Thought Twenty-Five: Unrequited Love, Desire, and other mysteries

Without love our life is … a ship without a rudder …
like a body without a soul.

~Sholem Aleichem

Every day, we strive to achieve something. Whether the goals be small (catch the right bus, finish the work, be on time for our meeting) or large (be a better person, decide what studies to take, figure out a long-term project), we all have an innate need to attain, to complete, to finish. Even the least motivated amongst us, the most directionless have needs, wants, stuff they dont have now, but want to get. It is rare that a human is completely happy, satisfied and content with their position in life, even more so that they feel they dont need to ‘do’ anything. This forward momentum encompasses many aspects of our life, drives us in many directions, including emotionally. It is in the murky grey undefined area of love and emotion that we are less sure if we are moving forwards towards a healthy attainable goal, or running in circles, staggering through a fog of emotion.

There is, on the surface, something poetically noble about desiring someone, or even something unattainable. After all, if we set our sights on something too easy, to close to us, the challenge is gone, the journey, the quest becomes an afterthought instead of the central narrative. Then again, set on something too far, too ridiculous in size and scale, we are seen as hopeless dreamers, unrealistic, a ‘lost cause’. Some people would say that there is no goal too far, that we should never be afraid to hope, to reach for something, no matter what. In the most extreme cases these fantastical goals, these emotional mountains become, quite literally, the death of us. History is littered with these people, they tried, and failed, they became obsessed with their goal, that it wore them down, destroyed them.

Again, paradoxically, there is the minority that achieve what they desire, they become the ultimate validation, the middle finger raised defiantly to all the doubters and naysayers, to show people that you can become successful if you just…WANT…it bad enough. They become flavour of the month, some narratives have books, movies written about them.

If the object of desire, the goal is physical, something you can touch, feel, aspire to, like a new car, a job, a house, a career goal, then the rules of engagement are clearer, the quest is defined, and can take shape. When the goal is something more nebulous like romantic or emotional fulfillment, the quest becomes more nebulous, the rules are unclear. Even the goal becomes vague. If the quest is a job, and you get the job, you achieve what you look for, if the goal is a state of emotion, it is harder to know when you achieve it.

At the darker corners of these quests are the emotional states that are the hardest to achieve, and even difficult to judge complete success or failure. For some reason these are the quests that resonate most with me, and become hazardous journeys. I have previously mentioned a film called ‘Death In Venice’ as the first movie to make me cry. The  agony of wanting something and not receiving it. The hunt of  desire, to achieve the unreachable goal. I think the film made me cry because even at that stage, back in my early teenage years, it must have talked to me on a level that meant something. Back before I could even express that, before I had even experienced the situation that would give that kind of emotional resonance, it was something I could realte to in some way.

I am only human, with all the fragility and failings that us fallible species have to offer. I need to function on a sexual and emotional level. I desire, I ‘need’, I lust, I want, not just in those surface levels, but on a deeper emotional level. Whether fulfilled or not, I am swayed by those feelings, caught helpless in the pure feeling, like most of us.

I am not ashamed of those feelings, neither do I believe I should repress them. At this current stage in my life, I dont have a partner, and I dont see myself getting one anytime soon, due to a lot of reasons, my job, my lifestyle, and others, but I still function on a sexual and emotional level. After all, without those things, what are we? A hollow shell? An unfeeling robot? My emotional core, I feel, is what defines me far more than any other attribute, and I need to function on that level, partner or no.

I am a slave on many levels. I went running today, basking in my first run of the year in shorts, temperature barely allowing it, but it felt good to begin to lose the shackles of winter. Apparently I wasnt the only person who felt that way, I ran past a woman wearing a short skirt, long slim shapely legs, stockings. She wasnt dressed erotically, wasnt anything out of the ordinary, but I felt that rush of arousal, of desire, a fragmented moment of emotions and fantasies rushing through my head, and gone in an instant as I ran past.

There are  moments like that all the time, triggers, traps, things that are mostly welcome distractions from everyday life. Then there are the longer term feelings.  The least controllable, the ones that shape my personality in some level, cloud my outlook, either positively or negatively.

I cannot kid myself. The journey of the heart is an unrewarding one, a futile quest. This heavy cloak, this fabric of longing, it is as unwieldy and restrictive as it is comforting. At times suffocating, but the alternative is..the absence of feeling. Right at this moment, I am thinking of her. She makes me smile. I miss her. I know she doesnt feel the same way, not on the same level, but I still desire her. She arouses me and annoys me equally, I feel weak and frustrated and warm and happy all at the same time. I have wildfires of passion and lust during the most mundane and everyday events, and as much as it shames me, I enjoy it, because it is…feeling.

How much of it is self generated, how much is just echoes, layers of mental trickery that I have enclosed myself with? I need this shell as much as I desire my freedom from its shackles. Its restriction offers equal comfort.

I cannot offer any solutions here, I cant package this up neatly, or give any moral conclusions. I will not judge myself over having feelings. Others judge me all the time, at the end of the day, why should I? It is, after all, a prison largely of my own creation, so I cannot lash out, I cant point fingers, but neither do I wish an end to it. The alternative is an absence, a lack of, that I can barely comprehend. It frightens me.

The journey continues.