The absolute thing in this world
In time I reached a point in my life where I concluded that my mother’s criticism was equal to dislike. It started when, as the eldest child, I accepted the responsibility of being a role model (and in my subconscious, it meant I should never be wrong). Because of that and of some unfavorable circumstances I’ve experienced, I unconsciously invented the idea that if my parents would sternly correct me, it meant they didn’t love me.
I was wrong, of course. I received a long lecture from my mother telling me once and for all that no matter how many times I made a mistake, I would still be the same to them, and it wouldn’t make them love me less. I was in tears as she stood there in the living room speaking from her heart, with my father beside her nodding in agreement. It was my defining moment.
It was partly this firstborn issue fueled by the overly critical world that led me to question my parents’ love for me. When other people give up on us for some reason, it often appears that it is because we did something wrong, that we are “defective.” But the truth is, unlike parents those people don’t love us in the first place.
Many of us who have been left by someone in whom we invested much blame ourselves at some point for not being “enough.” We stay up late at night counting the times when we were wrong, forgetting the things that we did right. If our pillow could complain about our salty tears, we would have been pillow-less by now. Juan Miguel Severo must have written a prose poem about pillows being symbols of heartache. We would convince ourselves that maybe, if we did something other than what we had done, it would not have ended up like that.
But no. The relationship still wouldn’t have been saved had we done things differently. Because that someone would produce the tiniest bit of an excuse just to leave us.
There are people who have been cheated on by their partner multiple times but still choose to stay. Most of them are aware of their partner’s flaws and everything “unlovable” about him or her, but those imperfections do not matter at all.
To what extent can we hurt our partners until they leave us?
If they love us, it will take a long way for them to give up on everything, and there is even a huge chance that they still wouldn’t. And if love isn’t there, hurting them is an opportunity for them to leave the relationship with no guilt.
It all boils down to the idea that love is absolute. Love doesn’t count mistakes, or dwell on the weight of issues.
It knows no math.
This truth also applies when we’re seeing someone. Men and women in the dating world obsess about finding out why the person they are seeing suddenly lost interest. A lot of us have been there. We would pose unproductive questions to our friends, ascribing to them mind-reading powers: Was it because of something I said on our first date? Was there something wrong with what I was wearing? Was I too chatty, or too quiet?
Unfortunately, neither our friends nor the tequila we drown ourselves in while casting about for answers can tell us what or why. Yet this I am sure of: It is not about how we looked, what we said, or what their friends think. It is that, in the first place, the person is not really into us. What a hard pill to swallow, but as those self-help books say, we shouldn’t take it personally. “Yeah, right,” you might say, and roll your eyes. But hey, it does make sense.
The argument that love is a choice might contradict the idea of love being absolute. But if we take a closer look at love, it has challenges. We all feel challenged every once in a while in loving the ones we love, and it is often because life isn’t perfect. At the end of the day, we do not let external factors defeat us in our pursuit of love. As trite as it may sound, love conquers all. We then say that love is a choice because we choose to remain in the lives of the ones we love. But it would be hard to stay when we don’t really love them. It is hard to make a choice when we haven’t felt love in the beginning.
This is where we put the pieces back together, after beating ourselves up for not being perfect. This is where we finally set ourselves free. The truth about love is that it does not blame us for being human. We can be our best and still not be loved. We can be our worst and still be accepted wholeheartedly by those who truly love us. We can be confident once again that it is not our job to keep people interested in us.
Until today, I get corrections from my parents, for forgetting to clear the dining table, for having my eyes glued on Facebook Messenger when they’re telling me something important, for not being able to give a sure answer when asked if I had unplugged the iron, for locking or not locking the front door, and basically for every bit of instruction that I missed. The difference is that to me, these remarks do not anymore sound as icy as they sounded before, because I now know that my parents bear this one truth: Love is absolute. Once it is there, it stays.
I am glad my parents made me realize this.
Camille Angelie Calalas, 23, is working on a master’s degree in English at Ateneo de Davao University.
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