Over the past decade or so one of the ideas that has preoccupied me has been about falling in love. I had read the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on this topic, he said: you can’t do it on your own. You can only fall in love with someone who loves you back. That means unrequited love isn’t really love, according to Phillips.
As someone who has experienced a lot of what I would have called unrequited love, or, when in denial, a love that had yet to be made manifest due to some reason or other. I never really felt that I wasn’t in love when it was unrequited. My love was a ‘falling in’ type of love, I thought. This confusion perplexed me. Even when it was unrequited these loves that I fell into felt so powerfully strong how could it be anything else?
Yesterday, walking up to Aldi, I found myself thinking about this issue vis-a-vis my ex. No surprises there; I think about him daily. It’s hard not to because I still live in the town we spent so much time knocking about in together. I constantly see his friends or family — yesterday I saw his mother (we ignored each other!). So anyway, I realised that, contrary to what I have always thought — that I was in love with him — I couldn’t really have been. That’s because he didn’t love me back, even though we were an item for a year. We weren’t in love. I didn’t experienced that magical state I so badly wanted.
I did love him, but we never fell in love. Adam Phillips was right: falling in love is a two person affair.
Even though this was not what I wanted to realise necessarily, I learned something. I also realised how much I had wanted to fall in love. I thought I could somehow create that condition, through working on my appearance, or making myself more interesting by being an artist. But that isn’t how it works. You can’t manipulate a person to fall in love with you. It’s completely impossible. I really understand that now, and I wish I had known that a couple of decades ago, but the fact is that I didn’t know, and only the years of desperation have taught me. Ce la vie.
I have fallen in love once. I was seventeen. It doesn’t really make me sad that therefore my dream didn’t come true — falling in love again (I got the wish after that singular instance). But how different my life might have been had I realised that nothing I could possible do could conjure a beloved partner. I know that that does happen for some people, but it isn’t through anything they do. It just happens for them. So much of life is pure chance. Luck. Whether of good or bad fortune. It’s a mistake, I think, to take life too personally.
I think the best life advice is just to find and follow your own interests, but that can be hard if you can’t find things that really interest you, for an extended duration. Some people get those things early in life, some do not, for whatever reason. It’s hard for good things to happen when you don’t have direction. It’s easy to get caught up in things you don’t necessarily need. But perhaps that’s just the journey of life; finding yourself. I’ve always felt that to be true even if, as a lot of people say, it’s a cliche.
I’ve also been pondering on the truth of the “There are no mistakes” affirmation I’ve been running with since yesterday. This is something else I was pondering on my way to Aldi. I could agree with that notion when applied to my own life, or else I found the affirmation at least useful. But then I thought about some of the terrible stuff I read about and watch documentary’s about I came unstuck. For example, victims of femicide, or structural racism. The climate emergency. I mean these issues are certainly mistakes, in my opinion. They are worse than mistakes, they are crimes. For me, the affirmation does not work on these political issue.
Considering that it is relatively easy for to affirm that there have been no mistakes in my own life, it gave me cause to reflect that I am obviously, in that case, a relatively privileged woman. This altered my perception of myself and my currently somewhat depressed state of mind. So affirmations may actually work if you can find the appropriate one.
You may have noticed, if you’ve been following my thread (I’m never sure a ‘like’ guarantees that I’ve actually had my post read) That I’ve changed my heading from ‘Dreaming is Free’ to ‘I AM A CLOUD’. This is because I felt that I AM A CLOUD was not cliche, which I am keen to avoid. I also want to continue to affirm that nothing in my life has been a mistake in theory, there is one caveat — my childhood was a mistake. No child should have to put up with the pain I was dished out. But it wasn’t my mistake — it was the mistake of my ‘care givers’. So I don’t need to worry about that.
The writer Matt Haig, in his book, How to Stay Alive, affirms that he is not a cloud. He is the sky. I assume this to mean he is greater than the sum of his (negative) perceptions. Nonetheless, I will continue to affirm that I am a cloud; neither wrong nor exactly right, just floating along in a mistake-free state of being. I’d like to hear what you think of all this, if you feel like commenting.
One last thought. Lately I’ve noticed that when watching dramas on TV, whether fiction or true crime stuff (I watch a lot of detective/crime TV), I often feel sorry for the perpetrators. Not always; I watched ‘Honour’ on ITV a couple of days ago and I didn’t feel sorry for those awful men. But quite often I feel as equally sad for the criminals. Is this normal? I notice that in a Sally Rooney interview in the Guardian today she says “I no longer feel so completely confident about the line that divides ‘abusive people’ from ‘the rest of us’.” So perhaps I’m not in such bad company after all.