Monday, August 17, 2009

the HEART of the matter.

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”

-Neil Gaiman (English born American Novelist)

We've all been through it. The relationship that never really should have started, and by all logic shouldn't have lasted for the past 2-3 years. This is what your head is telling you, but ah, the heart. I've often wondered why our Western tradition has chosen the heart as the seat of emotion. It is not the same in all cultures or periods of time. Perhaps it is because without it we would cease to exist. How many love songs, sappy or otherwise, proclaim the impossibility of life without the one they love? "How do I LIVE without you?", "I will ALWAYS love you", and more recently and aptly put by a particular American Idol; "My life would SUCK without you". Gotta love the poignancy of popular music.

So we have this blood-pumping, life-giving muscle inside our chests. And though it has no IQ, no thoughts or desires, I for one, tend to let it dictate many of my decisions. Oftentimes in a new relationship, my brain will figure it out right away. Warning, Warning, Red Flags Everywhere! Sometimes I listen, go with instinct, and end the budding relationship before it can ruin me. Sometimes though, I ignore the frantic warnings of my head and barrel on down the road, damn the consequences, and when all is said and done, I've crashed and I'm left lying on the side of the road, broken, crying and asking; "Why?". It's that pesky heart thing again.

What I'd really like to know is; can we control it? Can I lead my heart, or am I a prisoner to this wonderfully destructive thing called love? Maybe this is something that will come with age, or maybe I will one day awaken, and find myself in charge of my emotion-wouldn't that be lovely? I have learned how to bite my tongue when I am angry, how to blink back the tears until I am alone; on several occasions I have been successful in pushing them back all together (how grown up). I have yet to learn how to "fall out of love". It's like this; once I decide that I love someone, I stick. 'Better or Worse, Come What May' kind of thing. It's obnoxious.

I have been slowly coming to the realization that perhaps it really IS me. I have impossibly high standards for love. I'm not a dolt, I know that movies and novels are fictional for a reason, they do not exist in our real world. My faith is deeply rooted in the bible, which tells me that "love never fails". What I fail to remind myself however, is that in Corinthians, Paul is talking about true love, like the love our Heavenly Father has for us. This is not the usual human experience of love, but an illustration to emulate.

Love is fallible. It's not easy and sometimes, it hurts. We have to accept the object as our affection as human, not sitting on some pedestal of righteousness. Our beloved will undoubtedly fail, disappoint us, maybe even break our heart. The key, I guess, is to find a somebody who will minimize the damage, love and accept us, and bring more laughter than tears. This is not pessimism, it is the world in which we live. I have never liked the term 'hopeless romantic'. I prefer to think of myself as hopeFULL. If I continue to live life with my heart and mind open, yet aware, perhaps my hopeful romanticism will attract another dreamer. Happily ever after, and all that mush.
"The Heart of the Matter" India.Arie

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