Start Again


Unless you intend to count on luck and chance, confidence is the key to achieving any goal or desire in life. Unless you believe you are capable, you are surely not. It may be easier to consign yourself to defeat rather than take on the odds, but in the end it is a road free of meaning and purpose.

Rules of the road make it easier to drive without confidence. There are structures in place that direct you and instruct you on how you "should" travel. It is not that difficult to put yourself in a place where you have your basic needs met and can exist in relative peace. Standardizing your life allows you to relate and exist in a kind of balance with the standardized people around you. People become more concerned with what they have a right to rather than what they can earn.

In the world I know, it seems more people than ever are in the grasp of depression and resignation. They have experienced setbacks and disappointments and often come to believe there is no point in even trying. They blame others. They blame themselves. They have forgotten how to do anything except put themselves on cruise control, rush to the red light and stare absently through the windshield.

"Where are you going?"

"The future."

Years ago, I would answer that question by saying "I don't know." Then I started thinking about it and wondered how I could possibly spend my life having no idea where I was going or what I intended to do tomorrow. I would hope that someone would show up and make sense of it all to me. My expectations were given into the hands of others. They were asked to make the decisions for me. If they wanted me to jump, I would jump. If they wanted me to be quiet and not bother them, I would sit silently in the dark. They knew better than I did because I was nothing. I was nothing because I believed I was nothing.

It was probably almost three decades ago that the aluminum siding man came to our house. In those days my father would bring all sorts of salesmen into our home in order to extract some sort of pleasure by tormenting them. One time there was a man representing a company that made "indestructable roofing tiles." My father instructed my brother and I to bend and mutilate the roofing tiles while the man spoke. He thought that was a rather amusing way to spend the afternoon. "Hmmm, they don't seem indestructable to me."

The aluminum siding man was different. While my father sat, calm and collected, questioning various salesmen, they would sweat and stutter. Usually they were older men in bad suits with receding hairlines. The aluminum siding man was young, tall and had it together. My father had every intention of having the house sided. This wasn't his usual round of "let's screw with the salesman." However, he said he would interview a number of candidates and wait for one to sell him. "If he wants me to spend thousands of dollars on his product, he better impress me."

The aluminum siding salesman stayed clear of the hard sell and the opening of sample cases while running through a practiced sales pitch. He simply asked my father what he was interested in and how he could be of assistance.

"You build a house from the foundation up,
but the first thing people see is the exterior.
I don't know how you want your house to look.
If aluminum siding is the answer, that is what I am here for."

My father would interview him for the next hour, mostly asking questions he already knew the answers to. He wasn't so much interested in the answers as he was in how honestly the salesman answered them. The salesman knew what he was doing and went along with it, never breaking his stride. Two months later our red house became a yellow house.

Until then, I always saw my father as being strong and confident. He would stand up to anyone and tear them down, leaving them defeated with his version of intellectual bullying. He taught me to always "outsmart" people by knowing all that I could about a subject and then skillfully disarming the opponent. It was never confidence. It was just the opposite. Going on the attack to disarm an "opponent" is merely a way of puffing youself up by beating up another. The truly confident have no need for that. They are secure in themselves and what they are. The aluminum siding salesman was confident. He never tried to "sell" his product, he merely waited for my father to make up his mind.

It took a couple decades after those events
for me to understand confidence

When I was a young person, I thought older people knew everything and that once I became older, I would know everything as well. When I was a teenager, I thought girls were magical creatures who had everything they wanted and were powerful entities that I was barely good enough to talk to. As a young adult, I decided some women were in my league while others were goddesses that no mere mortal man such as myself was worthy of holding court with.

Sometime later, I convinced myself that human mating rituals were absurd conventions and that love meant nothing. Finding a suitable partner was a way to avoid loneliness and enjoy some friendly intimacy on a regular basis. I had whittled it down to that, but I'm fairly certain I never believed in it.

I ended up writing a fairy tale without a happy ending.

Love has many different levels of understanding. It never means just one thing. For years I accepted a level of love that was convenient and simple. It was easier that way than to believe in any kind of magical form of love that transcended the patterns and trappings of life. The most overused and abused meaning of love, the romantic coupling between two people, was whittled down. If she was someone I could depend on, if we had common interests and enjoyed each other's company, that was all I needed. Or so I worked to convince myself. After dozens of bad relationships with women, I realized that a big part of why they went wrong was because I never really gave myself to the relationship. I never really gave myself to her. There was always a lot of holding back, mostly to make sure I never got too hurt if it didn't work out. Part of me still believed in a fairy tale, one that had already been written, and one that I thought could never be fulfilled.

Sometimes working with a net
You put yourself in even greater danger
Than working without one

Given the structures I had built in my life to try to get through it all unscathed, there is no reason for me to be surprised that I spent nearly two decades believing that the only woman I have ever truly been in love with was an impossible dream. I put her on a pedestal high above the rest of the world. In my mind I thought there was no way I could ever climb that high. In a life filled with many queens, she was the queen of queens. She never scared me, but the way I felt about her scared the hell out of me.

I remembered the aluminum siding salesman. I saw his face in my mind and heard him matching wits with my father. While my father was trying to beat him, the aluminum siding salesman was looking to score a tie. When you treat people like opponents, one of you will eventually lose. When you stand face to face, stop trying to pose, and become honest with each other, you create something rather than destroying something.

"What if after all these years...
I turn out to be a disappointment to you?"

Imagine you have been afraid of your heart's true desire for ten years because you consigned yourself to believing it would only fail. You reconstruct yourself and finally believe that you are worthy and capable. When you come clean with what you think and feel, she runs. She disappears for another decade and when you finally find her again, she confesses that the reason she ran was because she was afraid she would disappoint you and that you would reject her. Then you realize you've been spending a great deal of time these past years trying to help people deal with their self-confidence issues.

You are no longer selling aluminum siding.
You've built a new house.


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