Name: Joanne Paul / Website: http://pastthephd.blogspot.co.uk/ Twitter: @Joanne_Paul_
If you ask Twitter, it will tell you that Joanne is a ‘Historian of Political Thought. Renaissance Woman. Lecturer
@NewCollegeH. Feminist. Yogi. Curator @HumantiesFM. Proud Canadian. And she really likes shoes.’
If you ask her blog, it will tell you that Joanne ‘ recently finished her PhD in History at Queen Mary, University of London, where she produced a thesis on the discourses of counsel in Anglophone political thought from 1485-1651 under the supervision of Professor Quentin Skinner. She is currently a Lecturer in History at the New College of the Humanities in London (nchum.org).’ It will also mention that ‘When she’s not doing all of that, she likes reading, shopping (!!!) and doing as much yoga as she can fit into her week. Whenever possible she pops down to the theatre, opera, or… when academic pressures really are too much… a burlesque show. She likes to eat vegan, drink wine and listen to any music but country. Most evenings will find her curled up watching a cooking show, Big Bang Theory or absolutely anything from Joss Whedon. She really likes popcorn and hot cocoa. Oh, and her room is really pink’.
If you ask her best friend, he will tell you that she is an ‘amply complex constellation of dichotomy-collapsing idiosyncracies’. That’s probably best.
1. On Failure. What does love mean to you? What constitutes a failed relationship? What about a successful one? Did you ever think of yourself as a failure because a relationship came to an end?
Love means joy in another. A joining in another. It is openness and light. Warmth and strength. Love cannot fail. But a relationship can lose touch with love, or perhaps never have really connected with it to begin with.
A successful relationship involves connection, communication and compassion. A relationship that you no longer feel passionate about contributing to (what you may want to call ‘failed’) has lost some aspect of those things (or, as they are intertwined, aspects of all of those things). In most cases, it is simply the realization that the connection is not as strong as may have been thought, or can endure. To me, this is not a ‘failure’ as we are each unique beings. Attempts to forge a connection with others means playing with an almost infinite number of variables. The idea that you are meant to have the majority of your emotional, sexual and other needs filled by one person means that this connection must be very strong, which is simply (when you think about it) statistically difficult to forge. It is not a ‘failure’ if one realizes this. In fact it is a sign of strength, self-awareness and genuine care for the other person.
That all being said, of course I have been made to feel a failure because a relationship has come to an end. And this applies equally to romantic relationships as the equally important relationships with friends and family. Interestingly, of course, we are made to feel less a failure if a friendship comes to an end, we see it as a time passing, something running its course and we both move on. But the end of a ‘Relationship’, we are made to feel like we have done something wrong. Are flawed in some way. That we may never be truly whole, successful people, because we could not ‘keep it going’ (even though to do so would be damaging to all involved).
2. On Being Flawed. Are you more comfortable on your own or in a relationship? Do you think there is something wrong with people who cannot or would not sustain long-term relationships?
I am more comfortable on my own than in the wrong relationship. I think that may address the second question as well.
3. On Eros. Do you require a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled?
I am the sort of person who craves love – both the giving and receiving. I love being in a reciprocal cycle of love. And that is something in me that requires fulfilment. I do not, however, only find it the ‘Relationship’ and so can find my need love/be loved in other places (such as my spirituality, friendships, family relationships, even relationships with nature). I am also a romantic, so I do enjoy the standard cultural expressions of love. But I would not say I need them to feel wholly myself.
4. On Soul-mates. Do you believe that there is a soul-mate for everyone out there? Do you ever feel that you are only half of the equation, and will be ‘lacking’ something until you find someone to share your everyday life with?
I do believe (as I said) that finding someone with whom we can forge a long, strong, lasting connection with is so close to being an impossibility, that there is probably only one person with whom we will find that ‘best’ connection. In such a way, yes, there is probably a mate who best matches and feeds my soul out there. I do feel like my life will be very different if I do not meet this person, but I don’t think I’ll be half a person, just someone who lives a life that finds love and value in different things.
But being completely open and honest. I would be saddened by the lack of someone to share all of life’s joys and sorrows with. I am the sort of person who really enjoys companionship and love.
5. On Self-Love. Do you think that to be loved by others you have to love yourself? What does self-love mean to you? To love, can it sometimes mean letting go?
I do think it is important to love oneself in order to accept someone else’s love fully. As it is all about connection, you certainly have to know yourself in order to recognize connection with another, and to love yourself in order to value those things which have forged the connection. That being said, it can be a work in progress, one that can be a journey aided by someone else’s love (like a light on a dark path). Self love means loving myself as I love the one I love best. Other than that I don’t know, it’s a project to me as well. Love is always letting go. But in order to embrace something else. A different way of thinking. A different way of looking at the world and at oneself.
6. On Fulfilment. Can we only find fulfilment in others, or is it possible to be happy and find contentment in our other accomplishments, whatever our relationship status?
Friends, family, coworkers, lookers-on, students, passers-by, teachers, flatmates, etc, etc, all help us to form opinions of ourselves, both good and bad. They can reinforce either, often depending on our own moods and outlooks.
7. On Interpersonal Skills. Are people in relationships simply better at ‘people skills’ than those who are not?
No. Not in the least. Communication was certainly one of the three qualities I mentioned earlier, and that helps a lot. But it requires the connection and deeply-rooted loving compassion as well, without which communication is also impossible to truly fulfil. Communication might be the only one that is a ‘skill’, but it cannot be separated from the other elements which are more or less random (or pre-determined if you prefer) and emotive.
8. On Project R. Do you think this a worthwhile project? In what way, if at all, did this project help you think through the question of “relationships”? Feel free to add here any other thoughts you may have on the subject that was not covered by the above questions.
Love is a state of mind, not a status.
Dear Joanna, thank you for your contribution to Project R. Insightful, gutsy and sensitive all in one, as always.
I love that last bite out of her entry; “Love is a state of mind, not a status.”
Really makes me open my eyes; great entry!
Agree on both counts 🙂
Aw, thanks so much all! I was in a really open (i.e. sleepy just before bed) mindset when I did the interview, so hopefully it rings true. Feedback and discussion is welcome!
It certainly rings true. I have to say that being in the privileged position of someone who did meet their soulmate and was lucky enough to marry him, I am somewhat more optimistic when it comes to forging those special connections where everything fits together in near perfect intertwining of two selves. It took my meeting and discussing the issue with many people until I was forced to admit that I am part of a fortunate minority, rather than the rule. It still saddens me to think of it, as I do believe that everyone is worthy of loving and being loved, and of having someone in their lives they can share their deepest darkest and lightest self with, as well as the inevitable routine and everydayness. Secretly I still can’t let go of those fairy tale happy endings I fell for as a child, even though I know that endings are only beginnings, and that every relationship is a never-ending project, never complete and by its very nature when on-going: never to be completed.
Very well said. But I think it is worth keeping in mind that those fairly tale endings, as much as we may love the idea of them, are a fiction; even the ‘best’ relationships do not go that way. And I think it is true that even if someone does not find a lasting institutionalised relationship with a ‘partner’, does not mean for a second that they are not loved!
Absolutely. I completely agree that love has nothing to do with the signing or otherwise of a certificate. And of course – by me amongst many – you are very much loved xxx (even if we didn’t get a certificate that says so 🙂 )
Profound story on love, felt like I was reading a book.
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