A friend and I were recently discussing relationships, remembering college friends we haven’t heard from for a while, life, love. We were talking while sitting comfortably in her place like we always do. She is my best friend. I love talking to her and sharing news and dreams over coffee she has made for me the same way since we were in our late teens. She went with me to shop for jeans this evening, we ended up getting boots and a silk shirt, and a cute little sweater she picked for me and said I looked so good in. We had so much fun, just goofing off, being together, laughing like little kids. She went and looked for things for me to try out, told me how she hated me for looking good in my new Pepe jeans, then hugging me tight and telling me how much she missed me all the time, me who is living away in Geneva. She lives with her family in Beirut. We have an uncomplicated relationship, her and I. It is called love and it is called friendship, and I am not sure of the distinction between the two in this case.
We talk about love and we automatically assume it is romantic love. Just because it is celebrated on its own day in February, romantic love is not the only one around. It is the most famous kind of love, it has all the hype, but it is not necessarily the only way to love, not when think of real friendship, the love of parent to child, loving a grandparent, and a few other kinds of love that transcend humans to touch on the other species around us. Please allow me to elaborate.
We had a head resident in our University dorms. Miss Ibish was an unmarried, well-educated plump lady in her sixties who had to put up with over a hundred hormone-crazed girls like us, always coming in a few moments later than her imposed curfew of 11 p.m., knocking on the glass doors, giving her a puppy dog look that called on her sweet side to forgive our transgression on the closing curfew and let us in to our rooms, please. She knew we had to kiss our boyfriends one last time before going in for the night, she shook her head, wondering how girls can do this on a daily basis and not ever learn. In the middle of this, the protagonist that really made all decisions of being let in without a lecture, being forgiven, smiled at, was Lucky. A white bishon frisé dog, a fur ball who so resembled Ms. Ibish, his owner, in gait, shape and temperament. If Lucky liked you, you were the luckiest of the girls in the dorms. You had a passport to Ms. Ibish’s heart. She loved that dog so dearly, smiled at him, talked to him non-stop and took his counsel on any matter big or small. She was often heard asking” what do you think, Lucky?” We all wondered what the answer was to that rhetorical question. Miss Ibish loved lucky with all her being. It was not hard to see the level of affection that the two had for each other. We learnt to treat him like we would her son. Bringing him treats caused both Lucky and his mistress to yelp in delight and carry on something silly for a while. How can you define this limitless true love using the norms and measurements of the love you read about in Romeo and Juliette? Is it any less potent as an emotion? Is it inferior? Not according to Miss Ibish, it is not. Nor to Lucky I would imagine.
A lady in the town I come from is called Hind. She is an eccentric funny lady who is always wearing the latest fashions for teenagers. The only problem is that she is in her seventies. She loves clothes, she loves jewelry, shoes, make-up, umbrellas in all seasons. She is often heard declaring her opinions about life for anyone who will listen. One such opinion she kept repeating for a few years after her husband had an accident and became paraplegic. She often made her declarations in front of the town church, when she was at a funeral, during a visit to a sick acquaintance, stating that women whose husbands are ill should be freed by God taking their husbands away. She would stand up, leaning on her umbrella, make her announcement, wishing that her husband would go meet his maker already. She would say that so lovingly that you would think she is wishing that someone would take her husband on a ride to Beirut to see the bright lights and change scenes. She meant every word. The reason she wanted her husband out of the way was because she had intense love for another, or others. She was totally, unbelievably, madly in love with her flowers. She spoke to them, had them planted in different pots on her roof, she would caress them and sing softly to them every day. She had been suffering since her husband fell ill and became bed-ridden, suffering from too much time spent serving him, which meant taking time away from her beloved flowers. Her husband passed away a year ago. She was sad when he did, but then she blossomed like one of her flowers and is often seen watering them, loving them with all her being, on the roof, with her umbrella by her side.
Forget rules. There are no rules where love is concerned. It does not conform to anything. How could it? Its nature is that of total abandon and suspension of reason and rationality, when you lose yourself and you live to love the other. That is in a way what distinguishes romantic love from all other facets of human love. It is the intensity of the early days, months, and sometimes years of intense love, when you feel you have found everything you have ever wanted in life, when nothing else seems to matter, when you know you are home anywhere your loved one is. When your heart does nothing but whisper the name of your loved one.
Romantic love is like a drug. You are on a high, permanently, until you hit the low and then you drop to the bottom of the well of despair-this can be caused by them not calling for a day. Love is characterized by that sense of losing oneself, with no stops, no boundaries, no beginning, no end. I would defy someone who truly fell in love to tell me when exactly did that happen? It is not a linear progression of emotions. The term fall in love is as accurate as can be I guess. You also stumble on love. You are a rational being one day, and the next you are a whimpering, lost soul living for a sign of the other’s love. No rules, no precedents, no user’s guide. Every case is unique and follows its own trajectory. What is common to all love stories is the tidal wave of emotions that is generated somewhere deep within the souls of people who fall in love and carries a lover to where it wants to take them. No one has a say of why and where and how, and how much. It is as deliberate as breathing and heart beats. I imagine lovers as yellow leaves falling from a tree on a gusty day. Nothing can stop them, no one knows where they will end up, and how they will be transformed at the end of the journey.
No one who has ever experienced absolute all-consuming love can understand what happens to him or her when they are hit by the rush of emotions that marks the early stages of love. They just are, in love, they react, to love, and they fall, fall, fall, in love, with no control, no reason, just that suspended state of being where every atom is honing in on the one they love, waiting, longing, smiling, crying, and longing some more.
But the bottom line is, no rules. No movie, book, love story, song, poem can be your guide to true love. Love does not conform to anything, it is a free agent that strikes when it wishes, which gives credence to the cupid theory imagined by people who came before us. A playful angel, plump and smiley like our Miss Ibish, on a cloud, with a bow and arrow (I think it is more a laser gun), hitting people at random, putting them in that state which has inspired poets, philosophers, artists, kings, leaders, and every human at one point or another in their lives.
Love. No rules, no recipe. It just happens. It just is. You should consider yourself a very lucky human being to have had romantic love at least once in your life. This is when you feel alive, well, horrible, deliriously happy, desperate, on cloud 9, in the pit of a volcano, on Mount Everest, floating in space, flying to the stars, all in the space of one minute talking to a loved one. I don’t know what else on earth can give you that.
Just let go when you feel it coming, be in love, with anything or anyone your heart chooses. It is the essence of being alive. Love your child, your friend, your one and only. Just love like you are supposed to, with abandon, savoring every moment of the free fall. I hope you have a reasonably soft landing of togetherness.
I wish you all a loving day, or two. I have to fly back to Geneva in the morning, so it will be a few days till my next blog. You can re-read this one to let it sink in meanwhile. 🙂