Part Four: What Was Happening
I had found in Beautiful my ticket to the secret world that before then, I might have caught glimpses of but permanent residence in, seemed exclusively for sappy pop stars and characters in books and movies. Deep, profound love, is entrance and membership to a community that is responsible for some of the most beautiful creations of performance, poetry, and prose. You don’t really know, can’t really find the words to describe it, until you fall in love yourself. It is afterwards when everything becomes crystal clear; all the lofty lyrics and wonderful words that seemed so unrealistic are suddenly part of your own story and what was once just abstract concept and clumsy descriptions becomes physical reality and your voice finds its eloquence. Falling in love with Beautiful wasn’t only changing me mentally and emotionally, but something very real and very visceral was happening too. Love wasn’t just an idea or a concept anymore. It was a physical reality.
‘Quiero hacer contigo lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos. Translation: I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees’
-Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Pablo Neruda
Falling in love with Beautiful was my opportunity for rebirth. I was no longer just myself, living for myself. I was newer, better, my world had expanded to unknown limits and depths. And this was a very real experience. When you are single your world is only as big as you know it to be. It comprises of your experiences, emotions, lessons, people, places, etc. With nothing else to put into perspective you find that you fit within your world in a comfortable way. But when you find someone and embark on a relationship, you have to realize that you are not only dating that person and learning more about them, but you are also learning about their world. Being with Beautiful exposed me to double the size of my world. As two people begin a relationship, they will often embark on new experiences and seek out activities beyond their individual ranges. There are the new experiences that one party can bring and share with the other that strengthens understanding and there are the mutually new experiences altogether that encourage further bonding. A sure sign of the reality of falling in love is when you feel that growth in experience and insight that comes from having someone so important in your life. She had so many stories and interests that I was so happy to ravenously consume. She told me about her weekly Chinese school lessons and lion dance group. I actually attended one of their practices and even got to try moving around with a lion’s head (very difficult by the way). She had also been playing piano almost her entire life. I was musically disinclined and never had the chance to learn. She invited me to her performances and recitals. I loved watching her perform. Her fingers would just dance over the keys and there was this look of concentration when she played and when she finished this rush of relief and enjoyment would wash over her entire expression and I was so proud of her and moved by her. Part of falling in love with her was falling in love with her world. It was a slow and gradual process as I explored and loved everything I learned until one day I just realized that I was a bigger, better person, just for having known her and fallen in love with her.
‘And what did I want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.’
-Late Fragment, Raymond Carver
There is no doubt in my mind that as I fell more in love, my desire for her increased beyond being able to continue the delusion that an unrequited love could ever be enough for me. As much as I loved the process of falling in love, I know it can account for more sleepless nights in that semester than any class or project. Neurological studies have actually found that the experience of falling in love results in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As the days went on, I would be thinking of her more and more throughout the day. I would see her more often, interact with her more often, and since her opinion of me and reactions became increasingly more important to me, I felt more anxious and jittery around her. Until I knew for sure how she felt, I hung on every individual interaction and exchange, clinging to her words for some special secret meaning that might hopefully hint to me that she felt the same way. In the moment I would be trying my best to be hilarious and intelligent and wise and smooth and all those great things I hoped she would see in me and afterwards I would toss and turn each moment in my mind, dissecting it and hoping it was the best it could be. It is also known that the beginning of a new romance reduces serotonin, a hormone key in balancing moods, in the brain. This can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and stress. It wasn’t anything like school stress or work stress though. This mildly-induced self-inflicted form of madness was bliss. That insecurity and unsureness just made me desire more time with her. I was happily driven mad by her. She was both my inspiration and motivation as well as my guidance. She made me want to be better for her, encouraged me to do better, and it was for her that I moved forward. In regards to creativity and personal growth, there are few stronger and more lasting incentives and sparks than that of the pursuit of love. The only one greater, ironically, is perhaps the depression of lost love.
‘Here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart’
-I Carry Your Heart With Me, e.e. cummings
Falling in love is the world’s greatest and least kept secret. It is not that those who love and are loved and are in love do not want to share with others. It is that without having experienced it yourself, it is difficult to understand what might seem like the ramblings of crazy, irrational people. Love is one of the most important and significant parts of the human experience and yet we lack, even in the highest moments in the midst of its throes, the eloquence to convey it and the knowledge to understand it. It’s something we have to feel deep within us, in the wiring of our brains and the pulsing of our blood and the every twitch of our nerves. That moment of brilliant clarity, that lightning strike of revelation, is also, and you understand this after you finally get to feel it, more than just the artistry of words or the delusions of romance. It is physical. It is revelatory. Dopamine fires up in our brain in the beginning stages of love, rewarding us and motivating us. The capacity for passion, for anything and everything, is increased just by falling in love. Love is the source of modern-day superpowers. Along with fear that is. Everyone has seen stories in the news of parents who can suddenly lift entire cars to save a child pinned underneath. The adrenaline that rushes when we see someone we love and fear they may be hurt or in danger propels us to superhumanly feats. I felt when I was with Beautiful that I was capable of great and many things. In college you could have tasked me with any form or task, and I would have happily, and maybe mistakenly, believed that nothing was impossible as long as she was by my side. When we spoke to each other it always felt like we knew the greatest secrets of the universe.
‘Nothing is sweeter than love; all other bliss comes second. And compared to it, even honey is too bitter to hold in my mouth.’
-Ancient Greek, Nossis
Perhaps though the greatest and most evident physical truth of falling in love is the bliss and happiness that you experience during the process. It’s a frantic and sometimes overpowering experience. Your palms sweat, your cheeks flush, your heart races, your hormones are all over the place. You look and sometimes feel like an absolute mess. But it’s so worth it. It’s that madness that spoils everything in life that isn’t love but at the same time elevates it because of love. It’s a hard sell for anyone who has never experienced it but it is a drug that those who have would happily and readily and willingly take over and over again. My friends have seen me gone through many relationships. They see the ups and downs and the frenetic frenzied energy and anxiety that comes from dating and love. They look at me like I am some sort of madman, and whenever they catch me on the brink of starting something new or risking another venture, they shake their heads in wonder and amazement and question, dumbfounded, how and why I would keep doing this to myself. But what they do not realize, what they cannot realize, because they have not yet experienced the profundity of love, is that this is the only drug worth devoting your life to taking. The effects are real, the emotions are real. Even the butterflies are real (cortisol, the stress hormone previously mentioned, causes the contraction of blood vessels around the stomach, which create that feeling of nausea and uneasiness). Time and emotion, hardship and struggle, all these things will slowly wear away the memories. The image of Beautiful in my mind. Skeptics will always wonder if love is just a mask for our madness. But no one can deny the physical effects, the markers of love. I will never forget the feeling of butterflies when I first saw her, spoke to her, and how they continued to live in my stomach all those days because I loved her so much. I will never forget, though eventually I may one day struggle to convey, why I loved the stress and anxiety and madness of it all. Falling in love with Beautiful was a wonderful and incredible experience. I knew how I felt. I knew it was real. Even if I wanted to question my mind, I couldn’t deny what has happening to me physically. It was all there. And as the semester was coming to an end, I had fallen about as deeply as I could, and it was time for me to act on that love.
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