In love, it’s best to hold lightly
The Chinese have developed a form of punishment called the Chinese torture test, a sort of war-of-attrition against one’s self. A person inserts a finger into one end of the torture device, which has the shape and circumference of a robusto cigar. He or she then inserts a finger from the opposite hand into the opposite end so that both hands are pinned. The more a person tugs, the tighter the device clamps down. The counterintuitive trick to the Chinese finger torture is that instead of pulling you have to let go. When a person lessens the strain on the contraption, the openings ease up and the fingers pull free.
In many cases, love is the same way.
I’ve found that when we try to force affairs of the heart we get ourselves in trouble. When we relax and hold lightly to the things we want most, love feels less like torture.
I try to keep this principle in mind — though, Lord knows, it’s hard — when I meet a handsome man for the first time. I ease up on forking over my phone number; I let him ask before I offer. I make sure I’m not the first one to make contact afterward, even though every synapse in my brain demands that I call. I handle my desires loosely, and I let him come to me.
Of course, this type of knowledge comes from years of experience, from a lot of sitting around with both fingers trapped in the metaphorical torture device. That is to say, I called love interests frequently and fired off unsolicited e-mails to would-be suitors. I clung tightly to each new potential love, thinking the more I forced the issue, the quicker he would come calling. This is never how it played out.
I thought of this principle during a recent bargaining session. I’m not a natural negotiator; I’m stuck on my shopping mall, fixed-price mentality.
But under some circumstances, bargaining is necessary, like when I found myself haggling over the price of a necklace at a market stall this week. The vendor had reduced his initial offer, but the price was still too high. I wanted the trinket, if not desperately, then certainly a lot. But it reached a point where I knew I would either have to cave to his price or walk away.
I took a deep breath and eased up on the mental stranglehold I had on that jewelry. Yes, the necklace was beautiful and unique, and yes, it would look great with that new dress I bought, but I had to be willing to relinquish it. Otherwise, my desire would be my undoing.
I stood and thanked the jeweler for his time, regretting the abandoned bauble but proud of my (albeit forced) ability to let go.
The jeweler stopped me on my way out. He slipped the necklace into a bag and passed it to me. At my price. I stood dumbfounded for the space of a breath, then pulled out my money and took the offered bag. I left the shop holding lightly to my treasure.