In the last few months, I've begun to re-evaluate what some definitions mean in the relationship world. Admittedly, most of my thoughts are currently slanted towards my own decidedly UNromantic experiences over the last year, but that's the clay I'm working with these days, so cut me a little slack. In the end, it really comes down to a bit of a reinterpretation of some assumptions we make... and an analysis of the tendency to over-simplify some terminology that - being human - we use to try to classify the world in certain ways that make sense.
To call words "opposite" is simple. Naming opposites is easy when you're first presented with the challenge:
Black - White
Wet - Dry
Tall - Short
Love - Hate
But is it that simple? My sister was the one that started my thoughts on this when several months ago she said to me:
"The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference."
I suppose the root of the argument against pairing 'love - hate' as opposites would be grounded in the emotional aspects associated with the words. After all... hate does indicate that one cares about the other party and how they feel - that actual time, emotional energy and thought is actively put into considering the 'other', and that the 'other's' actions have some consequence to how you react and feel about the world, small or large. Does the Taliban hate what the West represents? Yes. But it's an active, heated, emotionally-charged emotion. Similar and even identical adjectives are used to describe the emotion of love.
On the flip side of this, indifference would indicate that there is no emotional attachment - by it's very definition, little 'heat,' or 'activity' or 'emotion' is involved. My sister said this statement to me a few months ago, at a time when I was lamenting the fact that certain things were still "getting to me" and that after the life I've lead in the last year, it would seem simpler not to care at all.
My other friend remarked that if I did not care, I would not be me.
Indeed, indifference seems an unattainable goal for myself... it's not something I would ever describe myself as being, when it comes to other people and their lives. And perhaps it's best that it is unattainable - I'd much prefer to live my life caring too much about things than be accused of caring too little.
Before this year, I had never felt what I would classify as hate in my life. In that way, I considered myself lucky... and yes, sheltered, I'll be the first to admit it. I 'hated' cancer when it took my mother from me, but that's not the same as the personification of the word. Rather, I found pride in the fact that I could think of no one that I could find enough reason to hate. Yes, it's communistic in its reading, I'll admit. And naive. And rather "peaced, loved and happinessed" up the wazoo. Gag me.
To some extent, it would make sense that now would be the time that I would first feel what I would describe as hate. (But still, in an attempt to maintain my standing as a "good person," I try to qualify it, and temper it, and make myself a better person: "It's not the person that I hate, but the effect that this person's actions have had on my life." Logically it makes sense... But when does life follow logic? The reality of it makes me want to punch their lights out (and now that I take karate, I know how.) Of course it won't happen, even if presented with the opportune moment. But I can't wish strongly enough that fate never puts us on the same subway car or street corner.)
But even now, the 'hate' feeling still gets ambiguous for me. Because if it were not for the actions of this 'other' in my life (and accomplices, lest you think I relegate the responsibility to one single person), I would not have had my eyes opened to the possibilities of bettering my life. I would not have realized the limitations and suppression that I had been subjecting myself to on a daily basis. I would not have seen the potential of a better, stronger and healthier form of love. I would not have the opportunity to find my way out of compromising myself.
So then, does hate include gratitude? Of course not... that makes no sense.
But does the opposite of love include gratitude? In this case - for me - yes, there is an element of that. But again, this makes no sense.
I'm rambling now. Yet I cannot help but be thankful for the veil that I had placed on my life being lifted, however painfully that eye-opening was for me. I suppose it's all about the experience... that's what we ultimately walk away with. And for the record, I hope I never become indifferent, because that would negate so many things. After all, can one really know love without knowing hate, at least on some level? They may not be perfect opposites, but in the end, rarely is anything perfect... and who would want it to be?
In the end, I hope that the new definitions I've found will lead me to more redefining in the future: That one day I'll experience what love really means, since I seem to have misinterpreted it thus far. I'll find what promises mean, what commitment means, what support means... and yes, what marriage means. So far, I've seen the opposites of these... and I can only hope that the flip side is as relatively joyous as the journey thus far has been painful.