Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is Love Irrational, Illogical, Illusory...a Cliche?

Various ponderings, wonderings, and meandering thoughts on love.

Love is a very confusing emotion to me, romantic love that is. It's a crap shoot. We never know when it will strike, or at least we think we don't. So many times a lover says, "I wasn't looking for love, I was quite content with my life, and then he/she popped into my life, and suddenly I'm in love. My life's changed, I can't live without him/her in it."

I have a hypothesis noodling about in my brain that many who find themselves constantly falling madly in and out of love...that their love is based a lot upon fear. Fear of being alone, fear of feeling lonely, fear of never loving again, fear of never being loved, fear of feeling unfulfilled, fear of who they are, fear of the future, fear of aging, fear of death, fear of never being forgiven, fear of insecurity and instability, fear of never having sex again (ya'think I would leave sex out of the equation?), fears and more fears. So many fears we frail humans have.

Our idea of what love is changes over time. It depends on how we have loved before, of the dynamics at play in the love relationships we have experienced, on how the various love relationships ended. So many factors affect how much we are willing to open ourselves up to love again. Fears. Previous hurts and disappointments play a large role. Some immediately move on to another and another as if they can fill the place of pain by using another as a bandaid. Others close themselves up, batten down the hatches to their hearts. Those of us that do that, those of us that are afraid of love, I wonder, can we/will we continue to hold back, refuse to allow ourselves to open up completely again, to honestly, freely love someone? Is it a risk worth taking? Again, fear.

It really does depend, this allowing ourselves to love, upon the amount of self-healing that has taken place, the amount of self-protections one has placed upon one's self and being able/willing to break free from them. I really do believe that fully, honestly, loving another in a healthy way depends upon how content one is with one's self. And, how willing we are to live with and through the feelings of loss if once again we have to live through the failure of another love relationship.

We humans are social creatures, we seek out our own kind, if we don't, there are times when we are at a loss, we feel lonely. I have known several people that cannot, and are not willing to be alone. For many, loneliness plays an enormous role in their need to be in love, more so than many are willing to admit. There is being alone, and there is lonely. There is being content with ourselves, and discontent. I have my moments of discontent, of dissatisfaction, of feeling lonely, but I've never, ever felt as lonely as I did when my marriage was in the beginning and middle stages of falling apart. Here was this person in my life, a person I viewed as adding something unique and special to my life, a person that I treasured, and believed treasured me in return, a person that I thought was my partner in life, the one person I would be able to count on, my ICE, and that feeling was fading, disappearing. I can honestly say, even though there have been, and will continue to be times, when I feel lonely, days when I wish for the companionship, the touching, the intimate conversation, the lovemaking, the simple comfort of being with someone I care deeply about right then and there, during that loneliest of lonely moments, I have not felt the same type or depth of loneliness I felt during those last few years of our living together as husband and wife.

When it comes to love, loving another, and how freely we allow ourselves to risk love again, I'm unsure of it. Perhaps, it depends partly on our personality type. I am an intuitive thinker, emotional decision maker, but there is a side of me that must seek, strive for rationality. If I become overwrought with emotion, it may take me a while, but, I must eventually find a way to approach the emotion from a more logical viewpoint. At times I have described myself as a pragmatic romantic, a realistic romantic, and so on. Never have I simply stated I am a romantic. I know I am not simply anything.

We all ponder love and what it means from time to time through out our lives. Being in love. So many descriptions for that person we happen to be madly in love with at the time. She/he is my soul mate, she/he completes me, I am happiest/more content/more here when in her/his presence. I think the list could go on and on.

"Madly in love", "Love is blind", such truisms in those two phrases. When I think of my own love stories, when I recall the stories of other's love relationships, when reviewed with the distance of time, or the more objective eye of one not involved in the story, most often the love truly does appear mad, and blind.

Many times, when lovers are in the midst of new love, when that first flush of mad love is waning, they begin to feel insecure, and a word, a gesture, or lack of one, can often send them into a frenzy of doubt and despair. These lovers are lost, spiraling ever downward, ever deeper into the despair felt when one questions the love of another. Their thoughts feed and feed upon each other until some become suicidal. Within seconds though, if the right word, or the right gesture is offered up, the despairing one is back on top of the world. All despair forgotten, all doubt set aside. They become a love cliche. A friend recently was lamenting to me his distress over becoming a love cliche. Indeed he has, his words, his actions are the very essence of the impact obsessive love can have on one's life. He cannot eat, sleep, work, or stop thinking about her. His entire life has been placed on hold, literally. Nothing else is important, he cannot focus on family, friends, or career, he is truly lost at this moment in time. There is no middle ground, he is either on top of the world, or so far lost in a deep chthonic* gloom it's almost unbearable to listen to him.

This is not the first such story I have heard, nor I am sure will it be the last. I myself have at times found myself in a similar state, full of insecurities, only a few times though. I have wondered, perhaps I am a cold fish, because once past the "this person is my one, this person is the love of my life" glow, or the "my life is ending in this moment" angst I was placing upon myself, there would appear a tiny voice that told me I was crazy, completely irrational, and ... hmm ... how was it? ... wrong... yep... that fits ... there was a part of me that knew it was just plain wrong to lose myself so completely in the burdensome basket of such an obsessive love and all its other accompanying emotions. There are times, when I think it really isn't the person that is the focus of so much emotion, it is the being in love, the very intensity of the feelings that seize the lover/lovers. They are obsessed and possessed by love itself.

Maybe I am still too protected, too closed up, too fearful of the pain of loss, to really know what love is, or should feel like. But I have these sense-filled images, tastes, touches, scents, sounds, and feelings of what love means to me; a warm comfy blanket, a glistening iridescent bubble, a field full of daisies, a sky filled with hot air balloons, a rushing waterfall, a fresh picked perfectly ripened strawberry, the scent of lilacs on the spring breeze, sun warmed sand between my toes, a campfire on a cool fall evening, birdsong, the full moon, an eclipse of the moon, sliding my feet in an icy mountain stream, hearing the sound of the ocean in a seashell, beluga whales, a butterfly landing on the back of my hand, humming birds, a palm full of rose petals, there are more, so many more. Comfort, faith, trust, excitement, inspiration, admiration, awe, titillation, rapture, safety.

This whole thought process is far from over, and I am sure I will change my mind several times in regard to this thing called love, and being in love...but for now... I'm leaning toward the thought that love is a cliche...and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. It's part of what makes life so damn fun and interesting, it's living.

*today's word of the day ~smile~


Houseboat Bob said...

My oh my - you are deep in thought! It makes me feel superficial only wondering about if I should do my dishes today or tomorrow.

deb said...

I think those who lose themselves in love, fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat, who are obsessed with love, like myself in the past, I think those people are addicts and their chosen drug, love.

As an addict, I chose to look outside of myself for something to make me feel better, to stop the pain, to fill the void that I feared was inside of me. But that doesn't work so well. Lovers come and go. What I needed to learn was to look within myself, to find that steady core within that would comfort me and guide me through any storms.

I'm still not there. I still am easily rocked by outside forces but I now believe that I do have such a core, I just forget sometimes or am too overwhelmed to access it.

Sixdegrees said...

My own thoughts often meander along similar channels. I agree with your hypothesis, as it is well supported by preliminary data.

Being content with one's self is the key. I have a tale of two friends that illustrate this quite well. Both experienced the loss of a long-term primary relationship. One learned how to live with himself, developed new interests, became a new person. He has not become involved in a romantic relationship, but is simply enjoying his life. The other was overcome with the anxiety of being alone and tried to recreate what he had lost in a new relationship, which subsequently failed. He is back to where he started, dealing with his own fears and insecurities.

And the experience of being alone even in the context of a primary relationship. I wonder if there is also a sense of helplessness, of having no control, that contributes to the acute sensation of loneliness in this situation. Once out of the relationship, beyond the control imposed by a sense of obligation to the other person, I suspect that the ability to act in accordance with one's own desires helps to minimize the sense of being alone. Alone, yes. But not isolated.

Fiona said...

Powerful, very powerful.

Love. Such a big emotion and there are so many facets to it. I've loved differently, at different times in my life. It feels like my ability to love has evolved along with myself.

I used to take any little scrap thrown my way and make a meal out of it. I lived in denial, fear, and with blind obligation. And I learned.

I've also put myself into positions where I wanted it to fail, I wanted the other person to do wrong, just so I could say, see, I knew you'd let me down.

Now, I have a healthy take on it all. I want the good parts of love and I am not ignoring the less-than-wonderful parts of it. It is like what Deb described, as having a steady core.

Sunny, I agree, that some love is based in fear. Fear of loss, fear of loneliness, fear of total independence in some or all ways. I battened down my hatches for a good many years, until someone came along and fought his way in. I'd probably still be floating along in my own little world, oblivious of how good love can be, if he hadn't done that. If he hadn't believed in 'us', before I did. Sometimes it takes someone else, and not ourself, to find something that lives inside us.

As for you being a 'cold fish', no, no, no, are merely still working through things, as a survivor, not a victim and it does take a lot of reflection and coming to terms with many different things. You feel things like I've never seen before, the way you write about it all. Your capacity to stir emotions in others is incredible.

Love isn't a cliche, not when you really feel it. It might have had a little too much idealised exposure, but when you live and breathe it, there is no cliche there :)


Jonas said...

"Love" isn't a cliche. It's the one true thing...the ONLY thing that matters. Without love, there is only emptiness...