Justifying the Ugly Pain of Loss and Longing

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Do you know what I just noticed about my posts? I really don’t talk much about romantic relationships. Other than mentioning my frustrations with the idea of love at first sight in some of my Disney posts and a recent post inspired by the cardinals in my neighborhood, I couldn’t find any. And that’s not super strange because I try to write about things that I know, things that have meaning to me and I feel can have meaning to you. I talk A LOT about the kind of love we have for friends and family. But it’s weird that I would neglect this totally legitimate, really deep longing for the intimacy that comes with romantic relationships. So today I am going to do just that!

Actually, that was a bit misleading. In all seriousness, I’m going to talk about not being in a romantic relationship. Wooh, singleness! Now, in my opinion, there are the happily single and the unhappily single. And if you’re happily single, good for you! And then for the unhappily single, it’s more difficult. Because you’ve heard at least once that you don’t need another person to make you happy, that loving yourself is more important than others loving you (and that, as long as it’s not narcissism, it will actually help others to love you). And those are all true, and you can probably intellectually see the truth in those statements.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept emotionally and enact. It may be easy to admit that we are whole without another person, but it still feels like we shouldn’t be alone. And that is completely valid. That’s the hardest piece to give up because it’s the piece most engraved in our minds. Loneliness, while not always remedied with romance, is a very real and very dark emotion. And there are only ever a handful of people at most that we can share our deepest selves with. That’s love, being so comfortable with someone that you can be your realest self with them.

This quest for intimacy is also explored in a beautiful project that you may or may not have heard about. It’s called “Lovers Shirts,” championed by Carla Richmond Coffing and Hanne Steen. They take pictures of people (mostly women, but there are a few men), wearing the shirts of their ex-lovers and talk about it. And it’s a very profound thing to see their vulnerability and read what they had to say about love and loss.

This project was by no means about heartbreak, but it does bring up comments about it. And I really can’t talk about heartbreak because I have fortunately never had to experience it. But what I will say is that it’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel the pain of loss. Yeah, it’s nice to heal. Everything feels lighter and easier when we’re not in the throes of loss. It’s better for our emotional health. But It doesn’t make you weak or overly emotional or anything. It may not be pretty. But it means you truly loved, and what is the shame in that?

Epylle Spydre

My Conclusion: They Love Each Other, but They’re not Codependent

So, part of my spring break homework was to find an unusual behavior, make observations on it during this week, and then answer some questions/design a lab testing a hypothesis regarding said behavior. So I decided to study a mated pair of cardinals we have, because they often come to our bird feeder together. It’s a really cute, romantic thing to say that they always come together because they love each other.

But then I noticed that they don’t always come together, that it’s not even an unusual occurrence to see only Mr. Cardinal or Mrs. Cardinal out there. And that kinda dampened the sweet, romantic image I had for them.  But then I made this not-so-scientific conclusion: they love each other, but they’re not codependent. And I realized that that is even sweeter than if they always came together. Image

Romantic relationships can be really cute. Most people get really happy whenever they see their friends in relationships with good people. In our fandoms, we “ship” characters together because we want to see them happy. We do have the tendency to glorify romantic relationships too much, making someone else’s or even our own sense of joy dependent on being romantically involved with someone else. Think of all the upset single people you see on Valentine’s Day. But that’s not quite what I want to talk about…

Basically, we like seeing people committed to other people, and we like seeing the same in ourselves. At least, most of the time we do. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule…Again, that’s not what I was intending to talk about. Where was I? Oh, commitment! It’s a wonderful thing, both in romantic relationships and in everyday relationships (which are just as precious). However, especially in romantic relationships, you need to both be committed to it because as much as other people may be committed to you two being together, those other people really can’t keep you together. 

But sometimes, people can take the idea of commitment and go too far. That’s called obsession. When couples only have eyes for each other and are seemingly lost without their significant other, that’s…not exactly healthy. You should be able to function in society without your significant other, you should not be joined to them at the hip, and you should not base the entirety of your happiness on your relationship with them. You should at least have some independence. Love and commitment are great, but do not define yourself by your relationship with another person.

You are beautiful and unique. You have so many complexities and eccentricities that make you so completely you, and that is a wonderful thing. And if you have devoted yourself to another person, then I hope you are happy.

But do not sacrifice your individuality for another person, whether they be friend, family, or significant other. I don’t mean to say that you should forget all others and care only for yourself. I’m not saying you should be completely selfish and narcissistic and never sacrifice anything for anyone ever. I’m just saying that the real you is too precious to be lost in a sea of obsessions or dreams, as sweet and beautiful as they may be. As Edna Pontellier says in The Awakening, “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.” Dont’ give up yourself.

Epylle Spydre