Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

"Love’s capacity to make us happy is rivaled only by its capacity to make us miserable"

That quote is from a NY Times magazine article written by Alain de Botton a few years ago on German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s thoughts on love. Schopenhauer was very interested in love and attraction and spent a lot of time trying to figure out what force was behind the irrational attraction that men and women feel toward each other (he didn't deal with homosexuality). Ultimately, he decided that biology is the force behind all attraction; he called it Wille zum Leben (the will to life), but he also believed that because it was a biological drive, most of the time, the persons to whom we are attracted are unsuitable in other respects. Although he fell in love a couple of times himself, Schopenhauer never married, which is probably just as well, because he once wrote: "To marry means to do everything possible to become an object of disgust to each other." That’s a grim view of marriage, hardly surprising coming from such a profound pessimist as Schopenhauer, and yet there may be more than a kernel of truth in it. Mark Twain said, "Familiarity breeds contempt", i.e., the better we know someone, the more likely we are to find fault with them, and yet Twain adored his wife.

I've been thinking about Valentine's Day and relationships. I’m not in a relationship right now. I haven’t been involved with anyone since my last relationship, coincidentally with someone toward whom I was irrationally attracted. As Schopenhauer would have predicted, it ended badly, a little over a year ago, when I caught my sweetheart in flagrante delicto a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day. Needless to say, I was not happy on Valentine’s Day last year.

I’ve never had that experience before, (catching someone in flagrante delicto) and I never want to have it again. One time I cut my leg, very badly...40-some odd stitches badly...and I remember that I felt a sort of searing pain for just a fraction of a second, after which I felt absolutely nothing. I looked down at my leg because my foot was wet and I wondered what I’d stepped in, only to discover it was my own red blood, gushing freely from the wound...and this was like that. For an instant, I felt a sort of searing pain in my chest, and then I felt as if I couldn't breathe, and I went totally numb, and walked around his yard in a circle, over and over, like some dumb bird, ranting to myself and sobbing as he stood there saying nothing. I was numb for days, and that was a good thing, because each time the feeling came through, it hurt so much, and I alternated between wallowing in self-pity and feeling furious. But most of the time, for weeks, I just felt numb. The thing about going numb is, it isn’t voluntary. It comes over you, like a wave...actually, that’s not accurate, it spreads outward, from the heart...it starts at the heart, and goes almost instantly to the extremities, so that in an instant your nose, fingertips, toes have no feeling, all of which is coincidental to the important thing, that the HEART has no feeling. It’s like a drug, like a huge dose of Xanax, except...Xanax makes me sleepy and the kind of emotional pain that causes numbness also tends to cause insomnia, at least it certainly did for me.

It was a miserable experience, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I’m not writing this for sympathy. Schopenhauer said the pain of rejection is perfectly normal and understandable and to be expected, and "the only way out is to turn our tears into knowledge, our pain into art." Gloomy old Schopenhauer was right. As painful as it was, I learned a lot from that experience. It caused me to do some serious soul searching, about myself and that relationship and my own role in everything that happened, and I can honestly say that I’m in a much better place in my head these days because of it.

It's taken a while, but I've moved on, and it feels good. Although I’m not in a relationship, there’s someone I’m definitely interested in, and happily for me, the interest seems to be reciprocated. We’re just beginning to get to know each other (which is actually pretty delicious in itself).

I decided last week that I was going to have a great Valentine’s Day this year. To that end, I started my day by walking to Starbucks this morning for a cappuccino. To my surprise, the woman who prepared my drink also gave me a beautiful red carnation. She was giving them out to all the women who came in, and it made me feel good, thinking how we women take care of each other. This afternoon, I went to Barnes & Noble, and treated myself to a Keith Jarrett CD suggested by the guy whom I'm just getting to know, which I’m currently listening to (and yes, I like it very much).

Tonight, I met two of my friends who also aren't in relationships right now (unless you count stalkers) for drinks at Toulouse, after which we went to the Meyerson and heard the Dallas Wind Symphony Swing Orchestra play a medley of Valentine’s Songs by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glen Miller, Eubie Blake, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, and others. The Meyerson was packed. It was a great concert, and when they played My Funny Valentine...well, that's a terrific number, and sitting there listening to it, with two good friends...I enjoyed that very much. Happy Valentine's Day.


Deborah said...

Judi, beautiful post. It sounds like your V-day was fulfilling.

Heart break is numbing--isn't that strange that we go numb when the most pain is experienced? Perhaps in moments of extreme pain, our life gets wrapped in gauze and it is covered until we are able to pull off the wrapping to look at our scars.

It appears that you can look at your scars and find beauty in them. That might be a better gift then being able to lift your leg over your head.

Happy Valentines Day.

Digital Art Photography for Dummies said...

Ouch on the leg; pain into art--that's good!

Happy Valentine's!

Paul said...

Jayz, ain't we a pair on Valentine's Day.

TJ said...

I don't wear pain well.
I find you most interesting with honesty and insightful entrys. I think your Valentines Day rocked spending it with friends sharing smiles.

Gannet Girl said...

This is a wonderful entry, and now I understand the comment on Paul's. I'm glad new potential is in the air for you.

Tammy said...

WooHoo Judi! Love may soon be in the air :)

"the only way out is to turn our tears into knowledge, our pain into art." I LOVED THIS!

I think there is some truth in what this says about marriage. I know it's different in marriage, but in a good way. You feel loved enough to nit pick! LOL


Celeste said...

Happy Belated hon'! So glad you had a wonderful day. I am always intrigued with the complexities of human relationships/drive. Great entry. ;) C.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day. Roses and good friends, and wonderful music, ( I love those old romantic tunes ! ) ... and someone special on the horizon. Perfect ! Tina

Lisa :-] said...

I've never been so glad to be an old, married fart. Reading your description of how your last relationship ended, the feelings were so familiar...even though I haven't felt that way in over thirty years. I don't think, at this age, I could possibly survive it. You are so brave!

emmapeelDallas said...


Thank you, Lisa. It's true, one has to be something of a warrior to go out there and brave it.

Melissa said...

I'm so happy that your Valentine's Day was happier this year. And I'm glad you don't have to deal with the heartbreak of Mr. Big!! (LOL) I must admit I've looking forward to hearing about your new "someone interesting". And I'm with you, I consider myself more like Charlotte, but I think Samantha is someone we all want to be for at least a day or two!

Andy Hunter said...

What a heartfelt post. That sounds like a very nice Valentine's Day. I was just listening to Billie Holiday doing My Funny Valentine, it's classic.