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Few things ignite us like the fire that encompasses a new love interest.
The knots in our stomach, the mental preoccupation that sends us into a tailspin of obsession, and the rapture of that first intimate encounter draws us in like moths to a flame.
Suddenly, the people around us appear to emit a radiant glow and the moon and stars seem almost palpable. We want to fly on the wings of a bird and land on cloud nine, where from our eye view, the earth below us blossoms like an immutable spring.
Of course, I am no stranger to this great rapid. I too have stood underneath it, captive to its heavy, rapid rush. In fact, I would argue that I am in love with love itself, for all the feelings I’ve just described that it so deeply evokes.
On the other hand, however, after I’ve endured a heart-wrenching experience or two, I have also asked myself the following question from a perhaps more justifiably objective standpoint: does that love have to be sustained in order to be meaningful and impactful?
Most, if not all of us, have grown up with the idea that love and ownership are exclusive. From the time we are old enough to count and to reason, we believe that if we “love” someone or something, that object or person belongs to us—under almost no other more logical rationale than simply because we desire or have otherwise become attached to that particular individual or thing in question.
I’ll admit that I too have struggled to come to grips with the impalpable truth behind this notion and still am, to this day, catching myself entertaining possessive thoughts every now and again that I know are not worth their weight in gold.
Now whenever those thoughts resurface, I repeat one verb over and over, like a mantra: surrender. Surrender. Surrender. Surrender. As I say this, I visualize myself atop a mountain looking outward, taking in the vast landscape before me.
What exactly is so powerful about that one single word? Everything.
To surrender in love is to be grounded in the awareness that nothing about our own or the other person’s capacity to sustain their romantic attraction is ultimately within our control and that whatever does or does not sprout from that bond does not hold much water either way in the grander scheme.
We have been programmed to equate the label or brand of commitment with the quality of the relationship itself. However, we blissfully forget that even today—and perhaps especially during the pandemic—around half of all marriages end in divorce and another fair chunk of them may be on life support, functioning on only a 15 percent or less battery, yet stitched together by a house, individual or mutual debt, children, or even a joint business.
Of course, many of these same couples filter their frowns on social media, co-creating an illusion of contentment through updates and photos which only expose their highlight reels. These are the same kinds of people I used to envy in slumps of self-pity, wondering why love has never seemed to work out for me long term.
Few, if any, know what truly happens off-camera or behind closed doors, and no one can dissect that appearance and take a microscopic glance at what is truly in their hearts.
I used to feel slightly defensive when married couples offered me their “two cents” on love and commitment, wondering whether they were standing on a pulpit looking down on me because I am divorced. I did—and still do not—want to be seen as some wayward soul, simply because I haven’t had as much longevity in my connections with others. Depending on the person and their tone of interaction with me, I’d wonder whether that is how they truly perceived me due to my own circumstances.
In truth, I’ve come to realize that no matter what someone’s relationship status may be, no one holds a monopoly on the elusive understanding of what love is and how it is meant to impact us.
After my third heartbreak, I slowly became aware that not only did I shatter, but that, in a sense, I also broke open. No longer did I feel for others that same level of intensity, which at first, only seemed to repel me from them. I wanted to feel that zeal, that overriding and unquestionable passionate devotion and adoration once again, perhaps in part to numb myself from the pain I felt over not being chosen by the person I really wanted.
However, as trite as it may seem, I also experienced one of the most profound awakenings I ever have in my life, and since then, I have never quite looked at love and life through the same distorted lens. What I discovered about life and about myself through that experience has never left me and has set me on a trajectory toward self-love and further self-discovery.
That, I now realize, is the intangible permanence, a gift like no other, that long outlives anything I could ever experience in a transient material world. Best of all, no longer does my inner peace and stability depend upon the status between myself and another. I am learning to cherish the seasons and the ever-expanding love and awareness that flows through me like a river and is the only thing that knows no end.
People can spend years together without the dawn of this awareness, dependent on the brightness of an eternal summer afternoon which, of course, cannot be sustained as autumn approaches. People can also spend years with the same person, in near obsolete darkness, blind to the face behind the mask.
Quantity of time is not exclusive with the quality of that time, but in our all-too-often misguided society, we often see these things as one the same.
I’ve known and heard of couples who have spent years bonding over specific three-dimensional aspects of their lives that supply them with a feeling of oneness with each other—as they measure it—and conveniently sweep incongruencies under the rug, only to one day wake up and realize that perhaps they “weren’t right for each other all along.”
Furthermore, most people enter relationships from a feeling of lack and fail to ask themselves the same vulnerable questions they would the other person, out of an insidious yet nevertheless profound sense of desperation.
Questions a more conscious person might ask themselves might include the following:
How do I feel about them? Can I sustain this connection? Am I with this person in good faith or to compensate for something I feel I do not already have from within?
These kinds of questions seldom ripple to the surface to be explored. Instead, the questions become:
Can they love me? Am I enough for them? Do they have their best intentions toward me?
We ravel ourselves in the moment, throwing our integrity on to the floor like yesterday’s dirty clothes and fail to see ourselves in all of our naked truth, which only later on gets mirrored to us in some manner or another and often proves to be a rather hideous awakening.
“Love,” if it is at all to be sustained, must also be accompanied by the realization that the fire seldom lasts and that we must watch the flames flicker and burn out time and time again, with the acceptance that one day, the light of day may come upon us and reveal a face we no longer recognize as the person we fell in love with. And then what? Only time begs the question.
At the risk of seeming cynical, I think that the way we idealize and navigate our relationships in real-time is intrinsically flawed, simply because we are by nature flawed in and of ourselves. Sometimes this thought has me feeling alienated from those around me and, at times, I’ve wondered whether leaping from one “honeymoon” to the next is perhaps the best way to go.
Another part of me wonders whether, in doing so, I would bypass stability while yet another part of me rebels against that same stability, which can be a precursor to boredom and stagnation. Different experiences draw out different parts of who we are.
For right now, however, I am simply living in the present—or at least am trying to—and choosing to remain open to the gift that is love itself, to love for its own sake, and to appreciate what it stirs within me, which in turn, is a reflection first and foremost of what flows through me.
My biggest heartbreak altered and shaped my perceptions in a way few other things have, and that alone, is a gift beyond measure.
Maybe in the end, I conclude, we’re all searching for pieces of ourselves in another so that we can come face-to-face with the divine, however we conceptualize or define it, or at least, feel a part of something we perceive as so much greater than ourselves.
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