After writing down the title, the classic short story of Raymond Carver inevitable came upon me — What do we talk about when we talk about love.
In the past year or so, my opinion and feeling of the love subject have gone through some substantial changes. It doesn’t mean there’s a 180 degree sharp turn kind of shift of view, nor does it mean the denial of the past self, however, I could indeed feel that, a flow of change on the fundamental level has happened inside me. If it has to be put into text in a however inaccurate form, I guess it can be said that, love is no longer the center of my life. This is not an acknowledgement that comes like an epiphany moment, and it certainly is not some kind of stress reaction after a traumatizing event. It comes more like a renewed self appraisal, supplemented by experience over the years.
Since I was little, I’ve been more interested in love than in any other subject. The idea of romance fascinated me. It is fair to say, in the first 30 years of my life, I was always someone who lives to love and thinks of love as the most profound quest. If “being in love” is an option in the specialty category just like “piano” or “badminton”, I could have ticked that box without any hesitation. I might not be the most talented one, but from the depth of experience, I should at least be recognized for my assiduity.
Given that, with one after another relationship started, ended, passed, having gone through the highs and the lows and eventually the neutral land, looking back, I realize I still cant say I’ve got love figured out. At most I can say, I think I have experienced love; and if I have to describe it at my best attempt, love is perhaps this strong silent traction that leads you to go through an unknown passage, it flickers, you don’t have a clear vision, but you can’t help but go forward.
I don’t think I’ve got love quite figured out becoz, if one day I met this kind of traction again, I would probably still just follow it into another passage, clueless yet without a second thought; after the traction is faded, I would very likely end up back at the same original spot like the previous times, left with myself and a silent sigh. But in the process of repeatedly screwing up and losing someone, I did gain something. Over the years that I tried to figure love out and failed, I unexpectedly figured out some other things. For example — the thing worse than losing a relationship is losing oneself; the thing more important than finding “the one” is understanding yourself; and the thing that probably means more than acquiring love, is being able to give love.
It’s only until my most recent relationship has ended, I realized in hindsight that in all these years, I was mostly busy chasing the feeling of love, of falling in love, but rarely truly practised love. The feeling of love, is falling, is surreal, is out of balance; it’s driven by desire, the instinct of grabbing tight. While what love truly is, in my limited understanding and livelong meditation, is perhaps growing together, nurturing one another; it doesn’t necessarily concern ownership, it’s a stream of warm current you’re willing to protect even at the price of sustaining solitude; it’s a lingering strength, a grant of freedom.
When we talk about love, a frequently asked question is “do you believe in love.” This is indeed thoroughly misleading. Fundamentally, love is an unidentifiable feeling. A thousand people would have a thousand feelings of love. In the absence of a universal definition, to question repetitively if one believes in love serves very little purpose. The full version of “do you believe in love?” is actually “do you believe that love will happen on you?” We cannot control love, but we can control ourselves to some extent. Hence, about love, there’s only one question worth asking — do you deserve love?
Whatever one’s ideal version of love is, one should make sure one is being it and well-worth it in the first place. If you want tremendous love, develop an interesting soul; if you want mellow love, be healthy and positive; if you want understanding love, learn to listen and respect; if you want freedom in love, start to give freedom; if you don’t want to lose yourself in love, grow a stronger root of your “self”. If love, after all, is just damn luck, then the least one can do is to earn the ticket to be in that damn lucky draw.
I reckon this is also why I’m taking love more lightly — it’s not that I stop caring or stop wanting it, it’s that besides learning the limitation and randomness of love, I’ve also learned that, the quest of love doesn’t happen in the sea of people. The quest of love, is essentially, the quest of oneself.
Translated/Rewritten from the below original piece in Chinese I wrote on Feb 14 2019:
从年纪很小的时候开始，我就是一个对爱情的兴趣大于对生命本身的兴趣的人。爱情令我着迷，可以说在30岁以前，我都是一个为爱活着，以爱为最高追求的人。如果说“谈恋爱”跟“钢琴”、“羽毛球”之辈一样，也是特长中的一个选项，我想我可以毫不犹豫地打勾 — — 即便不算天赋秉异，从经验值评判，怎么也是个刻苦型选手。而即使如此，一段段恋爱开始了，结束了，过去了，快乐过，伤心过，平静了，仔细回想，竟好像至今也仍然没有弄懂爱情是怎么一回事。我只能说，我好像经历过爱情这一回事，如果非要形容，大概是一种无声却强大的引力，一旦遇上，便只能顺着它的方向过去，忽暗忽明，情不自禁。没有弄懂，是因为我想如果这个力量再次发生，恐怕还是会稀里糊涂地跟着它走，最后搞不好也是落得个愣在原地一声叹息的结局（当然也欢迎其他结局）。但是在这个不断搞砸、失去的过程中，我也并非一无所获。在尝试弄懂爱情却依然一头雾水的这些年里，我意外地弄懂了另一些事，比如说，比失去一段感情更糟糕的，是丢失自己；比找到真爱更重要的，是了解自己；比得到爱更重要的，是给予爱。
我想这也是为什么我开始对爱情看得越来越“轻” — — 并不是不再在意或不再渴望，而是在了解到爱情的局限性和偶然性之外，我更明白了，寻觅爱情的过程，其实并不是发生在茫茫人海中，对爱情的追求，从本质而言，即是对自我的寻觅。