Not My Other Half .. But All of Me

I always wondered what would happen if one day I crossed paths with my beloved by chance. I got my answer yesterday. When it happened, I immediately counted the days of my failed experiment at forgetting about him. In the Eighty Days that elapsed since our eyes last met, Phileas Fogg managed to go around the world, but nothing changed for this foolish heart, and judging by its reaction to seeing him, it might have even taken a turn for the worse.

Even before this chance encounter, I had a tough start for my day. I was feeling down, I had a tension headache, along with the ache of missing him. I sat in the sunshine trying to make peace with all these feelings and a few tears flowed.

I had salad for lunch and tried to eat it slowly and meditatively, sipping Jasmine tea to calm my nerves instead of my usual double coffee. I should have finished up quickly and escaped when I saw his back in the distance walking away from his office block, because there was a chance his return path will take him past where I was sitting. A minute or so later it was too late, time stretched endlessly as he walked towards me and my heart jumped into overdrive, and I felt tremors in my whole body. I was grateful that I was sitting down. He nodded a greeting, still busy on his phone and walked past. I continued drinking my now cold Jasmine tea, taking deep breaths, and trying to calm my racing heart. The last time I experienced similar sensations I was trying to recover from a panic attack. Only when the panic attacks subside, there is usually a feeling of warmth and drowsy contentment, whereas here the fight or flight response abated slowly leaving me tired, sad and empty.

My younger brother, bless his clueless and unromantic heart, told me recently that emotions are biochemical by definition. According to him they are a mix of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. These three compounds are not unlimited, so you can feel an intense emotion for 20 minutes before it peters out. He told me that it is all an illusion really, and referred me to the Lövheim cube of emotion. I argued that it was not that simple, that it was something in my beloved’s eyes that killed me. Then I sent him a photo, and I thought I scored a point, when he said: “I get your point, he has a babyface”, but he immediately spoiled it by telling me: “This is exactly is how it works. You fell for this …”. He attached “this”, an article from the BBC about the Benefits of Having a Babyface. The article argues that with a person with a babyface can literally get away with murder. I love my brother dearly, and at the end of the conversation I just told him, to stay the way he is, it is much easier on the heart.

No amount of logic has succeeded in taming this overwhelming emotion. The only solace I found so far was acceptance. I am now convinced that who we are determines how we respond to everything including our emotions, and our responses are not fully explainable through science. Love has a lot in common with faith, some people oppose them through science and logic, others respond to them mildly and philosophically, and a few succumb to them ardently and spiritually. There are no fixed rules, we are just different. Our responses vary according to our nature and experience, and depending on who or what elicits them.

Of course scientists are mostly correct because emotions are part biochemical for everyone, but that does not preclude that they may run deeper for some. I have recently revisited the Myers Briggs personality test. It is an interesting, albeit simplistic, test based on Carl Jung theories of personality types. I had done the test years ago, and it came up different to what I believed myself to be. I was always an introvert but I thought of myself more of a rational and thinking person, but in the Myers Briggs tests I always came out as an intuitive and feeling personality as opposed to thinking and judging. When I asked my best friend we turned out an exact match INFP-T, and recently I started to wonder whether there was some current of personality resonance that fuels the intense connection I feel with my beloved.

A few hours after the surprise meeting he texted me, it was close to the end of the working day, and my emotional state had prevented me from doing any useful work. So when he said he ordered coffee for me I thought I would go and see him. The damage was already done. We talked and quickly updated each other on general news in the few minutes I had before I needed to run and pick up my son from school. I told him about the personality type test and as I guessed we turned up a match although he is a borderline extrovert. We cannot change the way we are, how we respond to people, and how we love.

And incidentally, the brother I mentioned above, turns out to be an INTJ, defined as clueless in romance, and extremely skeptic even of his classification in this “unscientific” personality test. Ironically, all these aspects fit exactly with his personality type.

Seeing my beloved again opened the old wound. I have reset all counters to start again. I will try to forget how I know what he feels without him saying anything. I will try to forget that I can see what he is beneath all the masks of disdainful attitudes he wears for his daily life. I will try to forget that he found me, that he broke through the armour of cynicism and apathy that I wore to the world. And I have worn it for so long that I thought it was part of me, that it was me. He wasn’t even trying, he was just being himself, a mirror to my soul. He is not merely my other half but all of me* in the form of another human being, how could I not want to melt into him?

* I read this idea in an Arabic text attributed to Gibran, and translated to English as Half a Life, or quoted without title on goodreads, and others for example here.

من تحب ليس هو نصفك الآخر، هو أنت كلك في مكان آخر في نفس الوقت

The Arabic mirrors what I feel for my beloved: “The one you love is not your other half, but all of you in a different space at the same time”.

For some reason the English versions I read understand it differently, which leads me to believe that the poem was written in one language (my guess Arabic) and translated by someone other than the author into the other. The different interpretations could be a subject for discussion at another time and place. Here is a link to the Arabic version. I could not find a published or authoritative source for the poem itself. I found identical versions of the Arabic text but only on quote and blog sites. You are encouraged to post a comment if you can find a better source for either the Arabic or English.

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