We haven’t met yet.
And “yet” is actually a problematic word because it implies that we will. And I’m not at all sure that’s likely.
Actually it’s very unlikely. Very improbable.
I won’t say “impossible” because anything’s possible. But I’m really, really not counting on it.
What is probable – highly so – is that you don’t even exist.
So why am I writing to you then?
Well see, WordPress does these weekly writing challenges. The last one I did, last December, was particularly interesting; I liked that one. It inspired me to write from within a framework I wouldn’t have dreamed up otherwise – and this proved useful to me. As writing practice, yes – but also for helping me sort out some things I had twisting around in my head at the time.
I’m kind of hoping for a similar effect today.
Here’s the issue: Valentine’s Day is irritating me this year. And I can’t put my finger on why exactly. It’s not as simple as “I don’t have a date” or something. (Though the fact that a day exists that asks you to focus on that is inherently annoying.)
It’s something else.
So, this line jumped out at me from the challenge write-up:
It feels strange to be explicitly against a day celebrating love and commitment.
I agree in regard to the love part. It would feel strange to be explicitly against a day celebrating love. (What’s not to celebrate when it comes to loving someone…anyone??)
I don’t agree that there’s anything particularly wrong with feeling unsettled by the concept of committing yourself to someone else.
I’ve written here and there about my feelings on this subject. (here most directly I think) – but to be clear: I’m not against the idea of a long-term relationship, per se. It’s just that I don’t much like the idea of “have to.” I could hypothetically be with somebody for a very long time; I can see that. If it was a free choice, every day. A mindfully made, truly authentic choice. Every day.
And that implies that you could choose not to be there too. Nobody owns anybody else. That’s essential.
It’s not that I don’t want to do hard work. Relationships are challenging; I get that. And that’s fine. The challenges, ideally, are worth it. If you feel love for someone, that’s a valuable, valuable thing – and you treasure things that are valuable (or, you should.) You protect them…you go to great lengths to keep them safe and healthy.
The idea of that doesn’t bother me; it’s not hard work that scares me.
So what does?
It’s something to do with the concept of “finding someone.” Finding “the one.” Finding “your match.” The idea of that as an objective in life.
There’s something wrong with that. It’s too…outwardly-focused or something. (Maybe life should rather be about finding yourself??)
And Valentine’s Day? It amplifies everything that’s wrong in the concept of that.
I think the easiest way to understand this better is to imagine myself in a long-term relationship – happy. And that’s where writing to you, person-I’ve-never-met, comes in.
What is it about this relationship – about you – that has me preferring you, being with you, to total independence?
I guess the first thing to consider is: who are you anyway?
This is actually kind of hard to answer. I don’t have some laundry list of requirements – not at all.
It’s more about impressions, I guess. Vague ideas, really.
Flexibility…that’s one. You have a flexible, elastic mind, I think. And you’re creative. If not overtly artistic, you’re innovative in your thinking…in your approach to life.
You’re fully engaged with life – exploring it, making it work for you. And you don’t believe in limits, so you don’t box yourself in – or me. You LIVE your life – and you inspire me to live mine to its fullest capacity. Whatever that means.
And you’re not intimidated by that last sentence! Uncertainty doesn’t often rattle you – particularly not in matters of the heart. It rather challenges you – and you like the challenge.
And another thing (and this sounds arrogant, but I don’t know how else to say it): you’re capable of taking me on. That’s important to me because you know what? Most people aren’t. And you know what else? I spent a lot of my younger life fretting about that – and feeling that I was the one who had to change. Change to accommodate others’ lack of originality, their narrow minds, their absence of vision or sense of potential.
You don’t ask me to do that – ever. You don’t expect me to stifle myself in any way. And so I never feel suffocated when I’m with you. I feel free. Being with you is expansive – in every way.
And maybe it goes both ways? I would like that.
So I think it comes down to the fact that being with you equates to living my life to its fullest potential. Not that I can’t live fully without you (and hopefully do; living a full life shouldn’t be dependent on your presence or absence.) But everything’s a little richer…a little more possible…a little bit more with you. That’s what makes being with you so worth it.
With you it’s about savoring moments. It’s about experiencing things – fully and mindfully. It’s about exploring passion and desire and intimacy – all with authenticity and consciousness.
One of my favorite books speaks to some of this. (Which is why it’s one of my favorite books, I suppose. I certainly identify with this book and its central character’s concerns more than any other book in my memory.)
Here’s a passage worth reading:
Knowing that she was desired excited her more than anything else. It had nothing to do with the automatic formula – I want to make love with you, I want to get married, I want you to have an orgasm, I want you to have my child, I want commitment. No, desire was an entirely free sensation, loose in the air, vibrating, filling life with the will to have something – and that was enough.
—Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes, 2004 pg 162
And maybe most especially this one:
Anyone who is in love is making love the whole time, even when they’re not. When two bodies meet, it is just the cup overflowing. They can stay together for hours, even days. They begin the dance one day and finish it the next or – such is the pleasure they experience – they may never finish it.
—Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes, 2004, pg 164
I think I’m finding Valentine’s Day particularly annoying this year because it’s not a celebration of passion and desire and feeling inspired to mindfully savor the moments of your life – these things that, for me at this point in my life, are what make a relationship worth having. It purports to be about those things, but it’s not really. It’s about the veneer of those things. It’s about getting the flowers and the card and going to the fancy dinner – and letting everybody know that you did. Because that means you have passion and love in your life – and everybody knows it.
It’s cheap veneer. It’s worthless. It doesn’t tell you anything real at all about what’s underneath.
But it’s really not even the trappings of Valentine’s Day that irk me. I mean, I have nothing against going out to dinner in a nice restaurant (I’m not much of a foodie, but I do like ambiance.) Or surrounding myself with candlelight (I really like candlelight. Firelight too.) If you want to give me flowers, that’d be kind of awesome (I really, really love flowers.)
I don’t see any particular problem with there being a day on the calendar earmarked for people to spend time on things like these. It’s even kind of nice. Romance, even the stereotypical idea of romance that is brought to the fore every Valentine’s Day (hearts, pink things) can be fun – really fun, actually. Why not mark a day out for that kind of fun?
But that’s it. That’s as far as it goes for me. And when people (or greeting card companies) try to make it more than that?
WordPress’s Ben Huberman, when he wrote up the writing challenge, asked:
“Can one single day encompass the richness and diversity of experience — from the heartwarming to the heartbreaking — that love can produce? Does it even make sense to channel so much emotional energy into 1/365th of the calendar?”
And my answer to that is: NO.
No, it really, really doesn’t.
If you accept the day for what it is (inherently superficial, an excuse to have a little fun), then it’s fairly innocuous.
If it were up to me, everyone would just leave it at that.
And okay…I think I understand somewhat better now what it is about Valentine’s Day that has been bugging me this week. It was actually surprisingly easy to sift through. (I like the way these challenges get me thinking!)
But I can’t end this yet.
Writing to you was just a (somewhat silly) exercise to help me get inside of my brain. But now I’m preoccupied by the idea of: what if you do actually exist somewhere? Do I have anything I want you to know??
If you do exist, and you’re reading this for real sometime in the future? (Laughing at me probably for writing it in the first place?):
Just know that I’m really, really glad that I know you. Because the me who wrote this is doing okay. She really, really likes her independence. She likes where she’s taken her life. She’s worked hard for what she’s built these last three years.
But the truth is, she’s alone a lot. And sometimes alone can wear on you.
She’s not willing to sacrifice the independence for the sake of taking away the alone. She unequivocally feels that that’s too much of a sacrifice. So she deals.
But if you’re in the picture? That means it really didn’t have to be an either-or proposition: alone or heavy sacrifice. And this is something she highly doubts at the moment. Not that she’s particularly cynical, she doesn’t think – but she can’t help seeing the probability of that reality.
To know that there were indeed other options on her horizon – and that she actually lucked into one (in the form of yourself?) That’s…well, that’s kind of amazing.
And she likes the idea of amazing things crossing her path.
So…thanks for that.