Things, people, feelings are unpredictable and always changing. Some people fall in and out of love as quickly as the tides change; others take forever to get over a broken relationship. They say the hurt eventually goes away, but how much of a mental fight does it take in order to come out alright on the other side?
In his novel Island, Aldous Huxley wrote, “It isn’t a matter of forgetting. What one has to learn is how to remember and yet be free of the past.”
In too many circumstances laced with doubt and indecision, we find ourselves compelled to pick choices at the opposite ends of a spectrum — an all or nothing mentality. When love is unreciprocated or relationships end badly, often the pain is too difficult to bear. Solid friendships that blossomed into romance are discontinued and never the same again, till the heart finds a way to mend itself and find the courage to start anew.
For a certain period of time, a compromise is out of the question because it is too painful. The choice to emotionally detach or remove all form of contact is never an easy one, but nevertheless a rational plan of action until a sense of closure can be obtained; till one sees the dim light at the end of a tunnel.
We can either choose to fight and hold on to that love with the hope that it will be requited one day, or give up entirely. Whether done unconsciously or not, we tend to force ourselves into a corner of picking either extremes, simply because not deciding on anything (choosing to be in the middle of both ends by taking things as it is) does not emit the same emphatic motivation one needs to carry it forward. Like a deer caught in headlights, we prefer sticking to a rigid, stark option that underscores firmness, safety and a plan, rather than being neither here nor there — an open question.
We seek to escape from being shackled by lingering emotional remnants, an ostensible repercussion of being in the middle. That explains why we sometimes choose to forget that person entirely, or languish in a vortex of bitterness and hatred to cushion our ego. Indulging in spiteful gratification comforts us that we are in control of ourselves. We do what we do to make ourselves feel better, whatever it takes to alleviate the sting of a bad break-up or unrequited love. It is the easy way out, and the most effective. It is necessary for some people who have suffered immensely from being taken for granted, led on or ill-treated. But is it the only way out for everyone?
Many of my friends believe “out of sight, out of mind” as the most foolproof method to get over someone. Others seek the alternative of a rebound. But it is almost a given that someday, no matter how long it takes, we will all fully and completely be able to move on from a person we once loved.
We take it for granted: moving on from someone you love is an endgame so easily assumed, a promised definite. But what if you never move on? Even after finding someone new, is it really possible to eradicate all memories of a past beau you once loved with every inch of your soul? Easier said than done: to actively and consciously stop caring, to cut that person out of your life. Perhaps the question is, do we always have to leave everything behind in order to seek greener pastures?
The people that I admire the most are the ones who have learned to come to a balance with their feelings. They acknowledge that things never did work out with a certain someone, but they choose not to resort to an extreme: of throwing everything away out of spite or malice, propelled by rejection or injustice. They can still find it within themselves to be in the middle: not giving everything up, but not giving everything in either.
I’m not trying to be self-righteous or noble here, because different circumstances merit different responses. But what I am trying to say is that for certain experiences, perhaps the pain could be lessened by coming to terms with the fact that it is ultimately okay to still care, to always care about someone whether as a friend or not. And perhaps that is the truest, most unconditional form of love. To be able to put yourself down to a level where you know the love may never be returned, but you refuse to short change your feelings. To not berate yourself for being a lovelorn fool caring for someone who may not feel anything more for you, but accepting that these are the way things are now. Accepting that it is okay to feel this way. It is okay to still care about a particular someone while you are going through the tedious journey of getting over him or her, and it is possible for both mentalities to co-exist at the same time. In essence, you are learning to respect yourself by respecting your feelings.
What we all need to learn is the act of containment. To cope with our emotions and not jump to drastic extremes just for the sake of it. To balance our emotions to a level such that maybe one day in the future, one can finally let go, but at the same time understanding that there is no necessity to throw yourself head first into a hasty extreme, especially if you were once happy with that person.
Feelings can waver and dissipate to tiny fragments, but maybe what we need to realize at the end of the day is that they may never completely go away. A soft spot for a particular person may and will always exist, but hey — that’s okay. We don’t have to forget or give up things entirely to move on to something else; the key is to not be tied down by the past. And if one day we finally stop caring, then so be it. But there is nothing wrong with wandering in the middle, in the in between while we wait for someone better to come along.