IMPETUS FOR GROWTH

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Self-love is a funny word.

It was not us alone who helped mold our sense of self. It took years of turmoil and tribulations to realize healing could not be done without acknowledging the hurt that existed. Chips on shoulders exist because something eroded their surface with something heavy. Attitudes are not always bad ones — until they are.

As young children, we are resilient. We fall in gravel, get stitches on our foreheads and lips, and wear our band-aids proudly like badges — until we don’t. We begin pointing fingers at those still with band-aids, or the scars that lie beneath. we expect a young child to develop into an emotionally-aware, mentally developed adult without discussing dates or developmental milestones. We never got to speak about what hurts, because maybe, at the time, it didn’t. Nothing did. Those bright bandaids looked badass on you. You just wanted to match with your friends.

Once you rip those bandages off, you sometimes find out your wounds are raw. The skin underneath is broken. This time, you need adult bandages, but are afraid of fingers being pointed at you. You allow your wounds to grow infected, and you allow the hurt to grow. The infection worsens, and you are faced with the option to completely sever the source.

These wounds are made silently, slowly, seductively. Hurt feels therapeutic when we are angry at the world we were born into. Hurt is hurt, after all — it is not supposed to feel like anything other than pain and discomfort. Anything that hurts at extremes can throw our bodies into shock, and we may never recover.

We must ask ourselves questions periodically, and frequently, about what we are doing to actively heal our wounds; check in on your scars, reflect on your battles. That is the hardest part — admitting to ourselves that we were bent, worn thin, hurting. We do not want to be perceived as weak, but resilient; but, who bounces back better than a woman who has shed fresh tears? Who redeems more than a man on his knees trying for a new chance?

Am I really hurting right now? Yes. I am still living yes. Are my thoughts still mine? Yes. Is this heart still mine? Yes. I assure you, you will be fine as long as you check in with yourself. Daily, weekly, monthly. Set up time to just reflect on what hurts, why, for how long, and what you are doing to make yourself “ not sad.” Of course, I wanted to stray away from that word choice, but ultimately we are all battling different enemies — External, internal, perpetual, temporary.

Self-love. Such a word which places so much emphasis on the “self” part, without realizing sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes talking to others to realize what you do not like or want to change. It takes help to establish healthy patterns and make changes to self-help techniques of coping. We are not alone on this earth, no matter how friendless we are. There is someone feeling what you are feeling (or pretty damn close) based on their tribulations and experiences. When you realize how human hurting is, you may be able to realize how human it is to experiences periods of self-hate and utter dissatisfaction with the self, and life.

Hurt is as human as growth, with physical growth coming naturally and easily. What do we do to accelerate the growth within ourselves? We find a catalyst for growth and we cling to it.

Here is a short poem to wrap it up:

how often we plant seeds

and expect them to grow with no nutrients.

it is not the sun that we need, we are not nearly plants —

we are vessels of this earth. we need light.

knowledge, insight, and epiphanies.

epiphanies based on new knowledge.

only then, can we grow?

RESTART

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“It was a Monday night when you told me it was over, babe, and by the Friday night, I knew that I would be okay.” You heard it from Sam Smith first, and you will not stop hearing it until you are truly okay. Of course, he was speaking about a relationship with a lover, but surely I can extrapolate the lyric to the relationship I have with myself.

I lay in bed. It is 4:10 in the morning and my mind is awake for the day. In actuality, my mind decided to skip slumber overall and focus on much more pressing issues – impending doom. My mind conjures up the most (seemingly) irrational thoughts and hurls them towards itself. If there wasn’t an image of myself at my worst already in my head – it I’d there now. Tears, tears, tears, and more tears come pouring down from tear ducts. To tell you the truth, I do not know where they come from. My mind whispers, “girl, you ain’t shit!” and somehow my eyes know what to do next. Cue the downpour. Cue the storms. Cut off the lights, because this is going to be an episode.

A few hours later, the episode ends. The credits play, and catchy gameshow tunes come on. You are okay. You survived yet another epic night (at the expense of your sleep), and now you are on edge. The sun shines and you just want to say “fuck you, sun.” Even though you know this is (also) irrational, your mind says “Nah sis, you’re straight. the sun is a bitch. fuck the sun, it ain’t ever shined when you needed it!”

For the rest of your day, your eyes remain squinted and your patience splinted. These invisible monsters are intruding on my life. Sitting on my shoulders during my political science courses. Whispering while I am attempting to hear how to construct lesson plans. In the midst of class, my textbook begins chanting,

“You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator!”

Inside I begin drowning. I feel tears welling up inside of me (again, I am not sure how or why I feel like balling my eyes out), and I begin to rhythmically tap my foot. Beats, melodies, crescendo, rifts, bass floods my head. I sway my body to the music playing in my head and tune back into the lesson for the day. For the moment being, I am not cloudy. I hear nothing but the instruments and the vibrations of artistic voice. Lyrics fall upon my lips, uplifting thoughts finally penetrate.

I smile.

My classmate leans over and asks, “are you okay? I’ve noticed you shaking your leg for the past thirty minutes.” I want to tell him, “no I am not okay, but I am okay for right now”, but instead I reply softly, “Yes, I am just fine.”

It was Monday night and Friday night every day, sometimes. But I would be okay, I assured myself. Just let me restart.

YOU SHOULD GO AND LOVE YOURSELF

“You can’t truly love someone if you do not first take the time to love yourself.” These phrases sound like canned commercials with the only chance of implementation lying with the practice of baking and bronzers, but love has no shimmery look.

I’ve tried wearing rose-colored glasses in the dark and it did nothing to shield me from what was to come. I remember – I was sixteen and in my first (what I thought was serious) relationship and nobody could tell me a damn thing about love. I knew all about love already, I had it all figured out on my own, and I knew who I wanted to give all my love to for the rest of my life. Well, I believed I knew what loves meant and what it meant to embody love.

I had bruises, a broken spirit, and a tender heart to show for it. I spent too many nights soaking pillows and throwing fists against walls to not know what love is. This energy I was investing in this relationship and on this person was inadvertently draining me and taking my attention from other important life goals. This must be love.

Because what else is all this destruction for? I fought off demons to maintain these feelings. I stabbed at old wounds to revive what existed between the two of us. Swinging moods and arms became routine when the family would ask me about my love. I would tell them, they just do not understand what it feels like to love so hard it hurts. They kept ensuring me that it was my own love I was looking for.  Sneering at anyone who dares say I am incapable of loving just because I don’t “actively practice” self-love, I found myself wanting to keep these feelings of love under wraps. I wanted to work on the love between him and me in silence since everyone was just so doubtful that this could be love.

It was love because I said it was love. Do not even think about interjecting your wisdom saying about seeking love in the wrong places – I have heard them before.

And finally, the silence was broken by cries from things others than love. Dishonesty, malice, hatred, uncertainty, jealousy, made themselves known just when I believed love encompassed them all.

Love was not hurt, but sometimes love hurts.
The time I spent loving him, was actual time spent hating myself. I don’t know how but my dislike for the way I was treated by him only highlighted the things I didn’t like about me. It wasn’t until I awakened in a room that wasn’t mine to recognize a face that wasn’t mine, and a spirit that wasn’t either. Who are you?

Years later, I am still learning the basics of dating myself. Taking myself out for ice cream on random nights, reading my favorite novel, crying my favorite cries. Putting makeup on simply to take photos and tell myself I’m hot shit.  Dancing in the mirror or in store aisles. Singing-off tune to r&b. Writing down my feelings for everyone to somehow feel but never read. Setting standards. Setting expectations. Setting curfews. Making trips, making moves. Kissing my wounds. Smiling at my own jokes. Shuttering at my own smile. Talking myself out of a black hole. Telling myself it will be okay. Placing ice packs on bruises. Putting gloves over sharp fist.

It is difficult transforming from an abuser of yourself to a lover. The hardest person to get along with and sustain a healthy, lasting love, is yourself. when love has a look, it will be me.