Loving the Ruins for What They Were
What to do when the sorrows of the past haunt delights of the future.
There is often an aphorism given, especially in relationships and regarding their demise: a vase, once broken, can never attain its original state. Stitches will always be there, reminders of the hurt or a broken trust. However, what this aphorism overlooks — and the reason that this post exists — is that we carry only one heart; perhaps more delicate and transient than glass. It follows then that our stitches stick with us for a lifetime. Herein, we try to explore these ideas, with a short story and its implications.
Perhaps our significant other cheated. Couples’ therapy sessions can only do so much, if at all one opts for them, and mending such chasms isn’t that easy. Most people I know would call it quits the moment they have been cheated on. The very definitions of cheating differ as well. Some value emotional cheating more than intimate dangling and for some, mere having the thought of someone else in their partner’s mind is cheating. And God forbid if we spoke the wrong name while making love.
None of this is made clear when a relationship begins, though. We are busy plotting dreams, developing lovers’ language, signs, special moments and arranging those dahlias that need replacing every other week. As the foundations are being built, we take a lot of aspects for granted. And why won’t we? We feel gravitated towards this person. There must be something! We have a gut feeling! We will, for precaution’s sake, be more careful the next time someone interesting comes along. But careful how? There is no playbook. To add to the chaos, we aren’t aware that most of our love-related conditioning, much of it originating from the Romanticism, is factually wrong.
Despite all the preparation and careful steps, the next time our partner gets a text from an attractive, perhaps younger looking “potential rival” then stiches resurface. Of course, we won’t immediately disown them. We have built trust over time. We even have favorite songs to dance to and make love to. We also can’t deny that somewhere deep in our thoughts the idea doesn’t linger about past hurts. Our past scars are still there, lurking deep inside, haunting.
Breakup disasters tend to have certain common currents, and whether by evolutionary biology or our pattern recognition aptitude, we are well attuned to it. It is also because time does not heal anything. Time is not some magician with bewitching powers. If anything, its that strict teacher from our high-school whom we feared and tried extra in the quizzes because he had no sympathy to give one grace point.
Thus, sorrows of the past haunt delights of the future. Insecurities imprinted become the reason we trust less the next time.
Is there a remedy, then?
Here’s a true story for consideration: A long time ago there was a tryst between a boy and a girl. Lasting roughly five months, it all began one day when he was strolling around the garden and happened to pass her home. They exchanged looks and she propositioned him to come upstairs. They had crossed paths before, and perhaps lingered a little too at each other, but this was still unexpected. Transfixed at this initiation, he nonetheless obliged. She waited for him at the top and as he climbed upwards, the surroundings started blurring. In that silent encounter, time stopped during the last few steps and conscious took a backseat. Only when their lips locked did everything start returning. They could be beaten up badly for their raw display of emotions, at the very least. Such passionate displays work only in Bollywood films; real life acceptance still needs to take hold. But for them, all this was irrelevant. As if the elixir being shared made them immortals, they forgot what or who bore witness to their acts of wanton emotions bursting.
As time passed, they grew closer and, if just for imagination, thought how their life could be like together. Ideas were there, even happiness, but not reality. Unlike the Romeo and Juliet, they didn’t come from rival families but they might as well have. The societies they belonged to mingle rarely, if ever, and that too with much infighting and struggles. They also knew from the start their end. No one could put on a specific date but meeting again was never certain. Cellphones were a luxury then and WhatsApp wasn’t invented. So she hid crimson roses from garden in his pockets, at each meeting, for reminiscence. Each meet was, by definition, their last. At the thirteenth rose, their time was up. Both were departing to different countries; one for studies, the other getting “arranged-married.”
So, they walked away, holding back tears.
To some people, this might sound like the summer romances they have had or have seen their friends having. And perhaps it is so. It was a very hot Indian summer, after all. For our protagonists, however, they walked in different people, especially before the kiss, and walked out changed humans after their last caress. Their goodbyes, therefore, wasn’t necessary. Their time, though limited, was filled with all the wonders one could hope for. They had had the deepest conversations and enjoyed their moment in time. Relics are the scratches they left as memories for eons to come.
A deep and meaningful relationship has the tendency to melt obscure sorrows and plateauing hearts. It also has the succulent property of birthing hopes for a futuristic togetherness. Let us agree, therefore, that loving is a process in which we undergo certain choice-transformations. We are always changing and the mechanisms of life keeps turning, twisting us with it. But some changes are more consequential than others. The metamorphosis one goes through when falling in, staying in and getting out of a relationship is, perhaps, one of the most sublime. It’s also often called a rebellious act for that particular reason. We discover new scents or songs we cannot do without; we act out our wildest desires and are generally unafraid of doing what we feel like. It takes away the societal, regulatory behaviorisms we have adopted. In essence, it changes us. One of the reasons we feel lost when the heart breaks is that when looking at the mirror, we no longer can recognize who we have become. And of course, there is all that occupied space laying vacant, stalking us during the quiet moments.
The difference between the aforementioned romance and lost futures of long relationships is that of hope. While one is focused on enjoying whatever time they have together, the other (i.e. long-form relationship) yields eventually to maintaining the life together and, perhaps, extending it as much as possible. None of these pursuits are wrong, mind you. At the same time, the change which seeps into a relationship, admittedly by its longevity, tends to often overshadow what was important. Admitting the reality of available time freed our protagonists, allowing them the gift of free expressions and flourish. Both types give us stiches when they end. The only difference is that one hurts more than the other because we had not hoped for it. We did not conceive that things would end or that we could be deceived.
One way to remake the glass anew, therefore, is to melt it all the way. Liquify it. Our lovers melted completely and remade each other. This process isn’t singular. Every time we get in a relationship, passion, care, attraction hand us the opportunity of a new creation. Just like a molten glass can be remade into a new structure, we need to learn to do that with ourselves. Reinvention is the key survival instinct. And that requires melting. It also requires that we realize that new love will not heal old hurt. Thus, giving in to our past scars will only make holes in future remedies.
The good thing about time is that it helps us forget the more it passes. Perhaps there comes a time when we reach a stage where what was deleted is no longer available elsewhere. But the ruins will still be what they are. Disposing of what was lost does not take away the fact that it was lost in the first place. We needn’t resurrect the dead here, but we ought to give them proper burial. For broken hearts, this means learning to love them for what they were: Prickly lessons of life.