Life I Know

On her latest CD titled SongVersation, India Arie has a track titled, “Life I Know”.  The first time I listened to the song I felt as if she had written the song for me.  Perhaps she and I are kindred spirits; perhaps not.  Nevertheless, I’ve listened to the song repeatedly and this is what it spoke to my heart.  The song begins . . .

I have kept this secret
From myself for far too long
The truth is, I’m confused
About where I belong
I’m not a mother or a wife
And I’m living such a complicated life
And this is the life I know

I’m confused about a number of things, but one thing most earnestly.  First and foremost, I am confused as to why so many good women seem to be alone—without a mate/spouse.  I am not just speaking selfishly, but also for all of my great single female friends, who can’t seem to get a break, can’t seem to find someone to compliment them, and/or can’t seem to enjoy the desires of their heart.  We mean well.  We are capable of loving and caring for a deservedly willing participant.  And we are sincerely desirous about being a supportive mate.  And this is life we know.  


My life is full
In some of the most important ways
But empty in the core
At the end of everyday
I lock the door, turn out the lights
And I climb in bed
And it’s all alright
Cause this is the life I know

There is truth to India Arie’s words.  My life does have a sense of fullness.  I have a career that I enjoy—most days.  There is a sense of satisfaction and purpose behind what I do and I appreciate having the opportunity to do just that—teach.  I have friends and family, far and near, that provide me with comfort, encouragement and unconditional love.  I busy myself with things I am passionate about: reading, writing, being active, learning, etc.  However, there is a pervasive emptiness that resonates when it comes to the love department.  I’ve spent more of my adult life alone (without a companion)—ruminating, reflecting, and re-emerging from love’s disappointing moments.  All too often I climb in bed alone desirous of the time when I will share the space with someone who wants as much to be there next to me as I do him.   When the opportunity presents itself, I hope I’ll be mature enough to not be bothered by his snoring and drooling and vice versa.  Cause this is the life I know.


I cut the grass
Take out the trash
And fill the gas
In this house
I’m the mom, and the dad
What tomorrow brings
I do not know
Yes, I know it’s unconventional
But, It’s the life I know

I too have been solely responsible for household and vehicle maintenance/upkeep.  While many a woman (myself included) throughout history has proven that she is capable of performing the same tasks as her male counterparts, there are moments in a woman’s life when she isn’t trying to compete with a man, but instead desires to be consoled and comforted by her man—should there be one in her life.  And therein lies many a woman’s dilemma.  Too many of us have found ourselves single after years and years of dating.  Yes, we can buy and maintain our own homes.  Of course we can service our own vehicles.  We can make our own money to take care of ourselves, and children if we have any.  However, just because we are able to do those things doesn’t mean that we don’t want a man in our lives who can and will handle the responsibility of those details.  Yes, women desire to be taken seriously and treated with dignity, but we also want to be catered to and cared for because our hearts are delicate despite the defiant demeanor we extol to the world.  But, it’s the life I know. 

We all have a secret pain
We all have a tender place
We were born to want more
And no I’m not meant to live alone
But this is the life I know

Yes, this is the life I know

Yes, there is a soft spot that I shield (and I’m not the only one is this predicament—I am convinced that men do this too).  My heart is tender from emotional turmoil and disappointments.  Yet I yearn to expose that tender place to a man who is able to accept this perfectly imperfect woman.  And no, I don’t think we were meant to live alone.  I Corinthians 7:2 (Amplified Bible), states, “ . . . let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband”.  If this word is truth, then we are not meant to live alone, we are meant to share a life with another individual.  But the life that I know and have known has been one where I take care of myself.  Yes, this is the life I know. 

All my friends
Are having families of their own
I’m still waiting for
The perfect one to come
Almost four decades in

If I’m blessed, then I’ve got five more to go
And this is the Life I know

I sometimes feel like the last unmarried and childless thirty-seven year old woman.  I have friends and acquaintances from high school who married early and now have grown or near-grown children.  And then there is me—still single twenty years later.  Some of these women are even on their second marriage and I haven’t even had an opportunity to make good on the union once.  I feel like a late bloomer.  Moments like this I begin to feel defective.  I sometimes entertain thoughts that I have a cosmic flaw that has inhibited me from knowing lasting love, marriage, and motherhood.  There have been too many days where I have wondered if the opportunity will ever present itself.  Will I ever get myself together so that a man can appreciate the woman that I am?  While time seemingly hasn’t been on my side—per se—I am hopeful of the prospect of the next five decades if they are granted to me.  And this is the life I know.


Sometime it hurts like hell
But I walk away with a song
And a story to tell
And this is the life I know
Yes, this is the life I know

I know the hurt of many years.  I know how it feels to hope and believe in something and someone, but that something or that someone doesn’t come though for you.  After each tumultuous love experience I have certainly walked away with a story to tell—some funny, some hellaciously funny.  I have also walked away with a renewed sense in the power of love.  Yes, despite the fact that I have been disappointed, I cannot help but want to fall in love again and again.  It matters little that I have experienced many a disappointing love experience for I will forever yearn for an opportunity to open up my heart to another human being.  Yes, this is the life I know. 

And this is the Life I know

The life I know has been one of a constant trek uphill.  The life I know is one where I find myself ever-waiting for my perfectly imperfect mate.  And this is the life I know

(A Final Note–pun intended) The Sound Track of My Life

 This is the first of many pieces in this writing category–The Sound Track of My Life.  I borrowed the idea from a teacher friend (Mari A.—thank you!).  She introduced me to this writing activity as a creative and autobiographic mini-lesson during the TBAWP (Tampa Bay Area Writing Project) Summer Institute.  Though I have yet to share the lesson with my students, I am selfishly enjoying the cathartic power of this writing modality.  The Sound Track of My Life affords me with an opportunity to select a song that has made a deep impression on me and make annotations about the joy, laughter, insight, peace, rejuvenation, solace, etc.  Music is truly a universal language that has the power to move us to higher heights, uplift us in times of trouble and settle us when it’s been one of those days.  I hope that you take a moment to think about songs that have carried you through life.  Perhaps you’ll take a moment and listen to them one more time and revel in their transformative power.    

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Perfection is a Fallacy

On Bishop T.D Jakes’s BET breakout show “Mind, Body, and Soul” a recent episode featured four successful black women.  These women were representative of the larger population of black women across the United States who have found themselves: successful, yet single.  In the midst of the conversation with these four women Bishop Jakes gave each woman a box.  I eagerly watched as they each opened their boxes to find a basic hand-held mirror inside.  I was moved by the “gift” as I had figured it would be a mirror as many of us—women in general–need to do some serious introspection.  No, I’m not clairvoyant, but it seemed like a fitting gesture given the movement of the conversation.  And while the mirror is symbolic of the journey that these women (and many others) have been, or will be embarking upon, what really grabbed my attention were the words that Bishop Jakes shared after the gifts were presented.  He went on to note, “Everything that you need to find the person that you seek will only be discovered when you look in the mirror.  When you find out who you are, you can really make the choice you need.  It’s not what you have, not what you own, not what you look like, but who you really are.”

Bishop Jakes’s words resonated with me because I’ve struggled to believe that the “treasure” I inherently carry inside of me has been enough—for my family, my friends, nor my romantic relational endeavors.  Over the course of my thirty-seven years of existence, I have doubted that my love, my passion, my dedication, my forgiving nature, my dogged-determination—AKA–my grit, has ever been enough to capture a man’s attention, let alone sustain it for the development of lasting love.  For too many years I discounted my worth and as a result I have self-sabotaged a few good relationships and wound up in far too many that should have never started.

Nevertheless, what moved me to tears was what the Bishop said after the aforementioned words, “Careers change, credit scores change, checking accounts change.  Because a person doesn’t have good credit doesn’t mean he’s not a good man”.  As the crowd chewed on that profound nugget of information, the proverbial light went off in my brain.  For as far back as I can recollect, I have desired to happen upon a man who’s “got it all together”.  I’ve been hoping to light upon the man whose credit isn’t as jacked up as mine.  I’ve been seeking the man whose spirituality is secure and unwavering.  I’ve been hoping and praying that God would send me someone, who unlike me, isn’t a work in progress.  And all the while I’ve been missing the lesson that was being taught.  NO ONE is perfect.  How unfair of me to want from another human being—something that I myself cannot even give.  The absurdity of my expectations in a mate had finally hit me upside the head with blunt force.

Bishop Jakes followed up that statement by saying that when we discredit potential mates based on their flaws (be they credit-related, spiritually-based, or otherwise) we “. . . may be ruling out champions in hiding”.  His words brought tears to my eyes.  Not because I felt sorry for myself–being a single unmarried woman with seemingly limited prospects for companionship, but because of the realization that I had passed over some “champions in hiding” over the course of my thirty-seven years of life.  Thinking back to my last relationship, the young man represented what I wanted on paper: he had great credit, he was gainfully employed and working to advance his career, he didn’t have any children, he was college educated, he was spiritually/religiously-minded, he was a gentleman and he courted me.  In all my years I had never been treated so wonderfully.  Here was a man who opened doors for me.  Here was a man who gave of his money freely.  Here was a man who prayed with and for me.  He was a modern day enigma among young black men.  However, while he presented well, in the end he broke my heart.  After fourteen months of courtship he dropped me like a bad habit and without a second thought.  And while there were seasons of bliss throughout those fourteen months of courtship, the fallout from the breakup left me emotionally decimated.  It has taken me months to regain my emotional composure.  But I can now say with confidence that I have gained insight from that heart-wrenching experience.

And what do I know now that I didn’t know nearly two years ago?  I know that a good man isn’t defined by his credit score.  I am however aware of the fact that a good man is defined by his level of sustainable commitment.  A good man doesn’t have to lavish you with dinners at nice restaurants; he can lavish you with his undivided attention.  A good man doesn’t have to walk through the doors of the church in a three-piece suit; he can and will come to God just as he is with a contrite heart and a desire to be a better man than the one he was the day before.

The most sincere and significant takeaway from Bishop Jakes’s show came when he stated that, “We have the tendency to want the other person to be a finished product, while you give yourself the grace to evolve.”  In an instant I had self-diagnosed my dysfunction.  My last string of relationships had been about being matched up with a man who was a “finished product”.  But in gaining the interest, attention, and affections (albeit inconsistent) of this type of man, I found that they lacked the heart, the grit, the gumption, and the level of commitment that defines the “ride or die” man that I yearn to grow old with.  With this new level of revelation I hope and pray that I can appreciate a “champion in hiding” if/when one such great man should enter my life.

Another one of Bishop Jakes’s salient points is that many of the items on a woman’s “laundry list” of desirables in a mate are really “conditions”.  And given the fact that conditions often change, it is unfair to judge a man’s potential on “conditions”.  We need to take note of each other’s character in order to determine if the people in our lives have the potential to build and develop—to grow old with us.  It is true that, “Marriage is about growing together, not growing apart.  You really can’t choose who you want if you don’t know who you are.”  I’ve been holding out for that ONE man who isn’t afraid of my bad credit, my bad judgment, my bad habits, my bad attitude, my bad choices, and even my bad hair days.  And only now am I able to own up to all of my faults and imperfections in a way that I wasn’t able to do in the past.  For years I hid behind my imperfections—physical, emotional, and spiritual.  And to some degree, my hiding behind the fault in my stars inhibited the development of a few potential love relationships.

So what do we—successful and single men and women–need to do?  We need to first take the time to get ourselves together.  I am often reminded of the Gospel classic, “Sweep around your own front door/before you try to sweep around mine.”  As cliché as it may appear, that song is a timeless classic.  By nature women are nurturers, but we need to nurture the little girls inside us.  And I think men need to nurture their ability to be providers—sustainers.  We need to love ourselves just as we are.  We need to own up to our faults and shortcomings without condemnation.  The Amplified Bible translation of Romans 8:1 notes, “Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.”  I do not believe we were given life to pursue this idea of perfection.  I earnestly believe we were given life to actualize our greater selves and to inspire one another to greater heights.

Furthermore, we need to begin to appreciate the other perfectly imperfect beings scattered across the globe.  The seemingly “finished product” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  S/He is an apparition.  I used to believe there was a small pool of good men left in the world.  There was a time in my life when I believed that all the good men had been scooped up in their late twenties and early thirties.  But my evolution has led me to believe that there are plenty of “champions in hiding” waiting on a good woman or a good man to allow them to step up to the plate, to rise to the occasion.  If we want a man/woman to appreciate our being perfectly imperfect, we need to extend the same to him/her.  We don’t have it all together.  Many of us are serious works in progress who want someone to appreciate our possibility of being more than.  After all, there is something wildly exciting about the prospect of journeying along someone’s personal evolution.  I imagine that it is the desire that drives many to procreate.

Finally, we need to extend some patience.  We’ve all heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither was any worthwhile relationship.  Relationships take time.  We need to take our time getting to know people.  While the idea of being matched up or boo’d up seems inviting, we can’t just jump into situations with people.  First of all, people have feelings and jumping in and out of relationships can wreak havoc on our emotions.  Secondly, when we slow things down we get to appreciate the individual we are standing next to—and vice versa.  It takes a lifetime to get to know someone and patience is certainly a helpful additive.  One of my favorite anonymous quotes states that, “Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait.”  In realizing that perfection is a fallacy, I have grown to appreciate that some things are worth that wait.  That being said, I’m no longer waiting for the perfect man to ride up on his steed.  I’m waiting for an opportunity to grow old with a “champion in hiding.”

Notable “Nuggets” from Bishop T.D. Jakes:

 1. “You can’t marry your paramedic.”

2. “The glue that holds people together is in the heart, not the head.”

3. “Relationships are real tough.”

 

And my question for you is this: Have you been overlooking a “champion in hiding”?