I got asked recently this very question: is it better to have something and lose it, or to never have it to begin with.
Now, if I wanted to be cynical and my normal smart-arse self, I’d say that in the case of something like syphilis, i’d say no… i’d rather not have it to begin with, than have it and then lose it. But I think that for the purposes of this blog, we’ll leave the ‘something’ as things we like or desire.
Like relationships. Is it better to have loved someone, just to lose them, or is it better to have never had those feelings in the first place.
And in the case of love, like syphilis, i’m gonna have to say no, i’d rather not have the feelings of love and longing to just lose that person down the road.
Sure, you can say “but you’ll always be left wondering what could have been” and that’s true. There are times when my mind wanders and I find myself reminiscing about a particular time and a particular girl and a particular thing she used to do with a roll of gaffer tape, a bottle of olive oil and jumper cables… wait, scratch that last part … but you get my point. Sure, we all have those memories of a particular someone and the eternal question of “What could have been”.
See for me, there’s reasons a plenty for why i’d rather not have loved and then lost… there was a time when a girl told me that she had feelings for me, to basically turn it all into something to try get me to stay someplace I was desperately trying to escape. Did I have feelings for her? Yeah, as a matter of fact I did, and I never in a million years thought that she’d ever to feel the same way. So, to find out that not only were my feelings reciprocated, but that there was a chance for something serious to come of it, my heart leapt like a gazelle.
So, you can appreciate then how it sank when she followed that up with the demand that I stay, and when I tried to explain to her how important my future education was (and that I was only going to be 100kms away), she pushed me aside and proceeded to throw herself at the next available teenage boy.
I was gutted, true, but shortly after I met a wonderful woman who I know I fell instantly and deeply in love with. In this case, I knew she was leaving already (an exchange student in the last weeks of her time in Australia). The friendship that grew out of the few short weeks that we got to spend together has lasted over the years since. We’re close enough that I consider her family, and have seen each other go through lifes up and downs. Do I ever wonder about what could have been? Certainly… but I also know that if things were meant to have been, then they would have happened. We spoke about that time some years later, and she agreed that I had done the right thing, despite her confession of having the same feelings at the time.
See, whilst the time, places and names have changed since… the basics of the situation are still the same. When we fall in love with someone, we become emotionally invested in the situation with that person. Should things fail and we lose that person, the loss is more distinct for having had the emotional high of the relationship beforehand. If we feel nothing for the person, we aren’t emotionally invested, then their leaving has less effect.
I read once that an Italian scientist had made the claim that the state the human brain is in for the first year of a romance is chemically similar to that of a psychotic episode. Now, i’m a little more cynical than most people (hell, a little more cynical than most nations, to be perfectly honest) so I could see where this scientist was coming from. But the simple truth in all this is that no matter who we are, when we fall for someone, there are chemical changes that happen in our bodies. We get that rush… everything is bigger, better, brighter and more. Our emotions run fast and like a junky aiming for a fix, all we want is that person. Couple that feeling with those of loss experienced when someone leaves our lives and the analogy of a junky in withdrawals makes perfect sense. I guess when I look at what that scientist was claiming, it reminds me of the quote “Of all the things I’ve lost in life, I miss my mind the most”.
Consider another analogy, that of a business. For this, we’ll have two situations, a business that you simply work for and draw a wage from, and a business that you’ve invested money into as well.
Now, consider the failure and closure of the business. In the first instance, all that is lost is an income… yes, a loss, but one that can ultimately be replaced. The second instance, however, means not only the loss of income, but the money invested to begin with. Distinctively more difficult to bounce back from, especially if you invest all of your money and have nothing left afterwards.
That’s why it will always be more painful to have ‘loved and lost’ than to never have loved at all… and for some people, that pain is worse than the pain of having never know.
I kinda see it like that whole quality of life vs quantity argument. And for me, that’s always been an easy one… quality, hands down. What’s the point of living a long life if it’s shitty, meaningless crapfest? I know that were the day to arrive that I had to be kept alive using life support machines in a hospital, and that I wasn’t going to make a full recovery, I’d be ok with the machines being turned off. I don’t want to come out of something like that with less than full mental faculties, because afterwards, even though most of the time i’d be injured and couldn’t tell the difference, eventually something would come up that would make me realise what i’d lost… and I know that it would be too much for me.
See, this thinking started with a conversation about Sam and Dean Winchester from ‘Supernatural’. Dean embraced the hunters life, where Sam pushed that aside for the attempt of a normal life. Dean never had a normal life beyond the first few years before his mother was killed, too young really to appreciate the difference. Sam, on the other hand, had a girlfriend, home life, normal job on the horizon… just to have all that taken away when the demon that slaughtered his mother returned to do the same to his girlfriend. Sam knows what the normal life is, and now has had it taken from him.
Now, Dean has had the promise of a normal life shown to him by a genie… and all he needed to do is accept a lie. However, that lie comes with consequences, the least of which is that all the people he and Sam have saved over the years are no longer around because they were killed by the things that the Winchester boys had hunted and saved them from. Beside the point, however, when you consider that with Dean having practically never known a normal life, how can he miss it? ;
Which raises the question: can you live a life that is a lie? Would you stay with someone you loved if they didn’t feel the same way about you?
Can you miss something that you never had?
It’s an interesting question to ponder, and whilst I could walk away from a business I was merely employed by, I’d have a much harder time giving up on a business that I’d invested into. Admittedly, I couldn’t get involved with a woman I didn’t feel anything for, so there is always going to be an emotional investment, but I’d much rather not get involved, than get involved and lose them. But, I also know that things can sour… and I know that I can’t live a lie for the sake of staying in a relationship.
It seems now that I would find myself caught in a web of my own hypothetical contradictions. Can’t give up on something I’m invested in, couldn’t continue living a lie in something that isn’t working…
I guess for me, not starting down that road to begin with makes the most sense, and that when I do, it’s for the long haul.
I guess when all is said and done, it’s probably the single biggest motivator for living honestly, even when there is temptation to deceive, even yourself, and take the ‘easy’ road.