This is a famous Chinese saying which translates to: Seeing a mountain as it is, then realising that there is more to the mountain, and finally understanding that the mountain is still a mountain.
The above reflects the 3 different levels of understanding people have towards life in general. At the first stage, we are ignorant and we believe what we see on the surface level. As we gain more knowledge, we know that things are much deeper than what we see. At the last stage, after accumulating a lifetime of wisdom and experience, after fully understanding the situation and everything that encompasses it, we come back to square 1 – that a mountain is indeed still a mountain.
Today is Valentine’s Day, and once again I will be talking about love, with none of the previous sarcasm. My posts generally have a logical and systematic flow to it. One leads to another. But just for today only I am trying another style of writing since I thought it was fitting – like how a woman thinks. All the thoughts are jumbled together, somehow linked yet goes off suddenly at times, with a main focus on emotions.
Most of us would have at least a crush or two in our teenage days, and a significant number of us would have gone further to like and want to be in a proper relationship with someone. The boys might have actively wooed a girl, and the girls might have hinted in many ways their intentions. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we failed and cried ourselves to sleep at night over unrequited love. Then as we get older perhaps we get drunk over a breakup as we lost the one we thought was for us.
When we were young, many of us thought that with love, we can do anything. Being with the one we like (I will use the word ‘like’ here first), we face each day with hope and energy, with anticipation and excitement as we can never get enough of seeing that one person, and even more so if we are able to hold him or her in our hands. From the most innocent of a conversation which progressed to the holding of hands, from the very first awkward kiss to perhaps sex for the first time, most of us would have at least at one point in time poured out the whole of our hearts and soul to one particular person. We naively thought, that as long as we have each other’s love, any of the problems could be solved.
Some progressed to be young parents due to a lack of planning. Some discovered that their boyfriend or girlfriend was scum. Some went on to realise that a difference in character, dreams and family background was a slow dividing wedge between their relationship, though at times family interference killed the romance with an aggression more intense than the couple’s passion. Couples realise that without the same goals, their walk in life will not be together. Without money, especially for the young parents, many things are too difficult to handle. They realise that with a different family background, their ideals and perception towards life are different. As couples got by the fever stage where they could not get enough of each other, the practical problems in life came. Quarrels and fights entered the relationship, and what was once true love now became a disdain so intense they can no longer sleep, eat, communicate and let alone see each other.
Just a short side-track. Many people choose a spouse based on the characteristics which made him or her a good dating partner, not realising that the traits which appealed as a boyfriend may be the very trait which caused problems as a husband, and vice versa. For example, an attractive boyfriend may be one who often meets up to play and party, and at times his YOLO ‘just-do-it’ attitude seems so charming as he has the guts to do whatever he wanted to. However after marriage, the boring boyfriend who goes home every day is suddenly viewed as the caring family man and the YOLO attitude the attractive boyfriend had may seem to be irresponsible now as the context of the relationship change. While people do make changes, often times people do not suddenly change into a totally new person on the day of the marriage. And this is one of the many reasons why the love slowly dies off.
Rice is a staple food of Asians. While it goes well with many different dishes, rice is plain and boring by itself. Sometimes after eating it for long, you would want to eat an unhealthy hamburgers too. It is the same for dating relationships and especially marriage. After marriage, both parties see each others’ good, bad, wholesome and unwholesome side. Even if you have the prettiest wife or the most charming husband, over time, it is common for people to want something fresh. This is especially so when your marriage suffers practical issues. That is where the love is tested once again. Do you stick to your marriage vow, or do you f**k it and give in to your desires?
At this second stage we realise that to maintain a relationship there is so much more to do. There is much to sacrifice and often times people begin to wonder if it is worth it or not. Love just cannot feed a hungry stomach nor could it just make everything sweet again. And be it in the marriage or in a dating relationship, sometimes the ex appears. The ex-girlfriend whom you sacrificed everything for, or the ex-boyfriend whom you thought was the one.
A friend once told me this: ‘You may have thought you have put down everything, until (by co-incidence) you see your ex once more.’ Singapore is a very small place, so such a thing could have happened with greater probability. It certainly happened to me. The emotions which flooded your heart was not something I could easily describe, but it certainly knocked me off when I experienced it for myself.
Man cannot have both youth and the feelings towards youth at the same time.
When we are young, we may not know how precious it is. Even if we know it is the best part of our lives, the significance will only come in when we are older and more experienced. Only when we are looking back at our youthful days can we know how precious it was. Yet we can never have both this feeling and youth together at the same time. It is the same for our past relationships. But the past should remain at the past. No matter how good the memory is, or how much you treasure it, if you live in the past, you will never be able to step forward.
However, beyond all these practical problems, we ask ourselves again. How far am I willing to go to protect this relationship? How much am I willing to sacrifice for this relationship? Do I love my spouse more than I love myself? One cannot say he or she truly loves until he or she is willing to sacrifice himself or herself. I have known this theory since my 20s. But it is one thing to know head theories, and another to go through everything and after that walk out still believing in and carry out that theory in practical. Afterall, even prisoners know a lot of head theories on how to live a good life.
From working in a job one does not like, to staying in a place one does not fancy, these may be the little things one sacrifice for the greater good of the family. They say a woman is tested when a man has nothing, and a man is tested when he has everything. In a lot of sense that is true, and many failed the test. If one truly loves the other, for the sake of the relationship, one will continually reflect upon one’s own behaviour and actions, then correct it if need be. Nobody is born perfect.
We often see in feel-good dramas or movies that after a woman left a poor man, the poor man worked very hard and attained success, much to the regret of the woman. Or that a man left a fat ugly girl, only to see her transform into a pretty and sexy woman, much to his regret too. While there are certainly very superficial people, but is that the whole reality? Many times, people simply do not love each other enough to make changes, and simply take things for granted. The poor man will simply never work hard until he lost the one who has been beside him all those years. The fat ugly woman will never bother to look decent until she was given up on. Often times people do not ask for the sky, but when you do not bother to put the bare minimum effort in the relationship to make it work, then people simply cannot be bothered about you. It is that simple.
We then realise that indeed, with love, many obstacles can be overcome. It is indeed that love is all that you need. But different from the first stage where all you have is feelings and passion, at this third stage you go in willing to sacrifice and work for the better of the relationship.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Replace ‘love is’ with ‘I am’. How much love do you have for your partner?
And for those who are still single, how much love are you willing to put out? Do you still remember that pure and innocent teenage love you may have, where you were willing to go all out for that one person? Go all out for love, and receive the all-out love from another person. But if you are still single, enjoy the freedom which is the envy of many married people. One cannot have both. Between love where you share your life and freedom, you can only choose one.