Last week one of my nieces and her boyfriend came to visit me and we had some nice conversations, of which one extended to general things about life and love. And I remembered I had an old writing that was not published, as at that time the 'involved parties' could very well recognize themselves and it was kind-of-private thinking. Now, after some years, we are all older and wiser, so I shared this on my Romanian blog. And, as it was not so long, I decided to do a first trial on translating one of the Romanian writings for English readers. I do not guarantee the similitude with original writing (nor the coherence of this one), but… here it goes!
If you like it, maybe I start translating others also.
Some thoughts about LOVE – (initially designed on September 15th, 2003)
I dedicate this one to my oldest admirer – may he have a happy life, wherever it takes him!
Motto: infatuation is when you think he's as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Conners. Love is when you realize that he's as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger and nothing like Robert Redford - but you'll take him anyway. Judith Viorst, Redbook, 1975
I believe we can never really get inside somebody else’s shoes. We can only imagine ourselves in their place and believe that we feel the same way as they do. But in reality we would just feel the same way as WE feel, under similar situations to the ones in which they find themselves.
I did not understand for a long time (and did not even attempt to) how a man who is deeply in love with me feels, knowing that I do not love him back and will never do. Not until the day I felt the same myself - about another man, who could not respond to my feelings. Starting with the day when I recognized this feeling, I could just sense the pain of my admirer, as it was mixed with his love, every time I was sitting near to him. And then I started to feel a growing tenderness towards him; or perhaps toward me, just as I was seeing myself through his eyes, comfortably settled deep inside his soul. Then after a while, I started to believe that this feeling of tenderness and comfort could make place to something deeper and more mature – a feeling of peace, relaxation and security, a firm believe that next to him I could be just as comfortable as I was with my own self. That we could melt together into one being, so dear to me as it was selfish – essentially WE could become… ME!
It did not happen, most probably because it would have been a big mistake. And a lot of people miss similar opportunities, with the excuse that ‘it is not love’ – right?
But then I wonder – who am I to decide which one of the multitude of feelings that find shelter inside my heart is LOVE? I would rather say inside my body, because I have no idea when and why was the heart designated as the only one responsible for our feelings. The heart is the one that hurts when something goes wrong and breaks down when we take too much upon ourselves. But we feel with our entire bodies. Purely from physical point of view, the heart is a meeting point – through the blood stream it looks like it collects everything that is sent by each and every part of our body, while sensations are actually processed inside the brain. But the feeling receptors are distributed all over our body, even if the sensations have variable intensity. However, in this world of chaotic sensations, some wise people a long time ago decided it is better to attribute responsibilities, then over-simplified something that nobody could understand or explain. Perhaps because of its central role in the blood-management (essential for life – however just as essential as breathing and eating) or maybe because of a simple and conventional voting process, the heart got designated as responsible for our feelings.
I come back now to the question, to which I am not sure I will ever want to find an ultimate answer: who am I to decide, from the multitude of feelings with which I go to sleep at night and gracefully wake up the next morning, which one of that is actually LOVE?
I use to call love that strange cumulative sensation that comes from something that resembles a punch in the stomach, doubled by a weight on my chest and some air inside my brain; sometimes strange whistling sounds inside my ears add up, as well as a wide range of other physiological symptoms. All are a nuisance whenever they come individually, but result in such a nice sensation when they join forces in the first days of falling in love. I would add to this a basic delay in thinking and reacting to other external factors than the ones connected with and/or coming from the subject of your affection – you get my drift, those symptoms that usually signal either retard or temporary insanity in mature subjects.
I especially love these two phrases from Mignon McLaughlin (The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960):
The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.
We choose those we like; with those we love, we have no say in the matter.
Still, I do not expect the same perception about love all around the world. The description above is the one praised in movies and romance books, however in normal life a lot of people live more or less happily, more or less ever after, while based on different understanding of love. One of the possible explanations for contemporary large rate of divorce and number of marriages throughout one’s life also lies in the misunderstanding about the very purpose of marriage, family and commitment. It is strange to believe that love would last forever as described above (for God’s sake, we would die of heart attacks at the age of 32 if we lived every day like that with our spouses!), but it should grow through a more mature understanding and move from heart to head and backwards every second year or so.
And so it is possible that someone calls love that sensation of comfort and happiness that they get living next to a person that complements their personality, admires and accepts them for who they are, and wishes to live with them forever without interfering with their own self – feeling which I called ‘tenderness’ before. Perhaps another one calls love the feeling of possession, power and control over the subject (more likely ‘object’) of his / her affections; while the partner calls love the feeling of security and belonging that they get next to this powerful person. And there are so many other feelings that mean different things to different people in different context, that may be regarded as (or grow into) LOVE. I can open a long list, on which anybody can add: chemistry / phisical attraction, admiration, respect, worship, suitability, belonging, gratitude, need, commitment, parenthood, honor, and so on. Perhaps love starts with one of them and then gradually passes through others, at different stages during a common life. I do believe that mature love reunites a lot of those feelings and adds on the initial base every year.
And so … I stop here, as I can only imagine one way out of this thinking spiral. I do not believe it makes any sense to wait for various feelings to pass through my heart (alternatively, successively or concomitantly), weight them against each other and then decide which one is (or was) LOVE. I would rather just live with them, and experience the joy or sadness associated with each of them, while being happy that the place is not empty. And to be thankful for their existence in my own way, and make a promise: that the most important of those feelings will stay with me forever and will enjoy a perfectly neutral name: MY LIFE.
Enjoy yours to the fullest!