Changing The Way I Look At Love

I have allowed myself to have my heart broken in the same way over and over again for years. You may say there’s a pattern but I will defend myself for a while before I actually agree with you. I have the same excuses too:

“They were different people.”

“People outgrow each other.”

“Priorities change. Sometimes, people realise you’re not their priority.”

The point always comes down to me pinning my expectations from love on to someone else. Maybe it was what my parents told me as a child: “You will have to take care of yourself because there may be a day when we’re not around to do so.” I always felt the need to fill that space. As I was telling my best friends this week, there was always a sword hanging over my head telling me that I’d have to find someone for myself because no one else would.

In a world where we’re constantly told to be independent, the need for a partner to lean on seems contradictory to me. With the burden of real life and growing up looming starkly over our heads, the fear of loneliness and the constant need for emotional support just stand out as more painful. We have been conditioned over time to seek it from outside ourselves. Maybe in cuddles, loving messages, hand-holding, and kisses, we seek a completion that we don’t promise ourselves.

And honestly, why don’t we?

I have found myself distancing myself from societal ideals of marriage more and more over time. It may be a case of bitterness and a bout of cynicism, but I rejected marriage as a necessity earlier this year. My parents told me I needed it to be “settled”, to “procreate” and I found myself asking them what I asked myself too — why the fuck should I?

Settle for what? Settle for whom? How am I supposed to settled when I was raised to not settle? Wasn’t I raised to aim higher? Why should I settle?

As far as procreation is concerned, I realised that was not my cup of tea as child-rearing is the kind of responsibility I assume I will never be ready for. Besides the fear of having to be a complete human’s go-to person for everything, there is a narcissism attached to wanting a tiny version of myself that I have never had at all. The idea of another version of myself circling the planet is more panic-inducing than exciting.

So those arguments have been settled.

Now, tell me. What else do I have left to look for when I am told to look for love to feel complete?

Companionship? I have wonderful friends and parents.

Emotional support? I have wonderful friends, parents, and a therapist I can thankfully afford.

Fulfillment? My job has blessed me with the kind of fulfilling joy that makes me love Mondays.

Something to keep me warm at night? There is a reason I sleep in the middle of the bed, holding on to two pillows, and with an extra blanket. I’m pretty damn warm when I need to be.

Altruistic love? No love is really altruistic. When we give, we do it with the expectation of getting something back. When we look for love, we look for the kind of love that we got from our parents. The kind that brought a sense of understanding regardless of the good, bad and ugly. Who are we kidding when we think that someone is going to give that to us without expecting the same in return? And how would we possibly learn to give unconditionally just by being in love?

Don’t get me wrong. I love love.

I have loved love all my life. I have sought it in my friendships, stories, movies, books, words, music… everywhere.

I have found love within myself.

It sounds ridiculous and I would not have believed it if you told me I would love being by myself and with myself a year back. But, things brought me here. Heartbreak drew me away from love and closer to myself. As I spent days crying in my own company, I found a solace that a man couldn’t give me. Over time, I spent more time with myself because I genuinely loved it. I didn’t miss pretending to enjoy getting to know someone I didn’t want to know longer than the time it took me to put my mouth to theirs and leave.

The second I realised it wasn’t my responsibility to be with someone for anything but my own happiness, I realised my search had ended. I cannot mince my words with this. It is not and has never been our responsibility to find love or to feel better in it. It is, however, our responsibility to respect ourselves and the bodies we have while we’re here. I am not a fan of living a long life, but I’d love a happy one.

Right now, my happiness is the dinner I just had and following that with finishing this piece of writing that I started today. It isn’t the best writing I’ve done. But, it made me happy. It definitely made me happier than a man has ever made me or probably ever could.

That said, if someone does want to change my mind — they’re welcome to. It just has to feel better than good food or being happy with yourself on a Sunday night does.

Twice A Bridesmaid

I woke up. Not like I had slept at all that night, but I woke up and walked towards the door of the compartment of the Alleppey Express on my way to Kochi. A phone that has run out of charge really leaves you with less choices. I am glad I had none because when I looked out that door, I only saw beauty. Now, I am a terrible Malayalee. I don’t know any Malayalam that could save my ass in any part of the world, but that view could have knocked anyone out.
The clouds covered the tops of every hill we passed and the weather was cold enough to make me want to hug myself and twirl around in that cramped corridor of the compartment.

I would have done that even if the weather wasn’t that good. You see, I was going to be a bridesmaid at Gloria’s wedding.

Courtesy - Arpit Phillips

Courtesy – Arpit Phillips

Gloria and Emil’s love story had been the center of attention ever since they started dating two years back and we’d been awaiting the wedding for a year now. I don’t necessarily believe in happy endings, but I just witnessed one in those two days.

I met friends from college and hostel who I hadn’t seen in months. We spent the entire day regaling each other with tales of hostel and college. As I looked into the faces of my laughing friends in the cramped backseat of a car, I forgot I was there for a visit. It was like Bombay came with them. It was as if we’d never left at all, in fact.

The day dawned upon us and flew past us. I guess when you’re dealing with your own preparation and that of someone on the verge of setting up a new life, you take up a responsibility to make sure that transition is as smooth as it can be. Luckily for us, we had never met someone who was as prepared to take the plunge as Gloria was.

After a tearful hair catastrophe, tearful wedding sermon and a few more tears shed at the toasts – I went back to collect my luggage. In the dark, any place’s landscape completely changes and so does your reaction to the place. As we rode back in that car, Atheena and I spoke our hearts out. Now, let me give you a small disclaimer here. I love growing old. I embrace every birthday like any other day. But, that ride made me realise how old I really was. The realities we assumed were 10 years away were now shoving itself in our faces. It scared and exhilarated me all at once.¬†We all knew that we would not be going back the same people that we were when we came to attend the wedding on the first day. But, that day when I looked out the window at the light drizzle, I knew we had already grown up.

As Gloria was about to throw the bouquet at the small crowd of single girls, I thought of the last time I was a bridesmaid. 21st November 1999 – the same date 14 yrs ago – I was six years old and slept through half the ceremony. The groom was my uncle and my pillow that afternoon in the church. All I knew was that I felt like the prettiest person in the crowd even if the spotlight was not on me. I knew I wanted that spotlight on me someday, but I knew it was a long time before I’d have it. So, I ducked the bouquet
As I remembered this coincidence of being at a wedding on the same date when preparing on the morning of the wedding, I got a lot of nudges from old aunties and Atheena who is just trying to get people to stop talking about her impending doom. I shrugged it off with a shudder and a smile. What else are we Indian girls best at, right?

But, that’s not as important as what I was left with.

I am still dizzy from the sounds of the cheesy wedding music I could not get enough of. My foot still has the mark of a torn blister because my shoes killed me. I am still up for dancing to the same playlist of pop music with my friends I hadn’t seen in forever. I am still at that wedding.

Some of my favourite people. LOOK. I AM ON THE RIGHT.

LOOK. I AM ON THE RIGHT.