If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return. – Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
I grew up with a very naive view of life and relationships. My parents had the best intentions and they were both upstanding people with good values. However, I will also admit that they over-imparted their philosophies on their children, to a fault. Morality was so deeply embedded in our upbringing that it often gave little room for anything else; there was seldom a gray area. While most of their convictions were well-intentioned and steered me in a positive direction, they lacked empathy when it came to humanistic relationships, most specifically love.
I was often taught to see the world in black and white. Perhaps the most damaging of these however, was the belief that we were all destined to meet our soulmate. Though I neither refute nor accept the idea, the way this belief was delivered to me had me convinced for the majority of my life that love was clear-cut and predetermined.
I grew up fully believing that the love of my life would one day materialize in front of me and I would just know. It would be straight forward, easy and guaranteed. This ideology distorted my perception since I was a child, and ultimately set me up for failure when it came to relationships and men in general.
For the better part of my teenage years into adulthood, I often found myself infatuated with different men and each time, I was convinced that the butterflies meant that we were destined to be together, that it was love, that if he could only just see… This manifested itself over and over again until my late twenties, despite each failed unrequited attempt. The heartbreaks were unbearable, because why didn’t things work out if I felt so much “love” for someone? I truly believed that just because I felt these intense feelings, it must have been mutual, they must have been the one meant for me.
These past heartbreaks gradually showed me what I wished my parents would have told me: love is not just a thing. Love is an action that exists between two people, not just one. It is not love if it is one-sided, and love is not butterflies and daydreams. Love is not forced or guaranteed, but a privilege. It is not handed to us on a silver platter, it requires work and attention; it ebbs and flows. It is living and breathing, and it feeds off of how we treat our partner. The little things we do and say to each other, the respect we hold for one another, the choices that we make daily to continue investing in the relationship–these are the sustenance love needs to survive and thrive.
There comes a point where you stop crying, not because it hurts less, but because it has become exhausting. The thought of shedding tears makes you feel physically tired and know that it doesn’t change a damn thing. There comes a point of no return, when it is easier to keep walking than to turn around and remember the devastation.
We are here now because choices were made, things were said, and they cannot be taken back. In fact, these decisions and words have overrun my mind, and it becomes increasingly difficult for me to remember why I was so heartbroken. There comes a point where I cannot subject myself to feeling miserable anymore.
I keep walking, and the further away I get, the harder it is to come back. I don’t believe there is any turning back, even though the pain is still tender. I’ve decided to bury that pain into the depths of the past, so that every time it tries to surface, I redirect.
This is the way life goes, and I was foolish to believe things would have turned out any differently. I was foolish to believe in positive outcomes, that for once in my life, I could have it all. Even in the thick of happiness, I was unable to fully experience it or accept it because it all felt like a dream, too good to be reality.
There is a blurry line between being emotionally cautious, and acting unscrupulously. People can easily use one to justify the other, to validate decisions that disguise self-serving intent. I see this wavering separation in the public desensitization of terrorism, and catastrophe which I too am guilty of. An abundance of trauma, pain, and loss easily leads to apathy.
I suspect that the greatest lesson life tries to teach me is to learn how to protect my heart, to stop feeling deeply, to hide my cards, to sympathize less, to put my well-being before others’. I know this because whenever I let my guard down, things come crashing into a heap at my feet, over, and over, and over again. I suspect that life wants to push me towards the side of indifference, and to understand that when you wear your heart on your sleeve, it will catch on fire each and every time. And I will burn so many times that I will become indifferent to the pain, whether in feeling it or inflicting it.
But to this, I say never. The capacity to love, and love in spite of our fears and anxieties has become more rare in this day and age. Love inspires us to be better people, to be selfless, patient, forgiving and understanding.
Why would I ever want to become numb to that?