I have spent a large part of my 5-year relationship asking myself if this is what I want? For a long time, I believed that the relationship that I had was exactly the way that I wanted it to be. I was happy because people perceived me and my partner as happy and ‘normal’.
Even though my partner and I told each other that our relationship was based on honesty, and I believed that I was being honest outwardly, I came to realise that I was not being honest with myself and therefore, obviously not being honest with him either.
For someone who has always been different and othered, I began to recognise a need in myself to be normal. I wanted to be a normal partner, a normal woman, a normal couple. I wanted this so badly. Being othered all your life in a space or community or country that violently others, can be taxing on one’s centre. It can be traumatising and ultimately damaging to one’s sense of self.
Slowly, through a process of fear, anxiety, much conversation and pure exhaustion I have begun to recognise that I can not and never will be normal because the idea of being normal is skewed towards being white, economically secure, heterosexual and ‘annoying’.
Incredibly, my partner has always seen me. Even when what he saw scared him and caused him insecurity, he looked still, loved still, held still and listened. It is difficult to hear something that does know how to be heard. I did not know how to make my sounds, colours, gestures, truth. But he was there, waiting to notice and ready to learn.
I have been very lucky, my family have always been true lovers. The kind of people who love you even when you are most cruel and most broken and ugly. Those types of people who love even when you can not love yourself and do not know how to colour your understanding of the word.
I have seen this love and have been held in this love and have come to recognise in myself, that this love grows internally. It comes from the self. And it goes when the self is not strong enough to hold it. But it can always be found again when one wants to find it. Self-love.
I was unable to recognise how I wanted to be loved because I was not allowing all of me to know all of myself. Society does not have a word or a box for a black woman who has white parents, is pro-black, poor but rich in education and possibility, bisexual/pansexual, outspoken, outwardly brave, inwardly afraid, often confused, always excited, enthusiastic, but so tired. Where is that box?
I had to ignore so many parts of myself to exist in this world. Only now, after 5-years of sharing my world with one person am I learning how to live in this world as a whole person, true, honest and in-love with myself. I am now learning how to love myself.
I have reached a beautiful place in my journey of self-love where I can tell my partner that I do not want to be around him and he knows that what I mean is that I need space and time to be around me, all of me. And he can look me in the eye and know that it has nothing to do with him, and know that his ego can choose not to be bruised or broken because he too, needs to develop his true sense of self.
I don’t know what love is; if I truly have it or share it.
When I spend time with myself and feel whole alone, I come close to what I conceptualise love as. It is a pretty awesome place. Terrifying, but incredible. Like the feeling of almost drowning or falling. Like the feeling after having to be brave and surviving.
Do I love?
Yes, me first.
Image: Saatchi Art Artist Cor Lap; Painting, “White flowers on black woman”