This post on lessons in love began with a conversation Erica and I had. As I like to warn folks before they settle down with the posts, this one is long. You should stop here and make that tea, coffee, wine or some combination thereof and then come back.
A little about me… From 2011 until about May of 2014, I wrote posts about love on my blog From Rae With Love. Somewhere around that time, life was about to become more complex – read, real as fuck. More complex than I could write about at the time.
The thing with writing about your life is you’re often torn between how much you can and should actually say.
Honestly, I’m past that point. Now, I like to look at it from a journalistic perspective. Before I can write about something fully, I might need to be more than a few days into a situation and have a bit of time behind me. Luckily, I have a bit of time behind me and prayerfully, much in front.
Here’s the thing about blogging in real time and about your life – it gets old. We don’t always admit it, but it can be difficult. And tiring. And intrusive and hurtful and then it gets real and even more intrusive. Then I realized I wanted to talk about other things besides love. I’d written all the words that I had at the time. I couldn’t blog about things in real time. You see it wasn’t just about romance. It was about love and relationships and our place in this world.
Then something amazing happened to me over this good year of 2014 – this series of cataclysmic changes and shifts. They’re called paradigm shifts. But if feels bigger than that. Hardship and tragedy and loss (perceived and real) opened me up in a way I hadn’t found possible.
In the midst of not being able to express all of it in words, I picked up my camera and began to document the world in a different way. A good friend of mine encouraged me, that I could still tell stories. This time it would be with the camera.
The camera became my saving grace: A way to mediate and still capture moments without having to explain myself or what I meant when I said [insert random thing about love and loss and sex].
But what’s really important here is that this year, this good 2014, the year that answered questions – tested mettle and gave me my ass in a jar, offered amazing and gentle reminders. Let’s talk about the gentle reminders from this year on love:
Knowing your value will determine your role in your own life
Now this is really important. Because it controls many of the decisions you’re going to make. In order to get good, real and true love – you need to know your good, real and true value. This means not accepting less and not taking someone who has the 2 out of 5 qualities you most want. If it’s not 4 and he doesn’t show up like he should, you don’t have a winner. You have a place holder.
Place holders waste time.
You can have amazing fun with them and they’re great if you want experiences, etc. Not so great if you have goals of intertwining your bills and problems and getting a new last name and most importantly – building a life together. While this is an important lesson when it comes to romantic relationships, it’s important to understand boundaries, needs and value as it applies to work and business relationships, family, friends and yourself.
Most of life’s experiences and how we move through life often depend on our “perceived” value of ourselves.
The whole we get what we think we deserve absolutely was spot on. How do you get there? If you’re not there already, sometimes you have to have those Joy Luck Club sort of scenes where it all comes flooding in. For me? Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have friends who’ve been telling you for years. It’s been those moments of being privy to the way someone treats me and then realizing the way they treat someone else. Or someone leaving. Those things can make you crazy if you let them.
But when you know your value and your worth (which mind you, is absolutely fucking priceless) it will change who you allow in your life, what capacity they’re in and even – what you give and do for yourself.
Value means knowing what you’re worth to you. Knowing that you’re worth everything to you because you is all you’ve got – even if that you isn’t the best, isn’t the prettiest, isn’t the most successful. Someone else’s value doesn’t surpass yours. Remember that… [also, read this post here by Heather Havrilesky – it got me together on self-love and cherishing ourselves]
You are your most important asset.
Please re-read the value paragraph and think about it. You are your own best friend and most important asset. This shit is rote and cliché and just over used. But it’s true. Going to let you in on a secret – I thought I needed someone else to tell me it was ok to be me. That it was ok to live the life I’m living. I didn’t.
Next secret: a good portion of your life (inner and outer) is spent in dialogue with yourself.
It also means you’re alone. Possibly more than you’d like. Your own company and the things you tell yourself are important. I recommend working on the inner monologue. That being said…
Being alone isn’t bad.
So this means, you need to get used to being alone. It might happen. Would you rather be alone or married to someone
worthless fuck who makes you miserable 90% of the time? I’m not here to predict your future. I can’t. I can’t even predict mine. What I can tell you is when you have moments alone; it’s not the end of the world. Learning how to manage through that, appreciate it and love those moments is a key path to finding wholeness. Please note: this is also why you need a hobby or several and a couple of passions. Don’t know what those hobbies are? Fine. I didn’t step back into mine until I was 35 and then another one at 38. But try a few things out.
Real love is shown in real moments
Real love is shown in small actions, answers and everyday activities. Believe it or not, I just realized someone I adore, is lukewarm to me. It happens. How did I find out? His actions. It was the quiet and small moments that are the telling signs. On the other hand, I had a friend of mine who donated her vacation time to me just to help me pack and get things moved into storage – in another state. That’s love. Showing up, being available and being of service – those things are love. Pay attention.
Focus on yourself. Don’t let anyone distract you from your plan. Don’t wait for anyone.
Have you ever found yourself missing certain opportunities because you invited someone to do something, and either they said no or they never got back to you? Were you waiting around for them? Have you ever wanted to get some things done, had a plan to travel or head back to school and then you meet someone that wants you to do something different? This is where you need to make sure you’re holding tight to your own plan and destiny. Not to be swayed from your own road, path, goals and hobbies.
My year’s lessons were mostly on self-love. Isn’t it amazing how God tosses us what we need? Until we master those parts of ourselves that need work, that need repairing, we don’t always get to move forward.
Value and focus were and have been two of the most difficult lessons to learn for me. Once I hit new highs (after the lows) and greater understanding, new opportunities began to open up. So if you’re heading through a turbulent time – as we all do – be encouraged. There’s hope for you yet. You have to believe it.
Rae Mathis is a photographer and writer based in DC. Find her at her latest creation, www.untitled1975.com, or at an undisclosed location taking photos.
Rae’s been my big sister in my head for a few years now after finding and actively following her blog, From Rae with Love. There’s a voice that Rae has that I relate the most to when discussing love and on her new space, Untitled 1975, she adds amazing photography with a pinch of her old work that still hits close to home. Rae, I have to thank you for being the source of inspiration behind a ton of posts on this here blog and for your wisdom. God always seems to work through you at the most opportune moments.