You think you’ve got it? If you have, you know the downside, and if you havn’t , the downside is unimportant. This is the target that reputedly belonged to Anniie Oakley, and shot (photographically that is) by Anne Liebnowitz, now in a private collection. Today is the day our attention is turned to matters of the heart. Except they aren’t. The commercials grab the occasion and mix it up with some touching images, the restaurants put some different flowers on the table and hire more waiters, and anyone in love dismisses the day as kitsch, and anyone not in love gets reduced to a melted puddle of embarassment/humiliation/ rage/bitterness when asked for the eigtheenth time that morning how many valentines they received/sent. Then there are the married, who don’t know whether they should or whether they shouldn’t. Such dilemna and all in complete contradiction to the idea of any sort of Valentine at all.
Let’s dig a little deeper and throw some light onto this critical condition we term love. Everyone knows it, everyone suffers from it, and not many of us deny ourselves completely. Most of us want some, most of us look for it. The acqusition of it is hard enough, but try living with it. That is the hard part. The English novelist Iris Murdoch said this,’
‘Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. ‘
I love that . It took me a long time to understand it, but I do. I have fallen in love more times than I care to admit to, and have believed my own position, have lived longer than I should have with mistakes. But when I have recognised the mistake, I have always brought it into the light. None of us fall in love and want the love to end. For me, I think I wanted love so much, lacked it so dearly that I saw love where it was not. Schopenhauer wrote about how he saw the human condition with persuading wit and wisdom about a tale of hedgehogs. And it’s not Beatrix Potter.
A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.
I like the image of the push and pull of intimacy as this reflects my own experience of truly loving relationships. When the desire to overcome the fears and pain of sharing is greater that the pain of humiliation and pride, that’s when you know you’ve found love. And it doesn’t have to be romantic love, I mean love between lovers, parents and children, siblings, friends. Romantic love is an extension of love between two autonomous people, who meet on a level playing field, who both have strength and weaknesses they are confident enough to share with one another. One of my tests that I have used on my own relationships in the past is this, does this person make me feel good about myself, or not? Is he for me? I managed to answer that honestly, and I cut myself away, even though at the time I felt feelings of amazing love for him. I had to recognize that he did not share the same for me. That was decades ago, but the memory of the pain lingers, still makes an impression. I can understand how some people prefer to curl up in a ball and remain like a hedgehog. Not for me though.
Deborah Anna Luepnitz.shows through five case studies how we all have simultaneous needs and fears for intimacy, thus creating a dilemma for full living. She uses psychotherapy to listen to peoples stories, and help them to see patterns in behaviours that once recognized, can be altered , and thus improve the quality of the relationships in jeopardy. I believe in the power of being able to tell your own story, in a safe and non judgemental environment. A few weeks ago a friend of mine rang me, and shared an issue bothering her. I asked her why she didn’t consider a therapist. Her reply was that she had friends, and that was how she worked her way through her problems. I loved that. This has progressed away from the topic, but digression has a place in a blog, it’s all part of a whole. That’s what I wanted to show!! How it is connectedness that is the joy and the key to love. It is a prerequisite and a condition in my case. Sometimes I feel disconnected from the people I love, and it is painful. But it is also part and parcel of the flow. And worth it. My lowest times are when I cannot feel the love I know I have for the ones who are beloved to me. That is the darkness. Knowing that day follows night anchors me, and keeps me in anticipation of the dawn.
Happy Valentine. To human beings everywhere, whoever you are.