Happy Valentine: Love, Unconditionally

It’s Valentine. I’m going to meet Rapha this afternoon. Today is the 14th of February, 2015. The last time we met was the 10th of  August, 2014. 6 months have passed, yet I feel as if it was just yesterday when we stood outside the boarding room in Frankfurt airport, when he kissed me goodbye and whispered “We will be okay.”

Earlier this week I decided to take a break from writing for a while. “In life, as in music, the pauses make all the difference.” This is a very wise saying. Nevertheless, in this very special day, I find myself itching to reach out to you, to all the lovers. And share with you something I’ve learned about unconditional love.

I met Rapha the first time in August 2012 through the introduction of a common friend. A Vietnamese girl and a Brazilian boy in a 500-people conference in Russia. Something drew us toward each other, but we both thought it was nothing but a temporary fever caused by the novelty of a strange land and strange people. However, out of serendipity, we become closer after the conference through sheer online chat. We were wildly different, and at the same time very similar. Both were lonely and bewildered in a strange city – him in Beijing, me in Sai Gon. Both were broken  after painful relationships. Both were overwhelmed with the sales roles which shoved us too far away our comfort zone. We talked because nobody else seemed to understand our struggles. If the similarity in situations made us naturally yearn to connect, the differences in personality made the other person fascinating. Rapha was extrovert, logical, spontaneous, gregarious. I was introvert, emotional, organized, independent.

Thus, 4 months later seeing each other again in Taiwan, amidst all fears, we surrendered to the risks of heartache and the uncertainty of a long distance relationship. We chose love. We both knew our romantic love had begun months before that moment.

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We were both broke; therefore, we saw each other every 3 to 4 months. Each time in different country. It was very difficult. We missed each other. We longed for a kiss, an embrace, or simply the other person’s presence. However, distance helped with a sense of mystery, adventure, and novelty.

1 year and a half later, we both moved to Europe and could see each other every other weekend. There the strength of our love was put into test. When the honeymoon blind has lifted, and the other person’s presence is frequent enough for the flaws to come into light; you will see more than what you lovingly tricked yourself into seeing. In this test, romantic love either get transformed into unconditional love, or it begins to wither.

As Rapha’s flaws came out in my sight, my first reaction was trying to fix it. I thought my attempt to fix him – aka to “help him improve” – was the prove of love. But it wasn’t true. It was the prove of lack of love. True love is either unconditional or nothing.

Fixing is what we do to our loved ones. But if we examine our thoughts soberly, we will see that we do not accept them exactly as who they are. We fix something when we think it is broken. We fix our love ones because they are not good enough yet. Good enough for whom? For them or for us? We mold them to fit our ideal in the name of love. We do not understand that changing someone who wants to change is already difficult; changing someone who doesn’t want to change is impossible.

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This lesson dawned on me as I observed myself during our long summer holiday together. I caught myself irritated over silly little things he did and took for granted his acts of sweetness.

Unconditional love is really about letting go. Let go of judgment. Let go of the need to control others and have things done your way. Let go of grudge and forgive. Let everything go and see what’s left.

What’s left are the eyes capable of looking – not as what your ego would like to see, and what his ego would like to project –  but as what he really is. Because the core of everyone is goodness and love, you will love what you see. And your lover would love you for having been seen. Like how Amanda Palmer said:  

“I see you.”

“Thank you, no one ever did.”

As I learned to see Rapha this way, love has become a well that overflows.  I love the scar on his arm as much as I love the freckles on his shoulder and the back of his neck, as much as I love how the lines on his face deepens when he grins. I love his sweet-tooth, and occasional absent-mindedness, and his rambling, dramatic way of telling stories. Love can do nothing but love.

When he wants my help to be healed, or to be fixed, or to become better, I am always there. When he yearns for an adventure, I smile and say “Go. Have fun!” And no matter how much that adventure may change him, I’m willing to rediscover him, all over again. 

There is no guarantee when it comes to love. Today’s morning you may open your eyes to meet the eyes of your lovers. Tomorrow you may open your eyes to let tears flow out. Love cannot be controlled. Lovers need courage.  Nevertheless, learn to love unconditionally gives us the best short at navigating in the most vulnerable terrain of living.

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So listen to me when I say love isn't something that we invented. It's observable. Powerful. It has to mean something… Maybe it means something more - something we can't yet understand. Maybe it's some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can't consciously perceive. I'm drawn across the universe to someone I haven't seen in a decade who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing that we're capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can't understand it.

(Interstellar)

Love is what the world needs most. Love is practical, and powerful. The intimate love between two persons are sacred. It is impossible for love to create sufferings. Love can do nothing but love. Love only heals. Couple hurts each other in the name of love because they haven’t learned to love or have lost their way. 

When I think of the characters of the human ego: greed, hated, deceit, cowardice, violence, envy, fear – all that make us kill and suck the planet dry; I wonder what makes us worthy? If animals and plants are inherently worthy because their births and deaths replenish this earth, what makes humankind worth living?

Not our cold cleverness, or our calculating thoughts, or our deceiving intelligence, or our destructive creativity. The only thing that makes us worthy is our capacity for love.

So I say “Long live love! And Happy Valentine!”