Recently I found myself in an unanticipated, serendipitous encounter with remnants of my past; it had a profound effect on me and for a few days, I found myself questioning my entire reality and foundation of love.
My lovely therapist asked me to do an exercise of redefining love. She asked me to take a pen and a paper and write down what does love mean for me. So, here I am taking a mediocre, confused, and chaotic stab at it and sharing it with you. Ideally, this should have remained in my diary, but well.
When I was younger, love for me was butterflies in my tummy and hot fiery sex that made my bones shatter. Love was the little tingling in my hands when his fingers touched mine and it was staying up till 5 am to talk to him because neither of us wanted to hang up.
When I was younger, I mistook romance and sex for love. When in reality, love is what remains when romance dies.
However, in the past seven-eight years, a lot seems to have changed.
Today, I don’t think someone who makes me cry or feel shitty about myself is someone that can bring love to me. Younger Ananya doesn’t agree because if crying on the floor till 3 am, or making pathetic, failed attempts at controlling her tears in the metro train on the way to work or literally hearing her heart shatter in a dozen pieces when she saw him smiling with another girl in his WhatsApp profile photo wasn’t the biggest fuckin sign of true love, what the fuck was it?
It must be love, she says with a lot of conviction. It felt like it.
I want to make the younger Ananya sit down and explain to her gently, that it’s not her fault that she had time and again gauged the intensity of her passion for someone by the amount of hurt they caused her. The idea that love is painful is so strongly embedded in our deepest consciousness that we often mistake coldness, abuse, indifference, apathy, rejection from our object of love as a testament to how true and authentic our love is.
I want to make younger Ananya understand that abuse cannot co-exist with love, even though at the moment it does seem like it, because that’s what romantic novels have been teaching her since she was in sixth grade and an avid reader of books found in the school library or the ones stolen from her dad’s.
“We accept the love we think we deserve” is a quote I often go back to when remembering my past relationships. Too often we accept the little breadcrumbs of love and attention offered to us because somewhere deep down through internal (or external) conditioning we believe that those crumbs are all that we are capable of getting.
We settle for less because we believe we don’t deserve more.
How can someone who keeps hurting me claim to be in love with me? It doesn’t make sense right? You know why. Because it actually is an absurd idea. Abuse and love do not co-exist. Since most of us have a history of being treated poorly by our parents, who were supposed to love us, we have normalized and accepted the notion that people who love us can hurt us.
Bell Hooks writes and I agree, “The myth of true love-that fairy-tale vision of two souls who meet, join, and live happily ever thereafter-is the stuff of childhood fantasy. Yet many of us, female and male, carry these fantasies into adulthood and are unable to cope with the reality of what it means to either have an intense life-altering connection that will not lead to an ongoing relationship or to be in a relationship. True love does not always lead to happily ever after, and even when it does sustaining love still takes work.”
Too many of us are clinging on to ideas of love that in some way or the other involve desperation, anxiety, or emotional hurt. The media has made a business out of our inability to recognize the difference between love and abuse. And we all have become involuntary consumers of the endless, unrealistic, unattainable fallacy of what true love looks like.
Too many times, media shows us that it is acceptable to scream and hurt people because we are hurt or angry. It starts early on in childhood where a father comes home and takes out his frustration either on wife or children. One thing that I find particularly beautiful in my relationship with my partner is that even in our worst moments of anger and misery, we make a conscious effort to be kind to each other.
No matter how cliché it sounds, it is a fact that if do not know the meticulous, hard art of being kind and loveable to self, we cannot love others. Because love in its rawest, most authentic form is being gentle to yourself, and once we learn that only then we can extend that kindness to others.
Most of us learn early on to think of love as a feeling. When in fact, it is action. Love is a choice we make. We choose to love the people we love. On good days, and bad.
Love is the act of showing up for people. It is consistent, stable, and well, sometimes boring too. I don’t think love is acting on your whims and impulses; it is the mundane act of taking responsibility and accountability every day for the ones we say we love, and for ourselves.
Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love”- Morgan Scott Peck