I Didn't Believe in Love
I didn’t believe in love.
I don’t want to make sweeping statements, but from my observation, the Western culture I was raised in has produced a prominent fairytale narrative surrounding love that many subscribe to. I may have pledged allegiance to it briefly when I was a child and melodramatic love songs pounded through my head as I ran down the street feverishly chasing after my fourth grade crush. But that histrionic sentimentality was left behind when my family moved from my childhood home at age 14, ripping me from all things familiar and thrusting me into an existential quandary and subsequent depression. At age 15 I left home to hitchhike across the country and hopefully solve the puzzle of my spiritual funk. I had other things to think about besides boys. I was on a journey.
Let me clarify what I mean when I say I didn’t believe in love. Since my teens I did not believe in romantic love, i.e. falling in love. When my friends would come to me to report their latest starry eyed affairs I would commonly retort, “that’s great, but come back to me in a year and let me know how that’s going for you.” I just didn’t understand what the big deal was. I naturally knew that romantic love was nothing more than biological drive mingling with regressed projections to create a seductive cocktail of chemicals in one’s brain, stirring up all kinds of irrational thoughts and behaviors. I intuitively knew it was temporal. I did not need to read the myriad articles on the subject to realize it was a fleeting state of bliss that developed over eons to continue the propagation of our species. And it simply didn’t intrigue me.
I believed in a different kind of love—unconditional love, i.e. growing in love. My relationship choices were pragmatic, based in deep spiritual and intellectual resonance, friendship, comfort, and common goals. I had never felt chemistry.
I never believed in love…until I fell in love.
I guess I am a late bloomer in some ways. Or maybe just extremely protected due to my history and acute sensitivity. But when I connected with Him it smacked me upside the head—some sort of strange cosmic, but earthy, electrical pulse that catapulted me into the most ecstatic high I have ever experienced. So ecstatic it hurt, because even in my consumed state I knew it wouldn't last. It's a basic principle of physics—that much potent energy cannot sustain itself.
At the height of my ecstasy I could feel the seed of its demise. I was already mourning the inevitable, which lent the experience even more poignancy.
At the time of the initial eruption, I said to a friend of mine; “if we don’t create something with this energy it will make us insane, it either wants to create babies or art, and I prefer art.”
Yet insane we still went, and art I did make. Though I thought the art I would be making would be with him. I am a filmmaker and he, a classical musician.
My experience of falling in love was the tragic sort, the star crossed lovers, two ships in the night, Romeo and Juliet sort. We were impossible. Except, maybe we were possible in some other version of the multiverse that we did not choose (well in my version of the story, he did not choose, but for complex and significant reasons). After the initial decision that caused our separation, there occurred a cascade of events that continued to widen the canyon between us. It was the most wrenching loss I have ever experienced. It was a death. Further, all of the blissed-out chemicals—found to be similar to the effects of cocaine on the brain in neurological studies—were immediately halted at their apex. And I am a sensationaholic and so that was just agonizing. My bliss was replaced with raw, relentless grief.
A knife had been thrust in my wide-open heart and I was running about like a wild animal, lost and confused, still longing and craving profoundly, but with no relief. He said no to us, to our love. I just couldn’t comprehend.
I had to channel my pain somehow, and so one day in the middle of a teahouse shaped like a caboose, wanting to die, I began writing the script. Every word I wrote cut me, because I did not want art, I wanted him. But he could not be with me, and I had no other choice. My sense was that the entire thing occurred for my art, and that devastated me. It was a cruel initiation into the next phase of my artistic journey, and as much as my heart protested, a bigger part of myself simply surrendered to what felt like the call.
It’s funny, because only a few months before I met my first love I was talking to my good friend about an idea I had to make my way into feature films. At that point I had only made short films, doing all aspects by myself: camera, sound, story, editing. The idea of a feature film was beyond daunting and so I thought I would make a cohesive collection of shorts called Portland, I Love You, in the vein of Paris, Je T'aime and New York, I Love You. I would produce the entire thing, choosing directors from Portland to make the various shorts, and I myself would write and direct one.
I was relaying to my friend that it was funny that I had chosen the topic of love, as it is not really my thing. Also, I felt that I didn’t know how to make up a story, I had always written creative non-fiction, and my short films were all documentary or abstract. I had never written a fictional story, and further I was a bit uninterested in stories in general (funny that I’m a filmmaker, but my passion for film at that point was driven more by atmosphere than narrative). He told me that I am blocked to stories (I now believe he was right), but I protested, “no, I have to work from life, but it will come to me. The story will come.”
And came it did. Enter stage right—Love with a capital L and a penchant for pain. I didn’t recall that conversation at the time. But it struck me retrospectively.
Had I invited this all in simply for my film?
And what was the connection between Eros (romantic love) and the artistic muse?
I contemplated this because the foreign encounter with love opened me up not only to the illogical experience itself, but it acted like a slingshot, thrusting me into a much grander phase of my art. I didn’t have to sit around pondering what the topic of my feature film would be; the story arose like a tsunami and picked me up in its inexorable power. I felt I had no choice but to surf it the best I could. I was on fire; driven, compelled, mad even. All of that raw desire for my first love was channeled into the creation of my first feature film. I worked 100 plus hour weeks for years. I sacrificed many aspects of my ego, I faced my fears constantly, my skills and knowledge evolved exponentially. And I made a film. Not a collection of shorts, but a real, full-length feature film. After years of herculean work—playing the roles of 15 experts in the production, working another job, getting no sleep, drinking too much alcohol, fueled primarily by adrenaline and ambition, I was crashed to the shore, worn and torn.
At that point I had to stand up, brush off the sand and keep going. The next equally intense phase of getting my film into the world—festival submissions, premieres, publicity, marketing, sales, and dealing with the bureaucracy that is the “independent” film world awaited with little pity for my depleted state.
Now, years after the loss that incited my hurricane of creation, I sit in a 7th floor loft in Marbella, Spain. Out the wall of windows is a swath of azure that is the Alboran Sea. The air is fresh, yet smoky and sweet. Wind whistles in the shoot of the old building. I am here for the world premiere of my film, The Texture of Falling.
And sometimes I still miss him profoundly.
Does my film do our love justice? Probably not. And as you might imagine, it strayed far from a typical love story. It is more a symbolism-rich labyrinth contemplating the nature of love, art, sacrifice, power and the connections between. It contains the layers of my psyche—the skepticism, the melodrama that became schematized satire, and also…the sentimentality. That buried place within me that finally awoke to what the poets poeticized, to what the love songs sung, the archetypes and dreams that I once relegated as a fleeting illusion in service of procreative drive.
Have I changed my mind? Well, in some ways no. I see I was right. Our love was temporal, ephemeral, the stuff of dreams and in between. And further, I know that for those whose relationships become long term, the initial romantic phase wears away after time, and that’s when the real, gritty work of unconditional love begins. But I also see that there is something so much more than my cold, incisive, deconstructionist perspective. Whether it is chemicals that spur this fantastical world the lover enters into, the world is nonetheless inspiring and subjectively real. The stuff that art is made of, where reason and logic are checked at the door. And isn’t all of sensorial life chemical reactions? I am a love skeptic still, but my heart has been changed. And that I cannot quantify, nor deny.
Thank you for reading. This is just the beginning of this blog, which as you can see will have writings about sex, art, and philosophy, which is sort of an umbrella for, well, everything. Below is the film trailer to my feature film, The Texture of Falling, which was created out this experience. We will be having screenings around the world, which we will post in the events section, and it will be streaming online in Winter/Spring 2018. If you would like the weekly blogs as they come hot off the press, subscribe below. -Maria