Monday, October 19, 2015

Breaking Up

So I made a vow that I'll post a reflection about love and relationships every week. I've skipped a week because it was such a tough week given my boss's away.

Last post, I devoted A to represent Acceptance, as the resolution for our inherent judgemental attitudes towards people whom we love. We accept what we cannot change, and have courage to support the change of those that we can. The serenity prayer gives me strength when the going gets tough, because ultimately no relationship is perfect and tough-going moments are opportunities for each of us to grow into each other.

Having said, it's often harder done than preached. Many of these lofty ideas can easily be dismissed as ignorant, naive and idealistic. Given the number and circumstances of break up these days, even I get demoralised on most days.

So I have devoted the B to break-up. We have the dramatic break ups that happen; both blame each other, harsh words are said, hearts torn apart. We also have the quiet, subtle, over-the-years drift-apart break ups when both parties leave a little sadder, but also freer. We also have the break up which happens before the couple even got off. The kind of whirlwind romance that lasted for 5 months and then died as soon as it started.

But what do they all mean?

Going through my own frustration break up, I've learnt a couple of things.

1. Break ups need not be messy
I think many times, when emotions are high, and the pride of "not losing", especially when I wasn't the one who wanted the relationship to end, makes me want to do some damage. I think this is where it gets really immature, hurtful, and messy. I cried, I also ranted to my ex-boyfriend then for giving us up. However, I also took the big gulp of air to stop myself from scolding and making him feel bad.

I had a very good teacher once told me, it takes way more courage for a person to say you did something wrong, than it takes for a person to accept the critique. The person also had all to risk, they risk your drama, your ill-affections and most of all your friendship.

I think we are at an age, where we should be mindful that our actions have consequences. We shouldn't be rational - we're human after all. However, know when to walk away from an argument that is going nowhere. My grief is now my own, and my ex no longer need to partake in my own internal storm. Good friends do that, they help you heal and I chose to take that drama elsewhere until I was ready to face him again.

It's oddly satisfying to realise you don't really need your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend to look after you when you're down and out. That was strength to keep me going - to take control back from the relationship and have it sit within me again, until such a time when I'm ready to make myself vulnerable and fall in love.

2. Break ups are goodbyes to our old selves.
I've always held the belief that with every break up, we say good bye to some parts of ourselves. I can safely say, my exes would not be able to connect with me now because I've changed with every romantic goodbye I've said.

We learn from harsh experiences the best, partly because we remember the shit pain that we've gone through and if we didn't learn from that lesson, it's like going through fire getting all burn but gaining no insight.

I think I've shed my old self many times, with every kiss goodbye. I gain clarity in what I want, who I want to date, and the kind of partner I deserve in life. It's also a good process of internal reflection - our insecurities that plague our previous relationship should make us stronger for the next one. I now learn that I need to be less judgemental, more supportive, and definitely wiser for my next relationship. I also gained from this painful but necessary experience, to not lie to myself just because circumstances seem right at that time. To always want and speak the truth of what matters to me - to voice my unhappiness to weed out any inherent problems during dating and we could've all avoided this one big heartache.

3. Break ups need not be about the excuses.
I was lucky, that my ex told me that the reason he broke up with me was because he didn't love me anymore. I have girlfriends blaming their exes for giving the most ridiculous excuses like, "it's not you, it's me. You did nothing wrong, I just want a change". For guys, they ask me for the best "excuse" to break up with a girl. I mean, a break up need not be about the why, nor the how. If one party feels constrained, or doesn't want to commit anymore, the only "why" we have to give is the one that is truest in our heart. It might become a realisation that we actually don't want a break up, but rather a break in habits. Some of us might become too clingy, and the other party no longer find it endearing. Or some of us, might have become too accommodating for too long - not realising we are losing bits of ourselves in the relationship.

We owe it to the other party, when we break up - to break the news in person, in private and with all due respect given. This is someone we still treasure, and now love albeit in a different way. It's a lot to ask, but ultimately, a simple and honest reason gives the other party closure. It also forces us to confront to exactly why we wanted this to end.

Relationships end for a reason, knowing what that reason is clearly, gives us perspective because the last thing we want is to break up, get together again, and then break up again because we oh-finally knew the reason why we broke up in the first place.

It's so tough, and very much unfortunate. Although for some of my friends, I would buy them champagne if they finally broke up - we all have that group of friends whom we find their partners disapproving. Regardless, it's their choice, and their life. And we don't normally see what's beyond their Facebook posts as well.

I think something as intimately heartbreaking, break ups teach us that love is to be guarded selfishly, yet also given freely. I gained much strength from a poem by Albert Camus, and I hope it'll give you strength to walk on during these moments in life.

Credits to Zen Pencils for this awesome cartoon of this most amazing quote!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The theme of the past few weeks continues, about love and relationships. This time with complete bluntness and honesty - about what we want, our values and that "fuzzy" feeling called love.

I recently shared a book with my ex, for the sole purpose of sharing extremely good prose and writing that don't occur often in literature. I've always admired short but brilliant writing, and I wanted to discuss some of the book's thoughts with him, given how we've both survived our break-up to remain as friends.
Perhaps what my heart wanted to do that my mind had to catch up to, was that I was looking for acceptance. I wanted him to accept that my ideas, thoughts, feelings about the book, to have co-passion about those ideas and find that connection that one can only obtain from shared insight.
I was looking for someone to accept who I am, how I thought, and I cared that someone who once loved me would at least understand some of my passions about the main thesis of the book. I cared that he approved of my tastes, about my braininess. I still yearned for his judgement.

I stopped.

And walked away mentally from that space.

I didn't need him to love the book, and indeed he felt it was simply about 2 incompatible lovers. I felt remorse that his interpretation of the author's complex thesis was as such, at the sake time he probably begrudge that "as usual", I read too much into the text. It reaffirms how much we do not give way to each other. We both wanted the other to change into what we both felt was best for the person. We didn't love, we didn't have our freedoms to express our inner-most vulnerabilities because we were too busy telling each other what was best to do.

It's my fatal flaw, that pride and ego, that over-confidence in my own thoughts that I am the best person that knows what's going on. We love because we accept that part of the other who is not perfect, we come to realise our own imperfections are no larger or worse, just different and it's okay. We are all human, and find resonance and dissonance in different things. Beethoven have already shown us how dissonance is beautiful, and diminished 7ths, are no uglier than perfect 5ths.

Ironically enough, my very attempt to seek approval from my ex about the book, is the very thing that draws me further away from him.

Being judged positively, to be placed on a pedestal, is as pathological as being judged negatively. Both represent 2 sides of the same coin. It is the positive expression of ego, it places people in an impossible space, that constant fear of disappointing you. They try harder, it becomes extremely stressful, extremely soul-ripping because humans are not meant to be Gods. We find mutual company in the mundane weakness of our peers. They may have fucked up lives, and some more fucked up than most, but nevertheless, we are all cut from the same cloth. A lover, once saw me as a god-sent, this unique individual, worshiped the ground I walked on. As flattering as it is, it also felt extremely lonely. You are not walking with a person on this journey. You're walking on top of that carpet they have laid down with their innards, flesh, heart, blood....

That devotion is stiffling, and it also starts from the "I". I feel you're too good for me, I feel you are my only, only YOU understand ME. It's equally toxic, and phrased in certain contexts these words become poison. I don't want to be worshiped, I want to be pinned under, with the weight my partner's flaws, insecurities and dreams.

God or dog, acceptance is something that is increasingly lost in the ego-centric world. A friend once told me my values are old, archaic, even extinct. I don't disagree, and I am actually now more okay that I may never find someone who shares these values.

Yet interestingly when I talk to people, we all want these for ourselves, and distract ourselves with so much frivolity, fringe benefits that we forgot at the core of what we want that is Love. So if this is what we want, why don't we be more honest with ourselves and pursue the very thing that is important to us. We complain incessantly, yet have no moral courage to do what we want because we want someone to blame for the speed bumps that come up later. We'd rather hate our partners when we're 45 for not being the partner we want, than to do something now.

This sense of accountability is also an acceptance that we are fallible, to accept that we have to face to consequences of our actions. That everything we do has repercussions of our lives and those around us. We need to take blame for our choices, as much as forgive ourselves for circumstances we could not have controlled. Self-blame, the "oh it's all my fault" is equally egoistical as blaming everything else. It proves that we assume everything was under our control in the first place. Many times the illusion of control is really, it's not.

Perhaps to love ourselves, starts by first removing any judgement that is directed inward, to remove all barriers called lies and comforting "self-talk". To be brutally honest with ourselves, find ways to change those we can change, and let go of things that we cannot. Perhaps when we drop impossible standards held to ourselves, can we come to accept and later love.

Monday, October 5, 2015

the courage to walk

There's been a theme that's been running through my week - one book by Kundera about the unbearable lightness of being, two men who are part of my lives that I both love and cannot have, three men whom I know want to bed me but are attached to their girlfriends, and lastly, four hours of conversation with a friend on relationships in general.

It's given me pause to think about my relationships thus far, and take count of the lessons for last year and this year. It's after all, pretty much towards the end of the year and I've been fortunate to have loved, lost and love again. Part of my conversations with the above friend, revolved around the idea of settling down - why we both face men who are looking to have sex with people other than their partners.

They seemed the "ideal" - 2-4 years relationships, already purchased a BTO, some even bought engagement rings, and still...this happens. It's made me very pessimistic and woeful about the current state of our zeitgeist (spirit of our times) when it comes to relationships. Even my ex felt that "forever" was too forbidden, and impossible concept. That used to give me shivers, but now I can empathise where this mournful dream, fantasy, came from.

As much that it is hard to have hope about one's own partner - that they will remain faithful, to embrace the weight of the responsibility, and take joy in having someone to care for - it is also equally hard to walk away when that burden no longer becomes bearable, when that weight doesn't ground you but sink you.

It's not hard to imagine why someone would choose to cheat, and after being an almost-home wrecker myself, I can understand why men find comfort in the bosoms of their mistresses. Why that escape is something they yearn for. They chose something bigger than themselves, their family, children - and I have friends whose fathers walked out on the families, leaving the mother defenceless and alone to raise her own children, that scene is equally tragic. 

Does it have to be that way? Do we have to land ourselves into an entanglement, that incredible mess before we realise we are currently lead the lives we do not want. Kundera spoke about having only 1 life, and because of that, we have no basis of comparison - that life is not even a sketch because it stands for an outline of something, but when we don't even have a sample of our own lives to model, the idea of a sketch is meaningless. However, I do believe that our lives can be extrapolated, we can "see" and make intelligent predictions of our futures. We may jump to conclusions, but if self-fulfilling prophecies have any merit, if we choose to believe, we then become the very thing we believe in.

So be careful what you wish for.

I think the point really, is that at what point do walk away? I think with life's uncertainties, the foreboding feeling of spending an eternity alone - while most of our friends move on with life and their families is enough to keep most of us within an unhappy relationship. My best friend once asked me after my break up, "have you ever thought that maybe you're just not meant to find someone, and that's okay."

And that's okay.

Those 3 words struck me, and in some ways still gives me great sense of comfort. It's okay to be alone, or perhaps, it's okay to accept that we may not find someone now, next year, or ever - and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

Just as not all of us can become millionaires, it is just as likely that not many of us can find a life-long partner, and even more rarely, find a partner whom we can love for a lifetime happily. It is just as likely that we can find our soulmate, but because we may not have the courage nor stamina to keep up with a relationship, we may also choose to walk away from the person who we will come to love for an eternity. We may come to love each other apart.

Two opposing thoughts: one the unbearable weight of a being caught in a prison of our own making, and the other, the ever-vastness of being adrift forever and ever...

Both require courage to make choices, very difficult and life altering choices for both ourselves and others. Both are not simple choices, both require some kind of a leap of faith to change fate, and both require large sacrifices.

It gives us pause.

That perhaps, happiness is not worth it, it is not worth breaking up families, it's not worth making our spouses cry, scar our children. Happiness - it's not worth the effort to put up a wedding, the whole charade we have to put in-front of our future in-laws, it's not worth crying our eyes out when we lost someone dear to us. 

Love is sacrifice, it calls for us to sacrifice others for ourselves, as much as we sacrifice ourselves for others. Love can come at a high price, and many stories we tell ourselves about love does not mention this enough. For this reason, I have always been cautious about who I love and till now I have not truly opened my heart because the pride of knowing we all wield and deal the power over someone, and conversely for someone to have that power over me, is a step I am not yet courageous enough to take.

But now, I am different - I can start to feels the wall come apart, that love is not all about power over someone's heart- but the ability to empower. Love empowers people, and once love stops being empowering, we must then have the courage to walk away. I am starting to see love (and relationships) in a different light, and with this paradigm shift, my pride starts to be less of an issue. I always had a large amount of pride, to always have to be right. However, when I start to see how loving someone - anyone - is about giving them the space to sometimes be wrong. It is sometimes necessary to teach them wrong thing to illustrate a concept we want someone to learn. It is not so much to "instruct" but to support them when they fall, for a deed given in when, is twice the favour.

As the Kentucky bourbon wanes while I finish this prose, I have a couple of parting thoughts.

The lies we tell others are often the lies we tell ourselves. Facing up to the truth is something we don't do enough. We should never face the truth as a form of necessity, but with courage that whatever the outcome is, we will be okay. We pack ourselves with so much frivolity - careers, money, fame - to keep us distanced from being hurt. We need to have the courage to walk away, whether it be the lives we are leading now, or the walk into the lives we are afraid to have. Love should empower those choices we make, and that agape, that unconditional expression of love, that bearable burden of responsibility of our choices should make us happy and we must also have the courage or choose differently when it no longer makes us who we are.

My life, should be better than my dreams.