I've always thought men are like shallow rivers, easy come easy go, no long lasting emotions. They always mean it at the time, but when it ends - it ends and they move on. Like daily newspapers, they move with the times.
I thought it was a peculiar and cruel curse of being female to feel deeper and for longer. Unable to forget, we linger on even the thinnest hope of love.
But recently I find myself changing. Maybe it's a sign of growing up, or learning to make decisions. But gone are the days when I loved the same person for four years, even continuing when he dissappeared for a year, even when he had no more interest and it was me alone in my fantasy of a relationship for the last year. Gone are even the days when I ruminate over a mistake for two years and a relationship that could have been.
As I mature I have less and less time. Feelings are no longer all encompassing, they are now compartmentalised into a certain time a certain place. The infinite has become finite.
A year ago I dated a colleague for a while. The time was spent struggling to decide whether to take it further. On one side of the scales were all the criteria - right age, single, nationality, socio-economic background and staying in Shanghai. But one the other side were some unpalatable values, showiness, messy way of handling problems and style over substance. I decided to end things, but continued to linger and obsess over that decision for a good 7 months.
Meanwhile I decided to alleviate boredom with a younger guy, a freshman at college no less. He was fun, but had a girlfriend which was surprisingly hurtful. At the time I did really like him, to the point of needing to have some contact every day. I thought the chemistry was crazy.
But with the nagging discomfort of the girlfriend situation I gradually cooled off, and when he went back to the US it was a clean end for me. Six months later I've had only faint desires to contact him, which I never acted on, and now I honestly can't remember what I saw in him. The age gap was so great, we really had nothing to talk about. And having a girlfriend but cheating like that really made him a despicable guy in my eyes.
Next was a guy, an exchange colleage I'd already known for a few months by then. We hung out a lot, and the more I got to know his personality the more I admired him. But it was 5 months into his 6 month placement that we had a deep talk where we found more and more in common. We read the same books, like the same obscure topics like philosophy and religion. Each time further that we meet it was closer to something. On his leaving party on the last day, something happened. But of course he was leaving and never coming back. I contacted him once just with a polite message to say goodbye.
I spent the next week moping. Even the next two weeks going over the depth of feeling and connection we shared. Surely, I thought, by all rights, this is the real thing.
But, three weeks later I have a new crush, and a totally different kind of chemistry. And I'm convinced this is the ultimate type of person for me, though again, sigh, this particular example is not. Right person, wrong situation again. Now I look back on the last one and think, it wasn't really right.
I've gone from four years, to two, to one year; then 3 months, now 3 weeks.
I'm making progress. I'm getting adept. I'm practicing the skill that keeps you sane and makes it possible to risk it all - the skill to survive the cycle of falling in and then falling out of love.
Another factor here is decision making. Life lessons are all about that. There's a great line in Chinese: 不走回头路 literally 'never backtrack on a past path'
It means making decisions clean. Make it carefully at the time, but never look back.
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