Feel First

I was once sitting in a hotel bar with some co-workers having a post shift cool-down. I noticed a woman sitting across the bar by herself. She was dressed strangely alluringly, and she kept looking up from her drink as if she was looking for someone. Not expecting someone, but looking for someone. Eventually her eyes landed on me and I understood that she was a prostitute and that I was being sized up as a potential client. This is a look not unlike you would receive from a vendor in a mall kiosk to determine if you might want a hair de-curler or foot salt, only more predatory. Once she had concluded I was not a possible customer and her attention wandered elsewhere, I nudged one of my coworkers and told her about the prostitute because I guess I was just that unworldly that I had to tell somebody.

“So?” said my friend. “Maybe you should take her up on it?”

“One, I’m married; and two—no.  It would be awful.”

“Why?  It’s just sex?  Why would it be so awful?”

I can’t remember what I said at the time, but it was unconvincing; I ended up sounding vaguely like a televangelist. I’m sure my friend pitied my wife for having married such an uptight rube. It was not until recently that I understood why it would have been such a bad idea for me, whether I was married or not.

If I had hired the woman, I would have done so for one of two reasons: either because I believed I was not worthy enough for a woman to be with me unless I paid her; or because I wanted to pay her, because I felt women had too much control over the mating dance and this was my only way of gaining control back. Or some other reason, but these will do. The point is, in order to go through with the act I would have to believe one of these unhappy stories. In fact, I would have to maintain the story and the feelings it engendered from proposition to payment or else I would lose the desire because the desire was based upon the feeling of the story.

In other words, I would have to consciously make myself feel bad in order to do it. Sometimes it seems as though we already feel bad and so we act from this bad feeling and there we are with a table full of coke or a hotel prostitute. But in truth, we maintain the story all along the way. If we did not keep telling the story, we would lose the energy for whatever we were doing.

Which is why one of my rules of writing is: feel first, write second. But feel what you want first, and then find the story to fit it. You can tell yourself any story you want, just as you can choose any book in a bookstore. You might as well pick the one that makes you happiest.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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