When I agreed to participate in Jasmine Lamb’s Love Sparks Blog Festival, I had this idea that I was going to write about the evils of Valentine’s Day and how it plays on the insecurities of those not in relationships on or near February 14th, particularly women. But then I thought, that’s not particularly loving at all and instead of adding energy to negativity, I figured that it’d be better if I wrote about the goodness of real love.
For most of my life, I thought that love was something ethereal; it would blow in and out of your life at will and sometimes make you a tad bit crazy. I knew that people loved things, like that fabulous pair of shoes or that brilliant idea cooked up over cocktails. I knew that people loved each other, but I also knew that they could stop loving as well. For me, there was no permanency in love; it was, then it wasn’t. Oh, I’d heard songs about never-ending and ever-lasting love, but I’d never truly seen it. Well, not until April 20th, 2004 at 4:59pm when my daughter was born.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loved. My parents love me and so do my assorted friends, but I had never truly loved until that moment. Oh, I’d been loving. I’d expressed loved, demonstrated love, and had even uttered the words “I love you”, but I still hadn’t loved.
For the 29 years before that moment, I stumbled around mimicking what I thought was love: the words, the gifts, the gestures — the idealized notions of what love was supposed to look like. How did I know that it was love on that warm Tuesday afternoon in April? At the moment my daughter opened her eyes, looked at me briefly, then promptly went back to sleep, I, for the first time, began to love myself. I fully understood what M. Scott Peck meant in The Road Less Traveled when he says:
…love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.
And there I was, willing to do anything and everything to make sure that this 7 lb. 11 oz. bundle of joy would flourish into the self-actualized person she was meant to be. For me, this meant tackling my own demons and making sure I began to heal my own past in order to nurture her future.
I was ready to extend myself.
Since that day, I have slowly but surely worked on all the things that were hindering my growth. Before we left the hospital, I said a silent prayer making a commitment to her that she would always see her mother working to live consciously and authentically. I was going to be her first role model and I had to show her how to love herself by first loving myself.
It hasn’t been easy, but most things worth having aren’t. It’s meant delving into the issues that existed between my own mother and me and resolving them. It meant making peace with the sexual assault that catalyzed my spinning out of control eventually leading me to the ICU and the Psych Ward, all before I was 21. It led me to making some tough decisions about my marriage, eventually leading to separation and divorce.
I was ready to extend myself.
I had to heal. And in between diaper changes, breastfeeding, and smothering my daughter in kisses, the fragments of who I was began to come together and present the bigger picture; the one with the caption letting the world know that “I am love.” My love for myself and my daughter began to extend even further outward. Like Parker Palmer wrote:
Community cannot take root in a divided life. Long before community takes external shape and form, it must be present as a seed in the undivided self: only as we are in communion with ourselves can we find community with others.
I am no longer divided. I continue to extend myself.
It is because of this love, that I decided to make a film about Black girls that explores some of the same issues I faced as a young woman and then decided that I needed to try and do whatever I could to help empower that same community both near and far. I will continue to extend myself, both inward and out to to the world. Each day I work on extending myself, but it isn’t always easy in a society that devalues people who look like me and never falters in reiterating that I am not worthy and that I am unlovable. But I know that’s a lie, because on April 20, 2004 at 4:59pm, I realized that I am love.