#Musings: How to Avoid Catching Feelings Like a PRO
“Love takes hostages.”
- Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones
I think about this phrase often. In fact, if you are familiar with Neil Gaiman, you’d think about what he has to say about love in this context a lot too. The whole paragraph that he spews about love is something that has been playing and re-playing in my mind quite often this past week.
“Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They don't ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like "maybe we should just be friends" or "how very perceptive" turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones
I belong to a generation caught between throwing flashy weddings and running away from their feelings at the drop of a hat. We love being able to stay one step ahead of the other person in the equation between us. It doesn’t matter if we have feelings for them or not. It only matters that we never let it escalate to a point that it hurts us.
Neil Gaiman is right when he says love makes you vulnerable. But have you seen us? Glued to our phones, swiping right, in the hopes of finding the one. For us, even hinting to the other person that we might just like them a little more than just friends is equal to being vulnerable.
Why do we play the games we play? Why do we always ensure that our hearts are wrapped behind in layers of denial and generous helpings of one-uppings? Why is it so difficult for us to just come outright and tell someone that you just might have feelings for them?
Instead, we hide behind terms like “no strings attached” and “friends with benefits”, all the while being casually cruel both to ourselves and the person in question. Whatever happened to putting in the effort, being honest, and figuring out whether you make sense together or you don’t? Whatever happened to looking forward to a future that has you both in it? (Disclaimer: happy futures don’t necessarily mean ending getting married.)
Sometimes, all you need is someone to lean on. But we refuse to be there because we are so deathly afraid of our tomorrow. Because tomorrow would bring a whole set of questions and none of us would have the answers to.
During the afternoon when I look out of my window and watch the world pass me by, I wonder if we all get the fairytales we grew up listening to. Is there really someone out there desperately looking for me - the way I’ve been looking for them too. In every face I encounter, in every soul I meet, and every person who touches my life.
While I’ve never felt the explosive kind of love that we grow up reading about, I’ve met those who definitely stroked the embers of passion. I’ve never stayed long enough to stroke the flames and see how far they rise. I’ve grown so obsessed with never getting hurt again…I’ve built a shield around my heart. As have many of the people I know. We catch feelings that we squash oh-so-easily.
Because sometimes all you get are people who would have made a beautiful chapter in the story of your life, but they choose to be the scribbles on the last page of your notebook. Sometimes you meet people you could have caught feelings for and probably found peace with. But you decided to deliberately ignore those feelings, put them in a box in your head, and never tamper with them again.
You think you’ve won in the game of not catching feelings. Someday, the last page of your notebook will run out of space. You’d be left with just your victory. And the painful pride of not bowing down to your feelings.
Here’s the real question though: are you happy now?