A Cynic Learned About Love

a journey of acceptance and putting up a fight

Written by: Indira Sukmariana
Illustration by: Lisa Kalystari

There was once an idea of a gentle love in my dreams. Love like cotton blanket and hand-crocheted sweater in the middle of the coldest night of winter. There was once an idea of comfort, and warmth, and the wistful song of a happy ending.

Apparently I loved them wrong.

There are three things that you and I might disagree with.

One, I believe loving is a choice, always has and always will be. Maybe all you poets and hopeless romantics frown upon my cynicism, because for most, love, just like magic, doesn’t exist until they experience it on their own. That love, like fate and other inevitables, happens out of our control, one that cannot be forged on its own.  And all the Rationals who know love as its basic components of chemical reaction in our brain, would also disagree. After all, how can we alter the “what is”?

Isn’t that what the poets think love is? A bunch of happenstance that exists just because with no explanation whatsoever and we are supposed to accept it when the time comes? 

Sounds an awful lot like death don’t you think?

Love and I go way back. 

We go way back to before I was born, when my mother was dressed in white on a day she did not choose. When she walked down the aisle to a man she had to tolerate because a woman her age should have kids already. When she slaved away her meat and bones until her skin was all jaded like the moon, but her eyes still shine like the sun when she looks at me.

Knowing so, I avoided love as I tried to avoid death. Both came in a special hamper box with ribbons and paper strings. Both prey on your soul and your mind and your body. Both take everyone you care about away. Especially us. Especially if you’re like me.

Two, narcissism is a virtue. Now, the Ancient Greeks might disagree. But Narcissus had only known of himself at that pond, and how could he learn what love is if he does not know himself? How could one who does not have an identity in and of oneself have the capacity to define other’s worth? (Is love not putting more faith and worth in another than others?)

And the moment he learned, his soul was doomed for Hades to keep. What chance did he have?

Lou Andreas Salome says that narcissism is the beginning of the ability to love others. That narcissism is the act of accepting and loving yourself to the point that you no longer need their love to make you feel whole. This, dear Reader, is the ultimate defense against the hurt love left behind and the grief death awakened.  

It took half a decade, two therapists, and a pandemic for me to embrace love. There is nothing like the collapse of our societal structure to see how inhumane humanity has become. How so cold, so selfish, so devoid of love

Once I allowed love to enter my life, I had to practice it to the person who needs it the most. It was as if an experiment, trials and errors to find a satisfactory mechanism of loving in the most controlled environment one could have: oneself. 

Three, there is no happy ending. At least not for me, for us, who love with our chest open and our eyes shut tight. Us who love like Altair and Vega, like Icarus loves the sun. Us who love like Narcissus loves himself: undoubtedly, unchanged, to the death.

But apparently I loved them wrong. 

When they see my love they don’t see a cotton blanket or crocheted sweater. They see war. They see bloodshed and plagues and deaths. The marvel of my love straying off their forged path scares them out of their minds. They blind their eyes to the warmth of it all and turned it deadly instead.

(If I love a man he will kill me, if I love a woman she will get me killed)

Like a gun. Like a blade.

They choose to see my love as a weapon of mass destruction so I shall wield it as one. Maybe if it isn’t so heavy I would wield it more often.

But it weighs the world and then some, making me question if any of it is worth it.

The answer is, always, yes. Yes it is.

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