“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”
-H. Jackson Brown, Jnr.
“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives”.
When I was younger, I had a very ‘rational’, black and white view of life. Grey didn’t really exist in my world. This black and white way of looking at things was also how I came to view relationships.
Despite my narrow outlook, I had a vague idea that a man or a woman who was in a committed relationship could also have friends of the opposite sex. But this remained, at best, a very hazy and nebulous notion to me. I didn’t really know how any of this worked and I didn’t really think about it that much. Similarly, I knew that men who were not gay could feel affection for their male friends. Yet, this too was another one of those ‘anomalies’ that I couldn’t really explain.
I am much older now and thankfully, perhaps a little wiser too. My world is no longer black and white. It is not even grey. I seem to be living in full-spectrum technicolour these days! It is the result of no longer seeing a need to fit myself, others or life into the narrow confines of any pigeon-holed belief system. I know better now. It doesn’t work. At least not for me. It is also the result of some of the experiences I have had and what I have learned through them.
Losing my brother at age 17 and my father at age 19 meant that I no longer wanted to leave important things (like showing affection) to chance. If I so much as even remotely liked someone, let alone loved them, I was going to let them know about it – and in double quick time!
I have come to view people as being much more than the physical bodies I see before me now. I understand that they are timeless souls. They are beings with whom I might have connections, that span multiple lifetimes – even though I just bumped into them.
And life, is no longer the random, mechanical thing that happens to me. I see it both as a creation of my own thoughts, feelings and desires as well as a part of some greater cosmic dance that I haven’t fully understood yet.
I understand now that best friends, lovers, soul-mates and guardian angels don’t announce their arrival with drumroll and fanfare. They don’t walk around wearing name tags and carrying ID. They could be the person you bump into around the corner or the girl that smiles at you from across the coffee shop. This means everyone that comes into our lives does so for a reason and we should pay more attention to them.
These things have changed me. A lot.
Today, I am a heterosexual man who is very comfortable about his sexuality. Yet, there are many men that I love dearly. And they all know about it! So it is with women: I have a very close relationship with my wife, who I love very much. Yet, I have female friends of all ages who I love and cherish – and I take great delight in reminding them of this at every opportunity. As for children – all the world’s children are my very own and I treat them as such.
All this loving feels good. It feels natural. I feel free and liberated. Feeling and expressing love comes naturally to me now. I revel in it. To deny it would be to deny my very nature. Why would I want to do that? Just because some people may not understand or feel comfortable about it? That seems like a very silly reason to me.
Whether you’re a man, woman, single or in a relationship, young or old and whatever your sexual orientation might be, you are a human being first and foremost. I can’t therefore accept the view that any of these things should serve as a barrier to connecting with another and for sharing affection, which is the most basic of human qualities.
As children, most of us are show our affection freely. Then something happens and we change… I think it might be the result of watching the news or all those Hollywood movies. Whatever the reason, it seems like we begin to live in fear of murderers, rapists, terrorists, con-men and other imaginary villains, often at the expense of our day to day happiness and our connection with each other.
I understand that as adults we inhabit a slightly more complicated world than the one kids do. I get that. Still, it makes me wonder: if we were careful not to hurt others, what could be the harm in allowing ourselves to feel and show a little more love?
In adulthood, it seems we need to somehow rationalise everything. It’s like our feelings are not good enough or valid enough on their own. The result seems to be that people are almost afraid to express their feelings of affection towards others. It’s like we’re thinking “What if they misunderstand?” or “What will people think of me?” and so on… And here’s the funny thing, the same people wouldn’t have any misgivings about expressing anger or even swearing at another for the most pettiest of reasons (think road rage here). I don’t know about you but that seems plain ridiculous to me! Is that what humanity is about? We allow ourselves to say and do hurtful things, but we don’t allow ourselves to feel affection for someone or to express it freely – when it is something that is as natural as breathing? Why that would be hilarious! Only, I’m not laughing.
Here are some alternative truths: we are human beings, not robots. It is in our nature to feel love and affection. And, for most of us, the impulse to express these feelings is a strong and natural thing. It is something worth honouring.
By expressing our feelings of affection openly, we remain true to ourselves and to our humanity. We spread happiness and joy into the lives of others. To deny these feelings; to try and repress them is to live a lie. It’s not natural. If we did that, then we become less than who we really are. The world becomes a sadder and gloomier place as a result.
Here’s an idea – why not take a chance? Why not be that little bit braver? Why not let yourself feel what it is you want to feel? Why not let someone know how you feel about them? Why not, at least, tell them you think they are cool and that you are glad to have them in your life? Why not return that smile. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? They might even love you back. Would that be such a bad thing?