How Can a Story End Happily If There Is No Love?

These past few days had been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. Thankfully, I find myself in this dispirited state over the King’s birthday (a holiday), and so — except for one unfortunate day — work had not at all been affected by my dampened spirit of late. So what could have possibly sent me to this state of dejection, you might ask? Well, there are two things which brought this about, but let me begin with a children’s book.

 

“Once, there was a china rabbit who was loved by a little girl…” so begins the coda of the book. The story revolves around the china rabbit who loved nothing and no one save himself, until misfortunes befell him.

“He prided himself on keeping his heart silent, immobile, closed tight… .” 

But throughout his life journeys he learned to listen and to open his heart to those who loved him. But time and again, he was faced with one misfortune over another and found himself torn away from those he learned to love and care for deeply. This had broken him greatly.

“I am done with being loved,… I’m done loving. It’s too painful.”

“Open you heart,” an antique doll encouraged him.“Someone will come.  Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart.” As much as he refused to believe it, that is exactly what happened — his heart had opened.

“Once, oh marvelous once, there was a rabbit who found his way home.” So ends the story.

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The name of the book is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo

The next thing I know, tears were welling up in my eyes and in the quiet confines of my classroom during recess. I was crying over a children’s book.

There is great comfort to crying in seclusion; in secret — no one to hear me, no one to see me, no one to ask me questions or make unnecessary presumptions about my mental state. But crying like I’ve never done so in a long while was a great relief — a catharsis. As if all my burdens were washed away with each tear that trickled down my face, although  I can’t vouch for my heart for it remained heavy, but it felt good nonetheless to cry and just let it all out.

The story of the china rabbit was something I could very much relate to. The story, I thought, was about me.

It may be known to many, or perhaps very few really do, but I used be the same  person as that china rabbit in the story. There was little care in my heart for others, even for my family and friends, and I was more concerned about myself. Maybe I have the makings of a narcissist. Maybe I was developing antisocial behavior. When I did not get my way, I was on a major sulking rally if not dropping terse but hurtful words. I knew very little about the real world. All I had were theories and ideologies, which were soon tested once I stepped into college and lived far apart from the people who cared about me.

When I was a child and my parents returned from their trip to the U.S. for a conference, the first thing my mum asked me was, “Did you miss us?” to which I dismissively answered, “No.” But time spent apart from my family, my friends, and my comfort zones had changed the way I felt about people and things. I slowly and genuinely began to miss them like I never did before. Each year, I would resolve to be a better daughter or a more protective older sister, to bring less heartache into my family and more joys; to be a more caring and truer friend.

As the years progressed, I finally understood what’ missing’ really means. The longer I was apart from my family, the more I understood what ‘love’ is.

Before, whenever my friends tell me that they missed me, I would cringe inside — I don’t always feel the same way. It often scares me to be found out that I felt no such affection for them, or that they may expect me to say it back to them and I can’t. It won’t be sincere. I may have responded with these words several times out of politeness, but it didn’t sit well with me and the words just tasted bitter in my mouth. I would just feel sorry for lying.

Love, too, as it happens, shares the same ‘fate.’ Although I have made some very close friends over the years, when they tell me that they love me, I would panic. Do they expect me to say it back? And if I didn’t, will they be hurt or offended? Such things would barge through my thoughts in an instant. What do I do? What do I say? Sadly, I sometimes feel compelled to respond by saying the words they ‘needed’ to hear at that time, and in other instances, I had chosen to say nothing. The best I could manage often is an “Aaww…” accompanied by an apologetic or appreciative smile.

Therefore, saying “I miss you” and “I love you” is not only something I say sparingly and to a few chosen people, but it is difficult for me to just say it when heart says, “Not really.” I am quite transparent to my friends and family and so, if I say something I don’t really mean they can easily detect it. I don’t know how they do it, but there must be something in my body language that betrays my inmost thoughts. However, where my family is concerned, along with a few very special friends, saying these words had become easier to ingest and declare overtime — because I truly meant it. My heart throbs for them.

It astonishes me how absolutely easy it is for people around me to just throw these words away like confetti against the gusting wind. I can’t help but question their sincerity and motives sometimes. Maybe they really mean it. But actions would have to speak louder than words. One particular friend I had in mind told me she loved me every time I did something for her to my inconvenience. That really made me uncomfortable  because, to me, she was a nuisance. Perhaps I have more pity for her and even less love for her. Nowadays, there is no love at all.

When I fell in love with a boy, I decided to keep my feelings to myself like the china rabbit, who kept his heart silent and dared not hope any longer (something I ended up doing for the next ten years).  Should I have said something to him then? My friends were convinced that I should have, but I made a choice — silence over revelation. Do I ever regret my choice? In truth, I do not. What happened happened for the best and I still hold on to that. However, it’s been over ten years already and I still dream of him sometimes much to my surprise. I no longer think of him in my waking hours these many years. Even the feelings have long gone and died. But there he is, periodically appearing in my dreams. Perhaps these dreams are the product of my unspoken affections come to haunt me. If so, then perhaps I should have just said something to him long ago, then maybe I would be dreaming happy dreams today instead  — without him in it.

“Open your heart,” is exactly what I’m doing right now after years of solitude, meeting people from all walks in life in various locus, being the social butterfly I never thought I’d be. Honestly, it is wearing me out a bit — it is a complete shift from all my comfort zones and is taking an enormous amount of energy for me to pull through — but I prevail. Relationships are not forged through Facebook alone (if not at all). You need to actually set up an agenda to meet up with people in person, stash one’s mobile devices away and engage in meaningful conversations or shared interests. In these excursions I have met  some very interesting people and established very promising friendships with them, putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to get to know them forge strong bonds. Whether the discomforts come in the form of watching a horror flick I don’t quite like, visiting a stranger’s home till late in the evening for drawing sessions, or being introduced to another stranger over dinner and taking genuine interest in them as much as possible, etc. all these discomforts do not match the surprising friendships I have now made. It was all well worth it.

Someone will come for you.”

Perhaps, I have not really stopped hoping. I am taking risks after all in all of this.

For now, I look forward to coming home — to where my heart is — and this china rabbit definitely will. Soon.

Do Min Joo reads "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane"

This is the second reason why I’m going through a metaphorical sunshower. This.

 

 

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