As a celebration of the fact that I have just hit 100 followers (are you all mental?!), I’d like to get all touchy-feely with you all now and have a little discussion about love and also the heart.
In order for this to feel right though, I’d like you all to take the hands of the reader each side of you, and then give them a good old squeeze.
There, doesn’t that feel nice?
Though the OCD side of me is hoping none of you have been to the toilet recently and not washed your hands.
That would be gross.
We silly humans adore linking the emotion of love with our hearts. Greeting cards, silly stuffed animals, balloons, posters, all display the wonderful feeling called love as a huge heart, probably with an arrow stuck through it.
This notion is engrained on our psyches. You think of love, you think of the heart. And yet out of all the parts of the body that actually get affected by love, the heart is realistically the least noticeable. Certainly when I met and fell for my girlfriend, it wasn't my heart that was noticing it, it was my legs, mainly because they wouldn’t stop shaking after I left her on our first date. But a pair of legs with an arrow going through them certainly wouldn’t sell that many Valentines cards. It would however make an ideal signpost in the Wild West to warn you that Indians were nearby, so, swings and roundabouts and all that.
Presumably the idea that the heart is linked to love is due to the fact that our hearts are meant to beat that little bit faster when the object of our affections is near. That may be true, but there are many things that make the heart beat that little bit faster. Running. Getting out of bed. Walking up the stairs. They don’t all mean that we are in love; they just mean we are unfit.
What about the stomach? That gets affected by being in love. You don’t eat because you don’t need food. You get butterflies when you know you are meeting this one person who means everything to you. When your affection is returned, and you know that this person wants to be with you as well, you suddenly feel like you are in an elevator shaft and dropping rapidly. A wonderful out of control sensation that feels amazing and that you notice most of all in the centre your stomach. So why isn’t that linked with love? Could it be because your lower intestinal tract isn’t really considered sexy? You wouldn’t really say “I love you from the bottom of my bowel.” would you?
And when love goes wrong, once again, the heart may feel it slightly, but there are other parts of your body that feel it worse. The back of your throat contracts as you swallow hot salty tears. Your eyes throb and your head hurts from the emotion. And yet again, it’s always the poor old stomach that bears the brunt of it though. That's where I think you feel love the most, through good times and bad, smack bang in the middle of your guts. And yet when we think of love gone bad, it’s nearly always the image of a heart, probably with a huge crack running through it.
So let’s take it as such that love=heart. And because of this, we all try to protect our hearts as much as possible, fearful of getting it broken, like it was some delicate porcelain figurine that would shatter at the slightest contact, rather than the tough mass of muscle that is so strong, if a human body were to be on fire, it would be the last thing to actually burn (I saw that on CSI).
So we cradle our hearts with tender care, trying to avoid all notion of it getting smashed. Those of us who have never been hurt in love won’t know this fear, and will dive into a relationship with all the vigour of someone jumping off the highest diving board at a swimming pool, making the biggest splash possible, while others who have been hurt in love, tenderly pick their way through a relationship like someone who is wearing skis trying to traverse a minefield, each careful step taken slowly, just in case it blows up in their faces.
* Man I do talk in metaphors a lot. I can’t help it. I seem to have one for everything.
Kate: Would you like a cup of tea?
Me: I would like a cup of tea so much that I’m like a man who is crawling through a desert using only his lips, looking for water that isn’t there.
Kate: You’re really weird.
Me: I’m so weird I’m like a two headed clown who keeps honking both his noses.
Kate: I’m leaving you now.
Me: I’m so being left; I’m like a man…….
Ah, you get the picture.*
And yet if I were to look at my own heart, what would I find there? I suppose it would be one that is slightly bruised from life's experiences, but one that is still hopeful for the future. I keep it at arm’s length from people, and if I’m honest, the person I am with now probably has more of a hold on it than anybody has ever had in my entire lifetime, but there is still that fear, that idea of it getting broken and smashed beyond repair, that will always make me feel that little bit cautious of handing it over fully, as tough and stubborn as it is.
My stomach is battered and useless and no good to anyone, but my heart? Well, let’s just say it’s still beating strong. And I intend to keep it that way.