Not that I am a genius at it now.
Not that I know everything there is to know about it either.
I don’t believe there is a single soul that’s walked this earth that’s grasped the entirety of love. And I don’t want to claim to be such a person either. But having walked this earth for almost 27 years now, I think I have gathered enough experience – and courage – to be able to pen a piece such as this one. Maybe others before me have realized and written about this already. Definitely many others after me are going to realize this and write about it. But the people I see around me are the ones who have not yet grasped this. These are people I care about. And I want them to know what I have learned, so that maybe when it is their time to experiment with love, they will at least make new or different failed attempts.
Lesson no. 1: NEVER try to change your guy.
I thought I wasn’t one of these girls. This category of girls who are always trying to develop new tastes in their guys, make them like Sushi and EDM and long walks on the beach and holding hands, make them hate cricket and beer and strip-clubs and porn; and yes, I am not one of those girls. But that doesn’t make me immune to this very common and natural human tendency. I only do it in different ways. Trying to get him to relax more, trying to make him develop healthy eating habits, trying to make him wear bright colours or keep a French beard.
Trying to change your guy – or any person in your life – is a sure recipe for disaster; and I need not explain this. I am pretty sure you know this. However, the corollary is not true. It is not always possible or good to change yourself or adapt yourself either; that is a sure recipe for disaster too. Burning yourself out trying to accommodate the world is never a good idea (and I will address this at a later point here). The important thing I have learnt is to accept things and situations. Now this may be the most difficult thing to do, and trust me, I have learnt it the hardest way possible. But the process can bring immense peace to you. It is important to realize that we cannot affect every situation, cannot amend every decision, and cannot cure every bad habit. We have to learn to be ok with certain things in life – the friend who, in spite of you giving all you could to stay in touch with them, drifted away; the love that, in spite of you putting everything at stake, was not meant to be; the relationship that, in spite of you swallowing your pride and ego and trying to make up, went kaput anyway. People come and go, leaving imprints on your heart. And even though it is tempting to want to keep the person in your life forever, we should focus more on creating lasting and positive imprints rather than trying to make the person last forever. We all know - everything changes; but memories can stay.
Lesson no.2: NEVER try to save your guy.
Now this one can be quite a puzzle to understand. But if you have ever felt like going out of your way and doing something for someone – your mom, when you saw how tired she was from all the chores; your dad, when he came back from work and looked stressed; your friend who was just going through a tough time at home or school; or your guy, who seemed functional and happy with you but was still mourning his past relationship – you’ll know what I am trying to talk about. A video I recently came across explained this to me so beautifully and simply. Our undying need to help other people, to save them, stems from the feeling of wanting to be saved ourselves. From what? It could be from anything –apathy, disappointment, depression, anything. So what do you do – watch indifferently as your guy deals with his demons? No. Be there for him. Show him your support and love. But don’t make his demons your own. That is just going to result in two people and twice the more demons to fight.
It is ok to fail in trying to save someone. How can we really save anyone when we are failing miserably at saving ourselves? We can’t. But don’t feel miserable about it. I know just how hard it is, and how long it can take to come to terms with this. I am guilty of having done it myself. I tried so hard to save him, although I could see I wasn’t going to succeed, that I put everything, every last bit of my love and my soul into trying to save him. I believed I would be able to do it, even though I could very clearly see that I was failing. People told me he is not worth the time. But I felt guilty about giving up. Eventually of course, I failed. I blamed myself for it for... well, for a really long time. I felt like… I had lost a battle I’d been fighting for so long. But I lost a lot more than just the battle. I lost a part of me. I lost the ability to care for people for a long time. I gave myself in so much to that one relationship that for a very long time I was unable to feel anything for anyone. But you know what? No-one is worth it. No-one is worth driving yourself to this point. It took me several months to forgive myself for it, and to be ok about having failed. What’s amazing is I was able to go a step further and realize that there was nothing to forgive myself about in the first place. It is ok to not save someone. And it is ok to put your well-being and ‘self’ before the world.
And this brings me to the final lesson, and that’s –
Lesson no. 3: Save 'it'.
'It’ can be anything – love, affection, respect, time, energy, effort, etc. Your ‘it’ will be different from that of the next person. It will be different from that of your friend, your sister, your guy. What’s important is to learn to never give any relationship all of 'it'. Being fed with romantic movies and stories that talk about selfless love full of sacrifices ever since we are little girls, it is in our nature – or rather our ‘nurture’ – to want to sacrifice everything and try and save our guys. But the kind of sacrifice that we expect ourselves to make demands of us to pause and think for just a moment – what exactly are we sacrificing? Who or what for? And why? We feel like we are not doing enough, or we are being ‘selfish’ if we give any less than all of our ‘self’ and our life to a relationship. But is it really worth it? Is any relationship worth it? Maybe you already know that the answer is actually ‘no’. But you – conditioned by mothers, movies and society – won’t allow yourself to admit it, even if just to yourself. Don’t do that. Life is too short to be so hard on yourself.
So were our mothers wrong in doing so?
And you won’t be wrong to do so either – if it is your conscious choice. But please be sure to make the choice consciously, and not as a result of general expectation or conditioning. And please, don’t expect something in return. Do it because you want to do it. Don’t ever use it in an argument as a trump card. (‘I have given my life to you! Why can’t you at least do the dishes once?! Is it too much to ask for?!’)
In my personal experience, the only thing worth giving our ‘self’ to is our passions. Cooking, music, art, sports, fitness, travelling, photography, reading, writing, charity, social service, teaching, environmental issues, dog-shelters – whatever form your passion takes. That’s the thing to invest in. That’s the thing to pour into. Literally pour into. Nothing can be more satisfying. And if you haven't found your passion yet, well, keep looking. As I said before, burning yourself out is not a good thing, no matter how justified the cause or end seems.
Being in love makes us do funny things. It makes us want our partners to learn everything we learn, experience all good things we do, it makes us want to take their hand and drag them along behind us everywhere we go. My experiments with love, however, have taught me to be content with walking on parallel paths with my guy. Sometimes we hold hands, sometimes we don’t; and even though our paths are parallel, they are not the same. Life will bring different bends and detours in mine, and different hurdles and turns in his. If on any such detour I happen to chance upon a beautiful lake, I shouldn’t try to go back, find my guy and drag him after me to show him the lake. Neither should I expect him to leave his path and run after me with an umbrella if it starts to pour down on my path. It is my own individual journey, and although I can choose to narrate my experiences to him, I have no right to pull him off his path or journey and make him join mine, even if it is only because I want him to see that beautiful lake. If we both live through the same things at every point and on every level, how are we ever going to enrich each other’s life? How are we going to diversify?
Sometimes it can be difficult to watch your love struggle with the same things that you did and not do anything about it; it is very tempting to want them to listen to you just so that you can save them from another failure or heartbreak. But we must learn to allow them to discover things on their own – even if it takes them a couple of experiences more than you. And if they still don’t get it then its fine. That absolutely okay too. And you are not being selfish when you do this. You are only being wise, in that you understand that their set of unique thoughts and experiences is what makes them the person they are, the person you love; and yours make you the person you are. And before you expect anyone to love you the way you are, you must first learn to love yourself for who you are.