Have you ever heard of the book Good to Great? I have to be honest and say that I haven’t read it. I can’t actually tell you whether it’s a good book or not. I do know that one of the primary principles of the book is a teaching of Voltaire that ‘Good is the enemy of great,’ or that when we settle for what is good we somehow miss out on what is great. Consider the saying ‘Shoot for the moon. If you miss, at least you’ll hit the stars.’ Honestly, American culture is generally replete with sayings like this. We believe that everything can be the best all the time. We generally ignore the fact that missing the moon generally leaves you floating dead in empty space, not frolicking among the stars.
Something that I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately is the idea of that which is good enough. We often connect ‘good enough’ with ‘mediocre’, ‘lazy’, or ‘really not good enough.’ However, I think this is a profound mistake. We have this idea that something has to be the best in order to be good enough. However, this isn’t (in fact it can’t be) true. Something that I drill into my martial arts students is that they will never be the best. There is always someone better: someone stronger, faster, more skilled, more experienced, luckier, etc.
This actually reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Three Idiots. This movie actually does a great job of illustrating what ‘good enough’ looks like. One of the themes of the movie is ‘pursue excellence and success will follow.’ This doesn’t mean that if you aim at being the best, you will be. It means that if you aim at being your best, you can be satisfied with it. Being the best and doing my best are two completely different things. When I do my best I generally hit ‘good enough’, and I can be satisfied with the result. When I focus on being the best, I generally fail miserably and don’t even reach ‘good enough’. This is important because when I say ‘good enough’, what I actually mean is good enough, or enough to be considered good, enough that I can be satisfied that I’ve done the best I can.
This is especially important when it comes to my relationship with Alayna. I’ve found that there are two significant struggles in which understanding this difference is key: appearance and romance. We live in a nation that is steeped in false notions of both. Between movies, super-models, and pornography, Americans have a garbage dump full of ideas about what their significant other is supposed to look like, act like, be like, and what they themselves are supposed to feel, want, desire.
I’d like to tackle these in order: appearance first. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Alayna is, objectively speaking, the most beautiful woman to ever walk the planet. She is a very attractive woman (I actually told her she could be a porn star once… …that did not go over well at all…), but there are women who better fit the American model of beauty. Of course, the American model of beauty is rather insane in the first place. Consider that not even super-models actually look like super-models. Watch this video if you don’t believe me. So, what I’m saying is that it is important for men to be satisfied with a woman who doesn’t look like ‘the ideal’ or even like ‘that other lady.’ Alayna is beautiful, not just because she looks good normally, but because she 1) tries to look good, and 2) tries to look good specifically for me. My point here is that Alayna’s appearance isn’t ‘the best in the world’, but that she makes the effort to look the best that she can, and that she her looks are easily good enough. She can be satisfied in her appearance, and I should be satisfied in her appearance. If I’m not, it’s my fault, not hers.
Further, pornography itself is incredibly destructive to the American view of what a woman should look and act like. It leads us to objectify women (problem one) seeing them as collections of parts that either meet or don’t meet standard, rather than as people who are worthy of love and respect. Further, extreme overuse of pornography can lead to an assortment of erectile related medical problems that no guy actually wants to deal with. Most destructively, pornography teaches us to expect things that, were we thinking rationally, we would never expect.
Amazingly enough, I’ve never opened the door to find a busty blond naked on my doorstep and ready to go. I’m not going to say that it’s completely inconceivable that this could ever happen… just that it doesn’t. Women generally don’t act like this, and generally don’t look like what we see in movies. The thing is… that’s a good thing. Heck, I don’t want Alayna showing up naked on some other guy’s doorstep. Nor do I want her to look like someone who isn’t real… or someone who couldn’t actually stand up straight (honestly… imagine the back problems some of these poor women have). Models and porn-stars often have to trade actual health for an ‘ideal’ appearance. Honestly, I’d rather Alayna be around to take care of me when I’m eighty than look like some movie vixen now. This doesn’t even begin to go into the addiction problems, the feelings of betrayal and unworthiness, etc. that use of pornography can create. However, while I am away of the damage that pornography does to relationships both before and during the relationship. It actually hasn’t been the most significant problem that I’ve had to overcome in my relationship with Alayna.
Since the start of our relationship it’s been the American culture of romance that has been the source of my most pernicious struggles. As Alayna said last week I’ve never been obsessed with her. I’ve never chased her through an airport, nor have I pined after her, and I struggle with feeling like I should. I struggle with fear born out of the fact that I don’t feel overwhelming passion that blinds me to all of her flaws and makes my heart sob with grief when I’ve been away from her for five minutes. I struggle with the fact that nothing about her makes me feel like I’m falling through space or have completely lost control. I’m afraid that this absence means that she’s ‘not the one’: which is a total pile of horse hockey because I don’t even believe in ‘the one.’ This is not to say that I believe that I could be ‘as happy’ with anyone else, or that Alayna won’t make me happy. What I mean is that I don’t believe that there is one and only one woman in all the universe who I was fated to be with, and that if Alayna isn’t that woman that my life will be miserable. I believe that I could be happy as a single man. I also believe that I could make a relationship with someone else work, and I believe if (God forbid) Alayna dies young I probably will eventually be able to move on and find someone else. I also believe that I have chosen to tie my life to hers, and that we can be happy together regardless of anything else. All of this to say: I chose Alayna. I decided that I wanted to tie my life to hers in particular. I didn’t do this because I thought that no one else would have me, or that there was no other possible choice. I did this because I decided that she was the person that I wanted more than anyone else.
Still, that fear remains. It remains because culture inundates us with this kind of uber-romantic gibberish that leads us to believe that ‘real love’ is about immediate passion, uncontrolled feeling, and the rejection of all that is rational, rather than about consistency, willingness to work on yourself, and willingness to love a broken person who needs to work on him/herself as well.
For years I’ve preached against this same kind of uber-romanticism, and yet I find myself falling into it. I’m afraid that I don’t love her enough. That I’m going to let her down, hurt her, ruin her life… you get the picture. Ultimately, I’m afraid that this is going to be a real relationship that takes work, effort, patience, and forgiveness; not a fantasy relationship where I get to be the hero, she always adores me, we burn with passion, and never disagree. You can ask her, I’ve struggled to move past these fears, and the expectations that engender them, from the very beginning. I like to think that I’m succeeding, but the fact that I’m not madly obsessed with my fiancée still scares me sometimes.
All that being said, someone asked me on Wednesday how I knew that Alayna was the woman I wanted to marry. The answer was easy: the easy things can be hard, but the hard things are always easy. Alayna and I will fight tooth and nail over the what the bible says about divorce or whether Drago and Danni’s relationship was, in the beginning, non-consensual (i.e. repeated rape) or consensual but still painful and unwanted. However, when it comes to making big decisions (like whether I’m going to move up to where her new job is so that we can get married; or whether to get up early and drive 2.5 hours just to go to a doctor’s appointment with her, and then drive 2.5 hours back to make it to my class on time), the answer is just obvious. Sometimes I really struggle to say the things that Alayna wants to hear, mostly because I’m afraid that they might not be true and I might hurt her by building up false expectations. Actually, not too long ago, Alayna asked me who I loved more than anyone else in the world. I stopped. I was thinking, ‘I love God more than anyone else, and I love my family, there are many friends that I love… oh my goodness, what if I don’t actually love her enough?! I can’t say what she wants me to say! What do I do? What do I do?!’ (… …I don’t overthink things… what are you talking about…) I did finally calm down, and with some help from Alayna I finally stopped over-thinking and was able to tell her what she wanted to hear. On top of that, Alayna is the person that I want to tie my life to. I do love God more than her, and He is my first priority. However, if I had to choose between friends and family or her, I would choose her. Thankfully she isn’t going to ask me to make this choice, but it is the choice that I would make.
When it comes to doing things to express my love for her, I tend to do much better. Honestly, there aren’t many things that I wouldn’t do. I won’t lie for her to cover up something she’s done wrong. I wouldn’t kill someone just because she didn’t like him/her (though there have been a few times when someone actually hurt her that I’ve considered it). But if I can do something to make her happy that isn’t flat out wrong, even if it’s hard… well, that’s just an easy decision to make.