The ReignXY: Take Your Space: The Art of Choosing Love

I still feel like I’m apologizing for the space I take up in this world. Avoiding looking around too much in public so my eyes won’t intrude on anyone’s day. I pride myself on minding my own business but I’ve been stifled under the spatial limitations I’ve yet to get to the core of unpacking. My breaths are few and contrite but force themselves from my chest out of necessity. I’ve never been comfortable claiming unapologetic because apologetic is all I am.

I’ve taken this attitude of “shrunken” into relationships. Not becoming too grand in hopes of not becoming overwhelming. Asking for validation in things I easily permit myself to do in my seasons of singleness and somehow it only came to feel wrong when that position of power over me was taken before it could be given. I’ve relinquished my say so countless times to pacify the ego of whomever held my affection but the moment the boundaries I didn’t even know I had were crossed, I’d clap back. In a way, I created my own balance of self-deprecating submissiveness and empowerment —enough to carry across my back. But once weight was added by way of expectations that I didn’t give myself, all bets were off.

It took a conglomeration of the inevitable clashes of ego to sideline me and force introspection into who I was and how that affected my love life.

There’s a natural discomfort that accompanies the act of forcing something big into a tiny space, grand ideas into an inferior mind, a powerful light behind a shadow not big enough to hide its rays. I had been allowing lackluster men to eclipse my brilliance. I was the breaker of my own heart.

It occurred to me that I hadn’t done my due diligence in any of the relationships I found myself in. I had been chosen rather than doing the choosing. That’s never been my endgame —polishing my qualities enough for a glimmer of my potential to catch the eye of a man. I understand why it’s a concept. Love is our primary function. Before there was ambition and glass ceilings to break, there was love, sex, and family. The evolution of our bodies, of our hormones and our basic instincts has yet to catch up with the evolution of the world and we yearn for it as much as we hunger for food to satisfy our bellies.

I’ve been deprived of love enough in my life to succumb to the temptation of accepting it from sources plated with potential. Enough to be hopeful even when the thin coating of promise has clearly faded. I’ve also been deprived of love enough to starve myself of it completely until something suitable presents itself. With each new disappointment, I become the latter. Until something more promising than I had ever experienced drifts into my line of vision, I become the former —eager to latch on in fear that there’s nothing better out there.

I never anticipated the farce that dating would become past the age of 25. Never dreamed that prospects would be so few and so far between. I didn’t know in my early 20s to be as picky as I am approaching 30. There was an unspoken sense of “be happy someone likes you and make it work”. From my growth, I couldn’t imagine giving a thought to some of the men I gave my heart to. Most, if I’m honest, were more lost than I was. There was an expectation that they knew what they wanted when they chose me, that they knew what they were doing, what they were about and how I played into their life goals. None of that was true. They were winging it as much as I was. That realization changed me.

I’ve never had too many specifics about what my “type” was. That’s not to say that I was void of standards —I just knew that there were too many variables to consider to ever be able to decide specifically what I wanted prior to seeing it all in action. With each failed relationship, each disappointing person of interest, my watchlist evolved. I experienced things that highlighted qualities and problem areas I didn’t preemptively check for.

The problem with “getting chose” is that it supports a one-sided narrative. One person, usually the man, is the lead and the woman, the supporting role. That one-or-the-other perspective is fine for sharing stories, not for sharing a life.

I dated an artist once who essentially decided when the relationship began —although I initially spoke against a relationship — and when it ended. It lasted a meager few months though the insecurity of being dumped with no reason lingered for years. The duration was infested with conversations timed at his convenience regardless of my own creative zone. When I’d text or call, sometimes I’d be ignored for an entire day.

It wasn’t the only one-sided relationship I experienced but it was the end of my acceptance of having my ambition sidelined in support of someone whose reciprocity was under construction.

I’m too much for some people and not enough for others. That’s fine.

I’m still working on breathing freely in unfamiliar places, shared spaces and in conversation with individuals who seem to be more well-versed in life than I am. I am, however, completely through with apologizing for having a voice, needs, thoughts, opinions, ambitions —life.

21NINETY: "GET IT TOGETHER" AND THE PROBLEM WITH SUPERWOMAN SYNDROME

“Get it together” is insulting. As if pouring tears of frustration at the thought of being upset about things I’ve been made to feel is any less than “together.” As if clearing problems from my plate in any vocal manner makes me less composed. As if getting angry is never justifiable and responding to pain in any emotional way makes me problematic.

“Get it together” is insulting. I’ve structured personality goals around the idea of being an easy pill to swallow. I’ve wanted to be soft and agreeable with a voice impervious to pain because it’s what was translated as desirable. I’ve morphed into variations of doormats, brooms and mops to avoid and to clean up the emotions I’ve spilled when the pressure was too intense to not burst my pipes. I’ve chastised myself for fury that others have deemed unnecessary because I wanted to suffocate any self-righteousness that would cause me to be someone others didn’t want to be around. I was fine with not connecting with certain individuals but I didn’t want it to be because I was angry, volatile, too passionate and definitely not because I was too sensitive.

The problem was, I was angry, volatile, passionate and immensely sensitive. I was all those things because life was being served on a platter much too small and I had no idea where to start with cleaning up the overflow. I was birthed from angry black women and I learned to speak angry black woman fluently before I was even old enough to find my own voice. When I did find my voice, angry black woman snuck through the cracks – in between the tears that would fall for every situation that prodded an emotional response – which was every situation because emotional sensitivity was hard-wired into my DNA and when life forgets to give you anything but lemons, a sour ass expression is sometimes all you can muster up. 

“Get it together” is insulting because isn’t that already the point of life? Isn’t that all any of us are trying to do on our day-to-day journeys? So to insinuate that I need to get it together faster because somehow my falling apart is much more insufferable than anyone else’s means that there’s an intolerance for my emotions and suffering in silence is my only option as to not ruffle any feathers. 

But why?

I’ve been exposed to tragic news stories of people who I couldn’t necessarily relate to in any way besides blood, flesh and bones, and it was mostly involuntary, thinking that their plight might be some karmic response from the universe righting some wrong they’ve done. That thought would sometimes be all I could think of to pacify the overwhelming empathy I’d inevitably feel whenever I’d fall privy to stories of anyone’s life that were less than ideal. I think of my own responses that attempt to quell the aching of my sympathetic heart when the victim isn’t me. I try to think that maybe the people who justify police shootings of unarmed men of color and the abduction and rape of women of color feel the same. That maybe their response to our pain isn’t a result of not caring – that maybe, like me, they care so much that they feel helpless and have to tell themselves something to calm their thoughts, just enough to sleep at night and get on with their lives.

And maybe, on a smaller scale, the people in our lives who cut and paste “angry black woman” labels on us when we express our need to be heard, felt, understood, and cared for are reacting to some sympathetic helplessness that they feel too. But “get it together” is insulting.

I have friendships that mimic the nature of therapy sessions. Sessions in which I’m the listener, the one who assesses the issue and generates words of wisdom and encouragement whenever the calls come – whether they were 1 a.m. phone calls or night calls that evolve into mornings. I’ve had days where I’d be on one of those late-night-to-early-morning calls and then I’d brush my teeth and get dressed for work straight through without my friend knowing that they kept me from getting any sleep – and that I was on my way to work also without breakfast, just so I wouldn’t interrupt their venting. I’ve had men track mud into my life with unripe interests that they weren’t prepared to see through. Men whose interest I’d latch onto enough to attempt to shoulder their uncertainty as well as my own just to see what could come of it all. 

I’ve had these friends who I’ve suffered through sleepless nights and subsequent exhausted work days for, text through the therapy sessions I needed with vague responses to feign interest in my struggles. I’ve had them express distress when I’d make the effort to not choose them over myself when I was too distraught myself to play therapist. I’ve had half-grown men press me to clean up the mud they tracked into my life and pretend as if nothing happened and I’ve come to realize that although “get it together” is insulting, I don’t have to feel insulted.

It’s still my goal to speak words that feel like honey on a sore throat, to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, to be understanding and resilient. It’s my goal to embody those traits and to gift them to whoever needs me to be merciful, compassionate and graceful. The trouble, however, lies in the expectation of those gifts. There’s a difference between, “I understand that you are facing something that might have nothing to do with me and were in a position that caused you to take those feelings out on me” and “my fault but it’s not that serious so why are you mad?” As willing as I am to forgive and forget, please don’t steal my forgiveness. Don’t strip me of the option to feel negatively about the position you’ve put me in just because you’ve gotten acclimated to my mercy. 

Being strong doesn’t mean that I always feel my own strength – it doesn’t mean that I’ll always be able to shoulder your burdens as well as my own. Know that if I snap, yell, curse, or tell you that I need space – though it might not be the best response, though it might not be what you want to hear — it is a real response to how I’ve been made to feel. For the days when I choose to take my cape off, wash it and rest my weary shoulders, accept my sighs, my tears, my ignored phone calls and dismissed text messages. I can't fill from an empty cup. Wonder Woman has gone fishing. 

Dear Queens: Unrequited Lover

It isn’t often that we learn the things we should before we learn that there’s a lesson to be learned. It is said that we live life forward and understand it backwards. That continuously proves to be true. We weren’t prepared for a lot of the things that we’ve experienced in life, hence the many times we fail before getting it anywhere close to right. Love is no exception.

I can’t count on the fingers and toes of old lovers combined the amount of times my heart has been collateral damage in a shootout of ego and immaturity of whichever equally naive boy I had objectifying my affections. Though it is a testament of my resilience, it’s also a shrine to my ignorance. I had no idea how to love let alone how to be loved. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Worst yet, I didn’t know that these were things I needed to know. 

The most important lesson love has taught me, to date, is what it (love) is. We all know the stereotypical, feet sweeping, abdominal fluttering, knee debilitating gist of what good love feels like. Love is also having your emotions yo-yoed and still praying for the healing of the man who strung you along. It’s forgiving the infidel and allowing him another chance to do right. It’s allowing yourself to be friends with a person you once wanted for yourself, watching them be to others what they couldn’t be for you. All of these are examples of genuine love, however foolish it might seem, though that doesn’t mean that those levels of self-sacrifice are necessary to constitute real love. Love doesn’t have to be a two way street. Though unrequited love is the splinter in the heart of the soul who thought the bed of wood chucks on the playground was safe just because it accompanied beautifully colored attractions - unrequited love is still love.

I’ve learned through loving and hating myself for loving more than I was ever loved that if you stop loving someone because they didn’t love you in the ways you wanted them to, it was never true to begin with. I never asked to be a martyr for love - taking arrows to the chest of my beautiful intentions just to be an example of a real lover. That’s what I found myself doing though. For years I’d find myself embarrassed for going through relationships that ended because I found myself overcompensating for the previous failed relationships — giving more of myself than my partner could accept. That in itself taught me a few more valuable lessons:

1. My brand of love isn’t meant for just anyone.
2. You can love someone without trying to be more to them than a gentle heart to confide in.
3. The storm that overwhelms the city isn’t the one who needs sympathy. It’s the city that could not withstand the storm that is deemed weak. Why should I feel shame for loving someone who my love was too much for?

Love has taught me who I am by showing me that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I thought I was small and helpless needing stronger arms to protect me from life when in fact what I thought to be my weaknesses was my strength. I am the strong arms that friends and lovers turn to for comfort, for understanding, for a soft smile and a kind word. I am the love that I sought for myself. Learning that empowered me to love myself the way that I wanted others to. It allowed me to set the standard for what I required from anyone seeking to offer their love to me and it helped me to accept less powerful love —without expecting them to measure up, without trying to promote them to positions in my life that they couldn’t handle and without setting myself up for disappointment. See, unrequited love is only feels unrequited when you expect it back. The love I give now isn’t contingent on reciprocity — that frees me from the pain of disappointment. That is how I secure my heart throughout the connections I find myself allowing. I do, however, have set expectations for whoever the man is that I’ll find myself vetting for a deeper, more intimate and long-term connection.

It’s vital to your emotional maintenance that you don’t try to force your love on anyone. Having people not accept your love doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. I have friends who shy away from getting too close to me in any capacity although I have cultivated my love to be shelter in a sandstorm, a well of fresh water in the heat and a bed of clouds through a tumultuous journey. Not everyone knows how to accept a good thing. Don’t allow the rejection you will inevitably find yourself receiving to water down your love. Be love and be loved. It’s difficult to stand against a stampede of numb, frightened and heartless individuals but it’s necessary. If we allow the hate and the fear to turn our love cold, we not only become a part of the same problem that we lament over but we also add to the extinction of hope.

Love is a force. Not so much a feeling. Feelings derive from situations where love is present but to reduce it to a feeling is a gross misrepresentation of its power. What we have come to call love; these relationships that start on a whim and end like a world war, these “I love you” today and “I wish I never met you” tomorrow entanglements of selfish intent, these trysts of surface attractions — they falsely advertise the beauty and the power that love really is.
So many people fear love because they have come to associate it with pain. Love can be painful but the pain in love doesn’t come from love itself, it comes from the disappointment of failed expectations in love. Knowing that doesn’t make the prospect of giving love any easier. Less frightening though is knowing that you can control who you allow yourself to love and expect love from. Get to know yourself, get to know love outside of pain and outside of what another soul can offer. Get to know love outside of expectations. I guarantee the shift in your perspective of who you are and what love is will help you to maneuver through it in the future. When it does, be love and be loved.

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Kimolee Eryn is an artist and writer who believes in creating for a purpose beyond the purpose of creating. She believes that a life should be lived not just to sustain itself but to cultivate peace, love and growth in all adjacent beings and hopes to exemplify that in all she does. Check out Kimolee's personal genius, at KimoleeEryn.com.

© 2017 Kimolee Eryn. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.