Oh, I don't think the world is going to hell in a handbasket or anything. If you believe everything you see on the news you'll be convinced that we're all going to die in the next ten minutes, either of cancer, global warming, terrorism, or some combination. I don't believe everything I see on the news; the news is a packaged product designed to sell advertising space and the function of delivering factual information takes a distant second to that.
Okay, that's pessimistic. Cynical, even. But it would be insane to ignore one's own observations of reality, right?
There are a lot of things I am not worried about, and most of them are world-scale issues. I don't think we're going to overbreed, certainly not in the next few years, anyway. We're not going to abruptly run out of natural resources, either. We're not going to cause runaway global warming and turn Earth into Venus. (Even if that was possible...which it's not.)
No, when I think about being optimistic versus being pessimistic, normally I think about these things in a more personal context. Over the past couple of months, since I got home from the Philippines, I have been seized with the worst case of pessimism I've had in a long time.
Well, it's not hard to read between those lines: when I left Cagayan de Oro, I was convinced that I had a fiancee. By the time I got home, I didn't, although she didn't actually tell me that until a week later.
I commonly describe that as the "emotional equivalent of a cannonball to the tender spot"; emotionally speaking it was like being kicked in the nuts with a Howitzer and it's not the kind of thing you just "get over".* The pain you see coming a mile away doesn't hurt as much as the pain that you're not expecting and which hits you in the face like an 18-lb sledgehammer out of the blue.
*Unless you're Chuck Norris. Besides, Chuck Norris invented time travel and beer.
Self-doubt in that situation is normal. In fact, everything I've experienced so far is completely normal. I've been through breakups before and know what to expect, so nothing has really bothered me.
But the new thing is my lack of interest in finding another girlfriend. Oh, the physical need is still there, but when I consider the matter in depth I think, "It's not worth it. It's just not worth it. What's the point? Why bother? The only thing I need a girlfriend for is sex, and it's just easier not to worry about it." Yeah. Take a deep breath or a cold shower or whatever and forget about it, because let's face it: Bob Marley was 100% correct when he wrote No Woman, No Cry. (Possibly 150% correct. Or more.)
This is something I don't remember from prior breakups. I don't remember ever thinking that it was better not to bother with having a girlfriend. I've always liked women too much for that; I wanted a girlfriend when I was 10. In grade school I was convinced I'd get a girlfriend in junior high. In junior high I thought it'd be in high school. In high school it was college. That is optimism gone wrong, let me tell you.
How long does the "healing process" take? How long can I expect this rather refreshing "I don't give a rat's ass" attitude to last? Why is it happening? Is it just that I'm 40 and old enough to know better? (Finally?) Or was the last breakup just so heinous and pernicious in its origin that it's crushed the little kernal of stupidity in my subconscious?
But there's a question deep in my mind.
You don't find love when you're looking for it; you have to cease to care. Then you get the chiXorz. It's when you're not looking that it happens. This is the "watched pot" school of thought.
That being the case, is all of this just a put-on? Is it "opposite day", and so I'm trying to get a girlfriend oppositely by not trying? Is my lack of interest a ploy, an attempt to game the system?
I don't make any bones about it: I stink at this stuff. I can fix machinery like nobody's business; Wednesday night I worked out how to operate a scissor lift in about 2 minutes--I had to move it in order to do a couple of things, and it would have taken me longer to get someone to move it than it did for me to figure it out myself and I knew that without even thinking about it--but when it comes to getting girlfriends, I suck.
If I were a game character, here's about what my profile would look like:
It took me a very long time to get over the "women don't like me" notion that I got in high school; it was almost a divine revelation when I realized that I don't meet women. Although correctly identifying the problem is supposed to be half the solution, it doesn't seem to have helped much in this case, and even when I take steps to meet them I don't seem to get very far.
I don't know what the problem is. But I know that incompetence is incapable of self-diagnosis; I know that there is a problem but I can't figure out what it is because I am incompetent.
At that, I've got a leg up: I understand that I don't know what I'm doing. This means I tend to err on the side of caution. If I don't get a clear signal from a woman I interpret it as "no signal". She might want me to drag her into the bushes but if she doesn't make it clear to me that such an advance would be welcome, I won't act. (And even if it does, there's a chance I'll misinterpret it.)
I think that's why I identify so closely with Ichitaka in I"s, why I never get sick of his, "What does this mean?" schtick: because that's exactly how I am. As of volume 12 there are several places in the story where the entire thing would have been cut short if he would have acted--but he can't; it's not in his nature. Others may find the story too contrived or frustrating, but for those of us who live that kind of thing, it's perfectly understandable.
My first girlfriend had to call me every day for a month before I got the idea that maybe she liked me. Yeah.
So, what about optimism?
I increasingly find myself wondering why I should be optimistic about my love life. I have thought, "Look, it's fine if it's like this right now, because things will change" but they don't change no matter what I do. They just don't, and it doesn't matter if I'm living like a hermit or not. If I make an effort to meet people, the end result is exactly the same as if I sit at home, watch anime, and write: nothing. My social life doesn't improve.
Even if I get involved with social groups--as I did when I lived in Iowa--the end result is the same. Introduction services--zippo. Clubs and enthusiast organizations--nada.
Either I'm an ogre with a bad personality, or else I'm just incapable of understanding what the problem is and thus utterly unable to do anything to fix it.
Either way, this is getting too depressing.