Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for December 16th, 2007

Love above feelings 17

Posted on December 16, 2007 by jimparedes

Sunday, December 16, 2007

To a lot of people, talk of love, friendship, marriage and all the different types of relationships can evoke a gamut of feelings. Somehow, those topics can bring us straight into the heart of the world of emotions, the realm of existence which pretty much makes us feel if we are happy or not. Can you imagine living life without your emotions to guide you?

A few nights ago, I was talking with some female friends I had just met at a dinner for a visiting classmate. These were women in their 50s and over our meal and coffee, we talked about a whole range of topics, from common friends and religion to travel and food, etc. When we got around to talking about relationships, one of the women in the group talked about her experience of getting married at 18 and separating from her husband 14 years later. She said that the essential reason why she separated, aside from her husband’s philandering ways, was because she felt imprisoned in a relationship that was not working and could not work out.

She added that there was a part of her that wanted to grow and discover herself outside the confines of the conservative, traditional and confining role her young husband had demanded of her.

While she was telling her story, I thought of friends who had separated, and I remembered the one thing that I thought was common in all of their cases. When a man decides to leave, it does not necessarily mean that it’s a permanent arrangement. Often, men return or attempt a comeback. But when a woman decides to separate, it is usually with finality.

That’s another one of those “women are from Venus, men are from Mars” things that are useful to know.

After her separation, this woman met a much older man who has been her life partner for some 20 years now. When I asked her what it was like to start over, she said that while it was initially intense, it was no longer as “hot” as when she was 18. She said that the highs and lows were more manageable and a bit more subdued.

I figure it must be due to the fact that there are less hormones to contend with at the age of 31 than at 18.

The whole spin about love relationships, as promoted by advertisers, media, and the world in general, is almost always about hormone-driven love where people are swept off their feet by uncontrollable emotions. The idea of a force that is so overpowering it can take over one’s life is actually a very attractive one. And it’s not only because all these oceanic feelings of love feel so good; it also makes us feel so alive with every tingle felt in every cell of our bodies.

I think another reason that love is attractive is because on a certain level, it frees us from being responsible. We surrender to what feels good. We can’t help it. And what feels good can often also feel right, at least while you are into it.

One piece of advice I gave my daughter years ago is, in matters of love, never trust promises uttered at the beach or some other beautiful tropical setting, or for that matter, any romantic place. All the romance induced by such settings can be deceptive. When things turn out badly later on, alas, we discover that we were merely blinded by the strong emotions that ruled us. And we usually blame the other person, the ambience, the heat of the moment, the full moon, etc. before we admit full responsibility for our impetuous decisions.

Many people never outgrow the idea that love has to always feel good for it to be real. They are caught up in the whole “mystery” of it, how among all the people in the world, fate has assured that they meet and take over their destiny. I have met many people who always need to be in love and I dare say that those who profess that they cannot live without romantic involvement often do not have big hearts or a mature capacity to love. Often, they are just addicted to the romance.

And while the mystery may be irresistible, the mastery of it is much more important. Living in this world for a few decades has taught me that it works the other way around: that the way love feels so good can be all the more intense because it is real. And it helps to know this because for love to be real, it must sometimes be experienced, or tested independently of feelings. Older couples may not be all over each other physically but they are there for each other in many other aspects. This is an arrangement they have established through the years that has made them stick together.

I know it is hard for young people to imagine love without the “feel-good” aspects of it. The woman mentioned above told me that she was secure and comfortable in being with this man whom she knows loves her, although he does not express it physically as often as he used to.

I play a mental game every now and then when Lydia and I are going through our rough moments. Sometimes at the height of an argument, I step back and ask myself to state mentally if I truly love her, in spite of what seems to be a challenging lack of good feelings at the moment. I notice that to truthfully answer the question, one needs to have a sense of self and an equanimity that is less transient than the ebb and flow of feelings.

One of my favorite Jesuit authors, Anthony De Mello, writes that when we say “I am depressed,” this is not quite true, because you are not your feelings. Feelings come and go and identifying oneself with something fleeting is not only inaccurate but creates confusion over the depression. Another guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, explained it further when he said, “When sadness comes, just sit by the side and look at it and say, ‘I am the watcher, I am not sadness,’ and see the difference. Immediately you have cut the very root of sadness. It is no more nourished. It will die of starvation. We feed these emotions by being identified with them.”

It helps to look at feelings the same way we look at, say, the weather. Try to imagine saying, “There is a feeling of depression I am feeling right now” in place of “I am depressed.” Doesn’t that feel better? Doing this makes the depression a “third person” (he, she, it) experience instead of a “first person” (I) one. You can step out of yourself and become more objective and therefore make your life more manageable.

When we gain a certain amount of mastery over our feelings, we can be more sure of our life decisions. Love is more solid if it is a commitment made over and above good feelings alone. And for that matter, if one has to make a decision to separate, it can hopefully be more amicable and mutually beneficial.

Let’s stop blaming the weather or our moods when things don’t turn out as we want them to. We can summon new realities by deciding to. As Anthony Robbins put it, “More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”

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