Love is all that matters…
When I was 12 years old, I had made two promises to myself: a) I would leave India and live abroad, and b) I would never fall in love or be in a relationship. Both these resolutions were driven by the fact that I grew up in a patriarchal society, where relationships between men and women were very unequal. In these relationships, the definition of love felt like compromise, bondage, obligation, fear and sacrifice. I did not see any playfulness or romance between the couples around me, while I was growing up.
And so I made good on both my commitments – I moved to the UK at the age of 21 and I stayed single for as long as I can remember. If I had even a hint that a guy was falling for me or pursuing me, my guard would go up, and I would run miles away from the situation. I never gave myself the permission to feel what any young girl should, lest I became weak and fell into one of those relationships I detested.
That is, until I met him in January 2017. I still do not know what it was about him that drew me to him – maybe it was the twinkle in his eye, or his endearing smile, or maybe he was my “type” (I have always crushed on tall, blonde men with curly hair and a streak of adventure; and I am unusually drawn to people with a Kiwi/Aussie/South African demeanour and accent), or as my therapist now tells me that I have a tendency to fall for “broken” men, but all this apart, I know it was definitely his kindness, generosity and overall goodness that attracted me to him.
He was unlike the loud, aggressive, competitive men I had met in India or even at Cambridge or Morgan Stanley. I loved the places he took me to in London – even my most expensive holidays paled in comparison to the simple but meaningful experiences I had with him. I felt more connected to London than I ever had before, and for the first time in 15 years, London felt like home. I liked what he stood for – community, nature, selflessness. He made me realise there is more to life than a job or a successful degree. And most importantly, he made me feel respected as a woman and in a very powerful way. And so over a period of a few months, I finally let my guard down and allowed myself to fall in love with him.
And then, as sh*t happens, I realised it would never work out, and that I was living a dream, something that would never materialise. After lots of confusion, some heart break and tears, I then got to thinking – what does all this mean? Why do we fall in love with a certain person? What happens to the love when the person we love goes away?
Pondering on these questions, I realised something profound – love is never about the other person, love is not how we feel about the other person, and it is not how the other person makes us feel. Love is how we feel about ourselves, and about the world. The presence of the other person basically gives us a more positive perspective about ourselves and about the world. They change us for the better and allow us to become a better version of ourselves. And when they go away, the positive perspective stays with us if we allow it to, our better version of our self stays with us.
In my case, his presence in my life made me feel that the world is a safe place, that it is a beautiful and friendly place, that London is a cool place. He helped me find myself a little more by allowing me to explore new adventures. He helped me widen my social circle and find new friends. He opened my heart and mind to new ways of thinking. He empowered me as a woman. He encouraged me to dream again – something that I had forgotten. He made me feel alive once again.
With all this good stuff, love is also a lot of work. It casts a light on our shadow self — the bits about us that are ugly and dark, and that we have chosen to hide deep within ourselves and not acknowledge. Love forces us to face our demons — for me, it was my ego, my fear of being controlled or tamed, my fear of being hurt and vulnerable, and my fear of sharing my true authentic self with another person. But love and fear cannot co-exist, and to truly understand love, I had to face my fears, accept them, forgive myself, ask for help, and eventually transform these fears into unconditional love for myself (still work in progress).
So falling in love really is learning to love ourselves unconditionally. No one outside of us can give us the love we as humans crave so deeply — we have to do the work to rescue our own inner child. I have also learnt that if we let go of the need for attachment, the love we felt for someone turns into an inspiration for ourselves to live a more meaningful life, to become a better version of ourselves, and eventually spread this love to more and more people. Unfortunately most people are unable to let go of the attachment, and that’s when the love starts to hurt.
I, on my part, am very grateful to him for opening my heart to love, and helping me grow as a person.
Looking forward to more love in my life.
Pri-Pri (Mona Lisa)
September 2018 (edited November 2019)