Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (via eirenics)
“ There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. ”
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (via eirenics)
“ The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. ”
William James (via paperimages)
A friend of mine shared this note, written by another, on Facebook. I felt heartache and comfort at the same time as I read this prose which held such ringing truths for me. Especially now.
This was an unexpected pick-me-up. :)
“Why we will always break our own hearts
You and I – I refrain from using “we”; it seems too intimate, too all-assuming – are both broken, damaged people. You and I both understand how much it hurts to be the one tossed away, to never be enough for the person we love, to be the one always waiting, waiting, waiting. In a letter I wrote to a friend, but never sent, I told him – I know exactly where it hurts, the fault-lines that trail across your heart are held together by duct tape in mine.And later,loving you would only drive me mad – and drive us apart. Sometimes, two halves will not make a whole.I later fell in love with him, and we fell apart.
We grew up as dreamers and idealists and children for whom the world was our playground – why is it that we are all incredibly jaded now? Perhaps a broken heart is a rite of passage, a cruel but mandatory tradition to enter adulthood, to brace us for the worse blows that the world may deal. And we ask: why do we have to be broken,and what is it that breaks us?
The answer certainly isn’t love. There has been too much said (and written) about love; but too few of us who have truly experienced love. We know admiration and adoration and insecurity and jealousy and are misguided enough to believe that we have been in love. And the cause of our broken hearts certainly isn’t other people. We would like to believe so – but the truth is – they only have the power to thrust their knives skin-deep. It isExpectations, our expectations to be precise, that grabs the handle and drives it in – past the fascia, intercostal muscles, right through the fourth intercostal space – right into our hearts. The textbooks of anatomy will tell you that the cardiac muscle is insensitive to pain: but you and I both know that we have another heart, invisible to the eye, that will shatter and whose shards will cut our palms even as we gather them.
You are no stranger to Expectations – you were betrothed to her, even as a child. There was none of the horrified recoil we so often get when we talk aboutchild marriage: your engagement to Expectations seemed as likely and natural as anything in the world. She followed you to school and sat with you while you made make-believe airplanes from pencils and rulers and paperclips; her presence was often familiar and comfortable .But the first time you brought home a Math test you had failed – inked in red and stained with tears – she betrayed you. You remember her sitting by your father’s side as he yelled and scolded. She did not wince; maybe she even gloated a little.
She was always ontheirside, always, without fail. She sat with your mother in the car ride to school the following morning, and gave you reproachful glances that said -you have failed your parents, you have disappointed them.From that day, you knew that it was always about more than just a failed math test, or the time you played truant. Your parents entrusted their hopes and dreams to her – sometimes, you were even tempted to think that they loved her more than you.
As you grew, so did she. And she was by your father’s side at the dinner table the night when you looked him in the eye and said:I don’t want to go to law school; I want to pursue my passion in photography.She patted him on the shoulder with a sigh of disappointment and put her arm around your mother who was already readying herself for the scene that was to come. But it was not her disloyalty that broke your heart – it was the infinite sadness in your father’s eyes – that you never grew up to be the son that he wanted you to be. He had always held on to the mould that you were supposed to fit – with a fierceness you feared – and now that you had knocked this prize possession out of his hands and broken it, you felt unhappy and helpless and sorry. Maybe you should have obeyed him, and gone to law school.
Finally, you moved out –and Expectations came along with you. For a while, you felt free: now that you no longer had anyone to please but yourself, and Expectations no longer stood by your parents’ side. You even began to love her now that she was no longer grovelling and acceding to every whim and fancy of theirs; and started to enjoy her company.
But someone should have told you, and you should have known that this happiness would not be long-lasting. Her attention turned to you – to yourself – instead, and when you lay awake on sleepless nights, she would whisper:You’re not good enough. Perhaps the most cruel thing was that you knew the words she spoke were the truth and that you never had the right words to say. And you were so unguarded – havealways been so unguarded – that the only way you could write and speak were with your heart in every letter and your soul in the spaces that words couldn’t fill and your feelings seeping through the gaps between your fingers. And all this, despite the fact that you already had your hands cupped over your chest. You would never please Expectations, not even when it was just the both of you.
You should have understood that it was hard enough dealing with Expectations all on your own – and that you shouldn’t have pushed her to the other people in your life. You knew that she would return with reports, raising your hopes; only for them to let you down later. You would love someone and Expectations would make you believe (and for good reasons) that your affections were returned: only to find out otherwise. She would trick you into thinking that you could fix people or that you could be enough for them or they would return if you waited long enough, or loved hard enough. Her influence was toxic and but she was your drug, and you could not leave her, could not stop being the idealist and dreamer you grew up to be.
You tried to change her of course, to make her more realistic and keep her head out of the clouds – but haven’t they told you,you can’t change anyone?And so it was, with Expectations. She would revert to her original self after a few weeks, and this endless cycle of disappointment and your futile efforts to fix her would repeat itself ad infinitum. You would claim to be a realist, but you would always only be a disappointed idealist at heart. Each time you tried to change her, to lower Expectations, it hurt – like admitting defeat.
Finally, you make up your mind to leave her, to stop breaking your own heart. You do not divorce her, but you pack your bags and leave. Not knowing where to go, you sit at the nearest railway station and wait, listening to your own heart pounding and your own ragged breaths coming in tiny gasps. The trains come and depart; the passengers of the station alight and leave – and still you sit. Without Expectations, you have no more hope, quite simply, no longer any motivation to doanything. And so you wait.
Days pass – and you begin to understand that it is not impossible to live without Expectations, butabsurd. You have the blank hollow stare of a vagrant – of a soul who has lost its moorings in the world. There is nothing sadder than being empty – an existence without having been disappointed, without having gone through hurt of any kind is barely an existence at all. You are half tempted to hold up a sign to all the passers-by that declares “LOOK AT ME – THE MAN WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS”. Who knew what they might do? It would be a terrible social experiment, they might hurt you, or harm you, and you wouldn’t flinch. After all, you would have had no expectations of them to think that they might treat you otherwise.
Even so, “THE MAN WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS” would have been a misnomer. A more accurate subtext would have read, “I have been hurt time and time again and I don’t trust you not to hurt me this time, so I will expect the worst of everybody and anything better than that will be a genuine surprise.” It is painful to admit, but true.
You get up from the train station and shuffle home slowly. You do not love her, but you cannot leave without her – and so you return. She is not standing by the door to welcome you; there is no dinner on the table awaiting you – but of course, you did not expect either. You walk past the bedroom and see her on the edge of the bed, combing her hair. This is your wife, your cruel, beautiful wife, and you know that you cannot live without her.
I knew you would come back.
Of course she did. You always knew you would return too. You would never be able to divorce Expectations, but the break did teach you something after all. An empty existence would barely be worth living and humans need to be filled with something: with love or hope or disappointment or hurt – we were never made to be empty.
And you turn to her and smile graciously,Yes. Although you have hurt me again and again, it is you who give me hope. So no – I can’t leave you – because hope is the only thing I have left.
Hope is the only anchor we have; and hope is all we need.
And you will go on expecting and knowing that your heart will be broken again and again – but tonight, you are a different man. You will hold on to thehopethat Expectations brings, instead of Expectations herself – and for as long as you live,
You will never stop hoping and you will never stop dreaming.”
by Henry Ellis