There is a point in affliction where we are no longer able to bear either that it should go on or that we should be delivered from it.
Simone Weil. Vasta makes the occasional reference to a love now passed, and I always mean to say something supportive, but what can one say? The suffering one experiences in love, I have learned, is ultimately very private; one can talk about it, share it, publicize it if one desires; yet the ocean of associations and privately shaming sensations and persistent longings remains totally within; it is as though love cannot be disclosed.
Not even to the beloved, actually; if you think you’re sharing it, enjoy that sense; if you should slip out of synchronicity, it will be the most jarring dislocation you’ll experience. It was for me; to stand as a stranger to someone who loved me is like waking into a nightmare: the terrifying transfiguration of love into wrath or indifference will make a coward or cynic of anyone.
I wanted to write something to Confessionizer about love, or whatever it is people like me experience which we call love; but I saw it was already overflowing with such stuff, vituperative or pleading or reproaching, and I thought: maybe this isn’t a confession after all.
Weil talks of the problem of affliction, which is a theme in Buddhism: the self’s attachment to suffering. We all know this state: miserable, we resist cheering; heartbroken, we exacerbate our anguish rather than flee from it (even as we swear we are fleeing from it); we immerse ourselves in it.
I know some who get drunk when miserable; but when has getting drunk made you anything but more inclined to emotion? No, the goal is never escape but to achieve some sentimental apotheosis of anguish, to hang on all the more tenaciously to the shattering feelings instead of the person we love(d).
Suffering substantiates the voracious self and can prophesy in a self-fulfilling manner all the direst predictions of the heartbroken. After my last spate of relationships, I concluded that I could no longer trust others; that is to say, I felt I could not experience romantic trust and meditated on that sense, that preemptive sense of betrayal, that cynicism; I talked about it, I clung to it, and I wrapped myself in it: the shroud of mourning, a cloth of bitter mistrust.
And here I am: it has been more than a year since I’ve dated, the longest I’ve gone as an adult. In some respects, this is healthy; but I am sensing now the slow calcification of this suffering, this mistrust. It has settled on me now like sediment, and I’m afraid I can’t shake it off. There is nothing worse than the sense that your pain has become your heart; I feel defined by what has happened in the worst relationships of my life, which had otherwise almost entirely good relationships.
Advice I could have used when younger is advice I still need now: do not covet your pain, enshrine your suffering, or anoint your fears. Clinging to affliction, to the bitter savor of lost love (with its facile accusations against hope and trust, its hostility to potential partners), will only make you unreceptive to the pleasures of new life.
So Vasta’s writing again and I’m going to try and stop fearing love. It’s hard to let go of pain because it suggests that what hurt you shouldn’t have; if the love was important, the pain should last forever, your heart might propose; but I can’t be this negative forever, and besides: if my heart were so smart, how did it allow me to feel the way I did in 2006?