My first instinct, which is that my first instinct can not be trusted, is usually wrong. This often puts me in any number of conundra.
The paragraph immediately above gives a clear example: My typing fingers wanted to write “conundrum,” then wanted the plural form. But what is the plural of conundrum? My all-too clever brain thought: “conundra. That’s funny. It’ll get a smile from someone.” The someone who smiled was me, which was enough to make it so, and I typed “conundra” for “conundrums.” But I go look it up and learn—thanks, World of Information!—that since conundrum does not come from a Latin root, but sounds like it might have, the proper plural is “conundrums.” Further, the word “conundra” has existed for a long, long while as a humorous, mock-educated plural form for plural problems. “Mock-educated.” That’s me, so it remains “conundra.”
But if that agonized convolution of almost-thought is a real tracing of how I decide most things—and it is!—it is a wonder that I find enough food each day to survive.
Thus I need help deciding things more often than not, but have made a life’s habit of refusing help or of going in the opposite direction.
The one best example of going against my first instinct of ignoring my first instinct came when I first met my girlfriend, my partner, my love. (All one person.) The very moment I saw her, a thought crossed my mind (always a dangerous thing) just on other side of being articulate; words were not there, but the thought, if it can be captured, was: “She is going to be important to me.” Not possessing foresight, I did not know what that might mean (the joy is that I am still learning)—I needed five bucks that night, and maybe she was going to lend it to me. Or maybe she was going to join me for this ride we have been on for these last few years.
Knowing myself all-too not very well, I knew that I should not reach out to her, not try to get to know her, ask her out on a date or 300. My pre-instinct said, “You want to know her.” My first instinct replied (of course, my first instinct feels like a reply already): “No you don’t. Fear rejection. Fear acceptance. We don’t have any food in the fridge.”
I did something I have no history doing and asked friends. “I think I like our new friend.” (My questions end with periods instead of question marks.)
“I think I’m going to ask her out.” (Now, this was the challenge: One of the first sentences we had heard from her was that she was beginning a year-long moratorium on dating, starting that week. Easy excuse for me to throw in a towel that I did not even know the color of.)
“You haven’t yet? I thought you had.” That semi-clinched it: My friends knew me less well than I thought they did. That was enough second opinion for me.
My first instinct, to always doubt my first instinct, led me to do the opposite of what I was telling myself to do and ask her on a date. I ignored my instinct to ignore my instinct and trust that someone special was in front of me. At the time: I was unemployed; had not yet had necessary eye surgery, so my glasses were unbelievably thick and unattractive; had not yet been diagnosed, so I was not collecting my Social Security. Thus my life situation was that special kind which does not include income. So my asking her out on a date at all was audacious, and I am not an audacious human.
For once I was, and it made all the difference. I am grateful for her inspiring this audacious behavior from me, and happy she was just as audacious in return.
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Some of this first appeared in August 2014.
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