We are grateful for this honest and personal reflection on relationships from our friend Margaret A. Brunson. Read her hopeful words on love below.
Although I have enough stories to create a pretty entertaining web-series, I choose not to write about romantic relationships, too often. For a long time, I’ve felt ill-equipped, and often insecure, to share anything that would be helpful to those seeking love; especially my sisters.
One side of my insecurity is grounded in the pervasive popularity of our very curated understanding of relationships. Many Black women who are single and desire to be married or partnered, are constantly consumed by beautiful wedding photos (#blacklove) or photos of beautiful couples traveling or working out together (#relationshipgoals). I’ve even heard friends speak of placing certain dreams (buying a home, traveling to an unknown place, etc.) on hold until they have a partner. I also see many of my counterparts suffer disappointment after disappointment but continue dating in hopes of finding the right one.
However, the other side of my insecurity is grounded in a sense of vulnerability with the assumptions and preconceived notions that accompany the reality of being both a “great catch” (intelligent, kind, successful, attractive, bright, funny, free-spirited) and a single Black woman.
Like many others who’ve dared to be in relationship with other flawed humans, I’ve experienced unfulfilled expectations, unrequited love, and emotional unavailability. I’ve hurt others and I’ve been hurt by others. Yet, I continue to believe in both the benefit and blessing of partnership.
As I ease into my 40th birthday, I’m finally beginning to wholly embrace the beauty of my journey as a Black woman; including this messy part. I’m beginning to speak out about my singleness and invalidate the myth that it is a condition of brokenness that requires a fix. I’m beginning to share that our hearts still have the capacity to experience, express and hold love in the absence of romantic partnership. I’m beginning to share my own stories of healing, with my sisters, as an act of solidarity in this common experience and to be a guiding light as we hold, in one hand, our hope for partnership and, in the other, a zeal to live a life of love, now.
Holding hope often feels like an emotional rollercoaster of hope. We dip down into doubt and uncertainty on the bad days, then, find ourselves in a high place of joy and gratitude on the good days.
On one of my bad days, during my daily meditation, I had a life-changing vision about my broken heart. As I meditated on and prayed for healing, I felt led to visualize myself sending a warm and bright light to my heart. As I went deeper into this vision, I moved closer and closer into my pain and quickly realized that it wasn’t a warm light I needed. I saw my perfectly healthy, beating heart sitting inside of a large glass case filled with sand. My heart actually wasn’t broken, it was trapped.
At some point on this annoyingly chaotic and unstable journey (or rollercoaster) of love, I’d tossed my heart into this case as an act of protection. In doing so, I was protecting my heart from being broken again, but I inadvertently imprisoned her; no love in, no love out.
In that moment of meditation, I visualized myself hammering the glass until it broke open. As the sand rushed out of the case, my heart began to beat faster and stronger. I gasped back into the present moment, took a deep breath and as I exhaled, I felt exhausted, but free. At that moment, I invited love in and committed myself to a regular practice of cultivating open-heartedness, so that love would freely flow to and from me.
Life did not instantly change, however, I consciously decided to do the work. While I know the work is different for each one of us, I want to share what my regular practice of open-hearted living looks like:
- Maintaining spiritual disciplines that remind me to center my identity on my connection to the Spirit/Divine and not my ego.
- Meditating, consistently, on words of affirmation that replace my old thought patterns about who I am and what is important. My favorite affirmation: I Am Enough.
- Challenging my flawed tendency to have all the answers by seeking counsel/therapy for support.
- Sharing my journey of doing hard things (overcoming divorce, unemployment, low self-confidence, and feelings of hopelessness) with other Black women to encourage my personal and our collective healing.
- Practicing rituals of letting go, such as writing down painful memories and burning them.
- Doing what I love, even if I have to do it afraid and/or alone: Dancing, traveling, trying new restaurants, going to concerts and parties, etc.
- Letting go of my prejudgment of men, opening my eyes and heart to their humanity, and going on pressure-free dates for fun.
- Maintaining healthy connections with my people as a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.
- Genuinely celebrating joy and excitement with those who find love and partnership.
- Accepting my solitude as a gift and using my time to care for myself and incorporate healthy practices: rest, eating clean, movement, communion with nature, journaling.
- Seeking meaningful and impactful opportunities to be of service to my community.
What am I saying to you?
If you desire and hope for a loving partnership, I encourage you to hold on to that hope. Simultaneously, I’d like to invite you to fervently embrace the idea that love is here, now.
Embrace the truth that every day, you are presented with opportunities to live in loving partnership with yourself, your community, and with a beautiful creation. We are here, now, to experience the fullness of all that life is and all that life can be. We will find peace, clarity, and joy when we capture the wonder of love and alchemize it into the supernatural strength that we need to live as flawed, vulnerable, open-hearted human beings.
May we see that love is here, now, and follow her, wholeheartedly.