My daughter asked me this question over a week ago. What was my definition of love? Was I ever in love? I couldn’t give her an honest answer as I looked back at my life. Looking back on my past relationships, I realized that I never loved them like love is “supposed” to feel in my eyes. At times, I needed them, wanted them, craved a father figure or didn’t want to be alone in my 20s and early 30s. But was I in love?…NO. I wasn’t even in love with myself!!!
I wrote in a previous post how America lied to us citizens abut the American Dream. It showed us images of a life that is not paved easily for People of Color (POC). The white picket fence and the love of my life that I will be married to for over 50 years along with the 2.5 kids isn’t a reality for most black girls and women. I am 41 years of age and have had several relationships throughout my youth and adult life. During those relationships, I was damaged by life…because it didn’t always offer liberty and the pursuit of happiness for me and my black family. I was trying to learn about love through them and through the relationships based on images from TV shows and what America represented. But early on in life, I found out that LOVE to me was survival.
Survival of the Fittest!!
I needed to survive and hold on to someone that seemed like they were stable, while being able to love to me at that time…what I thought was LOVE. I didn’t realize that love for some came with many conditions, abuse, hidden secrets in closets or neglect. It seemed like we were all damaged in many ways…we just held on to people that were not sharing the same damage, so we often settled.
Black people that were born here have a culture that we built from experience, assimilation, cultural appropriation, based on our ancestor’s information we were able to obtain, history on what we have learned from the past before America, and what we are experiencing (learning, seeing, and growing up with) now. It may not be the culture that others have since they know the roots of the tree that began their lineage. We missed out on that, well some of us. So, when love is around some of us grab it through the multiple forces that became our culture, our way of life and living.
My love was survival and I can’t remember a time when it really felt like I loved a black man without all of the background noise. Because that’s what I continually experienced. America told me that my Knight in Shining Armor was without flaws, damaged from fighting, but resilient. Those kinks in his armor was supposed to be only scraps that healed quickly, but they were damaged. Just as damaged as I was and we damaged each other in the end. Our culture, way of life and living wasn’t what we assumed it was going to be for us as a couple. And we were denied early on, the chance to love without all of the obstacles that beseeched us in our normal lives. So, we moved on and may have damaged others along the way. I don’t know what their situation is now in 2017, but I know for me I came across a crossroad in my life. I didn’t want my future generations to love in order to survive. To love because they think abuse is normal part of it. To love because their father wasn’t in their life and she needed a cheap imitation. What is love and have I ever felt this extreme closeness and hunger for this person that I loved him and his flaws more than I loved myself? Sure, I could say that, but it wasn’t what we both need at that time.
Some cycles of pain, struggle, and strife does not need to be repeated in order for black people to claim we have always had it hard or we have to work twice as hard to get half as much as them. Or even to make it work with a man or woman because they don’t have or don’t want more than your goals. We are allowed to heal from our past and create better choices. Additionally, we are allowed to love ourselves in a world that constantly, even now, tells me I am too fat, no ass, black, bitch, bougie, my standards are too high, and more. I am allowed to say NO to a man because he’s not my type without being shamed. I don’t want to struggle and I don’t want a repeat of survival love.
I needed to learn to love me with my flaws and all and have America’s Lies and her Stereotypes bounce off me without tearing me down. I want/wanted the same for my daughter. I tell her my stories so that my future generations can continue to break those cycles that harmed me and my mother…that cycle of mental and physical abuse, neglect, and self-hatred.
What is Love to me now at 41?
Love is learning all of your quirks, flaws, irritating, happy, and critical things about yourself and being OK with them. Not the flaws that destroy people and my relationships. But a completeness or understanding of who you are. It took me over 30 years to find that, uncover it, work through it, and let it settle. I am in the next chapter of my life. I work at a career I love and help as many POC as I can while I can in my life, my daughter is my role model who taught me what love looks like in a relationship. Through her eyes, I was able to see her love relationships with her grandmothers, her father, his girlfriend, and me. And it allowed me to learn what I always craved when I was young…self-worth and identity.
In some crevice in the back of my conscious, I still believe in finding the love of my life, my own Knight in Shining Armor, but I know now what obstacles he has to face in order to meet me where I am in my life. I am enjoying love for self, family, and friends…and one day with my person in the future (near future, hopefully). But until then, I am love and it’s no longer about survival, struggle or need. Love is knowing that I have always been enough and someone with the same epiphany will know see that as well and invest in me.