Sunday, December 4, 2011

how do you know when it's love?

Dearest people, do you love? Do we love?

This is the question that I've been having in the past few years, right after a bumpy experience that has turned my life upside down, down to the point that I no longer recognize it and still wondering up to this day, was that really my life?

I've grown older, just as that bumpy experience grown on me. And my mind has unconsciously started the process of rearranging the structure of my previous belief on things, on life, and love.

Back in my younger days, love was something undefinable, described only with the fast beating heart, trembling knees, sweating hands, and sudden lost for words upon meeting or a mention of the subject of the feeling. Love was magical. And if there was anything negative about love, was that it is draining. It drains the life out of you, and fill you up with something else, something sparkling, something bigger than life. Something like the celebration of the independence day.

I've past thirty now. And I learned my lessons well.

During the years span between the bumpy experience and now, I met a few people, and fell for some of them. And with everyone I met and fell for or had a crush on, one by one all the definitions I used to had about love were proved to be fail, and finally had to be taken out of the list.

So now, to quote from Van Halen, how do you know when it's love?

A friend once insisted that you just knew. You'd just knew when you finally meet your other half. She said, you just need to trust your feeling. Then I said, that's exactly where the problem lies. What kind of feeling that you need to trust?

Is it the heart pounding knee trembling feeling? The sudden inability to speak properly? The sleepless nights that follow after the hours of hours of phone conversation? The feeling of fireworks in your chest that makes your days feel like independence day celebration every time you meet that certain person?

Is it the realization of the similarities you have? The knowledge that both of you turn out to have similar hobbies, read similar kinds of books, watch similar kinds of movies, loves to hang out at similar places, have the same favorite songs?

When I ask these questions, the response I get from my friends would be those of sympathy. They must be thinking how poor this little woman, missing so many beautiful moments people would have when they're in love. How poor this little woman, loosing her faith in love and thus loosing her chance of meeting her other half.

It got me thinking.

Someone said to me, be careful, there's a very thin line between being grown up and being bitter. And I've promised myself, that I'd never, ever, ever, going to be that bitter person carrying dark clouds above her head. I might be silent and distant most of the time, but I don't plan to spend the rest of my life spreading negative energy around me and make the world a bitter place.

But I remember witnessing people I know being in love. They would fluently explaining to me the reasons why they're in love with this certain person, or sometimes, why I should be in love with a certain person: he's handsome, he's nice, he's cute, he's attentive and caring, he's so romantic. He makes my heart flutters with his words. He loves to give surprises. He's always be there for me. He may not be nice but deep down he's a gentle soul. He gets along with my mother. He's the one who understands me better than anyone else. He's a very religious person. He's graduated from this and that. He is very opinionated. He's fun to be with. I love the way he makes me feel. I love how he makes me laugh. We have so many similarities. We read the same books. And the list continues.

Hearing them altogether, that sounds like a perfect quality you want from a partner. But somehow my mind always manage to force me to read them again, one by one. You love him, because he's handsome? Oh, you love him, because he gives you surprises? Let's try again. You love him, because he's a very religious person? Another one. You love him, because you read the same books? Not even five of the criteria above grouped together would be enough to be your reasons for loving someone.

And I finally became fully convinced that no, you cannot reason love like that. That is not love. At least, you don't love  a person for that kind of reasons. You think you love the person, but actually, you don't. You just love what they seem to be to you. You just love the reflection of your imagination. You recreate your imagination on them and you think you love them. You take what you need from them. You think you love them because they make you laugh. Think again, isn't that a selfish motive? Love shouldn't be selfish. You think you love them because you love the way they make you feel. Another selfish motive don't you think? Well, it might be true that you love them, but really, the way they make you feel shouldn't be the only reasons why. You love them because they're always be there for you? Because they always have their shoulders ready for you to cry on? Are you clinging on to them with your dear life? Then what would happen to your own life? Don't you want to claim it? You love them because you read the same books? Uhm, okay. You know the answer.

Most of the people I see, and I have to admit, I've been there too, think that they're in love with a certain person, while actually, they're in love with their own imagination. We don't really love the person. We love them for what we think they are, not what they truly are. We love them because, because perhaps somehow, they look good on us, or we look good on them. We create a picture in our mind, an ideal picture of what our love should be, and pick the most suitable person according to our criteria to be there in the picture. In better situation, they're there because they're assigned by the universe to be there to teach us something. But not necessarily love.

So do we love? Do we love someone? Or do we just love the reflection of our hopes that we put on them? 
And again, isn't that selfish? Wouldn't that be a burden too big to bear for them to have to carry our hopes?

I remember having this feeling for a guy. Despite the fact that I'm not planning to pursue it further, I've been keeping the feeling alive for quite some time, simply because it gives me positive energy. The feeling I had was not the kind of feeling that makes me cringe for feeling insignificant and insecure or uncomfortable, feelings that are usually found in the so called love. The feeling I had was the kind of feeling that makes me feel alive and love myself more than ever. However, no matter how positive the feeling is, I realized that it's the feeling that I've fallen for, not the person. I fell in love with the feeling I had for him, not with him. Thus, I gave it up.

But you cannot just refuse to experience that independence day celebration-like feeling when it comes to you, my friend insisted.

I said, well, most of the time, you have very little control of your feeling, because that's just how feelings are. They're not meant to be tamed. So I wouldn't mind. Such fireworks in your heart would be nice to have. But I wouldn't hold on to it.

The fireworks in your chest are beautiful, just as beautiful as when they're bursting with colors in the night sky. But they don't last. Or rather, most of them don't last. Some of them would last a lifetime, but I'm sure you'd not be able to spot it in the first encounter. You'd probably have to go through all the troubles and accidentally burn your hands on the way to find them. Or you probably would only find them when they're no longer sparkling and bursting in the sky and cheered up by hundreds of people. Probably you'd find them when the sparkles have died down, leaving only a constant glowing light, not too bright, but comforting.

No, I don't despise the ideas of love. But I've learned that it needs more than a pounding heart and fireworks in your chest to spot your other half. And it needs reasons beyond more than just looks or the impression that the person makes upon you, to say that you love them.

Or perhaps, there's just no reasoning at all. Maybe my friend was right after all. You just knew.

So here's where I finally confess, that I still don't have the answer to that Van Halen's question (which in his song, he said he couldn't tell it either but it last forever_now, that's rather difficult isn't it?). I still can't tell when it's love. But I can confidently say that at least I know when it's not.

Do we give too much credit to the word love? Perhaps we do.
Is love overrated? Perhaps it is.

But sometimes, all we need to do to make sure is to just look on the other side, or take a few steps back and look again, or take a few steps forward and look closer, squint harder, or maybe as simple as tilting our head and look at it sideways. Think again. Take your time. 

Love is a strong word, carrying a noble mission, with the right amount of possibility of destruction when not handled with care. Use it sparingly. Treat it wisely.

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