Folks have said all the time to “be yourself.”
For a large part of your life, you swear they are lying.
You do what you deem is necessary to fit in at work, or to make friends, or to be in a relationship.
But those words are the truest words you’ll hear.
You just have to be brave enough to actually do it.
Why is it that something that should be as natural as being yourself so damn hard to do?
Well, it’s because we are acutely aware of our faults more than everyone else is, hence we have the power to alter it, mask it and pretend. But that only works but for so long. Folks who truly know you, know when you are genuine and when you are not and thank God.
The lies we tell ourselves are the worst and most potent and hardest to break and reverse.
The reason I’m on this kick today is because this morning I woke up with about 30 epiphanies. I had to text them to myself so I wouldn’t forget.
I went to a beautiful wedding this week of a fantastic college friend who I hadn’t seen in years.
She was absolutely stunning, but what made her glow all the more enchanting was she was truly happy. She loved that man and he clearly loved her. It was in the little things, the way she picked an eyelash off his face, and the way she still made silly faces with exaggerated eyes and smirks even in her formal photos. Every inch of that venue had her mark– from the songs she selected to the party favors. Individual, unique, simple, understated but not buttoned up.
The moment of the wedding that stopped my heart and hit me like a freight train was during her written vows.
She thanked her husband profusely for loving her for who she is. And I believed her. Those weren’t empty words. Even as she said it, she began to cry, and my eyes began to well. Because I know the impact of those words. And yet, I can’t think of a relationship where I completely felt like was loved exactly for who I was. I didn’t feel like I was enough in every last one and it was frustrating because I truly did my best in all. But it wasn’t on me, that was the thing I couldn’t control, even though I tried to. Either someone is going to love you for you completely, or they just won’t.
They will love you when your house is dirty or when it’s clean. They will love you if you gained some weight or if you stayed the same weight. They will love you and your child if that’s what you came to the table with. They will love you when you are sick and take care of you, as they will love you when you are healthy. They will think you are amazing if you are at the top of your career, and encourage you if you got laid off and can’t find work for a year.
I guess I’m afraid of that kind of love.
Because it’s actually real.
Because I can’t make excuses for it or why it didn’t work. To lose that kind of love would seem devastating, worse than the devastation I felt when the person didn’t love me that much, but I loved them that much.
I’ve said before that love is negotiable. And we have to keep coming to the table and reminding our loved ones what the terms are if they are slipping, and they should require that of us too.
I recently accepted a job. Go me!
I did something different this time.
I asked for what I wanted, what I felt I deserved in compensation and I was willing to keep it moving if they didn’t offer me the job or the salary I asked for. I had already made up my mind what I was willing to accept, and my friends asked well what if it’s this number but not that number? And I said, no. Something in my spirit said, no. This time you won’t take less than what you deserve, you’ve been doing it you’re whole professional life. You can get what you deserve even if it’s not this particular opportunity, this time around.
So it made me think, if I can have the courage to say no to a job if they aren’t coming correct with money, why am I so flexible when it comes to my most valuable possession? Me. My heart.
I had to laugh at myself.
I started thinking about all of the relationships where I broke my neck to be the perfect girlfriend, the cool girlfriend, the compassionate and understanding girlfriend who accepted men as they were, as broken and complicated… but I had to be the one that was whole, for the both of us.
I was broken and complicated too, in many ways. I needed just as much nurturing and care and occasional eggshell two stepping for my feelings too. I didn’t stand in my truth, I pretended that I was so strong that I could live without that, but still provide it.
I kept choosing men I felt I could make better and in some cases I helped in their progression. But I didn’t get the benefit. They’d go on to marry other women and blatantly give them the things they said they couldn’t give me. But I didn’t demand more of them, I didn’t threaten to leave if they didn’t. I don’t believe in holding anyone hostage in love, but I’m learning not expressing clearly what you need and what you want in a relationship is the worst thing you can do. Because if that person really wants to love you, you aren’t giving them the tools to do so properly. And if they don’t want to love you, and you don’t tell them, you can’t be mad that they disagree with the way you desire to be loved.
I was too afraid to say what I wanted. I thought that love was sacrifice and if they saw how much I gave, then clearly they’d return my love in a tangible, fulfilling way.
And those words the bride said tearfully have rattled around my head since I’ve returned home.
By George, that was it, stupid. Be who you are completely and let him love you completely. Let him decide and if he doesn’t choose you, it’s not your fault, it’s not something you necessarily did wrong. Be strong enough and be fearless enough to be you. Say what you don’t like. Say what you want and what makes you happy. Say when you are upset and hurt.
I’ve often turned my nose up at the women who lash out and raise all kinds of hell when they are mad at their men, but the men do react. And of course they do, those women made it very clear that they were upset, and if the man really loved them, they were going to be about the business of correction.
I confused my silence for class, while being complicit in the demise of my own relationships and my own self esteem. I won’t let air out of tires, or burn clothes, but I have a mouth. My fear of rocking the boat should not be placed above my own happiness. There’s a balance. You don’t have to be a jerk, but you don’t have to be a pushover either. And I always had difficulty balancing that. I hated arguments because I had a fear that there would forever be a strike against me that I couldn’t come back from. But that’s not love.
I wrote in Facebook yesterday, that my father loves me unconditionally and has been ridiculously patient with me over the years. I was a curious, head-strong child who preferred learning the hard way. And he let me. But I always knew he was proud of me and that he thinks the world of me. In that post, I said my dad taught me that I deserve a man willing to fight for me, one who won’t take a day off or who will think the task of loving me is so daunting and intimidating and overwhelming, that he’d prefer to not even take a stab at it.
And these are the men I picked. They always went out with a whimper. And that always upset me. Why didn’t they fight for me? Why didn’t they try harder? But maybe I was the one who set the tone, don’t argue, don’t fight, be classy, move on.
But I got that wrong. Life is indeed a fight in itself, messy and tangled. There are tears and ugly cries, there are yells and screams that are not the end of the world, and that don’t mean you aren’t classy. Life leaves you with far more bruises and scars that fade with time, but don’t necessarily disappear, but it doesn’t subtract from the overall beauty of life. Those scars don’t negate our inner beauty, our true selves.
I was classy and crying alone in the dark. I was classy and falling apart on the inside or filling with rage on the inside.
There is catharsis is speaking your mind and your truth be it loudly or quietly. There is a time and place for everything.
I don’t place the blame entirely on me, because that’s what I would tend to do. But I did pick men who I allowed to have red flags and flaws up the wazoo and think it was healthy to love them despite of, but not give myself the same privilege.
And now, I know to do things differently.
He will love all of me, because I’m a rare and wonderful being to love. Even on my worst days.