Friday, 4 January 2013

Love, relationships, and other crazy things you might not know about me (Part 1)

Over the next few days I'm taking a break from foreign affairs. Instead, I'll be mulling through other parts of my life while I'm still officially on holiday. Not only does it keep me practicing the art of writing, I feel much better when I scribble down my thoughts instead of confusingly bouncing them around in my head. 

I told myself I'd wait until the holidays to organise some thinking time for more personal aspects of my life. So, what follows will be a multiple-part word vomit exploding onto the screen out of some poor confused guy's head. Please have your trays in the upright position and ensure your seatbelts are securely fastened. It's gonna be a bumpy and weird ride... 

Love, relationships, and other crazy things you might not know about me.  (Part 1)

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vex'd a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.

I always thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d have a girlfriend by now. I hit 25 going into 2013 with plenty of life experience behind me. I know more about this curious world with each passing day. I’ve been plenty of places, traveled the world (although not nearly as much as I’d like to), and met thousands of people. Surely there’d be someone out there who’s crossed my path and set off that sweet chemical reaction in my brain imploring me to love her. I’ve heard about it, and read about it. I think I know what the process is and where love actually comes from. The chemicals and electricity of love are fairly well known, I just haven’t really experienced them yet.

I don’t think the chemical nature of love cheapens anything. The way it works on the receptors in my brain using molecules my body has broken down and absorbed from simple foodstuffs, in a way so complex and fascinating that English can only partially do justice to the beauty, doesn’t diminish the wonder of the feeling for those who’ve experienced it. In no way does reducing the process to basic reactions make the experience of love any less remarkable, for me or anyone else. Why should it? Some people sneer at how everything becomes dull when we know their processes; how the world changes from colour to grayscale the more information we receive. I disagree. Knowing what a flower looks like through one lens can be enthralling; knowing what it looks like through many lenses can be magical.

But I haven’t experienced this so-called “love” in any real adult way. I’ve seen my friends struck as if by lightning, with a malady-like ability to talk unceasingly about their new-found love to the point of white-noise or radio static. I’ve read about love in books and seen it on movies, but I’ve never felt the thing for myself. To be honest, I don’t really even know how to describe it. I most certainly wouldn’t use paint or drawing to express love, I’m so useless at art I’d make a paraplegic, 13-year-old graffiti scoundrel look positively enlightened by comparison. If I had to guess I’d start off with a bit of poetry or prose. I wouldn’t know who to quote but I’m sure some good lines exist. I might try T. S. Elliot or someone like that. It seems laughable, but I really can’t think of any writer off the top of my head who actually writes about love. I suppose this unflatteringly reflects my lack of experience in the subject.

If I’d actually been in love, I might have followed the writers who pen such gorgeous passages. In any case, I fear it would do little good to quote such authors. The problem would be that it is their words, not mine, and I’d only be using research to describe what should be an intensely personal experience. If there is sin in this world, using dry research to describe subjectively personal human emotions would hover somewhere near the top of the forbidden fruit, sending the accused straight to the inner sanctum of whatever dastardly lake of fire is imagined.

Love is so personal that everyone’s version or tale of the feeling is not the same. Each time I hear someone say they “love” another person I wonder: how? What kind of love do you feel? I’m not sceptical that they do, actually, love another person. I just wonder if they know what they’re feeling is actually love. Sometimes you can be so sure you are very sick, even though it is only a cold and it will pass in a few days. Yet when a real bout of influenza strikes you down, you know the earlier sickness was decidedly weaker.

I guess until I actually experience ‘real’ love, I’ll have to believe them. But there’s a nagging question that perhaps it’s something other than love they feel. From time-to-time it makes sense they’ll feel lust or infatuation, not love. Can they really tell the difference when these feelings swing so fast as like a pendulum? Do these people feel love all the time? I doubt that. Or is love a one-time feeling that soon simply gets added to the pool of emotions they feel for their significant other?

There’s this physical chemical reaction that takes place when you feel love for somebody known as Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, otherwise known as “falling in love”. This charming little reaction provokes the extremely cliché “butterflies”, sweaty palms, and all the other annoying stuff of love. NGF gets stronger during the first year of a relationship. It makes the couple feel giddy when they see each other. They can’t stop talking about their perfect partner to all who pretend to listen. This feeling doesn’t last forever of course. It soon downgrades the sight of your special person to ‘partner’. Things become either comfortable or stale, depending on whether the desire for new NGF experiences gained by falling in love with other people has diminished or not.

This is why love is a young person’s game, or so I hear. One has more freedom to dawdle with love. When you get older, a relationship becomes more of a responsibility and commitment than a simple feeling for another human. A part of me is definitely jealous of all the people out there in love. I haven’t found it yet, and I’m unlikely to do so in the near future. I used to have some excuses about why I was so untalented in finding love, but those have mostly given way to the reality of my situation.

For instance, I’ve on more than one occasion thought my demeanour could be the repellent scaring away all those nice girls. My confidence levels and how seriously people take me or what they think of the words coming out of my mouth might be compounding the problem. So to metaphorically scrape off the repellent, I made a conscious effort long ago to ensure this would never be a problem. The one thing people can change about themselves is the way they conduct their behaviour around others. You may not be able to alter the genes or the history of your situation. But there’s little excuse if one cannot learn more or practice basic human social skills. It may not come naturally, that is your powerful gene code scuttling your chance again, but there’ll be something you can alter. Something you can change. All it takes is time and effort. Things like social skills are habits, and we all know those are difficult to break.

So I’ve spent a lot of my time figuring things out and inoculating myself from the common traps and pitfalls permeating many lives. To be fair, I have come from a good base. Apart from when I was a lot younger, my speech and elocution have never been a big problem. Sure, sometimes when I’d get too excited I might hesitate or when my brain’s working too quickly I might miss a few words. But so long as I knew what I was talking about, and I could be confident about that knowledge, I was fine. I try to keep my mouth shut if I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Of course sometimes I just have to speak up just to include myself in the conversation, but that’s just human-nature. Everybody does that from time-to-time. The trick is not to make it a habit, and just be comfortable listening. After all, everybody I meet knows something I don’t.

I know generally speaking boys develop later, educationally, in life than girls. I don’t tend to appreciate generalisations about things; life’s too complex. But for me the ‘late-blooming’ theory of boys and their learning is entirely accurate. I went to University, probably too early, at about 19 years of age and finished a degree that’s given me a good tool-kit for life. I could have waited a bit longer to really figure out what I wanted to do, but who knows. Maybe I never would have figured it out. To be honest, I went through about ten different ideas for my education during an important gap year I took, and it certainly wasn’t the first thing I wanted to do early that year that sent me to University. In January I wanted to be a pilot. In December I’d pretty much decided I wanted to learn how to write. I must have gone through about fifty different ideas for education between those two months, not to mention through all the years growing up.

Going to University was important for me. It was the time when pretty much everything I had been taught in my younger days was deeply challenged. The thinking tools that University taught me and the mere proximity to other people attending to learn was instructively important. I spent most of my time on my studies, but, being the precocious male I am, I also spent a great deal of time learning about the world and how everything works.

This is probably because I still don’t feel like my time spent homeschooling in the later part of my life was entirely beneficial for me. I know I could have focused better on my schooling then, but I didn’t and I had to pick it up later. Yet had my history been different, then it would have been different. There’s no arguing with that. But I might not be walking down this fascinating path I’m trudging. Perhaps I should be grateful of my past.

Anyway, I’ve only really learnt a good deal of things since I started at University. I’m not going to say my school years were a waste of time. Many of the good things I learned in school form the core of my worldly understanding. I’ve carried much of them through into my adult years but they are by no means unscathed. A child’s understanding of the world is far different to an adult’s, as it should be. Since I grew up, I have probably done enough research and study outside my core tertiary subject to qualify for perhaps another degree. I’ve no idea if this is true (it probably isn’t) but sometimes it sure feels like it. My late-blooming consisted not of chasing girls or playing sports, it was on my chair or at a desk reading and learning about the world. I honestly can’t get enough of it.

Sure, I see friends and keep fit. But the core of my life is learning and connecting patterns. I’ve spent thousands of hours dedicating myself to books and education. And not just reading for pleasure. I’ve tackled intense books recently only someone as crazy as a University student would read. A good portion of my mind is convinced this is the correct path to be taken. The remaining parts of my brain would like me to stop all this learning and reading to go play video games or blob on the couch watching stupid TV sports or listen to inane babble from reality shows dressed up in the guise of ‘entertainment’. Other people my age think living it up while young is the best thing they can do, deferring their study until they get older. I’m sure they think that’s the right thing to do.

There’ll be plenty of time for serious adult behaviour when they grow up. Now is all about being crazy and hanging with friends, living wild and free. It feels good to be out and about, doing irrational things. But for me there’s only so much time in my life. I’m sitting here with 25 years behind me and looking at a potential 50 more years until I kick the proverbial bucket. Most of that time will be spent being old and far less dextrous than I am now. Unless science can help extend my time of being young (dream), I can’t be caught up doing things that aren’t important and I’ve got to prepare myself for being old. I’m young now, but that will pass. I will be old for far longer than I’ll be young and I need to arrange for that.

Being crazy once in a while is necessary. We all have to be young while we can. Living like that and having those experiences are important; don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think the huge amount of time most people allot to them is wise. I’m all for staying up late and drinking. I could even go for a cool weekend to a random place for no good reason. But I’m convinced there’s something wrong about doing this when I’m so young.

I have a strange ability. Almost everything I’ve learned is somehow stuck inside my brain. The pattern-seeking piece of my mind files things away and connects the dots. I can summon crucial facts or quickly make the correct attachment in conversation to usually remain confident and at ease. My inter-personal skills are well-developed in my opinion. I defuse conflict adroitly and can inject humour or seriousness into most conversations at will. I’m fast on my feet and good with English. People seem to enjoy talking to me because I have something to say and I don’t discriminate. I can get along with almost anyone yet I have the skills and fortitude to break or tell the truth when necessary.

I don’t shy from conflict, I just try to direct my social interactions like a captain sailing a ship. A wise teacher once told me that the best warrior has no need to fight. For someone my age I can hold a conversation about almost anything, with anyone, at pretty much any time; a direct result of constant learning, and the ability to absorb cultural and social norms. At risk of this sounding too much like an interview for a particularly annoying entry-level job at a greasy local restaurant, I’ll stop now.

Even girls seem to like talking to me. Of course, there are other things keeping these interactions from developing into anything but the most platonic and friendly relationship. But I don’t believe my confidence level, intelligence, social ability, or conversation skills keep me from finding love. I could always get better (couldn’t we all) but I’m far more developed on this front than almost anyone my age. Yet they all have relationships. Some of my male friends are knowledgeable about only a few things. Some are even monomaniacs. Yet all of them have had or are in relationships right bloody now. There’s something females find attractive about them that I can’t attain. I think there is a deeper reason for my bachelor life.

Part 2 here, Part 3 here


Ryan said...

Epic. I can tell I'm going to enjoy this series. Thus, I will write a small tome of a comment back for you haha.

"Sometimes you can be so sure you are very sick, even though it is only a cold and it will pass in a few days."

Brilliant metaphor, and for what it's worth, I can vouch for its validity. I'm of the opinion that like a new car or house, a new PS3 game or iPhone, a new baby sister even, is probably a closer simile - a new romance eventually loses its 'newness', its initial excitement and becomes... normal.

Unsurprisingly if you ask me.

I've been married almost 2 years now and there's no way I drive home from work every day thinking of a really cool thing to say to this girl, only to arrive and get butterflies and hot flushes. At the same time I don't walk through the door sighing "ugh, you again... give me someone else already".

While those mountains (being sick) will pass, I'm not convinced they turn into valleys, unless the relationship's genuinely going quite sour, but rather that they level out to sea level (passing in a few days). A healthy norm of planting your arse on the couch, turning your head, seeing your wife in the kitchen, smiling "hey babe", getting up to give her a hug, sharing daily events as insignificant as they might be, then finally offering to blunder about in the kitchen in a vain attempt to help her with dinner.

I think this is normal/natural. It's only if she's away like she was last month - she spent a week in Wellington with her father's family - that you do genuinely start to miss her presence, her input. Those little things you got married to her for. I can cope quite easily being what I call an internetrovert, I can enjoy the company of myself and the internet or a fun video game or a good movie but at the same time I would think myself a little more extroverted than you, cousin. I become lonely relatively quickly I feel and suffer easily from FOMO (fear of missing out) and will sometimes go too far in trying to make event clashes work, to hang out with as many people as I can, to cram in several social outings in one night - sometimes to the frustration of one wife HAHA.

But enough about that.

Thesmith said...

Yeah, the transition from “love sick” to normality is expected. Now that you’ve been with her for two years I can understand you missing her when she goes overseas. Whenever a family member went away for a bit, it always seemed like a lot had changed. But then they came back and it all seemed normal again.

I’m of the firm opinion that if you’re comfortable with being alone, then you’re ready for a relationship. It’s the people who can’t stand to be alone, or who just NEED to be with a significant other, that you have to watch out for. I can think of a few people, and they look really clingy. That just makes things so much worse.

But wanting to be around people: that’s different. I know I recharge with both a good book and company. I’m lucky that I don’t need human interaction all the time, or that I don’t need to be alone just to feel balanced. I’d say you’re a bit more extroverted too, but that’s why I like you. And I could take a leaf out of your book and get out more than I do (but when would I be able to read!?!). I guess you’re a bit more weighted to the extrovert side, and I’m weighted to the introvert side.

As much as I don’t like using those terms, they simplify things.

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