Love and such

3. run

run away.
my strongest instinct, one dwelling in the back of the mind for most of my life. a coward’s term for victory.
my confession: i have always been a runner. an active runner.

2004:

the boyfriend i have spent most of the last six years with, following, leading, loving, fighting, cheating, healing, mothering, pulls out a ring, an old one, a small diamond at the apex of two helixed gold bands, places it between us as we sit, 22 and 24, at dinner under dim lighting and square tables eating mid-priced italian. the air smells faintly of canned tomato sauce.
you gon marry me girl?  he smirks in the way he has perfected. it used to be charming; he is handsome, precise goatee on skin the color of butter, perfect white teeth. this smirk repels me now.
my eyes narrow, try to decipher whether he is being serious or not. you can never tell with this one, the one who joked that our 3lb premature daughter currently lying in NICU on a respirator looks like a tiny cute alien, a deflated skin-colored football. the one who stupidly slapped my brother’s swollen, stitched knee two days after osteosarcoma-induced surgery replaced it with metal, laughed before he realized he’d hit the damaged knee, not the good one. wrong knee, fuck! my brother screamed, ordering him out of the room. i cringed into the ground.
why do you always have to play so much? grow up. i say, annoyed. our child is touch and go, each day i await the news that she is doing better, or worse.
i’m not playing. he says, scoots the ring box my way.
in this moment i see us, young and in such dysfunctional love, the kind that invites secret outside lovers inside ever so often, the kind that argues on busy main streets, the kind that involves police and threatened restraining orders and interventions by concerned parents.
no. i say, pile a heap of pasta onto my fork. our daughter doesn’t make it.
in the end, i cry rivers.

2008:

i am lying naked on the bed in the room we share watching the ceiling fan turn, a room directly across the hall from his mother’s. body freshly shea-buttered, skin soft, shiny and toned. my hair spreads behind me, fluffed and fro’d into a giant black halo. the photographer with the quiet demeanor and wavy hair stands at the edge of the bed with his Olympus clicking at me, commemorating the admittedly beautiful culmination of daily three mile runs and hair growth vitamins. i barely register this anymore. this is not a photo shoot, this is him doing what he always does: collecting photos of me living life. these photos, i secretly delete hours later. when he has taken what he deems to be enough he climbs onto the bed beside me, plays with the new belly ring sliding this way and that with the rise and fall of my breathing.
what would you say if i asked you to marry me?  love, concern, uncertainty play on his features, invade his usually even voice. then he smiles, broadly, like getting it out was the hard part, and he has just decided it is a good thing. he means it.
i turn my head, look at him propped on one elbow beside me. i suddenly feel naked. i reach for the discarded towel at the edge of the bed.
i thought you never wanted to get married?  i ask. he’s joking, surely.
we have spent hours debating the merits of marriage (me, purely to be contrary) in which he posits that traditional marriage is solely a financial decision, beneficial only for a woman. no matter the fact that we live in his childhood home, across the hall from his mother, to save money; the fact that he is quite literally a genius, but chooses a safe hourly job despite being 6 years my senior.
well, i want to marry you. he says.
i realize what it is, the smell permeating the air between us: fear. the fear of loss motivates men to throw hail marys, one last lob of desperation to anchor you to their future. this particular future includes moving to a home on the same block as his mom, five minutes from his grandmom, five minutes from another aunt. i see many cold michigan winters in this future, my dreams of california living, of london living, of exploring a jet setting writerly life, vanish. i wonder how he ever convinced me to move into this house.
no. i say.
i move out over the next two weekends, he helps me load the truck. i do not cry.

2010:

i call him superman. the man with the skin so soft it feels like the flesh of the avocados he eats daily. the brailled superhero abdomen chiseled from intense workouts. we volley looks of love and songs of praise between each other like we are starring in our own romantic comedy. i want to remain ensconced in this bubble, where we write poems to one another and he plays me songs on the piano. the security of now. i travel often, to wherever he is at the moment, wherever work has taken him, visit for a week  at a time while i edit and write for various online entities.
i am calling it a break year to friends. the truth is, aside from this tall, muscled distraction, it is a broken year. school became too much; i walked away. home became too much; i flew away. blogging became too much; i abandoned it. food became too much; i stopped eating.
 i am existing, happily, simply. i know life cannot persist like this, suspended in time, but i am trying to find my pen, write my way out of the calamity.
i do not mention any of this to him. it is embarrassing. the Muze with the “magic pen” is no longer writing. the lifelong healthy athlete is no longer eating. the girl addicted to learning has quit school.
of course we will get married. he says one day in a hotel room in a place with palm trees swaying outside the window. we have loved through many elements: snowstorms in upstate new york, desert land in texas, blankets of humidity in georgia. i don’t keep track of the wheres anymore.
i nod superficially,  knowing it is only a suggestion, not a concrete, proposed plan. nothing to fret over. a week later, he repeats himself, louder, more urgently.
we can get married and you can move here.
he is states away, i am traveling wherever the wind takes me. my mind, my heart still slightly in the grip of someone else from whom i am currently running. the lies begin. when i must be hospitalized for the eating disorder that has taken over most of my life, i lie. blame it on an accident. the visits to his arms become further apart.
if you ended up pregnant, it’d be great. we’ll get married then. 
this spirals me. i remember a tiny infant in NICU, the grief of burying the 3lb life after 45 days. i run then. do not return calls. when i travel to his state, i do not engage. i do not cry.

2015:

we are headed east for an epic two week Christmas vacation; his home to my home, traveling with our tiny dog. the brainiac whose bass deep voice still makes me swoon four years later suddenly drops to his knees amid the luggage surrounding us, pulls open a small black box containing a large black diamond. i don’t hear most of the spiel he has prepared. i am stunned.
again, my mind tells me this is a joke. despite, and maybe because of recent conversations (we need to break up or get engaged, something has to happen; we are stagnant), i was deeply convinced we would break up amicably, go about life. surely we would not end up married. relationships end, this is how it goes. three years, five years of fun until the ride ends and we both find something more exciting.
but no. this is real. he is proposing.
my mind prompts me to say yes, realizing i have no reason to say no. also realizing this is my fault, that he didn’t understand the breakup part of those conversations was much more real to me than the engagement. the huge rock slides on my finger. i smile, kiss the chiseled face i have grown accustomed to waking up to.
5am the next morning, full panic sets in. the flee in me kicks up so strong i cannot breathe. i flood the inboxes of my closest friends, fear bubbling over and spilling out as hatred for the giant black diamond i now have to wear around. my mom, in only the way a mom can, calms me, reminds me that this is a great thing, and my ring is beautiful.
when is the wedding?  questions begin to populate my phone and conversations with friends over dinner. how is the planning going?  they ask. just over a year later, the answer is still i don’t know. i fight the strong urge to run when these questions come, to go start anew in some other part of the state, country, world.
i know this is not healthy, this fear i have of having an anchor, of being rooted to one thing. so i put stays in place, people that tell me when i am being irrational, and when i am not. the people that advise no sudden moves, to just think, to breathe. i am grateful for those people, and for my own self-awareness. i’ve accepted that this is just me; and i must look for the signs of run.

On Finding The Grey

for as long as i can remember, i’ve been a natural rebel.

if there was a rule, cultural or gender standard, i would usually unintentionally contradict it in some way. in elementary, i wanted to run on the boys track team because the girls were too slow for me, so i did. in high school, i was the person frantically writing essays an hour before they were due, only to see a proudly red-markered “A- Excellent Job!” beaming from the top of the page a few days later. the one who decided i was done with high school about five minutes after receiving the big blue envelope that marked my early admission to Spelman (the only school i applied for– a decision which counselors constantly scolded and warned me about for not having a Plan B) in December of my senior year. i went from ranking 3rd in my class to 10th because after that point, much of my supposed-to-be-in-class hours were spent out on the common lawn reading books i’d neglected to properly check out of the library.

for many years i lived by the “just jump” mentality, armed with a unending supply of optimism and the knowledge that the universe usually conspired for things to somehow work out in my favor (see: The Alchemist). later, people chose terms like ‘free spirit” to define what i hadn’t known was an unorthodox way of approaching life.

not least of all, relationships. (more…)

these three words…

“wait. you just said love.”

“i know.”

“does he know this?”

“no. i can’t let him know that first!”

this conversation with a friend about disclosing feelings of Love to her boyfriend (such an odd word for an adult male, but whatever) made me think about all the times i’ve held off from saying these three words, sweet and simple, short and kind (if you do not know this song, please click so that may i direct you to the nearest Stevie Wonder wonders 101 class), to someone that i felt that way about.

Stevie raised a good point with that song. when was the last time they heard you say, darling, or best friend I Love You?

the simple act of letting someone know they are Loved and cared for is a powerful thing. Love can heal, sooth, create, destroy, overcome. possibly the most powerful four-letter word we know, so often used insincerely by careless posers, and withheld by sincere but fearful carriers of its essence. even in years-old relationships, Love can become a word lost in translation, shuffled in and forgotten within the daily lives, demanding bosses, school recitals, deadlines and traffic jams. as i get older i’m starting to realize how important it is that Love isn’t lost in the trail mix of life.

an hour of conversation later, she decided that she would finally tell her boo of four months how she feels … without waiting for him to say it first. i felt a little hypocritical encouraging this, being as though i’ve struggled with whole saying I Love You thing for some time now, but even a drunk can tell you why alcoholism is bad, right?

i think with any romantic Love, there exists a small bit of fear. giving someone that ‘power’ over you. being open and vulnerable to another person’s whim of emotions, it’s scary. the courage lies in doing/saying it anyway, scared or not. so when was the last time you told him/her how you felt? would you ever say those magical three words first?

if i had never Loved you.

if i had never Loved you.

this thought sails on the usually whimsical winds of my mind ever so often. my memory is a picky and selfish woman, keeping what she needs and having no regard for that which cannot benefit her.

she keeps this thought. this idea of if i had never Loved you.

there is good. there is great. and then there is a connection that digs so deeply inside you that imagining it severed would be imagining yourself less a limb. less a heart ventricle. less a brain lobe. simply picturing yourself minus this person is almost unfathomable. you have no idea how you survived the calendar before their daily presence. you have no memory of life before them. you want no future memory absent of them.

if i had never Loved you, stays with you.

even when the unthinkable occurs and you find yourself in circumstances that leave you less a limb, a ventricle, a frontal lobe. you feel as though your heart might just simply burst out of your chest and spill its contents onto the floor, someone’s laugh and smile and tears and words soiling your newly polished hardwood. you find your heart was pumping them, alone. the very essence of them sustained you daily. even then, you try to sweep up their shattered contents of your heart and piece them together in your memory, so that you might survive another day.

if i had never Loved you now becomes a mantra of all the pain you’d have avoided.

and then one day you wake up feeling … alright. you notice your limb growing back. you realize you survived.

my fickle mind discards any pain. disposes of any anger that might have collected in the rumination piles.

months pass, and it’s refreshing not to have someone consume eighty percent of your brilliant brain space. you feel creative. you feel free. you realize just how much of your life was spent absorbing the sum of someone else and converting it to negative energy.

if i had never Loved you remains the sole thought. the sole piece of the discarded puzzle. if i had never Loved you remains a sticky note on the frontal lobe that has reemerged.

but far from a thorn, it becomes a fresh drop of dew on the rose that grew out of the hardened concrete that was my heart.

If i had never Loved you. this thought reminds one that if you hadn’t gotten through, if you hadn’t noticed the book cover, opened it, ripped all the pages out and wrote something more beautiful, i might have never contemplated it possible.

if i had never Loved you forces me to accept the fact that i wouldn’t know what it is like to have someone Love me almost as i Love myself. to have someone share deepest fears, pains, regrets, joys, highs, and unbelievables, and mirror that emotion with such exactness, any ignorant soul would have sworn it happened to you.

some people are in your life for a brief season. some people are in your life forever. and some are in your life for as long as it takes for you to discover what you’re capable of. to show you how far your heart can stretch before it becomes something altogether new.

if i had never Loved you now reminds me that i’d never know it was possible to let another human inhabit your soul, your mind, your spirit, yourself, in every way.

because i Loved you, lends the comforting knowledge that i can Love the next with less fear. with more courage. with a deeper understanding. a stronger connection. with more acceptance. more trust. more vulnerability. delicately and fiercely in the same breath. with an open heart. with all of me.

if i had never Loved you, guarantees that i will be able to Love my next Him consummately. that i will be able to accept a consummate emotional involvement.

because i now know that there is no other way to Love.

picket fences

when i was a little girl, my friends and i used to play “house” (not nate dog’s version. RIP), “wedding” (in which some little boy would begrudgingly walk down the sidewalk aisle and have his friends laugh at him only because he liked you — not much changes with that when they reach adulthood, eh? lol), “kitchen” and all those other games that socialize little girls to want to grow up, get married and be a good stepford wife.

only thing is, i never saw myself married, even as a young girl. it was just fun to see if i could really get a grubby little boy who clearly wanted to be anywhereelsebutthere, to stay still long enough to mimic the tired-from-work husband who came home to a dinner of mud pies, rock potatoes, plastic chicken, and grass salad, ready to eat.

as i got older, this really didn’t change. even when i started having crushes and daydreaming about some “knuckle-headed little n*gga” as my dad so nicely referred to them, i still didn’t see being married as something that i’d ever be okay with. they say every little girl/teenaged girl/woman dreams about her wedding, and this might be true, because i could definitely see some fabulous beach wedding with lightweight white fabric blowing in the wind as i walked towards some faceless man, but the actual marriage? i would nearly break out in hives at the thought of being someone’s wife.

i always dreamed of traveling the world with some handsome man that would also be my bestfriend. i dreamed of adopting two (twin) little boys. things one would associate with marriage, but never actually being married. lol

“forever never seems that long until you’re grown…” sorry andre, but i realized that at age 14. forever is a very long time.

funny thing is, i’ve spent most of my dating years in (long) serious relationships, and i actually think i’d be a pretty awesome wife. still, each time a boyfriend would start talking about baby bumps, forever, and what city we should live in to raise our kids in a serious manner, i’d panic. heart and thoughts would race, and before i knew it i was subtly and subconsciously self-sabotaging (that alliteration was not on purpose. lol). eventually, we’d break up. and while there are myriad reasons why the relationships didn’t work out, i can’t discard the probability that my “freak out” had a small (or big, depending) part in each one, eventually. i’ve heard it all: i’m not open enough to truly Love someone, i can’t accept a good thing (let me just say that the whole “good” part is VERY debatable though), i’m scared to lose, scared to fail … etc.

which brings me to present day. a couple months ago, i was watching some reality show about this married couple and i found myself smiling and admiring how happy they were. even when they argued, i appreciated the way in which they did so, the way in which he genuinely wanted to work out whatever was wrong. it was sweet.

in that moment i dared to look to the future and picture myself married. i did, and i didn’t panic. there was absolutely no fear. i must say, i was proud of myself. lol.

one of my favorite books ever is Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story, by Michael Datcher. a memoir written like fiction, it bounces back and forth from his childhood to adulthood, slowly (and poetically) piecing together the journey he took in overcoming his psychological barriers to reach the point of being able to accept that he could indeed have the white picket fence and beautiful wife he’d always dreamed of, but never thought possible. (great book. read it, love it, and then tell me what you thought of it if you do.)

i’ve been a little of the opposite. i’ve always thought it possible, and maybe even unavoidable, but never had rosy dreams of cooking, cleaning and saying “hello dear” everyday for the rest of my life.

so while i know that any man whom is actually brave enough to marry me will be in for a adventure of a lifetime challenge (a [mostly] pleasant and exciting challenge, but a challenge nonetheless), i can now say i can look and see a picket fence in my future, and not break out in hives. and that, ladies and gentlemen, is progress.

…and somehow, i always lose.

i hate arguing. with anyone.

particularly, with men.

i hate arguing with men because i am incredibly inept at the art of scathing words and whipping necks and icy attitude.

i know what you’re thinking, a black woman that isn’t good at having an attitude? no way. lol.

yes, tis true. i suck at being an angry black woman.

i’ve known this for a while, but i noticed this blatantly the other day while witnessing one of my girlfriends arguing with her man on the phone, and being in awe at how the instant-evil just flowed so easily off her tongue and gave him a verbal beating.

this inherent suckiness at arguing is why i loathe any sort of dissonance with any male i remotely have any sort of interest or uninterest in. i simply do not possess the attitude or quick-tongued temper for verbal wars, and thus try to avoid all situations that involve tension if possible.

i’ve learned in 10 or so years of dating that you can tell a great deal about a man by the way he argues. if he is passive-aggressive, he’s usually not the person i’d go someplace where i’d even feel remotely unsafe with, because he usually will run and duck before i do. if he is a “yes” man and doesn’t assert any type of disagreement at all ever, i don’t trust him and i feel he just might construct a bomb and leave it under my bed one night. if he is a pseudo yes-man, meaning he finds the fastest path to the end of the argument by just nodding and telling me i’m right, he doesn’t really care about the issue or me, and probably just wants to see me naked. if he is an effective, intelligent communicator with a strong sense of self and highly opinionated, i am probably swooning … and losing the argument. every.single.time.

the problem with arguments with men like that is that nothing ever gets solved. i state my opinion, he states his in a much deeper and more authoritative voice, tells me i’m using “chick logic” or some variation of nonsensical thought, and i logically find it hard to counter his well thought out argument, thus, losing.

a typical argument would be something like this: i’m mad. man is confused. i state why i’m mad. man says it’s ridiculous. man gets bigger attitude than i have for me even having the gall to get mad about something so “petty/minuscule/unimportant” (even though it’s not most of the time). i try to counter. it doesn’t work because man’s anger has blocked his ear canal to all tones even close to that of my voice. me and man don’t talk for a few days. man calls after a few days not to apologize, but to say this feels wrong and we shouldn’t be like this or some variation of flowery words. i swoon. man and i make up. issue remains unsolved.

in essence, i’ve been arguing with assholes most of my life? i don’t know. lol. i just know i’m really really bad at winning 80% of the time. my ire-o-meter just doesn’t go high enough for me to unleash wrath or even stay mad long enough to “win” a war of the wills.

what i am good at, is apathy. disinterest. being silent. and that’s usually the default that i revert to, which only leads to an even bigger argument, usually.

am i the only one that sucks at arguing? any suggestions to help this deficiency? lol.