I have given up so much of my dreams, so much of who I thought I could or would be. All because I wanted to be loved.
All of that sacrifice, all of that tolerance was just a myth I told myself. It was a fable based on the wrong idea that I could not be loved just as I am. That I in some way had to prove my worth for love.
I learned it from my mother. With her, I had to tolerate a certain amount of lying, resentment, and neglect in order to feel loved. By the time I was ten, I could tell when my mom lied to me. I couldn't always prove it, but my body knew it. I felt her resentment in my bones all through my teenage years. I looked back and recognized the neglect in the rear view mirror against which I measured every new love experience.
With each new love experience, I learned to tolerate new levels of deception, deeper layers of resentment, and wider swaths of neglect. Like a warrior, I toughened my skin against these battles. I wore these long relationship excursions like badges of courage, toughness, and strength. I was proud of the confidence I had won and the fierceness I had fabricated from the pain and the heartbreak I believed I had to endure so that I could be loved.
And this believing, this ritualistic observance to which I adhered, is what, unbelievably, has brought me here, after so many years in therapy, so many hours spent perfecting the armor I carry everywhere, so much love and pain and loss, I see that the relationship I am in is the one that will free me. I see that in order to feel loved, I must destroy the myth that surrounds it.
The one thing I felt I could not tolerate, the thing I felt I could not carry, has been laid at my doorstep, tightly sealed and waiting for my action. I eye it now with fear, excitement, heartbreak, and joy. But I will not make Pandora's mistake. I will face all the evils and let the hope out. I will rip the jar open and break the lid on the surface of my battle-worn skin. I will make sure that that vessel lies empty at my feet.
Everything I have built must break. All of my parameters must be destroyed. All of the familiar landmarks must be wiped away. They belong to an antiquated belief system which is no longer of use to me.
I recognize the love in my reflection, yet I did nothing at all to earn this love. I have in fact done everything to push it away. I've been drunk too much, raged too long, screamed till I was hoarse. I have hurt people too deeply, turned a blind eye to injustice, and looked out only, for number one. I have spoken the truth in the name of truth so that I would hurt people. I have blamed others for my own weakness. I have put myself in harm's way out of desperation.
Yet, I know love. I feel it. Love's viscosity rumbles through my veins and wakes me to my own light. It purges my body of the doubt and fear with which I have armed myself. It drives me forward and gives me the strength to stand in the quiet hush of nothing.
I have a tattoo on my back, written by James Baldwin. It states: "Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growng up."
I got it because my mom introduced me to James Baldwin, and in many ways, introdoctrinated me into the dance with love that would dominate my knowing.
I now see that within it, I have come to know love. I would not know love if I had not known the battles or the wars.
No, I would never say love is easy. Some people never truly know it. We are trained against it, taught to believe that we are naturally predisposed to war. But this is not the case. It is not that war is natural, it is that war is easier. Battle only takes a moment of rage, an hour of desperate loss. Battle is a reflex.
Love is a practice.