“The heart wants what it wants.”
My heart gets it wrong. A LOT. I mean, a lot a lot. And my heart doesn’t “know” anything. It’s just one of the areas that manifest the feelings generated by the thoughts in my brain.* And as i’ve mentioned before, my brain doesn’t always work well or properly – and my choices in both sexual and non-sexual relationships is often a stark example of that fact. So yeah, sometimes i want relationships that aren’t good, healthy or otherwise beneficial to me. I’ve often heard it said the heart wants what it wants, and the tone of resignation that usually accompanies it. It seems to hint that one is helpless against its desires. That against the onslaught of emotions (especially romantic ones) i’m just along for the ride, and i should allow myself to be swept away. “Don’t fight it, H. The heart wants what it wants, after all.” Insert shrugged shoulders and a deep sigh.
It almost seems like an excuse to me. Like, i want the person i know isn’t a good choice to be in a relationship with, so i’m gonna blame the destructive inevitability of my heart’s desires to abdicate responsibility for this choice i am indeed making.
And so while i’m not gonna stop enjoying love expressed through art -the poems, ballads, epic romances, the sweeping historical novels and all the rest- i need to see it for what it is and what it is not. What it is, is the way we communicate with each other regarding how it can feel to care for someone. What it isn’t, is the organ with which i make decisions. Not simple ones like whether or not to return a passing smile, and certainly not much more complex ones like whom to marry and/or create a family.
You may think that’s obvious, and maybe it should’ve been, but it certainly wasn’t to me. Based on results, i was choosing my relationships on the whims of some nebulous idea that my heart was its own little person, with a mind of its own. I thought my heart always knew what was right for me, even if i didn’t know it intellectually. That –along with a large dose of religion and an absurd belief in romantic predestination– led me to make some (mostly) disastrous choices in both friends and intimate partners.
What happens in my heart when i meet someone i’m attracted to, whether for friendship or something more, isn’t something i should follow blindly. Nor am i helpless to resist such feelings. Sometimes my taste sucks, sometimes i’m just plain wrong, and sometimes the feelings simply aren’t reciprocated. Perhaps they aren’t returned as much as i’d like them to be, or (the worst) they stop being returned at all. That last one has happened to me many, many times.
Getting dumped is the absolute shits. It’s painful, and for me, embarrassing and shameful. I was the family scapegoat until i slipped their grasp, but i wasn’t able to shake the feeling that everything that went wrong around me was my fault. I was terrified of rejection and it caused reflexive blame, self-loathing, powerlessness, and a pervasive sense of doom. Quite often it also triggered depression or mania or other behaviors associated with my mental issues. Sometimes the price i paid was high, and often my children and eventually my husband paid, too.
My heart though? My heart just wanted them back. Every one of them. It wasn’t until i got distance from them along with some traction regarding my mental health that my feelings were gradually overridden by my brain. I see now some of them weren’t right for me, some of them were no longer a good fit, and some of them had done me a huge favour by leaving.
* Again with the obvious statements, i know.
IMAGE: Robb North