the currency of love

Merriam-Webster provides the following definition (among others) of “currency”:

“circulation as a medium of exchange”

Digging deeper, we find the root word “current” which I’ll define as the flow of something, for example electrons or water. We can even link these two definitions through the word “circulation” by considering that electricity flows in a circuit and the global ocean currents cycle.

Love as Medium of Exchange

Think of a contract: It serves as a commitment—a “medium” if you will—for the exchange of services or goods. This implies circulation in that the fulfillment of the contract requires each party complete the following steps: 1. Agree to start. 2. Do the tasks. 3. Agree that the tasks are complete. Basically, it all starts and ends with agreement. A cycle.

Healthy, mutual love works the same way. The commitment involved serves as a platform—a “medium” if you will—that promotes the exchange of caring, forgiving, cooperation, and responsible sacrifice. The cycle works slightly differently, but a cycle exists in that in a good relationship feedback occurs: 1. Agree to love. 2. Act out loving behavior. 3. Ensure one’s beloved’s needs are met by that behavior and adjust as necessary. 4. Agree to keep loving.



Love as Current (Flow)

I go nuts if I love someone and can’t express it regularly in some manner. This statement applies for both friendship and Romantic love. In other words, for me, the love needs to “flow”. When experiencing fits of unrequited love I visualize a damn holding back a reservoir of constructive passion and yearn desperately for that damn to gain the freedom to release a measured amount.

When the passion just sits there in that reservoir it becomes stagnant and toxic. Ever noticed how flowing water appears cleaner than sitting water? Lovesickness is stagnant water. Sludge.

I assume the principle I describe here for my life actually proves universal. (Not entirely sure though—I’m humble enough to second guess). Perhaps love only exists in the experience of its traversal, the giving and receiving of it. The current. The flow.

Conduit

Now I’ll take a highly spiritual turn. We won’t name deities or anything, we’ll just refer to the “divine” in lowercase:

When I love someone, I desire (and ask the divine for) a role as a conduit of the divine’s love for that person.

Simple as that. Humble. I lose myself to a greater cause—knowing full well that the divine may choose not to employ my services in that particular case. This act doesn’t diminish the pain of unrequited passion, but I find meaning in it. Offering myself as a conduit for divine love opens me up to experiencing a much bigger flow than my passions alone can create—the ultimate currency of love.

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

the pedagogy of love

on love

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

 

on love

Thought it time to write an essay (of sorts) on the nature of love:

Here I specifically mean Romantic love, partnership love; not other kinds. I won’t throw Greek words at you to differentiate between the types of love as many writers do (e.g. C.S. Lewis), except I thought I’d decide to use the term “eros” at some point, but didn’t. I’m going to use the imprecise English word and we’ll make its meaning clear from deconstruction and context. We are talking about the love that drives madness and rock songs. We are also talking about the love that, when steered wisely, channels into successful marriages.

Why am I writing this? Not entirely sure. I’ve spent much of my non-child life in a state of unrequited love and, being rather introspective, have consequently thought about the subject a good deal. Moreover, I remained in an abusive relationship for 14 years (seven of which in marriage) and stayed primarily due to my choice to continue loving, rather than out of fear or insecurity. Naturally, I’ve thought deeply about that choice, both during those years and after the divorce.

Furthermore, roughly 2.5 years ago I publicly became a woman (I’m biologically male) and having been living and loving as such since then. Among the intelligentsia where gender is considered a social construction this matter may not seem to pertain much to a discussion of love, but I can now tell you from personal encounters that an individual’s experience of romantic love is shaped by patriarchy and heterosexism, no matter what that individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation.

I’ve also written seven love songs in the last two years. So take the intellectual out of me and I’ll still sing about the matter.

Two Basics

When I tell someone I love them for the first or second or tenth time, I really mean two things:

  • I love them.
  • I’m in love with them.

Note the difference: The second is a state of the brain caused by heightened dopamine receptor activity. It is transitory. It fades. This is why couples often complain about the “spark” disappearing in their relationships (if they don’t nurture the first item on the above list).

The first uses love as a verb. It is something you do. It is a choice you make. It is a gift that you give. But you have to commit and continually recommit to this verb form of romantic love to achieve benefit from it. And of course in this form of partnership love, unlike the dopamine receptor form, both parties share the benefit and pain, where as the psychological state of being “in love” is actually quite selfish—driven by the lover’s desire for benefit and, for lack of a better word, acquisition.

The verb form leans altruistic. Consider lyrics from my song “Waste”:

This hope seeks recognition, connection, resolution.
And its more about the love I wanted to give,
than that I wanted to receive

Admittedly the first line could apply to either form, but the second two lines clearly apply to a desire to give love. An activity. A decision. A verb. Not entirely altruistic though, because one hopes to receive the verb form of love just as much as they might desire to give it.

Madness and Estrogen

Here we return to a discussion of romantic love as elevated dopamine receptor activity. All feels well and good until the rejection or the breakup. Then one’s brain chemistry walks through the depths of Hell. In my case, due to bipolar disorder, I go just plain “mad”—engage in reckless behavior and become dangerously suicidal. This condition might last years over one incident of heartbreak. Not a good thing.

I’d even call it addictive. Idolatry.

Estrogen made this experience far worse for me soon after I started taking it. Before then I could channel my reckless behavior into socially acceptable activities. But I lost this ability (for a considerable period of time) once I started taking the hormone, as the hormone drove my emotions to far wider extremes than anything I’d ever experienced before.

Fortunately, I’ve now become accustomed to estrogen’s impact on my emotions, and now make better decisions.

What I’m trying to say though is:  We should never underestimate the damage long-term unrequited love can inflict on one’s spirit.

Back to the Good Stuff

And now back to discussing love as a verb:

When I love someone I do everything I can to ensure they know their intrinsic value. Not their value to me as a lover or potential lover, but their value in the universe, their value for simply being human. To be clear, I also express their value to me, especially when a rich friendship underlies whatever else we might create, but that is a secondary activity. Its their intrinsic value that matters, not my valuation. Another way of saying this: I’m fleeting—we must promote valuation in light of things eternal.

Currently, there are three women in my life I would take a bullet for. Two have been cruel to me (one extremely so)—and neither of these two will have anything to do with me. But I still actively love them (verb form) in the only ways I can, through radical forgiveness and continued prayer for their well-being. Furthermore I keep the door open to them at all times.

Authenticity and Self-Expression

Anyone who knows me knows that concern for authenticity in all things drives me. That explains why I present romantic love divided into the two distinct forms discussed above. Doing so enables clarity—allows me to demonstrate to a partner or potential partner exactly what they are getting when I say I love them. Authenticity resides in the understanding transmitted—my beloved realizes that I’ve thought deeply about the meaning of love and therefore am trustworthy with regard to that dangerous word.

Self-expression matters too. I can’t be anyone other than the stylish femme I project to the world. One has to live according to their soul to love successfully. Sure one can suppress themselves to pay for the short-term dopamine high, but to sustain the commitment of verb-form love throughout all the challenges it brings one must practice alignment (and continual realignment) with their core identity. In other words, the strength generated by a quality relationship flows both from the genuine within and from the genuine in the beloved.

This mandate plays out too for one’s treatment of their beloved: One commits to loving them for who they are, knowing they will evolve and, if nurtured, grow. While conflict comes inevitably and must be worked through faithfully, trying to fundamentally change one’s beloved is a fool’s errand. Besides, their spirit holds intrinsic value as it is and one can easily lose good love by neglecting that truth. The exception of course regards abusive situations, where change on both sides proves necessary. (Not just the abuser must change, the other party must learn not to participate in the dynamic).

Control

A lot of this comes down to control, and the choice to cede it to positive vulnerability. Note that we are not talking about ceding discernment here.

As my narrative above indicates, the dopamine high-driven form of romantic love often involves perilous loss of self-control. I frankly become a slave to my passions. Bitch owns my heart.

But the verb form of love retains control; the decision to give love, to support and promote a quality relationship, is exactly that: A decision. Good decisions only emit from a position of self-control.

And good, well-grounded decisions to love actively enable wholehearted surrender to positive vulnerability, the state where things really blossom in a relationship.

Patriarchy and Heterosexism

Now that I’m a woman, I feel a pressure to date men that I can’t put my finger on. I do like men, and occasionally engage in romantic behavior with them, but I don’t like the subtle nagging feeling that that is the way things are “supposed” to be.

I watched “Sex and the City, the Movie” last night, which I absolutely loved for the fashions presented. But the story made me feel inadequate for not being in a heterosexual relationship (or any relationship for that matter!). It made me feel that my excitement for highly expressive dresses and my bisexuality stand at odds, as if a stylish girl like me should be guy crazy and exclusively so. The movie also reinforced the patriarchal model that a woman’s path to economic prosperity is through a relationship with a man.

Now I’ve experienced a few nights of passion with men, and enjoyed them thoroughly, but these experiences lived out the most base of the dopamine-high form of romantic love. If pressed by social expectation to only commit to verb-form love with men, I leave out a whole segment of the population that I resonate highly with. This is intolerable. To give love one must stand free to give love.

To give love one must stand free to give love.

Heterosexism and the patriarchy constrain that requisite freedom.

Giving God the “Finger”

When unrequited love drove me to madness roughly 1.5 years ago, I wrote a song about giving God the “finger” to express my angst. No regrets! Here is the song, titled “Prayer (Say Nothing Again)”:

See Also

the currency of love

radical forgiveness (video)

the pedagogy of love

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

two years and seven love songs (with lyrics)

Axis Evil, the musical arm of this outreach effort, turns two years old this Valentine’s Day. As the project music started out of romantic frustration (with the song “Talk”), I thought I’d post the seven love songs I have written in the last two years. Also, I intend to reference these as a group in later posts.

Recordings

Lyrics

Stunt Double (You Will Always Be My Friend)

A stunt-double in your epic tragedy
Driven by this deep, vacant irony
Walking that thin line
Between faith and absurdity
Between a vision and a thousand exits
But I’ll keep running alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand

You can drive from your fortress
You can drive from your distance
but just drive
please just drive
because you already drive my heart
and I’ll keep up alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand
Hold me accountable
Maybe even hold my hand

Please hold me accountable
and maybe even hold my hand

Nice Girl

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
Not infatuated, but I’ve got that feeling
Just enough to keep me in pursuit
Just enough to keep me in pursuit

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
It’s a relief, and a new anxiety
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is

She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I wonder what secrets she keeps
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out what’s in it for me

You Can Drive the World

I’m a gentle discontent
Ready for poise
Ready to please
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold discontentment
Ready to light something big
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

I’m gentle release
Disguised as pressure
Disguised as peace
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold release
With no loss of composure
No loss of grace
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

With no loss of grace
No loss of composure
You can drive the world

Talk

If I’m loving and kind, then why am I so pissed?
Acceptance would be much more noble
Moving on so much more mature
But instead I’m gonna throw… throw a lyrical fit:

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

If I’m loving and kind, then why not make amends?
I tried to reconnect
Tried to reach your point of view
But now I just don’t get it
Now I just don’t get it

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

What is the point of love that goes nowhere?
What is the point of love that goes nowhere?

I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…

Waste

I’ve had better days
This one went completely apeshit
In shock about how much was wasted
In shock about how much was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the page
Turn the mind
Turn my imagination
Trying to turn the page and walk on by
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

I’ve had better days

It’s when you pray for a better resolution
But don’t care what it is
And you’re appalled at how much was wasted
And desperate for what was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the tide
Turn the mind
Turn the outcome
Trying to turn this thing around
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

Unrequited love is such a waste
Unrequited love is such a waste

I’ve had better days

Prayer (Say Nothing Again)

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

I can’t let her go right now
So what the fuck do I do?
Trying to find a way to leave the situation
Trying to think of every way to get her attention

‘Cause I just want her to stop ignoring me
And if she’s not going to talk with me
I need you to explain what’s up
I need you to explain what’s up

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

Maybe it’s slightly obsessive
But its probably real love
And I just want to share it with her
And I just want to spend time with her

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again
But I really want something new to happen
Really want you to explain it to me
Really want you to explain it to me

I just want to say everything again
I just want to say everything again
But will you listen? I know you get it
But will you listen? I know you get it

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again

Pearls To Swine

I gave you kindness and respect
You threw it back in my face
I cast you my pearls
You ground them into the floor
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
Stuck with feelings that go nowhere
Stuck in a tired pattern
Casting my pearls to swine
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
This is not who I want to be

holding onto gifts I’d planned to give

While in Rajasthan last December, I purchased a necklace I’d hoped to one day give “Carol”, and while in Kashmir I was given a headscarf that I’d hoped to give immediately to another woman (let’s call her “Susan”—as I never publish real names). Suffice to say that neither opportunity arose and I still have these gifts.

The headscarf holds added meaning in that I wore it while in Kashmir to “blend in” in hope that it would help me stay safe (see my post “fearing for my life in Kashmir“). But I wanted Susan to have it ultimately. She and I are not in contact right now, but I’m going to make an attempt at contact this Thanksgiving season. Perhaps there is a psychological attachment to the physical safety that the headscarf gave me while touring Kashmir that I project onto Susan, or more likely it just would make a fine gift accompanied by a meaningful story.

For Carol, I have a necklace. Carol of course has completely cut me out of her life, and I do not see much hope for near-future reconciliation (still hold onto long-term hope). I originally bought the necklace for me, but within an hour decided I wanted Carol to have it. Its pendant is a ruby cut in the famous “star of India” style, and, as I was in India, I was thrilled to purchase it.

So I think I’ll keep the headscarf ready to give Susan for at least another six months. But what about the gift for Carol? Should I just claim it for myself?

If I start wearing it, I effectively (but not accurately) “give up” my hope to give it to her. (But the accurate part is that I can wear it and then later give it to her with a full explanation). By wearing it, I also claim more ownership of my own emotions, in that I’m taking some of my love for Carol and applying it to myself—as it is a beautiful necklace. If I start wearing it I will build my own memories around the necklace.

I’ve given so much of my emotional life to Carol in the last two years and it might be time to symbolically reclaim some of it.

I’m wearing the necklace.

a perceived bluff and an honorable suicide

I am not a rational person, and this is not a rational story.

It started three weeks ago. The inflection points nearly killed me.

Some background: I’ve romantically loved a woman whom I’ve called “Carol” on this blog consistently for the last two years. She rejected my advance and cut me out of her life soon after. The latter I could never handle; being cut out of her life. I mean I really could not handle it and sank into severe depression. During the last two years I pursued other women and men, but was unsuccessful, so my heart continually turned to my grief surrounding Carol.

Periodically I would try to reconnect with her, and the result was always a disaster. She continued to cut me off.

Lovesickness set in, despair and depression set in, suicidal ideation set in. I held myself together as best I could: Wrote songs. Wrote stories for this blog. Pursued comprehensive medical treatment.

But the severe depression continued, and I realized about four weeks ago that she treats me with antagonism and hostility—that more is going on than romantic rejection. I knew I did not deserve such hostility.

And I realized that antagonism and hostility—and being completely cut off—from the person I cared most about in the world was driving my suicidal ideation.

So I told her very bluntly that I need her to treat me better. That I need kindness from her. I explained what her treatment was doing to my mental health in very clear—and medical—terms. I told her that the situation was severe and acute. I explained that I really just need a little kindness and compassion.

I published that letter in my post “publishing a cry for relief“.

To her credit, she responded to the acute nature of the situation by getting someone she knew to call my mother.

However, she accused me of “threatening” suicide and “trying to place the blame on her.” (To be fair, I can understand this interpretation). She implied that I was bluffing.

There was no bluff, and I did not threaten anything. I merely stated the “facts” as I saw them. Admittedly, my viewpoint and approach is distorted by mental illness and irrationality, but I was trying to solve a problem: I simply needed her to treat me better so I wouldn’t feel suicidal.

The issue here is that nothing else I’ve tried in the last two years has attenuated the suicidality, so I had to try something drastic. I was desperate for relief and determined to survive.

The point is, I might be mentally ill, but I’m also extremely decent. I hold myself to high standards of character.

So I would never threaten suicide as a ploy, to manipulate. I would never use it in a bluff.

When a person says they are suicidal and need kindness, they mean it.

As it was, she demanded (with the most hostility I’d ever heard from her) that I never contact her again. I received no kindness and compassion. No empathy.

Pearls to swine.

So here is where things get apeshit:

I was afterward tempted to go through with suicide to prove my integrity. To show that I was not manipulating her or bluffing for attention. To prove my honor and character.

Its MUCH more dangerous when thoughts of suicide take on feelings of “honor” and “heroism”.

The serpent was subtle.

publishing a cry for relief

Here is a letter I wrote about four weeks ago. I’m publishing it now because these stories must be made public for the world to become a better place:

———–,

I’m sorry but I’m extremely suicidal and need (and wholeheartedly trust) your intervention. You know I’m no drama queen, you know I struggle with mental illness, and you know I’ve always been 100% honest with you. So please take me seriously. I’m not trying to manipulate, but I am trying to alert you to a serious problem. I’m putting this matter on your conscience—a sin of omission on your part could prove fatal.

First, know that I do everything I can to manage my bipolar disorder to the best of my ability. I take my medication and limit my vices. I see two counselors, one weekly and one monthly. I practice deep faith. But as you’ve noticed my best management is sometimes not enough and I’ve had to take multiple leave of absences from work.

Second, please do not call 911. A psychiatric hospital is not a safe place for a transgender person. (I know this from experience). It is also not a safe place for someone like me who fights tool-and-nail to preserve their life, as that environment is full of folks who have completely given up. (Again, I know this from experience). If you insist that I go to the hospital, I’ll go, but we need to talk about it first because a hospitalization also will have serious consequences regarding my access to transgender-related medical care.

Its the “fighting tool-and-nail” bit that prompts me to contact you—I will never quit on life while I can think of new approaches to survival.

The driving factor behind my suicidality is that I cannot handle your hostility toward me, your antipathy toward me, your complete dismissal of me. If you happen to find me a threat, I can’t handle that either (I’m harmless). I’d simply “write you off” if I could, but you know I value you too much to achieve that.

I just can’t handle how you treat me. So please stop!

I don’t need the relationship with you that I envisioned two years ago, but I do need you to talk with me. I need us to create a better outcome than the one we currently share. I need you to demonstrate some understanding and kindness toward me.

Please act on this information. The situation is really fucking dangerous.

Please also understand that I try my absolute best to show respect for you at all times. The proof is that I managed to shut up completely about my feelings for 1.5 years, despite intense angst. But in this case my urgency for survival trumps your request for silence. You know my character—you know my decency—you know I wouldn’t draw you into this crisis if I felt there was any other option.

Silence equals death. Please allow me to request your help.

With humility,

Emily

martyr

I’m willing to be a martyr for liberty or solidarity—not planning on it—but I want no part in any other form of Romantic death. Except this one time there was a slight appeal to it:

Visited Kashmir in December. Rather reckless of me considering there is an insurgency going on, and that foreigners get kidnapped and killed there occasionally (see my post “fearing for my life in Kashmir”). Not to mention the fact that when I arrived I found Islamic State propaganda everywhere, and we all know what IS does to queer people. I stayed close to my guides.

But let’s back up a bit: There is a woman I fell deeply in love with almost two years ago. She would have nothing of it, and I was devastated. Still am. We’ll call her “Carol” since I’m never going to publically state her real name. While I’ve moved on to a large degree, I still love Carol significantly.

Before visiting Kashmir I knew the risks. So I asked two of my friends to tell Carol that I love her in the event of my kidnapping or murder while traveling there. You see, Carol won’t allow me to tell her about how I feel, but I figured such an extreme event would get her attention.

I knew that if I was martyred for being American or queer she would listen to a message that I desperately wanted to send.

That almost felt worth dying for.