Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling

Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling

The benefit of growing up is learning the difference between really understanding, and only thinking that you do.

Header by Ina Jacobe

Love is not a warm, fuzzy, feeling!” my Philosophy professor said, in a voice that was gleeful, incredulous, a bit disgusted, and weary. “Fee-LING!” Hear how he emphasized the last syllable, his tone rising an octave higher. It was said with relish, like that of a victorious prophet. I thought then that I knew what he meant, thought I understood it at the time. But the benefit of growing up (and there is a benefit! hurrah!) is that you learn the difference between really understanding, and only thinking that you do.

Like many a younger person “sheltered” from suffering, I thought that love meant precisely that — warm, fuzzy, feelings. You know, the way you feel on a date (not that I’d already been on one at the time), or the way you feel when your crush texts you late at night to say that he’s thinking of you. No one really teaches you about this great fundamental of life, of which literally millions of songs and books and movies are about. You expect romance and love to be the same thing. You want reality to match what’s in your head.

No one really teaches you about this great fundamental of life, of which literally millions of songs and books and movies are about. You expect romance and love to be the same thing. You want reality to match what’s in your head.

The way my father showed me that he loved me was by making me cry in fifth grade, for getting a low grade of 88 for Math. The way my mother showed me that she loved me was by being in the office, almost 24/7. Although I do remember one Saturday. She took the time from her weekly R&R to cook lunch for us, which she never usually did. I don’t remember what meal she made. But I remember the warm, fuzzy feeling and thought, maybe this is my version of 7th Heaven. Just that one Saturday.

But you grow up, and you learn. Eventually you’re in a warm, damp classroom at 5 p.m., with your professor exclaiming that everything you knew about love is wrong — in fact, you knew nothing — and voila, the glass breaks. My professor just asked my classmate, “How did you know you were in love?” I can still hear his giddy excitement. Be careful, foo’! It’s a set-up! My professor knows what the answer was going to be. He’s heard it before. An echo of a thousand varieties by how many students, over the years: “I just felt it, sir. It felt like I loved her.” Face, meet palm.

To be honest, the glass didn’t break for me until three years later.

When I left college the word love became murkier as the world lost structure. During this time, my identity was always in flux, I changed my hair drastically, lost weight, gained the weight back, tried to appear defiant in the face of failure. I’ve stopped saying hello to people from my past in fear of having to explain myself. The hair, the weight loss, the weight gain, the clothes, the disposition, the smoking. To quote Solange, “I slept it away / I sexed it away / I read it away.” Also, I BeautyMNL-ed it away, I ate it away, I Netflix-ed it away.

Three years later, at a job where I was supposed to be happy, with family and friends who loved me, with the world as my oyster, I broke. It wasn’t a tsunami. They were smaller, constant and consistent throughout the years, dutifully breaking down the walls I’ve put up. There were days when I could not speak. Days when I would shut off. Days when my muscles seemed to be made of lead, and my bones made of chalk.

And finally, on a day alone in Taiwan, with pants pathetically torn in half from my crotch up to my ass, I trudged from the train station to the lone beef noodle shop open in some neighborhood. And cried. And did not stop. The shop lady saw me, and obviously bothered, she moved from her station outside and stayed at the edge of my table inside. Maybe she just wanted a seat. Maybe she didn’t have a chair outside. Maybe she wanted to make sure I wouldn’t go insane and bother her customers. Or maybe she wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone. Maybe we couldn’t speak the same language at that moment, but maybe we understood.

I thought I already understood what my professor meant in that classroom three years ago.

But in ~*real life*~? I was constantly computing whether I was getting the most of my relationships with my family and friends. I was competitive, resentful, and bitter with people who I thought were better than me. I ran away with my mother’s credit card and maxed it out more than once under the guise of ~*rebellion*~. (When really I just wanted a life more like the pictures I saw online.) I constantly missed opportunities to tell guys how much I liked them, and how much I wanted to be with them. I picked fights, lashed out inconsiderately, and gave people the cold shoulder when they disappointed me. When the opportunity to be loving was presented, I always took the easy way out.

 At the throes of my own avoidance the breaking came for me, and made it all worse. Depression cleaves you away from the love and light than can potentially save you. And the path to love and light is always difficult, always painful, always paved with suffering. Especially when you keep running away from it.

And so the breaking came because I was avoiding all the suffering — confronting friends who were taking advantage of me, managing my moods, not being an inconsiderate asshole, building an independent life from scratch, choosing a career that came easy over one that was more difficult, even earning my own money. At the throes of my own avoidance the breaking came for me, and made it all worse. Depression cleaves you away from the love and light than can potentially save you. And the path to love and light is always difficult, always painful, always paved with suffering. Especially when you keep running away from it. And it comes to a point when the weight inside you is so heavy, even your body reacts viscerally to the pain. Thus, the panic attacks in the noodle shop, or in the office bathroom, or even in the safety of my own home.

I’m not saying that to love is to suffer. But I think that love is what makes suffering bearable.

And so the loving thing to do, where self-love truly began, was when I trudged to the first therapist I consulted, and allowed myself, and my whole life, to unravel. To truly feel all the pain that was lurking, left unfelt, all the abandonment, insecurity. To give myself space to rebuild, and to allow that light and love back in. Because that is what love is. It’s walking through the darkness and uncertainty, kindling hope.

Love is only as good as what’s done out of that love, for that love. Self-love is not the sexy stuff. It’s more like, “Don’t fuck up your job.” “Take care of your clients.” “Hug your mom, and tell her that you love her, and that you are thankful for her.” “Keep to your budget.” “Do not flake on your friends.” “Take a bath and brush your teeth every day.”

It’s also thanking others for overcoming suffering to raise you. It’s recognizing how others have overcome greater suffering than you. It’s appreciating that everyone is just going through life, making the best out of whatever cards they’ve been dealt. “This is water,” David Foster Wallace once said.

My professor was not happy in his revelation to us dumb college students because we were stupid. He was happy because in learning to let go of the lies we’ve been taught about love, we’ve started to learn to make way for the real thing.

Tags:
#love #self

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