It ain’t just a song …

Anticipation can be best explained as the act of looking forward to something, especially something that can be perceived as pleasurable.  Two things come to mind when I hear this word:

1) Carly Simon’s song, “Anticipation”

2) the quote, “Anticipation of death is worse than death itself.”

The first is obviously more famous.  It is fairly widely known that Simon wrote this song in the ’70s while waiting to go on a date with Cat Stevens, an English singer-songwriter who converted to Islam and now is known as Yusuf Islam.  The song was then used in a brilliant Heinz ketchup commercial.

The second was a quote that I read in the 1990 movie, “Hard to Kill” starring one of my idols, Steven Seagal.  In it, Seagal’s character scribbles the quote on a toilet seat in the home of man he is about to kill.  It is a great quote, but it is not the original quote.

No, the original thought came from the brilliant mind of Publilius Syrus, a one-time Italian slave who was so witty and wise, he was freed by his master and educated.  He has unleased from his mind a litany of maxims*, one of which is Maxim 511: “The fear of death is more to be dreaded than death itself.”

* Lest anyone not know, a maxim is a wise saying, especially one intended to advise or recommend a course of conduct.  It stresses the succinct formulation of an ultimate truth, a fundamental principle, or a rule of conduct. The word derives from the Latin word maximus, “greatest”, via an expression maxima propositio, “greatest premise”.  Incidentally, another of Syrus’ most well-known maxims is “Saxum volutum non obducitur musco”, which can be translated to “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

Getting back to Carly Simon’s song.  I find that we most anticipate the things that we think will make us happy, and these things tend to be romance related.  This is unfortunate, and not 100% of the time (people anticipate work, sports, I anticipate TV shows, etc.), but for the sake of argument, let’s focus on romance and relationships.

One of those moments in time when anticipation is highest for me is that moment my phone vibrates and has yet to display the caller ID.  I have yet to experience a greater sense of hope/excitement/fear/heart-stopping than that fraction of second when I hope and pray that it’s the person I’m waiting to hear from.  It’s every emotion all rolled into one split-second.

And I hate it.

The thing is, I know that if the end result is the desired one, I would absolutely LOVE that same second.  But when the call/text is from someone that ISN’T the one you’re waiting for, it’s such an intense disappointment.  For some, that disappointment is endless.  For others, it is short-lived.  For me, it is perpetual.  I am forever destined to live in that perpetual state of anticipation/disappointment, which helps me when writing these posts, but otherwise, it kinda sucks.

Relationships in general are a lot of work.  Many say that they’re worth it, but the more I see, the more I think that they’re not.  People get together for a number of reasons, but very few stay together forever.  Only 40% of marriages end with the death of a spouse; 60% end in divorce.  Think about that for a moment* – more than half of all marriages will fail in their attempt to last “until death do us part.”  Would you fly on a plane if there was a greater than 50% chance of crashing?  Hell, would you do anything (save for flipping a coin) where there was a greater than 50% chance of failing?  Except for you degenerate gamblers, most people would say no.  So why do we do it?

* Many people believe a “moment” to be a measure of time that is less than a second, and this is mostly due to a line from Cornelius in the play “Hello Dolly”.  Actually, a moment is a medieval unit of time lasting 1/40 of an hour, or 90 seconds.  So a true “moment” is 1.5 minutes.

I think we like the punishment.  No, I’m only kidding … a little.  I think we enjoy the comfort that comes with being in a monogamous relationship.  You never need to find a dinner date, never need to worry when an invitation has a “+1” on it, always have someone to talk about TV shows with, and always have that partner with whom to play board games with.  And of course, you never need to go looking for sex.  (I recognize that that is common in the beginning of relationships, and tends to disappear as the time passes.)  But other than that comfort, do we really think we can spend a lifetime with the same person each and every day?  Newlywed couples will disagree with me, but I think most of you that have been in long-term relationships will agree.  People get boring.  The jokes get stale.  The sex gets monotonous.  You know the old English proverb, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”?  That’s why people stray and cheat – we think things are better, but they’re not.  They’re just different.  The difference is what we desire.

I see relationships begin and end every day.  It amazes me when I see people so distraught when one ends.  I’m not being mean, I know the pain of someone saying they no longer want you in their life.  I’m just amazed because the probability of the relationship you’re in right now lasting forever is lower than that of it failing.  Chances are, the longer you’re with one person, the greater chance you have of the relationship ending badly.  You just become frustrated with the monotony, the same old stories, the same drama, the same bullshit, day in and day out.

Facebook allows us to see inside many relationships.  Your relationship status is public, and so many people are so starved for attention that they post all of their drama for the world to see and comment on.  But realistically, all we do is get aggravated with those statuses.  Call me cynical … I say I’m realistic.  Chances are, the relationship will end and you will be with someone else in the future.  Don’t fret, just move on.

But what do I know? I’m sure I’d be just as happy if I got a phone call/text from that special someone.  Then, all that anticipation would be rewarded.

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One Response to It ain’t just a song …

  1. You make some valid points. But I would also add to that that the reason the divorce rate has skyrocketed is because there is no true committment anymore. People used to stay together till death because their religion essentially “forbade” divorce (not that I believe in being chained to that, but that’s another discussion) – and because of social taboos, staying together for the kids, etc. etc. etc. Nowadays, everyone cheats, everyone divorces, everyone remarries two or three or four times, and it’s no big deal. But the concept of family is eroding. Relationships naturally ebb and flow. It’s true they can become routine and even boring – IF neither person adapts and grows and changes over time. I’ve been married just three years (anniversary tomorrow, actually) but my husband and I have been together for almost 11. We’re different people than we were three years ago, and certainly from 10 years ago. We each maintain our own interests and have hobbies of our own. We also have things we share together but we mix those things up on occasion. Same with intimacy – couples need to change things up. But without effort, love dies. Of course, sometimes things just aren’t right and there is nothing you can do about it. And of course sometimes there is abuse, etc. that would be reason to get out of the relationship. But boredom, in and of itself, is no reason to think that no long-term relationship can work. It takes committment, communication, shared values, spontaneity and counseling before you call it quits. Just my two cents…

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