Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On matters of the heart and the head...

"It seems that when it comes to affairs of the heart there is a battle between what we know and what we feel... When it comes to relationships is it smarter to follow your heart or your head?" 
~ Carrie, SATC Season 3, "Easy Come, Easy Go"

Last night I started rehearsals for The Good Person of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht. My college and a professional company are performing a joint production of it. I was cast as The Nephew, it's a small, but fun role.

In the play, three gods come to visit Setzuan in search of one good person. They come across Shen Te, a prostitute in the city, who is the only person that will house the gods for the night. They give Shen Te a gift of 1,000 silver coins in which she uses to buy a tobacco shop. Due to her kindness, the tobacco shop becomes overrun with free loaders and people who abuse Shen Te's generosity. In desperate attempt to keep herself afloat, she disguises herself as her male cousin, Shui Ta. Unlike Shen Te, as Shui Ta is cold and harsh. Shui Ta turns the small tobacco shop and the free loaders into a major factory and mistreated workers. 

During the show, Shen Te falls in love with a man, Sun. She is deeply and truly in love with this man and they become engaged. As Shui Ta, she discovers Sun is a terrible man, who plans to abuse Shen Te and isn't really in love with her. Shui Ta turns Sun away, but the moment Shen Te returns to her female self, she takes him back in a moment... because she loves him and cannot resist.

Besides dealing with an intense split personality problem, Shen Te's plight brings up something that hits close to home. It's the ultimate battle. Do we follow our heart or our head? Are we cheating ourselves by ignoring the whims of our hearts? Or are we idiots for giving in to instinctive, powerful impulses and not thinking twice about the situation? 

Why do we love someone with all our heart when we know in our head it will hurt us in the end?

Before rehearsal today, I asked several of my girlfriends who are in the show with me this question. My friend Lindsey responded with something along the lines of, "I could spend hours talking with you about this... Why do we love the bad boy?" ...why do we?

Here's a personal story about a previous boyfriend... We had broken up. And it took until three weeks after the break-up before I stopped making myself believe this boy was 'The One'. I honestly believed this boy, this boy who broke up with me  was the man that I was meant to be with for the rest of my life. I believed it through the entire relationship. When I first laid eyes on him, I thought to myself: "I'm going to be with this boy no matter what." And maybe a little tiny piece of my heart still thinks there maybe a chance that he's 'The One'. I'm not one to ever give up on anything. Anything is possible. But I'm going to store that little piece far away and hide it and move on. 

We had been broken up for almost three weeks, yet I still clung desperately onto the idea that we were going to get back together and this was only a break.  My heart was screaming, "BE WITH THIS BOY." I felt stupid and ridiculous, for not being with him. I thought the break-up was a dumb idea. Why shouldn't two people be together who care about each other and love each other?

Peter, as he will be called via this blog, didn't feel ready to be in a relationship. We had gotten very serious, very quickly. We said 'I love you' only a couple weeks into the relationship, had already talked about wedding plans and our lives after college. Now, I meant it when I told him I loved him. I honestly believe I was truly in love with this boy. And I believe he loved me back. 

So, Peter was everything I wanted. He just wasn't ready for a relationship. Which is completely understandable. It wasn't fair to me, someone who is ready to be in a completely serious, long-term relationship to expect that of someone who is clearly not ready. 

I understood this in my head. Yet, my heart... damn that stupid thing... just kept wailing like it had been. "GET BACK WITH HIM!!! FLIRT WITH HIM! BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH" And why shouldn't I be with him? We made each other laugh, we cared about each other deeply and wanted to stay in each others' lives post-break-up, our chemistry is off the charts...

It just wasn't the right time. We were at two different places in our lives. And on the grand, powerful relationship scale, timing can sometimes outweigh everyone of those fabulous, good things.

I'm sure it would be hilarious to watch the self-battle occur. To see me jump back and forth between what I know is right and what my heart is feeling. I probably look really cracked out, schizo, and craazzzzzyyyy. 

But I wanted him. With all my heart. Even though I knew if I kept pushing, the heart that wanted him so badly would only be broken in the end.
Sometimes it takes something big, straight forward and powerful event to make you come to your senses. Peter telling me that we shouldn't talk for awhile and the argument that followed was that event. Finally my head and heart were able to sync up. Why continue to hurt myself, and this boy that I care very much about by making our already complicated break-up/relationship even more complicated? So, my heart gave in, it disconnected itself from the situation... I had to move on. 

I was Shen Te clinging to Sun. I was clinging to something that was only going to stress me out and cause more damage and eliminate any sort of further relationship. I ignored reason, I ignored my Shui Ta... 


It's hard when the world perceives choosing your mind over your heart as a terrible, horrible thing...

A girlfriend of mine  has a boyfriend who is a complete tool. Yet, although the rest of the world can see what badly he treats her, she still loves him. I have had several friends who's significant others have cheated on them, yet they still remain with them. I even know a group of lesbians who are all going through this same sort of drama.

Are we addicted to the drama? Is it because of good sex? Or are we scared of being alone? Why lose the love we have now? So what if its not the best, at least you have something.

As terrible as these things sound... they're true. I have a actually told myself before, "It'll be okay. It's bad now, but it's better than being alone." 

And maybe it's not about the fear of being alone. Maybe there is something exciting about the possibility of having your heart broken. Mandy Moore recently released a song called, "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week" in which she lets her love know... she could smash his heart anytime she wanted to. The chance is enthralling. There's danger, there's passion. And people love that stuff. I know I do. I love fighting with my boyfriends. I couldn't be with a boy who doesn't call me out on my shit. And when we fight (at least with my previous two relationships), the fighting made me want them even more.

Am I messed up? I don't think I'm alone. I think there's a lot of people out there who are dealing with the same thing. It's not wrong. I don't think so (I hope not... ehhh... haha). 
There's a point when the game becomes to much. The excitement of the chase becomes more important than the safety and love between two people.

And a point when you are too worried about being alone that you stop loving yourself. 
Is that what it comes down to? Loving yourself? That's too easy. Isn't it??
For such complicated questions concerning matters of the heart and head, that answer seems like a cop out...

Love myself... there's something in this... At least, for me with Peter, it was losing stability, the idea of being in a relationship that kept me pining for him. After the break-up, I felt helpless. I forgot how to be single, how to stand on my own, how to feel okay with myself and, thus, the static cling began. But, I wasn't helpless. I was the same strong, independent individual I was before. I had lost a bit of myself. And I needed a good slap in the face to remind me that I'm a good person who doesn't need to depend on any boyfriend to help him through hard times. And so the process to learn to love myself again started... it's an epic journey... 

Being in a relationship is not about losing yourself. It's about two fully formed selves coming together and forming a even greater self, while never sacrificing any part of the two original selves.  Never should we sacrifice who we are for another person, instead that person should love you for everything that you are, and you should love yourself for everything you are too... 

When your heart is healthy and full of love, then its ready to make reasonable judgement on the love of another. A little cliche... I know... but I have a firm belief that cliche's are the most honest things in the entire world and there's a reason they are cliche....

Cliche or not... Loving myself? Easier said then done...

The distressing thing about Shen Te's tale and The Good Person of Setzuan is that in the end, nothing is solved. The gods come back, but don't set things right and clean up the mess that has been made. They simply tell Shen Te to have faith in humanity and her goodness and continue to live her life. She'll figure it out. And then they book it out of Setzuan on a cotton candy cloud.

I wish I had a cotton candy cloud. Stupid ancient gods...

And maybe the point of this cop out ending (similar to my 'cop out' answer of having to love thyself... ), is that it's up to us to figure it out. Or at least try...

And maybe... there isn't an answer...
There's just a heart
And a head
And a Setzuan prostitute with a split personality...
And a billion people who can relate


  1. Wow James. this is really, really good. You are 100% on. One of my favorite "life lessons" is: you have to love yourself before you can love another. And I think you are writing about and discovering just that. That quote is actually below by FB picture in that little "box" thing.

    and a billion people can relate to this. I find so much wisdom in this blog.

  2. Hey, James! It's good to see you writing here! It's certainly a good way to get your feelings down and to help the world to get to know another side of you.

    Quite a story, my friend. I can relate to it a bit, really. There was someone I met a while back with whom I thought I might be able to make an all but perfect relationship, but it just didn't happen and ended up in hell. I went through the whole heartbreak stage for a while and asked myself all the "why?" "what did I do wrong?" "why can't she love me?" questions, but eventually I saw that torturing myself like that was ineffective and a waste of energy. Things like that can be hard to live with, but you'll find yourself ten times stronger after the whole experience. For me, loving myself can be pretty hard at times, and it might be the very reason I've never really dated anyone. You are a really strong guy, though, and you deserve to love yourself. After all, everybody else does! How couldn't they? You're so talented, worldly, friendly, and fun! I have a lot of respect for you as a human being, and I have no qualms in saying that you're a great guy who really deserves to be proud of himself. There are ways in which I wish I were more like you. Hang in there, brother; it's his loss!

    I'm really looking forward to seeing Setzuan! It's going to be great. I miss doing Edward with you - those were some good times. Take care, man!

  3. I collect quotes like it's nobody's business, and so many of them remind me of this struggle. In my Women in Lit class, we're starting to touch on this continuous narrative that you have to suffer to really learn and grow, and that maybe it isn't true, but we've internalized it from so many fictional love stories, to such an extent that we're forcing ourselves to suffer too much. But maybe it's true, and we have to be destroyed to be built up, and we have to make mistakes to learn. And maybe there will never be an Answer, only each person's understanding. That's enough, I think.

    "One of my wings beat faster,
    I couldn't help it--
    the one away from the light.
    It hurt to be told all the time
    how I loved that terrible flame."
    William Stafford

    "Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave."
    Mary Tyler Moore

    "If nothing else, one day you can look someone straight in the eyes and say
    'But I lived through it. And it made me who I am today.'"
    I Wrote This For You (fabulous blog)

    "The fluttering in the stomach goes away and the dull waking pain. Sometimes I think of you and I feel giddy. Memory makes me lightheaded, drunk on champagne. All the things we did. And if anyone had said this was the price I would have agreed to pay it. That surprises me; that with the hurt and the mess comes a shaft of recognition. It was worth it. Love it worth it."
    Jeanette Winterson