Treat yourself like you’d like others to be treated

compromise (n)
early 15c., “a joint promise to abide by an arbiter’s decision,” from Middle French compromis (13c.), from Latin compromissus, past participle of compromittere “to make a mutual promise” (to abide by the arbiter’s decision), from com- “together” (see com-) + promittere (see promise). The main modern sense of “a coming to terms” is from extension to the settlement itself (late 15c.).

There are some people who walk around the world stepping (and stomping) on other people’s toes. This is not for them. They already have their golden rule. This golden rule is for those of us who tip-toe around others acting like we don’t have any desires. This is for those who, when cabin loses pressure and oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, help everyone else put on their masks before putting on their own, and then find themselves suffocating.

How would I like others to be treated? I want them to have the space and time to be themselves. I want them to fulfill their wishes and desires. I want them to be met half way. Do I permit these things for myself? No.

When others ask me for advice, I find myself saying things like ‘life is complicated, don’t blame yourself’, ‘follow your truth and don’t feel guilty about it’, ‘do what you need to do even if nobody else is doing it or encouraging you to do it’. Do I follow my own advice? Hell no.

Only after much fretting or literal sickness do I finally do what I need to do. Why?

It could be low self-esteem. It could be easier said than done. It could be somewhere down the line I’ve internalized the belief that taking care of the needs and wants of others would bring security for myself. It could be is guilt.

For the past month and a half, I’ve been in a relationship. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a relationship. The last time I dated somebody, she had a flight booked to China where she was going to live for two years before we even started dating. Basically, we didn’t have to figure out if we were right for each other because the relationship came with an expiration date. Great for somebody unable, unwilling, or otherwise afraid to commit, which in this case, was both of us.

That is not the case with my current relationship. I am not diagnosed to die and she is not joining the Peace Corps. We’re both here for good. With no external factors tearing us apart, the relationship depends only on our own respective willingness.

My fear of or aversion to commitment extends beyond intimate relationships. I have lived in Chicago for seven years but am yet to live in one apartment for an entire year. Within the past three months I’ve quit one job, started another, and went back to the first one. I don’t finish books. I have two dozen half-finished books lying around my apartment or back at the library that I’ll never see again. Recently I adopted a cat, and am already kicking myself in the ass for taking on such a responsibility.

Why the inability to commit? Instead of blaming myself and calling myself names like flakey or afraid, I’d like to focus on the positive. I’m 25. Precluding any accident, I have my whole life ahead of me. It’s a blessing: I’m not fated to become a shoemaker like my dad or slave my life away on some field. Basically, I got options. I could become a writer, a musician, a business owner… Just like I could spend the next year travelling, read a different book, start a new relationship or not be in a relationship at all.

Maybe reading a travel diary by Thomas Merton is a waste of time, maybe a job at a tea shop that’s going no where is a waste of time, maybe having a cat for the sake of having a cat and because you feel bad for it is a waste of time. It’s good to quit things you don’t find worthwhile. Which brings us to the conclusion, the crux of the matter.

This relationship. What am I getting out of it? A lot: a partner who is bright, caring and considerate, who is fun in and out of the bedroom. Someone I could be in a relationship with without any expiration date.

But there’s a problem, and it finally came to the fore this weekend, though we both did our best to deny it. We have different lifestyles. I like to wake up and see the sunrise. She likes to stay up all night and then see the sunrise. I like to get to bed early and she likes to go out. It’s not that black and white, I’m not some sage and she’s not a party girl, but it is a problem. I keep getting sick, tired and depressed so long as I don’t take care of myself and stick to a regular sleeping schedule.

The thing is, both of us are the types to tip-toe around others, acting like we’re OK with the situation. Some nights I go out later than I would want to. Other nights she forgoes drinks she might have if she wasn’t with me. We’re both frantically trying to put on the other person’s oxygen mask without putting on our own. But the other night, we both stood our ground in a respectful way recognizing something was wrong. I’m stretching in her direction, she’s stretching in mine. The question is, are we stretching too much?

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