The Culture of Love?

Why did heartbreak hurt me so?

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about love and relationships. I am not sure I should say “lately,” because in a way, I’ve always thought about these issues a lot, even as a child. Yet, I have never been the kind of person who hops from relationship to relationship or contrives to make people fall for me.

When I was a teen, I always found myself “feeling in love” though, and of course, I never loved people I could actually be with. I have “loved” one of my professors, and the best-looking boy in high school and a few men who were older than me. I remember asking my mother why I could not have a boyfriend or a girlfriend as the other kids at school did. Her answer was quite simple, but I think she was right and only formulated a truth I already knew but did not want to see. She said: “That’s because you’re not in love with anyone. What you love is the idea of love.”

It was easier then to be in love with love than to actually try and be in a real relationship. There would be no rejection and no pain. I could create all these beautiful stories inside my head, and no one could ever take them away from me because I was in control. But then, one day, I really did fall in love, with a girl. And it hurt. I fell in love again, with another girl. And it hurt more. And then again – and on the moment I felt my heart crack open and shatter that time, I thought I would die. This is not just a frozen, cliché image. My heart was pounding; I had shivers down my spine; I could not eat, could not sleep, could hardly breathe…

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At that point, my only thought was “Don’t be fooled dear, there is no such thing as LOVE.” So I started reflecting on the idea of love once again. What was it that had made me so dreadfully hurt? What could possibly have caused such intense suffering? I am happy when I am alone. I don’t feel the need to have a lover or to experience these fluttery feelings you get when you first meet someone. I do not crave it. So what was it? Was it my pride that had been wounded? Was it the idea that our culture imposes on us that if you do not have a fulfilled love life you have accomplished virtually nothing, even if you are successful at work and have good friends because our society seems to tell us we must have it all? EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING? Or was it so painful because even though I did not need my lover, I actually had made a conscious choice to be with her? I just wanted to be with her and share with her?

The pride issue I think I have resolved. Of course, I am not a perfect angel of selflessness and disinterestedness, so yes, my pride must have been hurt a little bit. I guess that is just natural. What really hurt me though was being told that I was perfect and still losing the one person I loved so dearly. How could I be “perfect” and still not enough? How could perfect be discarded so easily and so quickly? It took me back to my own childhood fears, when my mother told me, even as I got straight As, that I could do better. That when I was naturally kind and loving, I was told that my love was not there or was not real. That my kindness and generosity were a social manipulation. That I was only good because I wanted  people to love me because I did not love myself at all. That all this so-called perfection was either fake or still not enough. I felt worthless and started questioning who I was and whether striving to be the best person you could possibly be (because I don’t think I’m perfect. No one is. And I don’t want to be perfect) was actually worth it.

When the rush of emotion had washed away a little, I came to the conclusion that I should not let my pain harden me into becoming a more selfish and nastier person though. Then, I would actually hate myself as I would not be respecting any of my personal beliefs.

So I wondered about the other questions. Yes, society wants us to have it all; and our culture sells us a image of love that is all passion and thrill without pausing to consider what love is. Love seems to have become just another product we want to consume. Of course, that is not how everyone sees it – I personally don’t and many of my friends do not either – but it tends to be presented in that way very often. Just think about all the love quotes on the internet!

And finally, there was the difference between needing and wanting. No, I did not need my lover to be happy. When I met her, I even knew being with her would probably mean problems and drama and hurt because I could feel she was troubled. And I was right. Still, I chose to stay because I loved her and I wanted to be with her, and I was ready to accept her for who she was, with the good and the bad because relationships are not just about the thrill, they’re about building something. One of my friends told me that you do not find the love of your life, you create it. And I think she’s right, so perhaps the grief of heartbreak was only enhanced by the feeling that the safe place I was trying to build for us together with her was being torn apart. It felt like watching my favorite poem or the painting I liked the most burning away. And it reminded me of all the hurt in the world that we cannot control – all the destruction… So I thought to myself: “the world is already so full of weeping, why would anyone want to add to it? Why generate devastation when you can build beauty?”

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But perhaps I am too much of an idealist and an optimist… And I know that the heart wants what it wants. It can’t be helped, but still, I’d like to hold on to these ideals.

Sorry about this terribly long post… I hope you enjoy it! Thanks to anyone reading  💙

Have a wonderful day,

Love,

Sacha

Make it art!

Transcending pain and suffering through form-making…

First, there was dull anxiety. A peculiar, arrhythmic beating of the heart and feverish tingles running down my back.

Then, it became oppression – lungs that seemed to breathe in no air and a knotted stomach that would accept no food.

It morphed into angered hope and delusions – heart pounding and parching tongue, shivers and fevers, a confusion of overwhelming, unexplainable sensations and numbness, both somatic and mental.

The colours and the poetry have deserted me; I cannot hold my pencil to make form; my brush will not apply the paint; my eyes refuse to read. I am filthy.

Comes the time of silence. My pulse is low… I can no longer hear the heart that beat so strangely before. I can only feel the tears flowing endlessly down my cheeks. It seems the weeping won’t ever end.

But still, I must work. I must read. As I force my eyes to focus on the words through the salty mist they are clouded with, they begin to reach me. I am reading Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, a wonderful piece of work written by poet and scholar Susan Stewart.

The first chapter, on which I was concentrating on, deals with the human fear of darkness and the rise of poetry as a way to counter the formlessness of darkness through form-making, that is, through metaphor, which is a fuel of poetry writing. In the process of describing the birth of poetry since Ancient times, Susan Stewart tackles the subjects of laughter and weeping, of grieving, of loss… of pain.

So I start thinking about the relationship between pain and poetry, and about the transformative power of art, which can make even the filthiest object a thing of beauty and transcend the greatest suffering. Stewart quotes Adorno:

“The substance of a poem is not merely an expression of individual impulses and experiences. Those become a matter of art only when they come to participate in something universal by virtue of the specificity they acquire in being given aesthetic form”.

Adorno, “On Lyric Poetry and Society,” in Notes to Literature.

With poetry and form-making, then, individual experience becomes universal as much as it remains intimate. It crosses the thresholds of individual existence creating intersubjectivity: I write with my “I”, but as you read my “I” aloud, “I” becomes you. It stops belonging to me – it is universal. The discussion continues and explicates the links between the lyric and love and suffering. What is the role of poetry in all this suffering? What can poetry teach me, after all? And art?

Susan Stewart then teaches me what I feel I already knew deep inside – she does not quite teach me then, but she verbalizes intuitions I could not give linguistic form:

“The enunciation of pain at the origin of the lyric must appear before the emergence of a self-conscious sense of one’s own subjectivity. […] Pain has no memory; its expression depends on the intersubjective invention of association and metaphor. The situation of the person resides in the genesis of the memory of action and experience in intersubjective terms – that is, the articulation and mastery of the originating pain […]. Yet, the mastery of pain through measures and figures is not merely repressive, it is as well a matter of coming to knowledge and expression.”

Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, p. 46

It dawns on me… From what I cannot comprehend, I can learn and through mastery of experience, gain knowledge and understanding. I can thus ease the pain, and produce explanations similar to the process of myth-making.

There is pain and suffering. In my life, in others’. Sometimes as I think of all the injustice and strife there is in the world, tears well in my eyes. Sometimes, it is my own, intimate heartache that troubles me, selfishly. But I can transcend these feelings if I make them into art. I will not claim, like Ezra Pound proudly did, that I want “to make it new”. But I will perhaps too ambitiously, yet quite humbly, exclaim: “Make it art!” 

And doing so, you may help yourself, and if you do reach someone else’s soul, may help them too and infuse this personal experience with altruism as you share it with the world.

And there will be a flame

It is a cloudy Sunday morning – the autumn sky looks like a very light grey shroud devoid of shadow or light, making the world around, that flavourless cityscape I can see through the widow, look anaesthetized. There is no wind; the trees stand very still; the electric cables here and there hang motionless. I can hear no rushing cars, no laughing school kids and no old ladies of many colours argue down the street, near the bakery shop. Somewhere in the house, dad is watching television as he always does – the lulled voices of commercials and various programs are an unescapable background noise in the flat.

It is a day neither good nor bad. It is not a day that calls for an epiphany; the special moment of revelation seems even less likely as steam gradually builds on the windows which take on the wan colour of the clouds. I can no longer see the buildings across the street, or the trees that stand very still and the electric cables here and there hanging motionless from their posts.

I have caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror earlier – sleep-deprived, sallow, hollowed cheeks, hunched shoulders and lank, unkempt hair. My pyjamas have stains on them; I can see all around me that the house is not so tidy. I have been sad for too many days.

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And yet, I can feel a new emotion crackling inside. It is not a flame; I could not even call it a spark, but perhaps it needed to begin on such a dull, faded day for if it can catch fire today, when there is no precious light and no vivid colours, perhaps it will endure. It speaks in a really soft, barely audible voice and sings to me: “This is not you in the mirror; remember the promise that you made”. It is true that I made a promise to someone, a vow to keep on drawing, writing, painting, reading, studying and laughing. It is also true that I asked this person to promise me she would endeavour to get better and heal so she could be happy. She promised she would try – I want her to succeed because I know she can, but the only control I have is over my part of the contract. And my part I want to fulfill, because if I do, perhaps the crackling sound inside my heart will catch fire to be a flame. And maybe I can keep it ablaze, one day at a time.

If I must lose you, or…

If I must lose you, promise me only that you will become a brighter, more accomplished person. That if I cannot spend this life with you, you will use the strength inside yourself to get better, that you will not let the apathy and fears that control your lovely mind take hold of you, but instead, endeavour to find your inner light and hold on to it forever so you can let this spark grow into the flame that I could always see within your soul.

If I must lose you, I can only promise you that I will not let myself wilt away, because you once told me I was your favourite flower and never wanted me to fade. All I can offer is to try and be studious, creative and good. To make my PhD the best work I can, become a better artist and complete the stories and the poems that I have begun to write. That I will not stop drawing, reading, writing or laughing because I am missing you.

I never wanted to lose you though… I never dreamt of this life without seeing you smile, without being the first to witness the look in your eyes as you wake up in the morning, or watching your eyes glitter with joy as you eat pomelos, grapefruit, mushrooms or spaghetti.

My heart brings tears into my eyes as it asks: “Who, then, will you share your reading anecdotes with? Who will read your poetry and who will you write it for, now? Whose happiness will you guard and whose soul will you cherish and blend with yours? Who will call you with a thousand questions and whose hand will you lace to yours? Who will you share the morning cup of coffee with and whose bread will you toast with jam and butter? Whose tears will you dry but your own?  Whose eyes will you simply, kindly look into?”

No one. No one’s. But if it means you can start to heal – I do not mind as much. If it means that in a month, or in a year, you can stand on your own two feet and look at yourself in the mirror thinking “I am happy” then it does not hurt as much, because I love you far beyond my own pains and desires – I love you so very much that all I ever want is for you to be fulfilled, even if it means that you must be forever away from me.

So if I must lose you, please be well, please be healthy, please be your truest, most beautiful and loving self, be the sublime, intricate, colourful sunset I fell in love with.

Teenage Love

Hello there!

Today, I would like to share a delightful little anecdote which made me feel happy and warm inside.

This year is my first as a high school English teacher. On my first day last September, I met a young philosophy teacher. It was also his first year, and we have since become really good friends. He is a sweet, clever and quite reserved man, the kind of person you can have very intellectual conversations with while still being able to talk about the silliest things. Quite a treat!

Last Tuesday, he came to see me in the teachers’ room and, as he sat beside me, he handed me a small piece of paper, carefully folded in a little square and said “Look what I found in my classroom today. I’m confused.” I took the note and read it.

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Here is the translation: “Hello, we don’t know each other, but you’re a philosophy teacher right? I have a question for you: why do men always want to be happy? Thanks a lot. I know we don’t know each other, but we never speak to strangers enough.” Yes, I know… I took a picture of the note. It may seem strange, but it was just so cute. How often do you get to have a secret message sent to you? It was almost otherworldly to me. I loved how fanciful it was – it seemed like we had slipped into a novel. My friend was still confused and I tried to help him see the beauty of the gesture. But he was quite unmoved, unfortunately…

We both wondered, however, who that mysterious girl (for we both knew it must be a girl) could be. I had a strange feeling I had seen the handwriting before, but I could not remember where. Of course, there was no way to find out. There are over 2,000 students in the school where we teach…

But then today, right after class, something utterly funny happened. Three of the kids waited for me and asked me how things were going between the philosophy teacher and me. I told them that we were colleagues and friends. They looked quite disappointed, but one of the girls started blushing. Her reaction spurred my curiosity – there must be something the matter with the philosophy teacher; it was unusual enough that they even knew his name, as Freshmen do not have any philosophy classes. So I simply asked how they knew him and the girl turned bright red. That’s when it occurred to me that she may be my friend’s secret admirer! I gave her a mischievous look and asked: “Melanie, you don’t happen to have written M. Saunier a note, do you?” The poor girl, who was already crimson, was shaken with an uncontrollable fit of laughter. She was the one indeed.

So here is how I discovered the identity of the mysterious note-sending girl. She looked very much smitten with my colleague, which made me feel a little sorry for her, but also happy because I loved her spontaneity and her drive. She was so keen, so enthusiastic! Her whole face sparkled with joy whenever she mentioned his name – it truly was the most touching sight. A snapshot of joy, love and youthful innocence.

The note she gave my friend is also interesting. First, there’s the question she asked: “Why do men always want to find happiness?” You could write whole essays on the subject, but to ask someone you do not know, but could possibly give you an answer and discuss the topic with you sounds to me like a wise gesture. Then, there’s the second part of the message: “I don’t know you, but we don’t speak to strangers enough.” There’s a core of truth in the sentence – we tend to seclude ourselves from others because we do not know them; we are afraid. Too afraid. Most people let themselves be controlled by fear. But she didn’t. She tried to make a connection, to reach out to someone, just for the sake of it. And that, I think, is beautiful.

“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag