“Love is Lucy always lifting the football at the last second so that Charlie Brown falls on his ass.”
For a change I had a delightful ride back home this afternoon. For one the traffic was bearable. And then it was one of those times when the rain kept playing catch-up with me. Sometimes went past the car, spraying my lenses with blobs of water, sometimes tugging my sleeve, asking me to slow down and savor the moment. And the breeze, when the rain was behind, and I could roll down the window, was this wicked thing, wafting in and out and smelt so fresh that for once I didn’t have to worry about acrid, sulphurous burnt fuel residue in my hair.
So love… and I have been thinking about it lately. First an update- after a brief brush with a “relationship”, I am back to my steady state single self. There was that instant and unexplainable attraction, those butterflies, without which it is never worth the effort. In retrospect, I realize that we took the completely wrong path i.e. Connection, Chemistry, a debatable Relationship, Mistimed Expectations, Bitterness, finally Disaster. And now the worst - misplaced nostalgia. A month and half of frenetic activity, followed by God only knows how many weeks of despondency. At some point she decided to draw the line, so did I, and made the LJBF offer (Let's Just Be Friends - I don't quite like the thought, primarily because friends don't put themselves in such boxes, and personally, I'd never do something unless she was entirely comfortable with it, but when you're nearing thirty, it is not very advisable to burn bridges with people you get along with easily), and she seems ok with it. Suddenly, everything seems strangely somber, the alcohol less heady, the smokerings less dense, the music a little less foot tapping, the rain a little less romantic. Well… but whatever it was and however short, it was good!!!
Everyone my age has been in love at least once. Reciprocated or otherwise. However, brief. I guess like death and taxes, a desire to belong, albeit for some, fleeting, is a given. An attribute, which like speech is given only to humankind.
Now historically, in the long run, I have had a problem with relationships. The malaise is actually a commitment problem- I either over commit or under, and at most times, it can be such a pain. But then this post is not about my problems.
The thing about relationships, and this I remember writing some time back, is this- that they are unavoidable. The consequences of the impulse (which might include the option of doing nothing), under the scope of the present discussion are immaterial. I am often reminded of this line in Annie Hall where Woody Allen in a then famous monologue likened relationships to a person going to a shrink and telling that his brother thinks he’s turned into a chicken. When asked by the Doctor why he doesn’t turn the sibling in, he replies simply, because, um, I need the eggs. That’s it. We NEED the eggs.
The interesting thing about life though is what I wrote earlier- that relationships are unavoidable. They’re always lurking around the corner, waiting to happen, to catch you unawares, just when you’re settling down in your own comfort zone. Being in the places I have (for instance, an engineering college), I have seen people pine for a relationship for years and finally bump into their partners many years later, in a Wal-Mart checkout lane in Idaho.
Now comes the tough bit- staying in a relationship. Even in today’s day and age I am surprised to find so many of my friends, relatives, acquaintances stick around in relationships long after the expiry date, long after time has peeled the label off, primarily because they now wear the hat of a husband or a wife. I realize that being in a relationship is not so much about being in love, but about sharing experiences, spaces. It is about a steady state, a sad but undeniable search for someone else.
Personally I feel converting an impulse into a relationship is disastrous. The surest way of straitjacketing a cosmic encounter is to tame it by making a relationship out of it. Why we do it is a different story altogether. Whoever has been in love will vouch for the fact that the first few weeks or so are the most memorable. Who doesn’t remember that first glance, that touch, the bitterness of the first fight, the intensity of the first lovemaking … I could go on. However, they will also tell you that it was also humanly impossible to sustain that kind of intensity for any considerable length of time- the cracks begin to emerge (the shows on TV, which plays to see, I don’t really like reading what he writes), insecurity surfaces, and basically the enormity of the situation looms. And hence the decision to apply a few thumb rules, turn a few knobs and viola, the proposal, the relationship (or perhaps the denial) and here we are, in a few months- possibly man and wife. The problem I feel is this. People attach too much importance to being in a relationship. Being alone in most societies still a mild stigma, which one would rather not deal with. Single women, irrespective of their age, looks and sexual orientation, are hit upon by men at work and elsewhere. And single guys- well, that’s a different post altogether. And once you think you’ve hit upon the first speck of doubt, you just over estimate the searches costs, and convert, no matter what.
And then there is expectation. Since most people I know are by conditioning monogamous, they seek to fulfill all their expectations through the ONE person in their lives. And that is the root of disaster. Since you think your partner must admire Schubert’s second symphony as much as you do, and since she doesn’t and since that new person you met many years later, at the Laundromat does, doesn’t mean that you’ll click with that person on all counts. As you will not with your present partner. Likewise, most suspicions of infidelity have roots in the sense of insecurity, which stems from a notion of not being able to share a certain aspect of your partner’s life, which someone else can. I mean have been dealt with insecurity in an absolutely amazing individual, who felt that since I shared an evening with someone else who appreciates Sukumar Ray’s poems a lot more than she does, I was probably losing interest in her.
The truth is that there is no 100 per cent match (even though I admit having told this lie, sometimes successfully, many times over). If I connect with somebody, it is likely that the person will have traits I will discover eventually that I don’t like as much. If I can continue to remain with that person in the knowledge of both the good and the bad, it is left. However, it is unlikely that I will be able to reconcile myself to that.
Having said that I must also add that I do know a few couples, who seem to have reconciled to all this and more. Who have managed to find happiness which each other, despite the odds. Having spent a number of years around one such lot, I figured that sometimes you just don’t know what caused the attraction. Not even years down the line. If you don’t know what brought you together in the first place, and aren’t extremely bothered about it, there is no question of losing it and suffering the nostalgia by consequence, which goes without – “You’ve lost that loving feeling”. And as long as the place downstairs is still warm, and most other things broadly in place, there is no reason to look for love elsewhere.
Now that’s the pragmatist’s view of love and such things. What follows is mine.
According to me, love is not a feeling. It isn’t a sentiment. Love is a person. And not realizing that is the mistake we often make. We look for reasons to be in love with a certain person, not realizing that the object of our desires is the reason itself. We view a relationship as a means to a certain end and not an end in itself. And so if things don’t go so well, and you end up being out of a relationship, it depresses us to no end.As far as relationships go, I have been in a few, the durations of which range from a few weeks to a few years. I don’t take separation well. When I walk out, I feel lousy. When I am dumped, I hate that as well. But I guess I recover better than most people I know, because somewhere I realize that at the end of it all and irrespective of the consequences, I am a better person, because I know myself a bit better. And because every relationship, every crush, makes you a slightly more evolved person. Indulging in God’s greatest gift to mankind has to be an uplifting experience after all.
Being in a relationship is an experience in itself. Having a certain person in my life tends to open me up in a way that nothing else quite can. It makes me ask questions to myself, and makes me do things, which in a singular state I would find idiotic. That there is a pleasure in idiosyncrasy is a documented fact. That being in love makes you indulge in it more often is a fact too. Love (and remember, I am using the word as a noun for some time now) heightens your senses. We seek highs from various things- work, nature, the rains etc., but as love grows old we often forget that Love itself is a 24x7 high. That a certain person can deliver that to you is an incredible thought. And forgetting that, or not feeling that way in your life, is I guess the greatest loss of them all.
In a certain respect, all relationships are quite similar. I mean a lifetime is all about experiences. It is such a crucible of a series of highs and lows. If you’re lucky, you go through them all. Perhaps it was pain that characterized your life. Perhaps rejection. Even that is a fairly potent experience. And in the endgame, what really matters is what you have experienced rather than what you have achieved, and who you have experienced it with. The one thing that all successful relationships do (and I do not define success by longevity) is to amplify the impact of each experience. The birds chirp louder, the grass is greener, the mornings more beautiful, the night deeper, the wine headier, the music more sprightly, the rain, ah the rain, that promotion at work. Almost everything.
And that is precisely the reason why, after a rough experience, one must never close the door on Love. It might never come knocking again, but keep looking. Each time I break up, I might end up saying never again, and I hear people saying it all the time, but I also realize that the reason why it happens again and again, is because to Love (verb) is to make an exception. That’s the point, when we let someone into our lives, we make the exception. Because every relationship is unique in its gene code. Because every individual touches you in a very different way. A relationship is a set of beautiful individual experiences, which in retrospect you lay out on the mantelpiece of your mind. Yes, as I maintain, no two relationships can ever be compared, cannot ever be replaced. But then I guess that’s only because of the way people are. I think of each one of those rare people in my life, and remember in them such unique and specific little details that move me and that I miss about them. And miss the trust they placed on me. And I always will. And I remember writing this a long time back- you can never replace anyone, because every person is made of such exquisite specific details. And I treasure each little specific detail, each memory, because if not anything else, then at least in the winter of my life, I will take them from the mantelpiece of my mind, and smile, and say to myself- “Yes, I’ve lived it”.