THE COLUMN

Issues No. 58 & 59/March 9, 16, 1996



THE RUSH

IVAN HOFFMAN

"I want that rush, that high!" she said, trembling at the emotion in her voice. "No, it's not even that I want it. I need it!"

"But it'll destroy you," he replied. "You've been down that road enough times so you should know that. It'll just completely destroy you!"

"But it's the very power it has over me that makes me want it, need it so!" she screamed. "If it wasn't so powerful, I probably wouldn't give a shit. But I feel incomplete if I'm not on that rush. Whatever it takes away it also provides."

"But you're not incomplete," he said, grabbing her by the shoulders as if shaking would somehow bring her to her senses. "Look at everything else you've got going in your life. What's the drag on you to have something so destructive? I mean, it's almost like down deep you don't really like yourself so you want to live with the pain, the craziness that comes when you're on this high. I mean it's like you're punishing yourself for some imagined sins and that's the reason you want to destroy yourself."

"Oh! cut that bullshit out!" she said even more forcefully. "I'm not punishing myself. It makes me feel wonderful."

"Funny," he said wryly, "you don't look wonderful. You look very pained."

"Okay, okay," she said in a quieter tone. "So it's like the moth to the flame, the rat to the cheese in the trap. I know it'll wipe me out but there's something inside me that finds fulfillment in that rush."

"But you're a human," he responded. "You've got powers of reason. The moth and the rat don't. They're just acting on instinct. And besides, it doesn't make you feel wonderful. I've seen you high, on that rush as you say, and you're not wonderful. You're anxious, jumping out of your skin. You get paranoid! The only fulfillment you get is that you can prove to yourself that you can't live without fear. Life sucks, you seem to be saying, and then you do this to yourself to prove yourself right."

"Okay, so I'm not wonderful when I'm hooked," she admitted. "But it's still a feeling I want. I want lots of that feeling, as often as I can. I want to have that feeling all the time no matter how destructive it is for me. I don't like it when I'm on a plateau. Plateau's are boring. Not for me. I'm an excitement junkie!"

"You know the Sirens nearly destroyed Odysseus," he said. "They destroyed other men when they came too close to escape their beautiful song."

"Exactly!" she answered. "It's the song. I want this high even though I know it can destroy me. And besides, I know where this is going. Telling me to use my head, my powers of reason isn't going to do it for me. I may intellectually know this is bad for me and maybe it's some weakness in my soul that's dragging me into this maelstrom, this vortex of pain. Maybe it's because I know it can destroy me that I want it so. But I'd rather succumb being high, on a rush, than without it. There are people who spend all their lives never getting high, never feeling the rush, the pounding in their blood. They're afraid to explore themselves. That's what I get from this high-a sense of self-exploration. Others may be afraid to find themselves so they stay safe but they've never lived."

"Or died," he quietly said.

"But since we're going to die anyway," she quickly responded, "isn't it better that we live first? I mean, when we live without this feeling, no matter how destructive it is, aren't we actually dead all along?"

He stared her straight in the eyes. "I don't believe I would call that feeling, that high, that rush that you're talking about, I don't believe I would call that 'love.'"
"Who the hell are you to tell me that what I'm feeling isn't love?" she asked defensively. "What do you know about 'love' anyway?"

"I know that I've been in 'love', as you say," he responded, making quotation marks in the air with his index fingers. "Quite a number of times actually, including lots of times when I had the same rush, the high, the I-can't-live-without-her-another-minute kind of love you're talking about. The kind of I'm-going-to-die-if-she-leaves-me kind of love. The God-I-hate-this-pain kind of love."

"So you know what I'm feeling," she answered.

"Yes," he replied. "But every one of those times what I was feeling was pain, total insecurity, a complete giving my power to another. That's got to hurt, deeply. Those feelings make for great love songs and good movies but it hurts like shit! I just don't believe that's what love is supposed to be, you know, where someone else controls you and your destiny to that extent. I've also had the quieter kind of love, the love that isn't so intense as you describe it. I know the difference."

"What's the difference?" she asked.

"Well for me," he responded, "the difference is between love of myself and love of her or in your case, him. It's the difference between loving someone else as a substitute for loving myself."

"Substitute?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied. "I believe that the kind of painful love, the love that destroys our hearts, the love that seems very romantic but isn't, is a substitute for self-love. I believe that, at least in my life, when I've been on this rush you describe, it was because I needed the pain that came with it. I needed the pain, masquerading in the form of love, in order to prove to myself that I wasn't worthy of being really loved. I needed the pain of the rush in order to convince myself that I needed her more than she needed me."

"Don't we all need another, someone to love us?" she asked.

"Of course we do," he added. "But it's the difference between needing another and loving another. Need's not love. It's, well it's need. It's making someone else so powerful that we begin to believe that we're not whole without them and that if they leave us, that we're gonna die or something. Love comes from the heart, from a place of completeness. Besides, coming from that place of insecurity can never breed intimacy because we're afraid to actually be intimate because we're afraid of the losing part."

"But passion is the energy of God," she quickly responded. "Passion is what creates movement in the universe and in our lives. When we live without passion, we stagnate."

"I'm not talking about no passion," he answered. "Far from it. I've had passion both with and without the rush. In fact, I've had more passion when it came from a place of self-love than when it came from the place of self-destruction. What I experienced was when I loved myself more than her, I was able to be more passionate because I wasn't afraid to expose my heart. When I came at love from the place of what I feel is insecurity, this rush place, then I was holding my heart in too much. I was holding in my heart because I was afraid of the pain that I knew was inevitably going to come when this rush ended. So no matter what words I used to express my love, no matter how many times a day we spoke on the phone, no matter how much love we made, I was still afraid of the end so I held my heart back just a bit. But when I let go of the fear, I actually had a great deal more passion because that fear was gone. You can be more passionate, more loving, when you love yourself more. It's the difference between passion for its own sake and real intimacy."

"What's the difference?" she asked.

"The difference," he replied, "is that intimacy is what takes place after the rush leaves and the high goes away."

© 1996 Ivan Hoffman

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