Updated: Feb 13, 2022
June in love.
It's another year, and another Valentine's day post.
I've actually grown to appreciate the holiday, despite chronic singlehood, because I no longer believe Valentine's Day is just about flowers and chocolates and romantic getaways. To reduce romance to such trite and materially fading moments is a disservice to the true nature of Love-- in all its depth and power.
If you've read some of my older blogs on Valentine's Day, you've probably gathered that I'm a romantic: I love the gushiness and softness that comes with those blissful moments with a loved one, but I see that as only one side of the coin-- because love isn't truly felt until it is challenged, or even lost. In my short existence, my naive experience, I have learned that those I've loved the most have hurt me the worst, and I am tremendously grateful for that pain. That pain not only reminds me that I'm very much alive, sensitive, and human (all good things to be), but it also reminds me that I once felt those tumbling and fluttering emotions and, for one moment, I believed in perfection.
When I talk about love, I have a tendency to look at my "rap sheet" and see the names and faces of people I've loved, people I've hurt, and people who have hurt me in return. And I don't look at those names with sadness. I truly believe I've forgiven everyone who's ever hurt me, because I loved them enough to give them the opportunity to cause pain in the first place-- I have to be vulnerable in order to give them a target to hit... and I really hope that I will one day get the opportunity to be forgiven by those I have hurt. The hardest part of those memories isn't actually the pain caused by or towards others, but the hurt I believe I caused myself. So many of those painful memories are accompanied by actions I carried out, wounds I inflicted on myself, and hurtful words shouted at the mirror. Those years are filled with hate, not from others, but from myself. Because pain, when not properly expressed, festers like a poison into hate. So you see, the opposite of love isn't hate, it's pain. And in a cosmic dance, much like yin and yang, love and pain need each other to exist.
I write a lot about pain, and not enough about love, and I intend to correct that. I'm making a comic series right now all about love, and the often vicious forms it can take when not fostered and cherished. I ask myself, what prevents an honest expression of love? The answer is almost always fear. Fear that we won't be loved in return, fear that we will lose the person we love, or fear that we will not be able to adequately express love. The giving and the taking-- words with too many connotations to be performed without expectation. It is admittedly frightening how easily the human brain and psychological association can influence our basic behaviors.
What I'm getting at here is that it's all connected in the human brain-- the anatomy of thought and emotion is genuinely fascinating. When we experience certain behaviors and actions, our brain does a little chemical dump, shooting delicious hormones down our spine into our nervous system, which informs the body that this was a good thing! (This is perfectly demonstrated by the way Fleabag expresses "the arm touch").
The thing that really gets me is what the brain does following the chemical dump. It's been called many things -- the kids call it "post-nut clarity"-- but it leads to the same reaction: once our body gets over that animalistic, basic physiological reaction, the mental math comes into play, and we begin to wrestle with emotions and associations. What did it mean? Will it happen again? Was this a mistake? How do I look? I think those questions come through the fear, and since we're afraid to ask, the response becomes something like... exponential fear. No, it won't happen again. It's just in my head. I'm reading too much into it, I'm not reading enough into it. That sort of mental obstacle course is pretty crucial to the whole equation, honestly, because whether or not we put effort into jumping through those hoops and dodging those bad thoughts-- that's where we find the answer.
So, I ask myself today as I do every other year: why am I still single? Please don't read any negativity into that question. It's not a complaint or a cry for help. It's more of a philosophical question. Just as I ask myself nearly every day if there is a God, I ask myself why I remain in my comfortable, solitary cocoon. I used to think it was out of fear and anxiety. However, I wanted to be in a relationship even more when I was in the haze of depression and anxiety. It felt like a necessity, which it no longer does. And that's why I ask myself that question. Why doesn't it feel like a necessity anymore? Is there some recessed fear that I'm not addressing? And I may have an answer.
You see, I believe in something impossible. I believe in perfection.
I have only experienced perfection maybe... twice? And both times, it was when I felt something that I called "in love." Was I actually in love? Yes, of course. But only I can say that because I am the one who experienced it. Love is not one emotion, it's not a sign written in big letters, and it's not perfect. But I believed I was in love, and I believed it was perfect. So, from my perspective, everything I just said is untrue. Are you confused yet? I am.
If I believe in love, and I believe in perfection, then my perspective tells me these things are true. But from another perspective, I am both naive and dumb for believing in either of those things. I've said this before in my blog, but the very act of believing in two different things, from two different perspectives, makes both simultaneously true, according to the observer. You see I'm not a physicist or a genius or anything remotely qualified to say this (but I'm gonna say it anyway): I view subjective experience as another dimension. The third dimension is inhabited by everything objective, that can be experienced using the five senses. And the fourth dimension is timespace, which I already talked about on several previous blogs. But where does love fit into these four dimensions? What about faith, hope? I think this is another dimension, one that cannot be experienced through the traditional five senses, but through our synapses and nervous systems. The result is measurable, through heart rate and physical hormones, but the actual process of falling in love? Can this be measured? Not with our measly three dimensional tools. And that's why we still experience this as magic.
Imagine living in the world before Copernicus, when we still believed the Earth was still and the sun "rose" and "set" around us. What inspired the sun to move for us? What inspired the stars to shine for us? What we now call "gravity" and "orbits" was once called magic or religion. Now, come back to the year 2022. What we cannot measure, we call love and faith. Those are magical concepts, and I won't live into a future that can explain them to me. So, I remain in my ignorance, and I make peace with it.
I've recently adopted a sort of... ignorance is bliss philosophy. It was originally borne out of a survival instinct-- the anxiety of wanting to know everything was literally killing me. I began practicing meditation and developed a method of "letting go." I visualized all my problems as a little box. I didn't have to name anything in the box, just know that the box contained all of my fears and worries. Then I tied a big, shiny red balloon to the box, and visualized letting it go. I watched it float away until it was a tiny red dot in a vast blue sky, then it suddenly vanished. And it worked. It didn't solve my problems, but at the very least it dropped my cortisol levels (that is, panic hormones) to a level that was manageable, and gave me the opportunity to address the issues. In a way, I had to open up to myself in order to really work through the things that caused me pain. Similar to the way we have to open up to accept love from others.
So it all circles back to this need, or desire, for love (whether it's a need or desire is dependent on individual experience)-- which by the transitive property, equals a need or desire to open up. And I believe I have opened up, as wide as I can, and feel love in a deeper way than I ever have before. Perhaps not physically (the reason which is between me and my therapist), but the love I experience now is more powerful than anything I've ever felt when I was "in love."
Don't get me wrong, since I am a romantic I would just love to be "in love"-- but that hasn't happened and I won't worry about it until it does. I just gotta let it go, and enjoy the love I feel now.
I want to share with you something that gives me the deepest and truest feeling of love today... it's sort of like a happy place. I learned about Ujjayi breath, a breathing technique that's often called "ocean breath" because it sounds like waves on the beach. This triggers a sensory memory for me, one of the happiest days of my childhood walking on the beach with my dad. Because it's so easy, I can incorporate Ujjayi breath into my daily yoga and meditation practice-- and it immediately transports me. I feel instant love, not because of all the chemicals that are triggered by love, but because of the associations and assumptions we so fear from love. And that's where the depth and complexity of love lies, in those complicated feelings that arise once the physical chemical bath washes away. If we can retain those associations, those triggers, we can experience true Love.
I think that's what I, and most other Artists, are truly trying to channel-- those associations and triggers. That's why Art works, in many ways. And maybe that's why I choose to write so much about pain, because it alludes to love.
Perhaps I can close this by answering the question I posed at the very beginning: How to fall in love.
I believe the answer is simple. Let yourself feel pain, and you'll discover that it comes from Love.
As always, I'll close this out with (yet another) Valentine's Day playlist.
Be well, feel love. Az.