Is love an illusion?

The other day at work, my colleague and I were caught up in a discussion on love and relationships. While our conversation touched on everything from modern dating to the rising rates of divorce, she left me with a thought that latched to my mind and took the rest of the week to finally pry off. Just before grabbing her purse to leave she casually said; “I think love is just an illusion.”

This took me completely off guard. Love? An Illusion?! I found the concept simultaneously depressing and intriguing. It sort of reminded me of that crumbling disappointment I felt when I was young kid and learned that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Even though the very idea of Santa seemed unlikely, I didn’t want to believe otherwise. Santa was a symbol of childhood innocence, and stubbornly believing he was real was like clinging to a buoy in an ocean of adulthood and maturity. Discovering he was fictional felt like popping the buoy I used to stay afloat, forcing me to face the tragic, turbulent world of adulthood.

Similarly, believing in a magical, mountain-moving romantic love was a nice daydream to allow my mind to cuddle up in, even if it seemed too simplistic and far-fetched to be true. Yet after this conversation I couldn’t help but question my own idea of love. Is this feeling of what we know as “love” just a hypnotic spell played by our primitive brain to get us to procreate? Is it just an intensely powerful chemical reaction that brings humans together and we just happen to label that as love?

I began reading articles by philosophers and I came across one by Alain de Botton. He’d written a piece for the New York Times cheerfully titled, “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person.” In it he discusses how “romanticism” is to blame for so many failed marriages.  Mostly because we’ve been led to believe that that unmistakably blissful romantic state will and can last forever. We’ve failed to realize that we are all uniquely “mad” and enter married life assuming everything will be as effortless as the romantic love stage. Yet when this euphoric stage inevitably dwindles, we run into therapy or call for a divorce. We forget that real love requires a tremendous amount of work, patience and compromise. He goes on to explain that we need to spend time examining precisely how we are crazy and then ask our new lover how exactly they are crazy too. That way we reveal the underbelly or dark side of our character to our new partner right away, rather than years down the track when our lives are too entangled to part.

The more I read, the more I realized that my own idea of love has been incredibly artificial. Disney and Hollywood contributed to the ‘Twinkie’ version of love; full of processed sugar and almost guaranteed to cause diabetes. Never did these fairy tales and dramatic love stories tell us that life is ultimately up to us and no one can save us from ourselves. Life is hard and difficult and complex and other people will only be able to act as umbrellas to the inevitable torrential downpours that will life will deliver us. Initially though, it appears as though our new lover has the power to negotiate with nature, making it seem as if it’ll be smooth sailing from now on.

Then I came across this quote that popped the figurative buoy I used to stay afloat, “In some respects (but certainly not in all) the act of falling in love is an act of regression. The experience of merging with the loved one has in it echoes from the time when we were merged with our mothers in infancy. All things seem possible! United with our beloved we feel we can conquer all obstacles, all problems will be overcome. Yet just as the baby realizes that he or she is an individual, the lover returns to his or her self. At this point the work of real love begins.”

The work of “real love” begins. What an interested concept, one that is rarely ever spoken of. Romantic love has been advertised in the same way as pharmaceutical drug commercials; when an attractive couple runs in slow motion down a sun-setting beach and a male commentator with a smooth voice starts proclaiming all the ways this ‘drug’ will improve your life. Then at the very end of the commercial in a very quiet, rushed whisper he admits the side-effects may include heart failure and imminent death. But we were too distracted by this image of perfection to allow the words “heart failure and imminent death” to resonate.

Perhaps then, the real illusion is that we expect love to be as effortless and natural as that initial feeling of falling. Yet once those dizzying romantic neurochemicals have subsided, we are baffled to find an individual in front of us who is equally as flawed, complex and frustrating as ourselves.

I don’t believe that love in and of itself is an illusion. I believe the illusion is taking something real and warping it into a highly processed, refined product filled with harmful preservatives. One that is then packaged and marketed to us, fooling us into believing that there is one ‘soul mate’ out there who is capable of completing us and saving us from life’s inevitable setbacks. But this sort of thinking negates us from the personal responsibility of being the best version of ourselves we can be. It directs us to someone else to drape ourselves over and use as a crutch, rather than learning to exercise our muscles so we are strong enough to stand on our own. It leaves us in an eternal hamster wheel, searching and searching, getting nowhere.

I suppose then the real love story is the one we have with ourselves, for it is us we spend the most time with. Others come and go, marriage cannot seal our fates; whether it’s falling out of love or death, all we get is a temporary companion in the turbulent climate of life.

While this may sound depressing, I find it oddly satisfying. The kind of love I hope for is a companion that will share the umbrella with me when I’m getting soaked, or as perfectly put,

“I do not need someone to complete me,
but if you wanted to,
we could walk next to each other
into whatever is coming next.”

Ramblings from an untamed mind

cloudsI have a very disobedient mind.

At the ripe age of 28, I still struggle to force it to surrender to my (very reasonable) requests.

It feels like a mischievous, excitable dog that really should be living on a large property. Perhaps on a farm, where it can run freely through open fields. But instead it lives in a small apartment in a big city with an owner who is rarely around. When the owner finally comes home, usually late, the walks are rushed and rarely enough to satisfy. The dog pulls his owner strongly ahead; breathing heavily through the tight leash, eyes bulged.

Before I go into meetings at work, I ask my mind to please stay concentrated. I visualise myself negotiating with my mind like its a hyper dog, standing over it asking calmly, ‘stay…stay…. Then I step into the meeting, take a seat, stare intently at the person talking with heightened focus and before I know it, the dog has run off. The leash is ripped from my hand, I see him bolting full speed ahead and I think “dammit! Not again…”

I don’t know how to force my mind to endure boring meetings that are an essential part of adulthood, and keeping a job.

I have tried to exhaust my mind by taking long walks before I get to work. Literally. I walk roughly 5km every morning before work with the intention of running it ragged in daydreams so that it will be cooperative when I need it to be.

Yet, when I finally arrive to the office, I check in to see if my mind is tired yet. But it looks back at me with its tongue hanging out, breathing heavily and enthusiastically. Looking at me like:

’so…what’s next?’

Camping at Sandbar

I spent this past weekend camping in a place called Sandbar. It’s about four hours North of Sydney.

I was invited by my friend’s friends. They picked me up right after work on Friday afternoon. The drive up allowed us to get know each other through those kinds of conversations that only happen on road trips; when everyone is in a good mood, ready for an adventure. Music filled the air and we gazed out the window at the passing scenery.

We arrived to the camp site at night, our friend Rob was already there, “welcome city people!” he said grinning as he gave us each a hug. He’d already set the whole camp site up. We thanked him profusely, pulled a beer out of the eski and cheersed to the start of the weekend.

After dinner we sat around the fire, shared a few more beers, talking freely, and laughing; feeling the warm buzz relax us further. When my eyes got tired, I climbed into the tent and zipped myself up into a cozy sleeping bag.

In the morning I was awoken by the sun soaking our tent, creating a glowing red tint. I squirmed out of my sleeping bag and stretched my arms across the bed, listening to the sounds of the kookaburras in the distance.

We had a slow morning, as you do when camping. We sat together over breakfast, sipping coffee out of little plastic cups that made me feel like a kid again. One of the girls called us to her direction, she held up an old school polaroid camera and took a picture of all of us. When the photo appeared I stared at it intently, it looked like a picture that was taken decades ago, like the people in the photograph were much older now. We packed up our things and drove to a nearby beach. It was completely empty, a long crescent shaped stretch of white sand bordering turquoise blue water. The sun hit the water through breaks in the clouds, making spots in the water shine even brighter blue. Salty, misty air blew over and pushed my hair back. I stared in awe, thinking to myself that this right here is exactly what brought me to Australia, and this is why I’ll never be able to leave. My friends hurriedly walked past me, pulled off their clothes and ran into the water. I watched them as they slowly became engulfed by a wave, a head popping up through the water a moment later. I felt overwhelmed in excitement and suddenly had an urge to do cartwheels. So I put my stuff down and did cartwheels along the empty beach, then ran into the water and dove head first into a warm blue wave.

That night we brought chairs to the lake and watched the sun sink behind the trees. Little kids played nearby while their parents fished. We stared at the lake as the light slowly dimmed. The moon appeared and produced enough light to illuminate the whole lake. When the mosquitoes got too intense we made our way back to the campfire to drink more beer, wine and baileys.

The next day we did a little more of all the above; chilled, swam, ate, drank beer and I finally got a chance to paddleboard. It was my first time!

It was a great weekend away, it felt like a proper vacation. I’ve been so stressed recently with trying to finding a place to live and a job that’ll sponsor me, it felt so nice to unwind and reset.

There’s just something about nature that changes everything for the better…

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Words of Inspiration: March

Summer is unfortunately coming to an end here in Australia. The weather is cooling, university has started again, and cozy sweaters have filled store front windows. It feels a lot like autumn back home. Just without the change of color in the leaves or the pumpkin spiced lattes.

It’s bittersweet to feel summer slowly slip away. I’m already missing the heat, blazing sunshine and those intense tropical thunderstorms – and its not even over yet. But there is something about the start of a new season that inspires me and fills me with hope. Maybe it’s something to do with a forced change we all must go through, together, but separately. We all must let summer go and prepare for the (thankfully) mild winter.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time these days researching and applying for jobs that will hopefully lead to sponsorship. But landing a job that will sponsor is not easy. This is not an accident of course, if it were easy every Working Holidayer would stay and never leave Australia. But I embrace the challenge, the unpredictability of my life keeps me on my toes and makes things a little more exciting. It also drains and frustrates the hell out of me, but that’s all a part of the package. During the times when nothing seems to be working, and moving back to Canada feels like the only plausible option, I remind myself of the quote ‘anything worth having doesn’t come easy.’ Remembering this feels like a jolt of hard-hitting determination to keep me going.

This month’s quotes of inspiration follow no theme, or agenda. They’re just beautiful words woven together by other people out there who have felt the same sentiments as me, it’s like they took the words right out of my mouth.

Happy first day of March ♥


“Time can be slowed if you live deliberately. If you stop and watch sunsets. If you spend time sitting on porches listening to the woods. If you give in to the reality of the seasons.”

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“We are not entitled to pain-free, trouble-free life. Embracing this will ease the collision between expectation and reality.”

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“It’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it and they love you and you know it but it’s a party and you’re both talking to other people and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes. But not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual, but because that is your person in this life and it’s funny and sad but only because this life will end and it’s this secret world that exists right there. In public. Unnoticed. That no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s what I want out of a relationship.”

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“It is an art of the most exquisite kind to touch someone’s soul before touching their skin.”


 

 

Medicinal Music

“That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.” – Dave Grohl

I just returned from a weekend in a small, sleepy beach town to see the great Xavier Rudd play live.

While I stood in the crowd listening to Xavier Rudd’s voice echo loudly through the speakers, I had an epiphany. I watched everyone around me singing along to every word. Some swayed softly with eyes closed while others danced energetically, smiling and laughing. I sung along with them and I felt myself united and connected to every single person there. It made me realize that music festivals are a kind of medicine, they heal us. They release us from the pains of life and provide us with a potent sense of sense of connection. It’s why we keep going back to these music festivals, no matter how much they cost, no matter how far they may be, year after year. It’s its own type of therapy, an anti-depressant drug that offers no negative side effects.

Music is something we as human beings all understand, we all feel moved by. Its the glue that binds us together and brings us closer. Certain songs have lifted me over a period of my life I genuinely couldn’t have gone through without them. How beautiful is that? What a thing to be grateful for.

“Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.” -Haruki Murakami

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Words of Inspiration: February

I’ve never been a fan of February, at least when I lived in Canada. It’s about that time of year when winter reveals its most hideous side. The air becomes even more bone chilling cold, the days are shorter and the snow hardens and condenses from layers of different snowfalls. It sort of looks like a Slurpee after all the sugar and food colouring has been sucked out. I often wished I could be a bear and hibernate through it, waking up in time for St Patty’s day in March.

I remember those cold, dark winter mornings when my alarm would go off. I’d lay there hugging my heated blanket, asking myself things like: why do I live in a such cold, horrendous place? should I just move to Jamaica? Somehow I’d dig up the willpower to pull myself out of bed and step into a scalding hot shower that was potentially capable of producing third degree burns. I’d try my best to blow-dry my wet hair, rarely having enough time. After quickly getting ready I’d hover by the door, cherishing those last few moments of warmth, and look over at my cat, Quiggly. He used to sit on top of the heater vent puffed up like a mother hen, absorbing every ounce of heat. I’d just stare at him through tearful eyes and think to myself, why am I not you, Quiggly? I want to be you, I want your life. He’d look up at me and blink softly before dozing off to a blissful, heated slumber. Ugh, it killed me…

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Here’s Quiggle pigs, the vent hogger

But jokes on Quiggly because it’s currently 30 degrees and sunny here in Sydney. I practically feel like bowing down and kissing the burning hot pavement every morning. Like little Quiggles, I have my own version of sitting on the vent. I just found it on the other side of the world.

So whether you’re somewhere cold or hot or somewhere in between, may these quotes light your heart with a fire of joy and inspiration! ♥


“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”

– Victoria Erickson

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Nelson Mandela

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“Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.”

– Rudy Francisco

“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.

Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”

Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.”

Shauna Niequist

“No one is you and that is your power.”

-David Grohl

How cool is it that you are one of a kind? Just continue to be you, your 100% raw organic self. 🙂

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