday night playing video games over beers.  Not so much these days.

Normally I’m good with alone time.  But this has been different.  I separated my shoulder a couple months ago so I haven’t been able to play sports.  For the most part, basketball twice a week was the only time I would still see the crew.  The cost of living has kept them living with their parents, and me on the outskirts of town.  Even eating out is too expensive these days.  I miss those guys.  Those guys understood me through and through, never held anything against me, or I against them.  I could always be myself with them and not have to stress about it.  Times have changed.

Earlier this year, one of my closest friends (I was the best man at his wedding) decided that I had pissed him off enough to stop talking to me.  Never even told me why.  Just stopped texting me back or taking my calls.  The last interaction we had was when I had invited him and his wife over for dinner.  He called me a couple hours before hand and said he and the wife didn’t feel like driving out to my house and suggested that I bring the supplies over to their house and cook for them there.  I laughed it off and said that I wasn’t a personal chef and that we could reschedule for another time.  Eventually, I told him that my business was starting the process of hiring a new GM, a role which I had lined him up for since the beginning – and that if he still wanted to be involved, he and I needed to sort our shit out.  He responded quick enough, but basically said that I had pissed him off by disrespecting him and his wife (who’s also a close friend).  He started to make it sound like she had been upset about something and he was upset that she was upset.  I racked my brain so hard to figure out what it was that I had done, and the best that I could come up with is that they were upset that I declined to drive to their house and cook for them when they declined to drive to my house to let me cook for them.  We’ve since hung out a few times and things are mostly back to normal.. but we still haven’t tackled that topic.

Being injured and not being able to play sports and then having one of my closest friends pull that shit was tough.  It made me feel isolated.  I had also reached out to an ex-girlfriend back in December which didn’t go all that well.  I was excited to show her the ways in which I had grown since we dated last, as she was part of what inspired that growth.  She was working on her MBA in Singapore and kept saying that she would love to chat in real-time and catch up.  I kept saying sure, that would be great.  She kept not getting back to me after that.  In the process, she made it clear that she had assumed I hadn’t changed, and wasn’t all that interested in changing her perception or reconnecting in any way.  Fuuuuck me.

This is all along the backdrop of work, where I’m dealing with two founders who are under a level of stress that they’re not dealing with very well.  One founder snapped at me for not letting him proof read an email to an investor.  He’s never proofed my anything to anyone, nor would he have even understood the subject matter of the email even if he did.  Not to mention I told him specifically what would be in that email a few hours earlier at our weekly meeting.  He’s bugging out for other reasons, but this is how it’s showing up.  Then you have his wife, the other co-founder who, at times, almost looks for reasons to be upset with me.  With her, I can’t help but think that I carry all the tribal markers of someone she’s learned to feel threatened by… straight white male with a background in corporate finance who drives an SUV.  I’ve probably experienced more prejudice in this relationship than any other I’ve experienced.  Ironic, because she’s very far left.  Or maybe that’s not so ironic these days.  Both are good, decent people who with a clear and positive state of mind are very, very good to me.  But those moments can be the exception when they’re under the stress and pressure of a company which is growing beyond their ability to run.  Fortunately, that’s why they brought me in, but now they’re struggling to give up that control.

I find myself craving to be understood and accepted.  And connected.  I’ve always been understood and accepted by the crew, but they’re not around so much anymore.  I had that with my buddy, until he decided that whatever I did was enough to cut me out of his life for a few months but not enough to talk to me about what had happened.  Initially, I had that with the co-founders who had brought me into their start-up, until they started to let their stress levels get the best of them.  I had a deep sense of acceptance and being understood with the ex-girlfriend, but since we had dated and then stopped talking, she seemed to have lost all interest in showing it.  My dad would’ve been my go-to in these situations.. would’ve gone to his place for dinner.. told him what I was going through and he’d feed me, give me some advice, and send me on my way.  I miss him.  Don’t have that relationship with my mom.. siblings are in another country..

*deep breath*

When I see this happening around me, the first pattern I notice is that I’m the common factor.  It must be me.  It probably is.  I often joke around that I’m an ass, but I know I’m a good person who treats others well, even in the worst of conditions.  The harder life gets, the more I focus on not letting it affect how I treat others.  If anything, I let it motivate me to treat others better.  Asking the cashier how her day has been, striking up a conversation with the disabled guy who handles the shopping carts at my local grocery store, or hitting the pedestrian crossing for a car stuck at a flashing green light.  If life is going to be shitty to me, at least I can still brighten up someone else’s day.

The other pattern that I’ve noticed is that the people are running from the ideas that challenge their reality, and I do that often.  I know the value of having your reality challenged, it keeps you accountable to the truth and helps you avoid the bullshit in your life.  But it can be uncomfortable.  It can make you feel shitty when it happens, even if it’s what you need.  I’m all about delayed gratification so I’m all about embracing the shit.  But I’m starting to sense that I’m one of very few who’s interested in taking that approach.  As the world has become more challenging and confusing, I can’t help but think that people are retreating to their comfort zones and someone like me is not welcome there.  I live perpetually outside of my comfort zone and I embrace the challenges and growth that come with it.  Do I keep encouraging others to venture outside of their comfort zone?  Or do I allow them to be complacent within their belief system?

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a girl I had dated briefly a few years ago to wish her a happy birthday.  We started texting a bit and with us both big into super hero movies, I asked if she wanted to go see the new Black Panther.  She was pumped.  Until she ghosted.  She apologized, something about her schedule.  So we rescheduled, and she ghosted again.  When we dated the first time, she did something similar with a big event and I wasn’t having it.  My pride let me walk away from that in a hurry.  This time around, I was frustrated, but wanted to understand what was happening more than I wanted to punish her for wasting my time.  We spoke about it more candidly.  She asked why I had messaged her beyond the happy birthday and I was honest.  I had done a lot of growing up, but it left me feeling more awkward and misunderstood than ever.  Life was a lot easier when I was set on being the person that everyone wanted me to be.  Turns out being me was not so easy.  As beautiful as she was, she was no stranger to being awkward and misunderstood, and I thought maybe we could be awkward and misunderstood together.  I figured it was at least worth a date.  Had it happened, it would’ve been my first time being anywhere near a woman in more than a year.

She liked the idea, said that she understood and had decided that she really did want to spend some time with me.  So we scheduled another date.  This time she was feeling under the weather.  Fair enough, so let’s reschedule for a few days out?  Yes please, until she cancelled again for still being sick and heading out for a work trip in the morning.  0/4.  Fuuuuuck me.  Trying to be understanding.  Trying to be considerate.  Asked her what was going on, and not from a place of anger.  I told her that it sucked, being excited to see her and spend time with her, only for her to cancel over, and over, and over.  I told her I don’t think I can keep this up.  She assured me that she was very, very interested in seeing me and spending time with me.  If someone were to read our text conversations, you’d be optimistic this would go somewhere.  But it hasn’t.  She had some reservations, and some social anxiety… things I wanted to support her though.  She wanted me to support her though them as well.  But maybe I’m missing something.

She took off for her work trip Thursday morning, and we’ve texted a bunch since.  But as she got closer to coming back, the texts dried up.  Pretty much nothing on Saturday, she was driving back for most of Sunday, and yesterday was a quick text in the morning and nothing all day.  Even typing this, I feel like it comes off as needy but there’s more to it than that.  There are patterns hidden within styles of communication.  This is not the pattern of communication of someone who wants to spend time with me.  Or maybe I’m jumping the gun.  This is remarkably frustrating and confusing.

I know she has some social anxiety issues, I know she was super awkward around me when we dated before and while I adored her anyways, it’s still on her mind.  I know that she’s a good person with good intentions, but I don’t know if she’s capable of actually making this happen.  After she asked to reschedule date number 4, I did my best to help us figure things out.  I gave her every out, and she was still 100% determined to try and make this happen, and appreciated my understanding.  I told her that I still don’t know what that means.  It could mean what I hope it means, but it could also mean that as much as she’d like this to happen, she’s just not ready.

If I was in her shoes, and really wanted to see me, I would’ve tried to put something in the calendar for as soon as I was back.  She’s barely texted me at all in the last few days.  Normally, I wouldn’t overthink this but the messages she stopped responding after are not the types of messages that you leave hanging.  It’s probably the biggest reason why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I told her I was under a fair bit of stress right now and while I was probably handling it well, it was tough.  Later in the evening, I sent her a video game meme.. still nothing.  In an age where people check their phones more often than they look at the time, seeing those messages and not responding is a message in itself isn’t it?  It was a pattern of reduced communication the closer we got to seeing each other… It’s a big part of why I couldn’t sleep tonight.  I wanted to send her a text that would basically say…. I don’t know what it would say.  Something to the effect of this sucks for me.  I keep putting myself out there and you keep running away.  I don’t want to keep doing this.  But I weigh that against being understanding of what she’s going through, and the possibility that if we could just get within physical distance of each other, the dynamic would shift and it might be everything we wanted it to.

I avoided sending anything her way, especially out of a state of frustration.  Maybe she lost/broke her phone, maybe she’s playing catch up with work, maybe.. maybe.. maybe. It doesn’t make sense to assume I know what’s going on here, but what’s my breaking point?  I know I’m not compromising who I am, nor am I allowing myself to be played.  I’m very aware of the situation and the younger me would’ve let his pride dictate my actions.  It’s exactly why she and I stopped dating before.  But had I allowed my pride to dictate my behavior this time around, I would’ve saved myself a lot of grief.

I often hope that my tendency to put myself through these things, and my ability to survive them will leave me a more balanced, humble, and appreciative person for when things do go well.  But my patience is being tested.. perhaps now more than ever.  My entire life seems to have been an effort of delayed gratification.  It’s not easy.  Down right shitty when I have to go through it alone.  But I refuse to let the situation define me.  Instead, I choose to define my situation.  It is not her who is standing me up, but me who understands and appreciates the challenges she is going through, and me who chooses to be patient with how she’s working through this.  But even so, at a certain point, I need to start respecting the impact this has on my emotional state and accept that she’s just not ready.  I’m right up against that edge right now and I guess the next 24 will reveal the rest.

 

 

I made a point of not putting this entry up when I wrote it.  It was an incomplete thought being pressured by my emotional state.  I didn’t have enough information to understand the situation at the time and I’m happy I waited.  She texted me back the next day, saying that things at work had become quite challenging and that she had been ignoring her phone almost entirely as a result.  We’re heading out for that date today.. probably some Ready Player One and some homemade sushi.  I’m cautiously optimistic it might actually happen.

Mindset of a Champion

I’ve been a big fan of mixed martial arts for a very long time.  I even had a brief career as an amateur fighter.  I credit so much of what I’ve learned about life to what I’ve learned in the gym.  Including the mindset of a champion.

Before I pat myself on the back too much, it’s important to concede that I was never a champion-caliber fighter.  I did well on the local scene, won a few tournaments and probably could’ve gone pro, but I knew that wasn’t my path.  When I refer to the mindset of a champion, I’m referring to a mindset that can be learned in or out of the cage, and applies to champions of any walk of life.

I was watching the fights last night and I was reminded of this dynamic again in the rematch between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Thug Rose.  In the first fight, Joanna thought she was unstoppable.  She thought that she was the boogy-woman, someone who was so far above her peers that she could not be beat, and that she was destined to retire undefeated.  Then you had Rose, who had losses, been through a tremendous amount of adversity (personally and professionally), and had found her calm within that storm.  In their first match, Joanna did what she could to get in the head of Rose, but Rose stared right through her – reciting the lord’s prayer no less.  That fight ended up in a first round knock-out for Rose

(Thug Rose! Thug Rose! Thug Rose!)

When she gave her post-fight interview, I instantly became a big fan.  It’s one thing to throw bombs in the cage, it’s another to do it with the presence of mind of being a good human being.  In the age of inactive fighters throwing dollies through bus windows, Thug Rose shines bright.

Leading up to the rematch, I was very curious how things would play out.  Joanna was one of the most accomplished and dangerous strikers in her class.  She also had incredible takedown defense.  If she was able to make adjustments for the second fight, and not get knocked out in the first round, things could play out differently.  In the fight game, anyone can get clipped, anyone can get caught.  If you run the same fight back 10 times, you’ll get 10 different results.  Predicting how fights play out is something that I’ve done for a long time and I’m not half bad at it.  While there’s a lot to consider in making those predictions, few are more important than state of mind.

After Joanna lost the belt, her reality had fractured.  Before that fight, she had an *absolute belief* that she was the best in the world and that she could not be beat.  It was this supreme level of confidence that helped her get into the head of her opponents as well as helping her perform as well as she did in the cage.  But after that fight, where she had been viciously knocked out, she had to find a way to reconcile these two opposing realities.  One in which she was unstoppable and would never lose, and one in which she had been defeated, by knockout, and where she was no longer the champion.  I find that how we face these hard truths largely determine what we’re able to learn from them and what we learn from them largely determines how we grow as individuals.

Coming into the rematch, Joanna kept saying that she was still number 1, that she was a dominant champion for a reason, that it was a bad weight cut which left her susceptible to the knockout, that she needed to replace her nutritionist, and that it was a fluke KO.  She had a choice of embracing a new reality in which she was no longer champion and had been beat by a fighter who was better that night, or rationalizing why she could remain in her own reality where she was still the best.  One reality provides the raw materials for an exceptional moment of growth while the other provides the comfort of not needing to change.  One is the mindset of the champion and one is the mindset of someone who has peaked.  Rhona Rousey might know a thing or two about this.

This is one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of Thug Rose.  Coming off that win, coming off becoming a 25 year old champion in one of the world’s most unforgiving activities, she was just as humble, aware, and open-minded as ever.  She entered into this fight with the mindset of a champion, who was competing for a belt she didn’t yet have.  Some might say, ‘but she was the champion’.  Well, what is a champion?  Someone with a decorative belt?  That’s just hardware.  The best?  Anyone can be beaten on any given night.  The one who everyone perceives as being the best?  Public opinion is fickle.

So what is a champion, and what exactly is the mindset of a champion?

A champion is someone who has been given the title of champion.  No more, no less.   It’s borderline arbitrary.  What’s meaningful is the path it took for the person to get there and earn that distinction.  Rhonda Rousey earned her first championship belt without a fight.  Khabib Nurmagomedov earned his first championship belt after a career of being undefeated, multiple injuries, and 5 opponent changes in 7 days.  It’s about the people.. it’s about the journey.

If a champion is someone who’s been given the title of champion, and it makes more sense to focus on the people and journey, then it’s really the mindset of a champion that deserves our attention.  There’s a dynamic here which cannot be overlooked and it’s a dynamic of confidence.  A fighter who isn’t confident in their abilities will be hesitant, and it’s those split second differences that separate the good from the best.  It’s why so many fights are won and lost in the minds of fighters before they even enter the cage.  If a confident fighter has a distinct advantage over a fighter who isn’t confidence, it starts to make sense why so many championship caliber fighters think they’re god’s gift to MMA.  It’s almost like a trick you play on your own mind, saying that you’re the best before you ever knew you were.  But then you win, and you win again, and for the 0.0001% who become a UFC champion, you’ve almost validated the lie you’ve been telling yourself for years.  And then that lie becomes your reality.  And then your reality becomes fragile.

My question is why does one have to draw confidence from a lie, when the truth is that much more powerful?  Why would you tell yourself that you’re undeniably the best when you could look at your competition and let them inspire you to be even better?  Why would you think that you’re incapable of losing, when a loss would give you more to learn from than any win?  And so I would suggest that there is a difference between someone who is a champion, and someone who has the mindset of a champion.

A fighter like Rhonda Rousey had the skills and confidence to be a dominant champion for many years, but lacked the mindset of a champion to overcome her losses.  Reconciling a lifetime of thinking she was unbeatable with being brutally knocked out in back to back fights was enough to break her.  She lacked the skills necessary to use those losses to evolve, and instead retired into another fantasy, the WWE.  At least she can be a champion there right?  Then you have fighters like Demetrious Johnson, or George St. Pierre, or countless others who have let their losses inspire greatness from within.

Realizing your place within the universe, being able to understand your situation for what it is (and what it isn’t) has to be one of the most important important qualities any person can have.  It requires a tremendous amount of courage at times, to see yourself or the world as it is, especially when you see something you’d rather not see.  But when given the choice to ignore it, rationalize around it, or rise above it, the choice should be clear.  If you can back that up with the skills to pay the bills… that’s a real champion.