Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Feelings And Choices

My previous post dealt with how it’s really difficult to detach one’s self from unrequited love. But I have another friend with an opposite problem. He’s in a hurry to get over someone he loved for almost a year.

Let’s call my friend Araw. He called me several nights ago, asking me for advice. I’ve known Aarw as someone who doesn’t get attached too deeply, and who can disengage painlessly from guys. He claims the reason why he’s wired that way goes back to his grade school days, when he fell head-over-heels in love with this male classmate of his. As childhood crushes go, he fell really hard; he would often cry by himself because he can’t make any headway with the object of his affection. And like any child who’s been greatly disappointed, he vowed to himself that he will never, ever cry over another guy that way.

The major irony here is that Araw has a longtime boyfriend of 15 years. They met when they were already working, two professionals trying to make their mark in the world. After a decade, the two have settled in on their careers. Unfortunately the two have also grown steadily apart. For several years now, though they lived under one roof they never engage the other in conversation (their communication with one another has been reduced to day-to-day concerns), and they’ve not had sex with each other for years. Araw has had sexual encounters with other guys, and he assumes his BF also does. Without telling his partner, Araw got himself a condo unit so that he had an alternative place to go to if he didn’t feel like coming home. They never discuss splitting up. Araw doesn’t feel the need to initiate a separation; he finds the whole idea too tedious for him. Only if his BF initiates the split will he quietly agree.

About a year ago Araw met Buwan, a guy almost in his mid-20s. Buwan was different from all the previous male encounters. For the first time Araw met someone whom the interest was mutual and the attraction more than physical. He convinced Buwan to stay at his condo, and Araw spent more time at the condo than in his house.

To cut a long story short, Araw developed deeper feelings for Buwan, and he had let Buwan into his soul. And to further cut the story shorter, the two broke up recently, and now Araw wants to move on as quickly as possible. Hence the call for help from him several nights ago.

After making sure that a clean split was what he really wanted, I told him that his problem, reduced to its essence, was really simple: how to get rid of his feelings for Buwan. They’re the ones holding him back; without those feelings, Araw can easily and painlessly move on. (To help him put things in perspective, I told him to sing to himself this song: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings! Trying to forget my feelings of love!”)

I told him that feelings and emotions are fleeting and never permanent. No one stays sad or happy or agitated for hours; after a while, the body will calm itself down. So the best thing to do is to ride those emotional outbursts out. How? There are several ways.

I find it important to first acknowledge the emotions. Never deny they exist. Never push them aside and say to yourself, “No, I’m not unhappy. See? See? I’m smiling!” Denial never solves anything and just postpones the inevitable. Acknowledge and embrace the feelings of sadness and of missing him. Don’t worry, those emotions will decrease over time, whether you like it or not.

When you acknowledge them, it’s natural for you to have a physical manifestation of your emotion. You may end up crying. Or you can have a really mournful expression. Be mindful of that. If you’re in the office and you deem it inappropriate to have a breakdown there, you can quietly step out and hide in one of the toilet cubicles. Or go to a fire escape.

Emotional outbursts are a manifestation of feelings boiling inside. Let them out in a safe and controlled way. How? That’s where friends and confidants matter. They’re your safe dumping grounds. But choose them wisely too. There are those who are woefully unprepared when it comes to lending a sympathetic ear and dishing out advise. If you don’t have many friends, you may have money to spare. So go see a shrink. Don’t underestimate the value of shrinks, or nuns, or priests (the last two are for those who cannot afford the former).

Physical exertion is also a cheap alternative to letting out steam. Run for an hour. (Do not jog; it allows your mind to wander.) Take up boxing. Skip rope non-stop for 20 minutes. After strenuous physical activity, your sadness will be no match for that body ache.

After a while you’ll learn to immediately catch yourself when you start to feel all emo and melancholy. But how to prolong keeping your emotions in check? Distract yourself. Keep your mind and body busy. Plan a faraway trip, and then take it. Take up a time-and-effort-intensive hobby, like solving quantum equations (what, you think Sodoku is enough?!) and crocheting.

Finally, confront yourself. Admit to yourself that feelings are just feelings. What’s more important are your actions, what you decide to do. Do you act on your feelings and call him up when you miss him? Or do you choose to keep your phone away from you and instead pick up that macrame tablecloth you’ve been working on?

I think one of the mistakes people in love often make is to think that Love is an emotion that demands to be acted upon without thinking. Romantic novels and movies bombard us with stories of Love pursued against all odds, as if Love will automatically trump the odds stacked against them. Get real. Sometimes Love just ain’t enough.

Go ahead, feel those emotions. But it’s the actions you choose to do that will define who you are as a person. So you say you couldn’t help yourself from falling in love with him. Okay, fine. But just because you fell in love with him doesn’t mean you have to pursue him. Mistresses often forget that line of logic.

In the end, it’s about taking responsibility for our choices, our actions, our lives. One of my most favorite Pet Shop Boys song is entitled, “You Choose.” In fact, I’ve already blogged about it twice already, I think. But it deserves to be mentioned here again, with matching emphasis by me. Maybe the third time’s the charm.

He’s gone,
you’ve lost.
Stay behind
and count the cost.
You try,
you lose.
You don’t fall in love by chance,
you choose.

It’s a decision made over time.
Should you take a risk and start to climb
the steepest hill, only to find
halfway there you’ve been left behind?
Choosing to love is risking a lot,
and trying to change and to give all you’ve got.
But don't pretend it comes out of the blue.
You take a chance and see it through,
and if it’s refused, what can you do?
Continue hopefully? Start anew?

Lick your wounds,
buy your booze.
You won’t get drunk by accident,
you’ll choose.
Don’t blame him
for refusing your bid.
He didn’t decide to love,
you did.

Learn the lesson.
Take the blows.
You didn’t fall in love by chance,
you chose.
Play the sad songs.
Sing the blues.
You don’t fall in love by chance,
you choose.


Rygel said...


MkSurf8 said...

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