20 March 2008

Romance 101, Part 4

Renewed Vision. Emotional Lobotomy.

OK, so you knew SOME analysis was coming, didn't you?

When I started writing my thoughts, this was going to be just a post about what I refer to as "emotional lobotomy", or the deadening of feeling in an effort to make letting go of what you deeply desire less painful. It was mainly about Story 3, the freshest on my mind and the most puzzling to me.

Of course, other thoughts came as I wrote, and other relationships, and with distance from the pain of the situation, other perspectives came into view. I decided to expand it and write this whole stinking novel, mostly as a way for me to put my thoughts in some semblance of order, and also because I realized how much I've learned from different kinds of relationships.

I long for the connection of Story 1, the sweetness of Story 2, and the eagerness of Story 3, along with an internal green light to pursue it if/when it comes along. Each had an element of each in their own right, but each was also not an option to me in the long run for different reasons. I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world who has felt that way. I think that's just life.

Like I said previously, I think much of my emotional turmoil in relation to "Story 3" had more to do with my own emotional state, my own perceptions and perspectives, and my own outlook than with the guy involved. I knew, even immediately following our decision to avoid more romantic connection, this was not totally about him. Don't get me wrong: along with the physical attraction, I had felt genuine affection for him and was attracted to his personality. But the more personal (or interpersonal) details are for my private journal. What I will say here is that much or most of my heartache was probably more about my desires and thought patterns than about him. There were other issues around our friendship, but they were mostly incidental to or independent of a much deeper undercurrent of emotion: letting go of what may be, even if only by my own choice, just a fantasy relationship.

So I found myself accepting, again, that other things do matter more than giddy romance. I avoided trying to fill the void by finding another romance to "replace" it, which was a temptation but which I knew wouldn't actually heal anything but would just mask the void. Besides, I didn't have any desire to further cheapen the relationship or what I'd felt by going in search of a quick replacement. I drew closer to more committed friends. I busied myself with other things. I put more effort into "being" rather than "feeling". I began to accept that life without romance can be enjoyable and fulfilling through work and dedication to other meaningful pursuits, even if it's less exciting in ways I wanted to be excited. I felt worn but somehow wiser. More experienced and a bit jaded. More mature and hopeful in some ways, yet blandly resigned.

Self preservation? Mature understanding? Harmful self-deception? Depends on your perspective, I suppose. Whatever it was that made me feel more accepting of my situation, it was soothing at times, hellish at others. Now, looking back on the whole thing, it seems fairly distant and maybe a little silly I was ever so bent out of shape. But in the earlier moments of sadness, I looked disdainfully on the day I'd look back and consider those moments silly.

I am, again, somewhat accepting of the possibility of never "going there" again while maintaining a fulfilling, happy life. I can certainly find meaning in other areas of life. I will put my energy into serving where I can and trying to leave the world better than I found it. I will try to be kind and loving and selfless. I will seek fulfilling employment in which I can feel like I'm contributing to society. I will invest more actively in meaningful, lasting relationships, and keep the casual or non-productive ones peripheral. I will do these things with or without a relationship of the kind I so long for at times, and life will be rich and rewarding.

I can recognize, better than ever, when I'm beginning to fall for someone and watch for certain red flags to avoid the same pitfalls. I can even accept the idea of being with someone with whom I've never felt that "spark", even if I'm not yet ready to try it. There is so much that is truly lasting in a relationship: investment, trust, active love, commitment, selflessness. Do these make the romantic components pale in comparison? I can appreciate the security and joy of having a wife and raising beautiful children with her. And maybe the rest just won't be as I had always imagined, but isn't that true for most people?

Slowly, gradually, what seemed like such a tragic loss of verve in life begins to lose its sting with a broader perspective and more "realistic" approach. It begins to seem plausible that maybe it's like replacing really great junk food with healthful, nourishing food that's not as much fun to eat but ultimately better for me. And once I've grown accustomed to eating a healthy diet, junk food no longer holds the appeal it used to. But part of me wonders if the "food" I'm talking about really is junk, or whether it's actually gourmet. Sometimes it's hard to know.

When I'm honest with myself in other ways, I'm not, yet, ready to let go of hoping for some way of finding something more "ideal" than a love without romance, hoping to feel what I've felt and act on it. At the time I was feeling the sweetness of romantic affection so intensely, it felt like a true shame that I had gone through so much of my life without such beauty. But that "flame" comes and goes, and the butterflies in the stomach go away. Is that all there is to romance? Or is there more? I know couples who have been married for decades and still light up when they feel they're the luckiest person in the world for having their spouse or still seem to savor that kiss when they see each other after work. Isn't that a lasting version of the same thing? Maybe I would have that even if I didn't feel the spark initially? Or maybe those aren't important things anyway?

I can't help but question my reasons for coming to such an acceptance of the possibility of life without the romantic component as I have experienced it with males. Are the reasons valid? Are they eternal truths or are they cultural constructs which are compelling me to frame it all this way or that? Some of each? What do I really believe? What really rings true to me? I can't help but wonder, at times, if I have achieved a deeper spiritual and emotional understanding of what truly matters in a relationship and in life, gaining greater vision of eternal reality in meaningful self-denial, or if I have effectively lobotomized myself emotionally, going through life with all the eerie acceptance of the end of (the original) Stepford Wives.

Somehow, my inner pragmatist hopes the answer lies in my own free choice: what will my course be? And what will I make of it?

There are so many questions and seemingly so few answers. I'd guess a lot of life's more important aspects are that way. Part of me desires to let go of heady mentality and just live by my heart, letting go of analyses about which I will likely not reach conclusions to instead just fly on a simpler passion for life and a love of the rich experiences life offers, allowing myself my humanity and probably plenty of error. The part of me which almost always wins out, however, is the part which begs reason and consideration before, or sometimes at the expense of, what may amount to hedonistic action. I think there's a balance to be struck, and balance is difficult to achieve, so maybe I need to remember that when I see some people around me leaning away from consideration and caution.

Romance is a difficult arena in which to be dominated by thoughtful deliberation. I long to feel unbridled passion, yet I can't shake the notion that feelings as intense, as rich, and as striking as these must be worth bridling into something magnificent, harnessing their power for love, liveliness, selflessness, and commitment.

Those are my thoughts for now, wrapping up my essay on Romance 101. Maybe I'll have more to write when I've been through Romance 102. Or maybe I'll just skip to an intermediate-level course. That'd be nice.

Back to Part 3.


Ike said...

I wanted to reach through my computer screen and shake you when I read this. Quit being so stoic (it has its place). Allow yourself to embrace and love. Really, man.

Also, I thought of Whitman when I read your blog. Here you go:

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,
after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten
million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

Original Mohomie said...

Ha, sorry to upset you, Ike. Let's talk about this more in person.

For now, I'll say I don't think I'm normally all that stoic, although I have my moments. Pragmatic, yes.

I tend to want an explanation for my emotions. And I think there are explanations for them, whether or not I will ever have the perspective and capacity to grasp them. But I can't explain all of the emotions I've been through. And I've decided it's OK. It's enough.

Like I said, there are also more personal thoughts/issues that I just don't care to blog about.

I have, in fact, spent too much energy, at times, "coping" with all of these conundrums, but recently, I've been refusing to let it distract me from some of the smaller and deeper joys in life, and I like it. I prefer being happy over being self-absorbed, and they normally don't coincide.

"Allow yourself to embrace and love," you say. I think I try. Maybe that's something I need to learn more about. Some attempts have had funky results. Oh well, onward. But I have to act in accordance with truth as I see it, or I will not respect myself. So while I sort out what, exactly, I hold to be true (which I will probably always be doing to some extent--I really wouldn't have it any other way), some experiences here and there may spur me along the way. It's a balance, I think.

Anyway, shake me all you want, baby.

Ike said...

In retrospect, I think (know?) I was silly to comment the way I did. It was somewhat pretentious of me to wrap up all your experiences into four trite sentences. I'm actually quite embarrassed.

It's rather funny, because I suppose I don't really know you all that well--although I'd like to get to know you much better--but I had assumed that because I read your blog that I perhaps knew more about you than I actually do. However, through your blog, I really only come to know the part of you that you post online, and to suggest that your online you is ALL of you is naive of me. Though I never consciously thought: this blog IS you. It seems that some of my reactions would suggest otherwise.

My apologies. Sincerely.

Original Mohomie said...

No worries. Your comment probably was valid in some respect. And since my blog only shows the parts of me which I want it to, I expect feedback to carry the same limitations, but I still appreciate it, even when it is an affectionate slap upside the head. I think you're being harder on you than I have been. :-)

Let's just kiss and make up.

Ike said...

You're right. Kiss and make up is all we can really do at this point. Let's.