Monthly Archives: November 2009
I think I’ve forgotten how to fall in love. When I was a kid, I took Judo lessons where they taught us to fall correctly so that we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. Tossing and throwing were a part of Judo and hence also being tossed and falling. I learnt to yank a guy forward and in a smooth maneuver lay him flat on the ground. I got used to finding the ground beneath my feet not there anymore and instinctively rolling over to flatten out into a soft landing. How come no one ever told us about falling in love safely? Yes, I am a cynic but we are what our experiences make us. It is a fact that I’ve never experienced love in any way other than dark, tearful, volatile and even violent. Each time you fall and collect bruises, each of those times makes you a little more scared to fall again. Maybe love should be like Judo. After all, I took lessons when I was 12 and had fallen often and collected my fair share of bumps and scratches. Unlearning the fear of falling was all about taking one tumble that didn’t hurt. Surprise. Relief. Clarity. And freedom from fear. It would be great to be shown how to fall in love in a way that guarantees there will be no hurt. Even if trust takes a while to come, if that one time can really happen, it will prove that such a love can happen, has already happened. But ah, we are faced with a curious problem now. Not only do I not know how to stop being afraid, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to fall in love. Age, experience and okay, let’s say it together, cynicism have brought in a certain burnt-outness. There isn’t the capacity for butterflies in the stomach anymore. It isn’t so much about pessimism, it is about having lost all those illusions that do make romance what it is. Is it possible to fall in love without romance? Or, even more fundamentally, can romance be separated from illusion? Where is the romance in knowing that the person sitting in front of you is as clueless and guarded, if not more, than you are? When the sparks fly and with them the thought that,
“It’s just hormones. And hormones are just chemicals. A chemical reaction, that’s all.”
…romance tends to fizzle out a bit. 30 has been about a lot of freedom. Freedom from social pressures, freedom from restrictions, freedom from inhibition. The not-knowing, the straining against the limits…all of those add to the heady tension that translates into the butterflies-in-stomach feeling. So freedom from uncertainty and limits means romance isn’t on my menu anymore. It seems like I’ve learnt how to fall in a way that I won’t break too much of my heart (oh just a little dent or two). But is it really falling in love if you don’t get in all the way?
A friend asked me yesterday how I would feel if my boyfriend took off on a trip with my best friend. I thought for a bit and said,
I trust my best friend implicitly so I think I’d feel a lot safer if my boyfriend went with her rather than with some other woman.
The question however opens up a plethora of other questions. How much should one trust one’s partner? How far to go before one meanders into naivete? How much to hold back before transgressing into paranoia?
Some years back I was seeing a guy who used to travel often on work, to Bangkok. On one of those trips, I received the following message from him:
I’m sitting in a café and being served by a pretty waitress in a very short dress. She’s been giving me the once over more than once. What should I do?
My reply was,
Commitment isn’t a piece of paper or spoken words. It is a state of mind. Do what you please.
I didn’t ask what he finally did and he didn’t tell me. A few weeks later, he cheated on me with someone who called herself my friend. It was a soul-tearing experience. Other than the obvious low self-esteem and the humiliation, I was plagued by doubts about my own trusting nature. Should I have controlled the reins a little more? Should I have been more watchful of him? Should I have trusted him less? This was not the only time my trust had been laid waste after all.
And yet, despite all of the above, after all the crying is over, I find myself coming right back to the same thought. If I’m in a relationship with someone, I have to, I absolutely must respect that person as a responsible adult, as someone with a mind and conscience of their own and trust that they will do the right thing, by themselves and by me.
Every occasion of thwarted trust seems to imply that this is foolishness, rose-tinted naivete at best. And yet, I know I couldn’t stand to be with someone who didn’t treat me the same way; someone who didn’t want to face their insecurities but thrust them on me in the form of control games, instead.
The point is not that insecurity and feelings of jealousy don’t exist. Indeed it would be unnatural to think they don’t. I think if you care for someone, you fear losing them, you worry about losing face, you are scared of being hurt. But these fears are our own, our individual responsibility to deal with and it’s criminal to dump them on the object of one’s affections.
As an afterthought, I added to my answer,
I think I would feel quite bad about the fact that my boyfriend was going off with another woman (even my best friend) but I probably wouldn’t say anything about it. I mean, if he didn’t understand that, then what was the point of telling him? It would be my problem to handle but I wouldn’t feel guilty about feeling that way. After all, wouldn’t he feel the same way if I had done the same thing?
At the end of it, all I can see is that trust is a tricky thing, a lottery ticket. You take a chance, stake your emotions and hope that they will be reciprocated, respected and cherished. If they aren’t, that’s just too bad but it’s the price of looking for a relationship. If you decide to fall in love, don’t expect a safety net, that’s all. You may fall, you may survive, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the risk.
(Image courtesy Osho Zen Tarot)