Category Archives: On Love and Loving

A Love Like That.

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Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says
To the Earth,
“You owe me.”
Look
What happens
With a love like that.
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

– Hafiz, Sufi poet

On Letting Go.

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Last week I went and saw Celeste and Jesse Forever in the theater by myself. I do that sometimes, so there’s no need to feel sorry for me. This movie was really fascinating, because even though it was marketed as an indie dramedy, it struck me as a potent case study in breaking up and letting go. A brief synopsis: Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have been married for six years, but as they both approach 30, Celeste decides that they should get divorced. All of their friends are weirded out because even after being separated for six months, Celeste and Jesse still live together and hang out together all the time as if getting divorced wasn’t a big deal, to which they reply that they’re still best friends even though their marriage is over, and why shouldn’t they still hang out? That line of thinking works great until Jesse starts dating another woman pretty seriously, at which point Celeste struggles to hide her palpable jealousy and starts questioning whether or not she made a mistake in asking for a divorce. Much drama and hilarity ensue.

Maybe this wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers at all, but throughout the entirety of the film, the question that kept returning to the forefront of my mind was “Why is it so hard to let go?” In the beginning of the film, we see Jesse struggle to let go of the slim possibility that Celeste will change her mind and call off the divorce, and once he starts dating someone else, Celeste can’t let go either, even though she’s the one who wanted a divorce in the first place. Are we all crazy people for not being able to let go? Yes and no, probably. Obviously I am no expert on such things, but watching my friends go through break-ups and surviving a monster break-up myself, there are certain things I’ve observed that seem particularly Truthy.

One, change is hard for a lot of people, and even more than that, oftentimes it’s even harder to accept the permanence of the decisions you make that act as a catalyst for change. When you break-up with someone or divorce someone, usually that decision lasts forever. But what if you made the wrong decision? What if your life with this person is as good as it’s going to get? What if you never love another person as much as you love this person, or worse, what if you never find another person who loves you like this person does? If that turns out to be true, then you will have no one to blame but yourself, and no one wants to have to live with the knowledge that they have ruined their own life. When Celeste starts second-guessing herself and her decision to get divorced, she turns into a crazy person who does crazy desperate things in an attempt to hold onto the relationship that she’s afraid will slip out of her grasp. Why not just let go? Because letting go is forever, and the reality of forever is scary.

Two, there is a comfort in the familiarity of a relationship that is hard to imagine living without. When you’re with someone for a long time, you take for granted how much of your life is shared and how much your significant other informs your identity, and then when you break up, you have to rediscover who you are as an individual and relearn how to live your life alone. I can tell you from experience, that is the worst. And if that thought alone isn’t enough to keep you hanging on, just think about the agony of jumping back into dating again. Early in the movie when one of Jesse’s friends tells him he should start dating, Jesse says “Maybe I just don’t want to start over with someone new.” Years of work go into the foundation of a lasting relationship, from allowing yourself to truly know (and be known by) another person to accumulating layers of memories and inside jokes and shared experience, and when that relationship ends, it feels like all that work was for nothing. The mere thought of starting from square and attempting such an intensive and laborious undertaking with another person seems a positively insurmountable task.

Strangely enough, as I was driving home from this movie, “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley came on the radio, which, aside from being truly one of the greatest songs ever (D HEN 4 LYFE), is an amazingly poignant song about the struggle to let go. The song begins with imagery that reflects the speaker’s aloneness, from “empty lakes, empty streets” to “the sun goes down alone,” and then launches into that heartbreaking line “I’m driving by your house / though I know you’re not home.” He knows that “those days are gone forever” and that he should just let them go, but in spite of himself, he’s living in memories, not simply remembering but seeing his ex’s “brown skin shining in the sun” and her way of “walking real slow and / smiling at everyone.” It’s such a beautiful song, and it totally puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it.

It also, I think, hammers home the point that much of the difficulty of letting go is a signifier of real care. It wouldn’t be so hard to do if the person or relationship you’re trying to let go of didn’t mean something you. It’s like the five steps of the grieving process: you have to mourn, to work through your anger and fear and confusion, to honor what was once but is no longer, and accept the loss in order to move on with your life in peace. That’s the point of letting go, I think. Not to pretend that it never happened or to always feel regret, but to find a way to be at peace with loss. That probably sounds very zen, but it’s certainly easier said than done.

The Kooples.

European fashion line The Kooples has been doing this brilliant video ad campaign that features real life couples, dressed in fabulous Kooples clothing of course, talking about the beginnings of their relationships and generally bragging on each other’s awesomeness. It’s a really clever and cute marketing tactic and the couples are undeniably stylish, but its the stories that have won me over and compelled me to watch every single video.

I love hearing people talk about how they met their significant other, and even more than that, I love hearing couples tell the story of how they met each other together. It’s truly one of my favorite things. Each story is different and distinct, and there’s so much joy and affection that reveals itself in the telling. I think having a great how-I-met-my-boyfriend story of my own has only heightened my appreciation of the unique scenarios and circumstances that bring two individuals together… it’s a subtle form of magic. Ah, love.

Watch more The Kooples videos here!

This Dog’s Life.

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As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m presently/temporarily residing with six dudes and a dog, and the most awesome part of that experience has been the dog. The dudes adopted Penny while she was still just a wee pup back in November, about a month after I moved to Amsterdam, and now she’s about eight months old and has grown into a proper awesome dog. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a little worried about returning to Seattle and meeting Penny for the first time because I’ve never really been a dog person, and I was afraid I wouldn’t love her as much as Nate and all of his housemates did, if at all. But there’s a first time for everything, and Penny is my first true canine love. She’s seriously the best dog ever. She has the sweetest temperament, and she loves to cuddle, and she’s GORGEOUS. She’s like a supermodel dog. And I know I love her because I never feel put out about having to pick up her smelly shits when I take her on walks or to the park. That’s love, you guys.

ANYWAY, getting to know Penny has made me think a lot about what a dog’s life is like, and how awesome it would be to be a dog. Think about it: dogs don’t have to work or pay rent or worry about any of the things that humans have to worry about. They get to lie around the house all day and can count on someone else to make sure they have food to eat and they get free belly rubs all the time. And they get so excited about someone throwing a ball or a stick and just running after it. I wish I got as excited about ANYTHING as Penny gets about playing fetch. That type of earnest and unbridled joy is beautiful.

I feel like I’m also getting to see the world in a new way through Penny’s eyes, almost like seeing the world through the eyes of a kid. I see how she reacts with a mixture of alarm and perplexity to things like cars and bicycles, and these things that are so commonplace to humans start to appear as strange and magical to me as they do to her. She must think our world is so weird, but when I stop to consider it from her perspective, it is pretty weird. She’s amazed by the most simple things, like someone’s watch reflecting light on the ceiling. She’ll stare at the light intently, her head following it as it moves, and then she’ll tentatively move toward it and jump up on the couch to try to get it. She has a real sense of wonder that few humans are able to retain once they reach adulthood, and it’s really endearing and refreshing.

Yeah, dogs have a pretty good life.

The Museum of Broken Relationships.

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As the majority of the flights that I made within Europe were on EasyJet, I got into the habit of reading their in-flight magazine (which is great, incidentally) cover to cover. One of the most fascinating things I read about? The Museum of Broken Relationships.

Conceptualized by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, the museum began as a traveling exhibition that explored failed relationships through their tangible remnants, the objects that came to mean something greater than themselves in the context of a relationship. As the exhibition gained popularity, hordes of people began donating personal belongings from their own broken relationships, and the collection that began to amass necessitated a permanent museum location, which is situated in Zagreb, Croatia. According to the museum’s website, these exhibits, “although often colored by personal experience, local culture and history… form universal patterns offering us to discover them and feel the comfort they can bring.”

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I’ve been perusing some of the items in the exhibits and many of them are accompanied by an explanation from the person who donated them. One man who donated an ax recounts how he used it to chop up the belongings that his ex had left behind in their shared apartment, one each day for two weeks, and how he kept the chopped up bits and arranged them into neat little piles for when she returned to retrieve them. Another donor recounts throwing a garden gnome at the new car her husband came home in, how it bounced off the windshield and onto the ground, “a long loop, drawing an arc of time – and this short long arc defined the end of love.” The explanation that accompanies a donated cell phone simply reads: “It was 300 days too long. He gave me his cell phone so I couldn’t call him any more.”

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Isn’t it fascinating how otherwise unimportant objects can become imbued with so much meaning when they’re connected to a relationship? The MoBR’s website briefly refers to these objects as ruins, but I think that’s a really powerful characterization of what the objects represent. I keep thinking about Rome and how there are ruins everywhere, monuments made from the remaining fragments of things that were once beautiful and imposing and important. If these objects are ruins, then these ruins are almost paying homage to the relationship, acknowledging that it was once beautiful and imposing and important even though it isn’t anymore. It seems like a powerful and ceremonious way to honor the importance of relationships even after they’re broken, and to overcome the pain of loss through artistic creation. I hope I’m able to see this museum someday.

Want to donate something to the Musuem of Broken Relationships? You can do so here!