You spend some time with a person. You go out for a drink, you go to a ballgame, you get matching tattoos, you buy a timeshare in Vegas, you suck at the same giant blue margarita from the same giant pink straw, you howl at the moon and dance 'til dawn and have three unruly kids and regret only one of them.
You take that person to dinner, loan him or her a copy of "Jitterbug Perfume," you hang out after work, you talk about the thrum and pulse of time, sex, dim sum, the universe. It doesn't really matter.
What matters is what comes next. You exit said person's company and you go home, sit down, take a breath, gaze inward and check the gauges. You ask yourself: How do I feel?
Are you energized or depleted? Drained and bleary or a little bit amped and pulsing in the core, ready for more? If you are more tired, you have been poisoned. If you are energized, you have been nourished. Simple, no?
This is the test. This is how you know. This is how you can tell if someone is toxic or replenishing to you and your life, and it's failsafe, bulletproof and you should hereby use it the rest of your life.
This is also the test I just discovered -- and paraphrased more or less verbatim -- via one Milton Glaser, who is a famous graphic designer, by way of a talk he gave in London about 10 years ago, in which he cites Fritz Perls, who is a famous gestalt therapist and who was probably citing something/someone else. Glaser mentions this fine test in his talk called "Ten Things I Have Learned," which is a great read all the way through, and when you are done here I highly suggest you go read the rest because, well, what the hell else are you gonna do -- work?
Is it not some form of perfect magic, this test? Is it not some lucid insight so simple and profound that it cannot possibly be true because, well, we have a hard time believing things can be true if they're so simple and profound?
Doesn't matter. It's easily one of the most invaluable tests on earth, and yet one we overlook or ignore freely, thoughtlessly, to our detriment, every single day. Is someone toxic or nourishing? Is someone good for you or sort of not? How do you know? And what the hell do you do about it when you find out? Do you marry them? Eat them alive? Scream and run like they were a new Adam Sandler movie and you had a shred of taste and nuanced intelligence? Well, yes.
Maybe it's not so simple in practice. For one thing, most people, it appears, are not at all attuned to the tone or quality of their inner energy states. They have no idea which way the needle is pointing -- or if they do, they have no idea why.
This is because the world is loud, chaotic and distracting as a porn star bumble bee car crash on Neptune, and we love nothing more than to let ourselves get caught up in all manner of shiny mental B.S so we don't have to try and figure out anything way down deep, where the meanings are.
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently requested that you get over here and touch me now, that you also please help protect the conjugal sex fruit, and that you seem to enjoy always walking in circles. Join him on Facebook, or email him.