Archive for February, 2014


The Eros of Attraction

I’ve been playing a song a lot on ITunes recently, a song called “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams. I’ve met someone new, and perhaps what I really should be listening to is Liza Minnelli singing, “Maybe This Time,” but even I have to admit that grown up romance feels far different than those long gone youthful dalliances. The rush, urgency, and yes, even desperation of young love no longer dictate my approach to love. Having a romantic relationship now isn’t the same as when I was in my 20’s.

I realize I need to be careful what narrative I tell myself about the possibility of romance blossoming. If I am jaded and cynical, I believe I’m far less likely to attract a worthwhile person into my life. I also don’t want a toss away, meaningless experience. I want to draw a great guy into my life.

Having said that, it occurred to me that eros still rules me, more than I’d like to admit. Luckily, this new guy is very handsome, but nevertheless there’s still something about the attention of a stranger that inevitably draws me in.

Patrick and I headed into the city to walk around the gay neighborhood, catch an art film, and go to dinner where we could be comfortable, rather than self conscious, about being ourselves. We stopped into a Starbucks, simply to use the bathroom, and suddenly, a stranger glanced up, staring into my eyes, and I could feel the electricity between us humming like a tea kettle. Something about the attention of a total stranger is a turn on. Flirting is a turn on.

In the Greek language, there are four recognized words for love: agape, philia, storge, and eros.

I crave agape most of all, I think, agape meaning a “spiritual love,” a deep abiding affection for someone, something that transcends the merely physical. Agape is selfless, and is truly unconditional love whereas philia refers more to mental love, and includes affectionate regard or friendship. The term philos includes loyalty to friends and family as well as loyalty to your community. Storge is more specific to one’s family, meaning affection like that felt by a parent for her child. And then, of course, there’s eros. Eros drives physical and sexual attraction for another person.

I get the sense that without eros, I would be “faking” my attraction for someone else, but I find myself wondering, What is it about that immediate physical attraction, looking up to capture the attention of someone I will never even meet, that appeals to me? The attention itself is addictive. Luckily, my higher sense of self rules my head, and I have more than one way of feeling and demonstrating attraction for a new person. I am seeking out someone who will make me into an even better person, a more complete expression of who I am and what I’m capable of, someone who encourages my creativity and, on a selfish level, someone who makes me feel attractive.

Motion In The Ocean

One of the givens in life: if you find yourself standing in line at Starbucks, a long line snaking around the store, and you watch people inching forward, almost imperceptibly, you will, I guarantee, become annoyed if the person in front of you stands staring at his cell phone, checking messages, failing to shuffle towards the cashier, even if the forward movement is practically undetectable. In the grand scheme of things, you’re not saving any time, but getting someone else to conspire with your version of how things should work becomes somehow essential. The same holds true when you stand in an elevator and obsessively push the “close door” button. In reality, it’s doubtful whether you’re speeding up the elevator or getting to your destination any faster, yet it seems so important at the time that you do something, anything, to get where you’re going a minute quicker. Important to do something rather than nothing.

I must say, however, that when it comes to creativity, this “line shuffling” is critical to success. Many a day I don’t feel like sitting down to write, but when I do, even if all I’m doing is blogging, I feel more accomplished. I have done something to head in the direction I want to head. I have put pen to paper, and at least thought about the writing process. Writing, for me, is not a series of clearly directed forward steps. Rather, I shuffle along, in fits and spurts, and inevitably, those baby steps lead to revelations that have helped me as I work on my MFA in creative writing. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes of paper shuffling, looking over chapters I have written previously, before I am ready to sit down for “real writing.”

In this respect, I say, give yourself permission to shuffle impatiently in line, just try to do it without getting too irritated, trusting that it’s simply part of the creative process.

The Wrong Train

New Year’s has come and gone, and along with it, the requisite resolutions. In the midwest, the season comes at such a strange time–so much time spent in the dark. Even the few daylight hours can prove to be gloomy and depressing and a challenge for those trying to change their behaviors.

My local gym launches a contest in late January to see who can lose the most weight in a 90 day period, and I think it has taken a conscious effort on my part to stay goal focused, goal oriented. I have many ambitions, which include carving out more creative writing time as well as recommitting myself to a Weight Watchers weight loss program. Several years back I lost a grand total of 87 lbs, but lately some of those unwanted pounds have crept back, and I find it much, much harder to recapture that “Honeymoon” feeling when I was super motivated to lose weight in the first place. Over the course of the first three weeks back at Weight Watchers, I actually gained five lbs. I felt that I had gotten on the wrong train, a missed connection, perhaps, or the wrong line altogether. It was as though I were traveling through Europe, and instead of heading for Paris, my train was destined for some unnamed, underdeveloped Eastern European city.

I hadn’t bothered to track my food or eating patterns, one of the cores related to success. Trying to lose weight felt like a punishment rather than a worthy challenge, and I dreaded feeling accountable for my food choices.

Interestingly, launching in the wrong direction affected my creative work as well. I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “Making Ideas Happen,” geared toward increasing creative productivity, and one of the staples of the program is making yourself accountable through clearly defined action steps. Clearly defined goals and action steps has made it possible to achieve success in many arenas, including my original weight loss in addition to quitting drinking and applying for and being accepted into a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program at Northwestern University.

I’m also lucky that I’ve had weight loss success previously so that I know what is possible and doable, but losing weight does indeed demand a mental shift. Not only does “Making Ideas Happen” emphasize the importance of clearly defined action steps, it also purports that community and communal accountability helps creatives achieve their goals. In the arena of losing weight, having a community of people also looking to achieve weight loss success helps motivate me, knowing that each week I am accountable and check in with a core group of people, some of whom I can also call my friends.

Truly, you’ve got to believe it before you can achieve it, but at the same time it’s clear to me that I can start my day over at any time. So if in fact I started off my weight loss journey on the wrong foot, misread the train schedule, I can still be new again, and recommit myself to my goals. This past week I experienced a two pound weight loss. What a relief that was because I believe success builds on success. Now that I’ve got momentum in my favor, it’s much simpler to continue moving forward, embracing opportunities for success, rather than dwelling in negativity. There’s a saying I trust in: the more you focus on the problem, the bigger the problem becomes. The more you focus on the solution, the clearly the solution becomes.