On the local news yesterday morning, in the midst of all the buzz about the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, the anchor mentioned a study that had found that people who don’t bet on the tournament report higher levels of enjoyment in watching it – and this includes gamblers whose chosen teams win.
The headline said something like, “Gambling links to depression,” but the explanation the reporter gave was that studies have shown that when you’re watching/living something, and you have a fixed idea of what you want the outcome to be, you’re less able to enjoy the ride, so to speak.
That was it, just a brief mention of this study, which I guess had been conducted specifically with regards to March Madness, and then the anchor went on to tell us that it’s not too late to pick a bracket by logging onto local-news-station-dot-com. And apparently, he was totally unaware of the irony.
But I digress: studies have shown that when you’re watching/living something, and you have a fixed idea of what you want the outcome to be, you’re less able to enjoy the ride.
No wonder I’ve been miserable, intermittently, all my life. Look at the pattern:
I’m going along through college, single and kind of slutty, not really worried about the capital-f Future, just enjoying the emotions and the sensations and the heartbreak (as evidenced in so much poetry, example below).
Then I’m off to Europe: woohoo! adventure! excitement! unknown!
Then I meet my ex, and suddenly I’m boring myself. Suddenly I’m old, and nothing is exciting, and I’m telling my other soon-to-be-married girlfriends that the best parts of our lives are behind us. Everything is prescribed: the wedding has to be planned a certain way, in a certain timeframe, with annoying details like seating charts that I don’t even care about. Then there will be the finding of a place to live, the finding of a job, the gettings of promotions and raises, the eventual having of babies. All the unplanned excitement – as far as I can see – is left behind.
Then I meet Doug: oh fuck, what am I doing?! The track I thought I was on ends abruptly, which is scary, and embarrassing, but thrilling all at the same time. (Insert bad roller-coaster metaphor about the moment you get to the top of the hill and can’t see anything but the space in front of you, and then you start to drop.)
We decide to move to Seattle to start a new life together: woohoo! adventure! excitement! unknown!
Added to that, we consciously neglect to use birth control, and I get pregnant. A plan forms instantly: we’ll have the baby, we’ll stay in Seattle through the end of our lease, we’ll move back home, we’ll have a happy little family. But I feel good about this plan: it contains elements of the uncharted (hell, it is the uncharted), and I’m seeing eye-to-eye on it with the man I love.
Then, miscarriage. Another huge derailment. The floor drops out from beneath my feet, and I wonder, What about my plan?!
We move back to San Diego in an attempt to start working toward the new plan, which once again includes marriage and babies and better jobs and a bigger home. And here we are – here I am, lost in my own stupid planning.
And some days, I can’t see the forest for the trees. Some days, I get so caught up in the making of a damn seating chart, that I don’t stop to look around and marvel at the fact that I’m planning a wedding. (That’s a metaphor, too. I’m not actually planning a wedding right now, although I know those days are looming.)
I hate having a plan. I hate that having a miscarriage forced me to construct one, that it took me out of my happy, senseless here-and-now, and forced me to ask myself what I want and how I can get it.
I just want to get back to a place where I can enjoy the ride.
In my bed by the window,
we hide from mismatched feelings,
a tangle of arms and legs and fingers,
How am I supposed to tell you
that I’m not supposed to like you,
when my head is on your chest
and your hands are in my hair?