Someone Brave Enough to Love You
You are terrifying and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love
-Warsan Shire, For Women Who Are Difficult to Love
There is anger here. Blooming beneath the hurt. And it isn’t particularly a foreign concept. Someone once told me that they hoped that everyone knew the price they must pay for loving me. ‘It’s not worth it,’ she concluded. ‘It’s never been worth it.’ The sentiment no longer brings with it the pain that it did when it was uttered to me just over a year ago, but as with all things, life has a funny way of making sure the lessons needed to be learned somehow circle back around in another form (in my case, another person), and kick you in the ass as many times as it takes for you to finally learn them.
So when she circled back around, yes, I was wary, but I’d let go of my cowardice many moons ago. I was ready. I faced my lesson boldly.
She came and then she was gone again.
But this time was not like the last. She didn’t simply disappear without any explanation as she had done twice before. This time, she decided to leave, then come back a month later, when it seemed I was a bit too comfortable with her absence. This time, she did not leave without first trying to sink her claws into me and snatch back all that she had given, all that she had felt she was owed, trying to rip me apart in the process.
It might have worked. An older version of me might have let the acidity of her words seep in, let the pain burn through my already broken heart, let the shame creep up through my tonsils, melting down my words, let the guilt latch onto my brain and devour it. An older version, but not this one. For the first time in my life, this one knew how to stand all alone in the darkness and claim the space that I had earned.
Shadow work is lonely work. Oft times people will not understand it. They will take it personally, internalize it, assign their own meaning to it, and then criticize you for not meeting their expectations of you. I’m learning to stop explaining, because people only understand from their level of perception. You can love them fiercely, you can share with them the tools you’ve acquired during your own battles, teach them the skills you have learned along the way, tell them that they are enough, that they are worthy of love and softness and care, but if you only show them in a language that they don’t understand, if you don’t do constant battle with the demons whispering in their ears, twisting your words and actions into perversions, if you don’t match up to what their idealized version of you, of love, of care, of acceptance, of surrender looks like, you will always, always fall short.
I know this because I know the law of mirrors; I am through the looking-glass now, on the other side of the mirror and I see. I see. Everything that I have been experiencing at the hands of others over the past 4 to 5 years has been a reflection of myself. I assigned meaning and intent to words and actions without ever really granting full weight to the guilty party’s version of events. I stewed in my pain. I harped on betrayals. I was the victim of a love that I didn’t fully understand. I remember that pain and that anger and that frustration with not being able to put my own house in order. I see my past cowardice. I see my past need to project my own lack onto my romantic partner. I see the emotional immaturity which used to tell me that whenever my partner didn’t meet my impossible standards they’ve intentionally hurt me.
And now, seeing where I used to be reflected in another, like a portal back in time, the spectacle is difficult to look at. It’s cathartic in a way, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I know that pain so intimately. As I said, I know what it is to villainize another for my own shortcomings, my own emotional unintelligence, and for not meeting those invisible expectations set for my own sordid version of love. To think that I am the catalyst for that pain in another… it is a heavy burden to bear. But while I take responsibility for all that I have handled poorly, I do not, cannot, and will not take any responsibility for anyone else’s perception of me.
Even now, all I want to do is help her through. All I want to say is ‘I’ve been there. It’s ok. Everyone is not the enemy you perceive’, but I remember… I remember…
She has to do it on her own.
I gave her everything that I could, knowing full well that it would not be enough. I knew her expectations, knew her incapacity to manage such strong emotions, knew her history of ascribing meaning, intent, and malice to my actions without any true understanding of them. But I gave anyway. Because she deserved it. And because it is who I am.
I am not absolved. But then, neither is she. Neither are those who hurt because they are hurt. All I have given to her notwithstanding, I am a parasite in her eyes. All that I was willing to sacrifice… My safety. My penance. It mattered not. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t brave enough. It took her three years to give me what I’d been giving her since the very beginning, but somehow I am the villain in this particular story. I am the monster. Her monster. Sinking my talons too deeply into her when she’s been running through my veins for years. I am her monster. Destined to live in the hollows of her warped perception and her shattered reality. I am her monster, the scourge of all her failed attempts at humanity. She is absolved then, at my expense.
I am delicate. Something most people seem to forget. I am sensitive and vulnerable and raw and heartbroken. And I am angry. This inferno roaring through all other emotions, suffocating them, consuming. And unlike most, I do not bury my anger and believe it to be nonexistent. I do not label it negative or lower vibrational. Anger needs to be respected, processed, and nurtured, the same as any other emotions. Anger is a part of the vastness of our nature. It is a dark guide that is just as important as the light. And when you are radically present with yourself, when you are open to being the glorious representation of nature that you were made to be, you are not afraid of the dirt, the grit, the mess that you find in the darkness of unexplored corners. You embrace both the darkness and the light, the silence and the storm. And for a while I was the hurricane. Because she said that she loved me. She said she understood. The lies she told fell from her lips with the same ease as her cowardice. It is something I still fight to let go of, even though I knew that this would happen.
I, though no longer raging, am now left to ask of myself the tougher questions – those that come with the understanding of my deepest self, and the fruits born of shadow work:
Is my love so broken that it truly harms all that it touches?
At first glance, it certainly appears so. The connections I long to forge are deeper than most are willing to go. There are boundaries I somehow always seem to miss. Lines I do not understand can’t be crossed. And once that Rubicon is finally etched into stone, my intentions are simply irrelevant echoes ricocheting off of every angry carving of concrete fact. The dust which settles into mounds upon the floor, these are my lessons now.
I find myself on my knees, clawing through the sands of time and watching helplessly as the bloodied grains slip through my fingers. I have squeezed too tightly, yet again. I have failed.
I have failed.
But when you truly get to know yourself, your worth, your intent, and your heart, when you stand in the darkness and stare your shadow right in the eye, nobody has the power to use your mistakes against you. I, myself, am nothing if not beautifully human; a rose that grew from concrete, equipped with damaged petals, sharp thorns and a crooked stem. People have loved me for my petals but reduced me to my thorns. And that’s okay. I know now that it truly isn’t personal, no matter how hard they may try to make it so. I am simply a mirror reflecting back all that they are fighting within themselves, all that they feel they lack, they deserve, they have earned… I am a scapegoat for a world that has taken from them. But I give anyway. I give and I give. And I stand tall in my terror, my beauty, my strangeness… And I grow anyway.
I am a story still being written. And even though she does not get to write my summary based solely on the chapter she walked in on, even though she is no longer being offered any additional space beneath my cover, I will never exclude, scratch out, or burn the pages already granted. I will never not love her. That is not who I am.
I could speak ill of her… I could break her down, analyze her, list the instances of hypocrisy, of irony, of cowardice, of abuse… I could expose her ego for the entire world to see, but that would be far too easy. Instead, I have chosen to defend my essence from those who pretend to adore me yet simultaneously move to extinguish my flame. I have chosen to claim my rightful space in a world that seeks to reduce me to the sum of my missteps. I have chosen to love, and to give, without the need for anything in return, but with the understanding that I deserve a multitude of reciprocity nonetheless.
I have chosen to love the broken ones, with the full knowledge that they do not possess the strength or the courage or the understanding required to love me fully in return.
But that… That is truly their loss.
The gift of my authenticity, my love, my essence, my firelight resides within me, and I know now that only those who are unafraid to stand unapologetically in their own darkness will ever be able to recognize their own divinity being reflected right back.
I know now, that not everyone will be able to accept what people like me are capable of giving. Our expansion will make them uncomfortable. Our willingness to bare our souls for the world will be threatening to those afraid of knocking down their own walls. They are simply not ready for all that they are, all that YOU are, incapable of handling all that we can be. And that is not our fault nor our responsibility. That simply IS.
I know now, to never ever ever again allow anyone to step into my space presuming to know my heart better than me.
I know now that our only job is to love. Love fully. Love unconditionally. Love fiercely. And while you are loving, something amazing will happen. Eventually, without any warning, you’ll happen upon someone brave enough to love you too.
And you’ll be ready for it.
“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche,