Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lost and found

February has been a really good month for me, and I thought today might be the day to try to recover some lost data. See, my laptop was stolen last month, which wouldn't have been so bad if I had been better about backing up my data-- but I haven't been.

I have an external hard drive, and I used to use it to back up my stuff. But last summer, I transferred all the backups back to my laptop so my brothers could use it to transfer files. I always meant to do another backup, but I didn't. And although I started moving my old backups back to the external hard drive, I never finished. Long story short, I lost a lot: all my dissertation work, all my BYU teaching stuff, years of photos, letters, journals, personal records, fiction writing, etc.

It's sucky, but I'm dealing. I mean, I wish I hadn't lost it, and I pray every day that a miracle would happen and I would get my laptop back. Actually, I pray that I will get my bag back, because it also had my scriptures in it, which I have had since my mission. Also a scarf and hat that my mom knitted for me for Christmas. January was a real loser month for me. But it's okay. I've rebooted my dissertation with a new topic, and it's rising like a phoenix from the ashes. Awesome!

So anyway, today I downloaded four or five free data recovery programs and went through the external hard drive with a fine-toothed comb. It was a lot of work, and it didn't go quickly, but I got some of my stuff back and that felt great. Mostly it was old pictures, but but I also got some dissertation notes and some records. So it's not like the stuff itself was super-awesome, but it just felt so sweet to get something back after all that loss.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

A final lesson

I don't want to be one of those guys who can't stop talking about his last relationship, but it's only been a month since the breakup. So I think I'm still in the window. And I do have something I've been thinking about for the last few days. So as a follow-on to my previous post, I'm going to share a fourth and final lesson that I have learned from contemplating my relationship with "Jem."

4: I regret not trying much more than not succeeding. This is true for all parts of my life. When I give something my best effort, I can always feel good about having tried, even if I fail in the end. And when I don't put in the effort, I always regret it.

Right after Jem broke up with me, I looked back for missed opportunities-- chances to save the relationship that I had blown. And I couldn't see any. But in the last week, I have seen one: the night she officially broke up with me.

It had been a week and a half since she had left my home to go back to her home, and in that time all our attempts at conversation had been brief and unpleasant. I knew that something was wrong, but I didn't know what. My dating experience told me that I was about to be dumped, but I still hoped that we might be able to last it another few days until we were both back in Boston and could sit down and really talk. But that's not what happened.

One night she called me up, and after a few curt sentences she paused. I thought to myself, she is trying to figure out how to tell me that she wants to break up, but she can't figure out how to start. So I asked her if there was something she wanted to tell me. And she said yes, and in another few sentences she broke up with me and then we hung up.

I now think that that conversation was a missed opportunity. It was a time where I failed to try. In that long pause, I could have told her what I was feeling. I could have said that in the last few weeks I had seen that she was not happy and that something was wrong in our relationship. More importantly, I could have said that I wanted to know what she was feeling and thinking, and that I wanted to make our relationship work. Instead of seizing the opportunity to try to make things work, I prompted her to break up. It was a cowardly act.

That was my last chance, I think. And at this point, I certainly don't see any chance of us getting back together. (In fact, some time in the last few days she took me off her list of Facebook friends. So I'm officially persona non grata.) I know that, and I accept that. But in that conversation, I had a chance. I don't know how she would have reacted, and maybe it would have made no difference in the end. The choice was ultimately not in my hands. But I'm sorry that in that moment, I didn't cowboy up and do everything I could to try to win back the woman I loved. Next time I am in that situation, I am not going to chicken out. I'm going to toss the dice. Lose or win, succeed or fail, I will try.

Okay, so now I'm done posting about this. Thank you, imaginary readers, for enduring a little melodrama. We now return to our normal schedule of posting about politics and comic books.



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Schroedinger's Valentine

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I might talk about my love life. As many of you, my imaginary readers, are no doubt aware, my girlfriend of four months broke up with me about three weeks ago. I would have talked about it before, but the breakup kind of messed me up. This week we sat down and talked things through, though, and I feel a lot better now.

For those of you who have not heard this story, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version. To protect her identity, I will refer to her as "Jem." And to protect my own identity, I will refer to myself as "Snake Eyes."

We started going out in September, and very quickly were seeing each other almost every day. I was hesitant at first, but then gave in and let myself be happy. We made plans to visit each other's families over break, which I had never done before, but things were going very well, so it felt like the right call. My visit to Jem's family went very well, I thought, but when she came to meet my parents she seemed very distant. On the first day we talked a little bit about some of her concerns, but that was our last real conversation. She broke up with me a week and a half after the trip, but I knew it was over the day I drove her to the airport.

What killed our relationship? This was very hard for me to understand. Personally, I was very happy-- until January, when it became apparent to me that something was wrong. But things had been wrong for a while. That became clear in this week's little post-mortem discussion. There were lots of little things that were making Jem feel unhappy, unloved, unimportant. I don't want to blame these little things, though, because none of them would have been hard to fix. In virtually every case, they would have required nothing more than a few words and maybe a slight change in (my) behavior. These were not big problems. The big problem, the one that killed the relationship, is that I didn't know about any of the little problems. That's what did us in. The longer we were dating, the more little problems were stacking up without getting fixed. One day she reached a tipping point and had to get out.

Now what? My friend Rachel Van Kirk told me years ago that it's important after a breakup to think about what you have learned from the experience, and what you still need to learn. So here are three things that I think I have learned in the past five months.

1. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I thought our relationship was super-awesome because I saw no evidence of problems. But I was wrong. There were problems-- I just wasn't seeing them. And in truth, I don't know that I was looking very hard.

2. Always look for ways to help, instead of waiting to be asked. I had heard that it sometimes takes hard work to keep a relationship healthy and happy. I thought I was willing to put in the hard work, but I always thought that meant making difficult sacrifices and compromises after problems had been identified. It had never occurred to me that I might be required to work hard to find problems to be solved. I thought I was ready to do whatever Jem wanted, but what she really wanted (I think) was to have me actively spend time and attention making our relationship better instead of passively waiting around to be told there was a problem.

3. If something is wrong, holler until you're heard. In January, I knew something was wrong between us. I tried to raise the subject delicately, but I knew it wasn't working. I guess I was afraid that if I pressed the issue too hard, Jem would get upset with me and it would damage the relationship. Boy, that was stupid. Problems usually don't solve themselves spontaneously, and relationships don't stay in stasis like Schroedinger's cat until we can find the perfect moment to really open up and see what's happening. I was right in thinking that something was wrong between us. And it was getting worse every day, every hour. So, next time, I'll be direct. If I'm not happy, I'll raise a ruckus and I won't stop until I know that I am heard.

These three lessons are all I'm sure of right now, but I suspect that there are lots of other lessons I have yet to learn. In fact, I wouldn't have reached 33 as a bachelor if I didn't have lots to learn about women and relationships.

And if any of you, my imaginary readers, have lessons you want to teach me, you're in luck. I'm in a teachable mood. So please feel free to drop me a comment.

Put me some knowledge here, man.