Being a writer is a gift and a curse. The gift, naturally, is your ability to embrace in self-expression and serve others with your words, yet the curse is that defeating moment when you come across someone else’s work and wish their words were your own. To remedy this, I often borrow the words of my fellow artists and writers when I’m prolifically delinquent in my own ideas; after all, I’m quite certain this is why quotations exist anyway. And as you’ve noticed, the world is still orbiting as we know it.
bell hooks (intentionally non-capitalized, as she prefers for people to focus on the content of her voice, not her name) is one of those prolific writers that I have such a social-activist/feminist crush on, I’m so engulfed in my emotional affair with her that she can say anything and I’m on board. Fortunately, bell hooks is a feminist genius so I will never have to succumb to latching on to just anything, because she never falls short of delivering something extraordinary and provoking. For the purpose of this post, I can’t simply condense the many years I’ve invested towards my academic concentration in Women’s Studies, and why I’m obsessed with her, and why she’s so crucial to the feminist movement for issues of gender, classism, sexism and oppression; I do however wish to touch on the ideology of love that she references, rather than a feminist history lesson. I’ll save the bra burning for another day.
Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape. –bell hooks
To be quite honest, this time of year is a very odd time for me. I’m not very much into Valentine’s Day because I’m an advocate for love in all of its glory and essence limitlessly. I celebrated love yesterday. I celebrated it today. I’ll celebrate it tomorrow. In fact, I’m feeling generous so let’s make it 365 days this year (I’m not a sucker for consumerism, you get the point). But, this time of year is emotionally charged because towards the end of this month several years ago, I made a very major relationship decision that completely changed my life, and that decision collapsed.
My expectation of love failed.
But, here’s the thing after the aftermath of love’s fury. If you allow yourself to experience the silence after the chatter, the beauty after the breakdown, the solace after the destruction, this is where the momentum builds and what ultimately births the state of solitude. Although exceptionally subtle, once we release ourselves to being solitary, this singularity is where something incredible occurs–we merge into our identities without any exterior influence. We begin as a stranger to our mind, and then conclude as our best selves yet.
I like many others have made the detrimental mistake of pouring myself into another person thinking this is somehow an admirable quality worthy of praise and recognition. I’ve put other’s needs before my own only to find myself emotionally void and wandering, and not fairly certain as to how I had arrived at this desolate place. In this terrifying, dark position, the only person capable of steering the outcome of your life is you. And we have all fallen victim to thinking the opposite, that the quality of love is dependent on another being, another source.
I think what’s so central to what bell hooks is articulating is that perhaps, the most concerning offense of them all is not necessarily when one experiences a lack of identity, but when their sense of being is lost in the process. This is why the insecure seek out attention from the most questionable of places. This is why the broken choose to welcome miscellaneous distractions to compensate for the shortcomings within their own relationship. This is where the empty hunt and gather to refuel, and when desperation spreads like cancer.
The brunt of this pain is experienced at such a colliding force because we have failed at meeting our own needs, becoming one with our own self, matching our own vibration, and loving who we are in the transformation. What’s the most common advice you’re given when at a crossroads in a relationship? I am willing to bet all of Oprah’s salary that it’s, “Just focus on yourself.” I find it no coincidence that this remains to be the most recycled relationship advice, and although it’s unfortunate we are often ridiculously tardy in considering this notion, there’s a reason why the focus must inherently return to you.
This was the hardest yet most valuable lesson I ever allowed myself to ever learn. And it came amidst, pain, suffering, agony and bleakness. I searched high and low for other people to resolve my inner crises because I didn’t have to courage to trust myself. I didn’t even have the decency to even try to nurture myself, because I never properly developed a relationship with my most intrinsic, authentic identity. But, once I embraced the realization that I owed myself a great deal of emotional isolation in order to reap the benefits of restoration, everything shifted. This is when I had the courage to look at my life and realize I couldn’t be a prisoner of depending on anyone else to fulfill me regardless of a binding agreement housed on a piece of paper. After very careful consideration of the two lives I had the choice to live, one being years of disappointment and unhappiness, the other new, countless possibilities ahead of me, I chose liberation. And I am forever grateful that I granted myself a leave of absence in order to reach that clarity because my life has forever changed in the most enriching of ways.
It is respectable, commendable, highly encouraged to be selfish at certain crossroads in a relationship if you’re actually willing to receive love at its strongest and truest. Love should be treated as a vessel of freedom and expression, not an act of concealment.
Use love to lift you, not save you.