Love makes us sick and makes us well too
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The thing with being in the troubled waters of love is that there is always a brighter side to look at.
One of the lessons the years have taught me is that we can love each other deeply and still not understand anything much about the other person. Which is slightly better than understanding each other deeply and not feeling any love.
We can talk a lot and discover years later that we need to learn to hear each other. Making love work requires us to learn to make our emotions work for us, rather than against us.
My husband, Afzal, had been travelling for a while and he brought this up with me a few days after he had returned home.
“I saw that you stopped taking your Tibetan medicines and wrote about it in Lounge too,” he said.
“Yes,” I admitted sheepishly.
“You sound like you are bragging that you don’t want to be healthy.”
“Maybe it was a cry for help,” I said in a small voice.
He wants me to address the niggling ailments that come and go all the time. Like bruxing my teeth when I sleep, errant stomach aches and recurring eczema patches. I have found a comfort zone around all these symptoms. I suffer them and then I forget about fixing anything till they return and seriously get in my way again.
He brought this up with our Tibetan doctor when we visited her next.
“Let her be, she seems healthy,” said the doctor. “I can do without her money,” she joked. In response, I dutifully narrated the list of my disconnected symptoms.
Our Tibetan doctor is the mother of two grown-up daughters. She looked at my husband and said, “I think she needs to work. Let her go to an office.”
Afzal’s eyes became dinner plates. “Work,” he said. “She works 12 hours, no, 18 hours, no, 22 hours a day! Maybe she needs to work less.”
“Uh okay,” said the doctor. “Don’t stop her from doing anything.”
“I don’t do that,” said Afzal. “I mean, I have no right to do that.”
As for me, I enjoyed myself so thoroughly having these two adults discuss my ailments and cures, that I don’t mind taking Tibetan medicines four times a day any more.
Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well too, wrote Dean Ornish in his book, Love And Survival.
One day, I found an interview of literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak by Steve Paulson that was full of insights that spoke to me. I saved the tab to read out an excerpt to Afzal.
Answering Paulson, Chakravorty Spivak says, “That’s what deconstruction is about, right? It’s not just destruction. It’s also construction. It’s critical intimacy, not critical distance…. My teacher Paul de Man once said to another very great critic, Fredric Jameson, ‘Fred, you can only deconstruct what you love.’ Because you are doing it from the inside, with real intimacy.”
I felt that perhaps this explained my constant urge to examine and write about my most intimate relationships and my relative reluctance to write about others, which should come naturally to me as a journalist.
“This is why I keep talking about the same thing,” I said by way of explanation.
For Afzal, Chakravorty Spivak became a tool, almost a weapon. For days afterwards, every time he wanted to analyse or “deconstruct” me, he would start like this:
“It is because I have critical intimacy with you and I love you that I am saying this to you…”
I swear it stopped mattering to me what he would say next. This is the man who used to argue in our early years that saying I love you, was a very phoney thing to do. “People who keep repeating, I love you, are the ones who mean it the least. Those who are really in love don’t need to say it,” he would assert.
Hearing an extract from a Chakravorty Spivak interview had transformed this man. Or he had plain forgotten his early impression of how true love must or must not be expressed.
Just this morning, when he wanted to confront me about not having a structure to my day and being addicted to the rush and anxiety of deadlines, he chose to start with, “I love you and that is why I am saying this, but you must deconstruct your laziness…”
Or something like that. Like I said, it doesn’t matter any more what he says after the first half of the sentence, because I get all distracted and start thinking of how cute he used to be when he vehemently didn’t believe in three-word proclamations of his feelings.
The main point of this story is that I love my Tibetan doctor and Chakravorty Spivak. And Dean Ornish is cute too.
I want to tell you one more thing. Every time I receive personal mail from some of you telling me about how reading about my family makes you look at your own family in a new way, it revives my confidence to write another piece like this one. So be careful what you write to me when you click on that email below and write to me.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She tweets at @natashabadhwar and posts on Instagram as natashabadhwar.
Also Read Natasha’s previous Mint Lounge columns