Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Can people really change?
When I’m introspective I try to examine my life as an objective third party. Of course that’s impossible, but I try anyway. I perform a Google search in my mind: type, ‘Matt, discipline,’ or ‘Matt, patience,’ and immediately my brain cues a slide show featuring the most relevant footage from my life. It’s almost always depressing.
Like magic the movie starts to roll: Look, there’s skinny me, energetically taping a workout plan to the refrigerator. Next clip. Me again, wait, I’m tearing it down? What? Why? Next clip. There I am pumping iron in Virginia. I’m a sexy beast! Next clip. Oh no, it’s me in bed at noon. My bad. Next clip. Is that my belly growing? Next clip. Am I ignoring the alarm clock again? Isn’t Todd waiting in the gym? Next clip. Two sandwiches? Is that necessary? Next clip. Next clip. Next clip.
I remember dozens of times I’ve tried and failed to discipline myself with exercise, devotions, healthy eating, whatever. My mind is adept at replaying those memories in rapid sequence, reminding me that I haven’t matured at all since graduating from high school.
The emerging pattern confirms my fears; I’m a degenerate man becoming increasingly degenerate. It verges on overwhelming when I’ve invested serious effort but fail to change. Like my chronic impatience for example. I’m always pushing everything way too fast.
Uh-oh, here comes another slide show: kid asks dumb question in class; I kick his chair. Long winded professor; I bring my chess board. Scenes of torrid impatience tumble through my memory like old nightmares. Unfortunately they connect the dots with current situations to form a longstanding pattern of terminal impatience.
This week I hit a new low. Someone was instructing me to complete a certain checklist. To me the goal was a finished list; to them it was something totally different. They wanted to pause on an unfinished detail and give it the proper attention. I wanted to keep going. We paused. That pause uncovered a series of tasks that needed immediate action. I wanted to divide and conquer; they wanted to tackle them together, one at a time.
My leg began to twitch with nervous energy. I re-focused my eyes, cracked my fingers, bit the inside of my cheek; anything to keep from screaming. Life would certainly not continue if we didn’t finish that list immediately! My eyes glazed over and we painstakingly carried on. My chest was broiling with anxiety; I was confident I would erupt at any moment.
Why am I like this? I can’t help being in a hurry. I always want to be done. I compulsively need to know exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and if I can try to do it fast and alone. I’m impatient with people, I’m impatient with myself, and I’m just plain impatient with life.
My best guess is that I’m lazy. I want to be done so I can entertain myself. I want to waste time doing nothing. I’m not motivated by noble causes; my flames are stoked by pleasing myself. No, I don’t want to help you. No, I don’t want to learn that. Yes, I’ll do the bare minimum thanks. Now hurry up so I can be alone.
When I look inside there’s an endless supply of things to hate about myself. It gets cyclical at times. But the part that really wrenches my gut is the idea that I can’t change. It’s ominous to see patterns without improvement. Like investing in a stock market that’s in a thirty year slump. You look at the graphs and they’re just not trending in the right direction. Welcome to my life.