I found the man I would marry when I had just turned nineteen. And I did not have to seek him out, nor snatch him out of someone else’s embrace, or worry about him belonging with someone else whose territory I was poaching. I did not have to compete to win him over. Neither did I have to match him up against others to know whether he was the right one, nor live-in with him to test that we were compatible. We were meant to be, so we just bumped into each other and made it work.
A passionate person and a dreamer, I have yet loved less than a handful of people in different and unique ways, each distinct from the other. I cannot remember a time that I did not inhabit two worlds: the external and the one in my mind. And some ideas that lie in the latter are entirely fairy tale brand, impractical, illogical and quite unexplainable in the real world. One such was love at first sight. It had to happen. I expected it.
Well, I did not experience increased heart rate, or sweaty palms, or a desire to fall into his arms; which is what I had read described in books upon falling in love. Actually, I startled myself by doing something completely uncharacteristic: I walked up to him and said, ‘Can I help you?’ since he obviously did not know which of the rooms he should head off to from the long college corridor. An introvert, the idea that I could speak with a stranger for no apparent reason baffled and upset me for a while. Love at first sight was about being drawn to a person naturally and unconsciously, and doing something I could not ever have done had I stopped to spare a moment’s thought about whether I should approach him. I discovered a spontaneity in myself that has since found expression with the few people in my circle who are special.
It was so much fun! The sweaty palms never happened (probably because I associate that reaction with fear, and for me, love inspires a comforting warmth, not fear), but increased heart rate did (till the newness wore off). It is said that you lose your identity in loving someone, that you sacrifice your sense of self, and give up your freedom. For a long time, I thought that was true, when adjustment demanded that I mould myself in new ways mostly built around his life and his needs. It felt like I was expected to be someone I was not; and live up to an ideal image that was collectively thrust upon me by a host of people involved in my life who entered mine because I entered his.
This feeling has come upon me with other relationships involving love: relatives, brother, friend, son. I am expected to be a certain way, show certain traits, behave a certain way, and accommodate their idiosyncrasies; all of that geared to their comfort, their needs and their idea of me. I have learnt that we have to arrive at an understanding and eventually strike a balance in becoming what others expect us to be, while still retaining our individuality. Sometimes, I do feel that my loved ones despise my individuality, even to the point of rejection and walking away, but then, I tell myself that they will see that that is me and will accept it just as I do with them.
Losing your identity in loving someone happens when they don’t make room for you. Then, it is more a case of conscious identity destruction than identity loss. I cannot imagine that anyone who professes to love anyone else could actually destroy what makes the one they love who they are.
For me, love is pure, sincere, innocent of guilt and has infinite shades. I can say ‘I love you’ to fit a number of shades other than the one commonly meant to define it in terms of relationships involving physical intimacy of a particular kind. In loving, I have not lost my identity. Quite the opposite, I have built one. We only lose some of our ego, not ourselves, when we make adjustments or sacrifices in love.
When I adapt to the needs and requirements of those I love, I am not losing myself; I am evolving and being influenced to modify myself in ways that make life more meaningful in terms of those relationships.
As the year closes, I want to thank my loved ones for their presence and for all the lessons they continuously teach me. I am deeply grateful to them for acknowledging and accepting my love, and for giving me the freedom to say ‘I love you’. My life is so much richer because they are part of it. My message to them: It’s a short life. Open your heart. Love.