Refresh the Soul
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Refresh the Soul

What Does Love Look Like… to me?

I started an entry last week, ‘How do you heal from a broken friendship?’ but I didn’t finish it because I couldn’t bear to… write that you don’t. So, why does it hurt so bad? I’d like to think it is because we choose to love every time. I recently embarked on a whirlwind friendship on social media. It felt so intense. I found myself caught in early morning conversations just to bridge the time difference between us. It was as if there was this small portal, an opening in a distant time and sacred space where our authentic selves could meet… after dropping the daily masks we have had to wear. But still, I could not just get in a car and drive down to see my new friend. We live continents apart. This is a connection, so rare, so precious and beautiful that I choose to remember this experience positively.

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

An ‘opening in a distant time and sacred space’ is deeply symbolic. Openings are also revealing old wounds. Cuts begin to re-open and bear the shape of familiar traumas. Once a wound is opened, I feel as if my heart is being cleaved apart by armies of repressed creatures dying to be released. I mean, who can turn feelings on like a bathroom tap and not gush with the current? Only a fool would expect them not to overfill when you throttle the spurtWell, I am the fool. I let them flow. I let them flow because they remind me of old friendships that had meant so much to me then, but that I had lost because of my selfishness, my traumas of early abandonment and because I was largely afraid. As a young adult, if you lacked the emotional skills to cope with feelings, it was always going to be a headlong crash. As a survivor of trauma, without safety and love, every relationship is met with a fight or flight response.

Feeling too much for the empath can be overwhelming. On the other hand, repressing emotions is unhealthy and can be toxic to our physical well-being, manifesting in anxiety, depression, and stress, which leads to cancer, heart attack, and others. Feelings tend to surface when we are in safe spaces. For some, submerged and repressed feelings can one day burst forth from unsuspecting triggers. This is what love looks like to me, a safe space. Mine takes the shape of my husband whose heart envelops my entire ocean.

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

Love and heartache go hand in hand. Returning to my discovery of a new friendship, I remember the excitement of finding someone online at my unearthly hour. This experience was reminiscent of the early days of mIRC, an early version of social media for Windows. Then, in the 90s, I met a few friends on the #poetry channel. After catching COVID, came insomnia and this new experience felt somewhat elevating—another form of escapism and distraction from the present troubles. In that liminal ethereal space, I let my guard down, and then I don’t know what happened. Maybe it got too intense. Maybe we didn’t set healthy boundaries. Maybe some friends were meant to disappear… because their purpose in your life became fulfilled. I wasn’t sure whether it was I who was drowning or my friend who was drowning all along. It felt as if we were both bobbing on a sea… and then one or both of us got lost.

There is a word for this feeling, saudade. It means a melancholic longing and nostalgia for things that have passed and/or may never have existed at all. Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo describes this feeling as “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”

I’m not sure of the enjoyment part because that depends on how things continued or ended. I know the suffering part because every loss is heartache.

In the process of discovering a new person, they too help you re-discover old ghosts who revisit as flashbacks. Sometimes, a song that had been playing. Or something someone once said. It will trigger a memory long forgotten, quietly buried. One day, my husband asked me, why is there so much clutter in the house? I went away to contemplate this very difficult question. Gradually, it dawned on me that I had been holding on to old things that were deeply symbolic of an old love, something I was reluctant to give up because I had not resolved nor forgiven. Even in friendships, there is love. Often, the material things we hoard to remind ourselves of the past are themselves imbued with energies of their time. Let me give you an example of how I have chosen to see love as healing energy. Every time my mother sees me, she is reminded of an old hurt that has been plaguing us all these living years. We have to go through the motions to reach a plateau for healing each time we meet. My mother and I. We go through the karmic pain together. I find myself pausing to catch a breath, walking away, every time we cannot see eye to eye.

Once upon a time, I held a case of old CDs my ex-fiancee and I shared in another lifetime. That case held on to some of our energies over a 7 year period. He had requested that I return them around 7 years ago. However, I never found the energy or time to do it, let alone think about how to do it. I wasn’t ready. The other day, I was overwhelmed with past memories. I started remembering the happier times. I realised all these years, I had chosen to remember the way we parted, the angry words and what I felt, was wasted time. In doing so, I fed the anger of the wolves within me. Once I could see, I decided I set the intention to return it because it was holding me back from releasing emotional baggage that had overstayed its season. I intended to do just that, soon, along with a note that may read, it has taken me this long to forgive you. What does forgiveness feel like? Forgiveness is cold-pressed juice squeezed to its dying breath, the bitterness and all the pulpy mess. For me, I hope forgiveness brings closure and healing. I will post when I know I am there.

I feel grateful that I have a safe space to process all this trauma, but for some safe spaces are hard to come by. People and families are torn apart by lack of choice, war and poverty; in this day and age, you have to wonder why all these atrocities are still happening.

W hat does love look like? This is what love looks like — holding fast to sacred spaces for healing. Because… No one is an island.

Photo by Li-Shen

No one.

Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone
.” ~ Maya Angelou, Alone.

Thank you for this very thought-provoking prompt, Nancy Blackman…




Come in. Stay awhile. Enjoy the refreshment to your soul. We hope you read with your heart and soul leaving refreshed and nourished.

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Li Shen J

Li Shen J

Emerging poet & writer finding her way in her world of words and feelings. Tweets @lishen_sim

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