Ah, insomnia. What a productive way to spend an early morning. Since I’m unable to sleep, I’m finally getting around to addressing the disappearance of Everything From Here To There. The site is on hiatus until Billy has time to write again. So in the meantime, I will try to post more blarticles, and I have archived all of my EFH2T posts with their corresponding posts here (which can be accessed using the handy dandy “Categories” list to your right), except for “Go with (my) flow” which I apparently forgot the first time around. So here it is:
Go with (my) flow
Many zen-minded philosophers and spiritual teachers have told us to “flow” with life, to not fight the current of life and where it brings you. I think that’s generally good advice, but it’s also turned into a justification of a lifestyle that makes me pull my hair out in frustration. There are people who, despite making commitments, setting appointments, and otherwise binding themselves to their peers, tend to be flaky. Some of these people have the same argument for their behavior:
“You just need to learn to go with the flow.”
I’ve had a few conversations with people who, like me, are inclined to be punctual and accountable when we make clear-cut arrangements, and I’ve learned a few things lately.
A lot of these “go with the flow” type people are actually exercising an inflexible control over their environment. They may seem super earthy, or they may be otherwise unstereotypical type A personalities, but what I’ve noticed is that they continually play out the same scenario: they make plans, and rather than meet on equal terms, they force the other person to wait, or to reschedule, adjust, etc. It makes me wonder, if you’re trying to “go with the flow”, why make plans at all?
I think there is a hidden message in the argument. “Go with the flow” might mean, “Go with my flow. Don’t expect me to do what you expect.”
You might think that someone who seems completely unaccountable in the name of “go with the flow” would be someone not in control of his or her environment. But isn’t steadfastly abstaining from fulfilling your own self-imposed expectations a form of rigid control?
An example: I was just in Venice performing for the Biennale art festival, and there I met a funky middle-aged Italian man who was part of the community of people around this particular gallery. He is a bit of an enigma—the type of person whether you never really know is paying attention until he makes an out of the blue insightful remark amidst a lot of non sequitur ponderings (sounds harsh, but I actually liked him quite a bit). He randomly proffered a lecture to me on how I cannot make plans in Venice, that I have to see where the city takes me—a very “go with the flow” kind of guy. However, he made plans with one of the other artists to do a photo session before her performance, for which he completely flaked. When she confronted him about it, he gave her the same sort of lecture, completely defying her to hold him accountable for his own plan.
These types of situations usually drive me nuts. However, I have discovered an interesting sense of freedom in some of these relationships lately. For the first time I think in my entire life, I have, with these people, made a conscious decision to be a bit flakier, to show up when and if I feel like it, and to feel less obligated and accountable.
While our group was out celebrating after our performance night was finished, my enigmatic Italian friend invited us all to meet at his place the next morning to exchange photos of the night. We set a specific time, 10am, because I had to catch a plane that afternoon. As I walked back to the hotel with the artist whom he flaked on earlier that evening, she said to me, “Don’t expect him to actually be there.”
I shrugged and said, “We’ll see,” and thought more about it that night as I packed my bags. I decided that the best way to approach the situation was to not put myself in a position to be unhappy—to not rely on someone who I know is unaccountable. In the morning, I had a leisurely breakfast and did not rush to check out of the hotel. I didn’t feel like it. I felt like taking my time and showing up an hour late, and if the meeting happened to work out, then great, but if not, it only left me with an hour to kill, and that was just fine.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, our enigmatic friend was nowhere to be found that morning. Not even the guests staying in his apartment had any idea where he’d got to. So instead, I had a very pleasant conversation with another artist at the gallery downstairs, and trotted off at a leisurely pace to the bus station.
I would never in a million years let myself behave like this with someone I know is going to fulfill their commitments, but under different circumstances, I might have been angry and disappointed because I showed up on time, and where the !@#$ was he? I might have even shown up on time expecting him to disappoint me, which now seems a bit masochistic.
I do think it’s a shame we didn’t get together that morning, but I’m glad that I got to exercise this outlook. I think if we want to avoid making ourselves crazy, it doesn’t hurt to adjust—or let flow—our expectations. To be fair, I do wish that the people on the other side of the river would flow a bit more in my direction as well.
I guess the real question is… How do we all go with the same flow?