This afternoon on my way home from work, I was listening to a favorite song of mine by Lauryn Hill, called "I Used to Love Him". It is a song that resonates with many a woman who has been the victim of a broken heart. Although Lauryn Hill recorded this song in 1998, many of the young women I work with think the album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" is a classic that still speaks what's in their hearts. I tend to agree.
"One situation involved a young man
He was the ocean and I was the sand
He stole my heart like a thief in the night
Dulled my senses and blurred my sight"
Who doesn't know the feeling of being swept away in a rush of emotion for another human being? Many times, loving someone makes it difficult to think objectively and make rational decisions. The phrase "love is blind" comes to mind. How many times have your friends told you, "I don't know what you see in him/her?" Yet, something about the person you love awakens a possible "sixth sense" within you - a more spiritual, supernatural sense that "sees" what others don't see about the loved one.
"I chose the road of passion and pain
Sacrificed too much and waited in vain
Gave up my power, ceased being queen
Addicted to love like the drug of, drug of a fiend"
A recurring issue in the Woman II Woman support sessions I facilitate is the guarded heart. The pain of being heart-broken - many times precipitated by the absence of a father - causes so many women to shut down emotionally, not allowing others to truly experience their genuine inner beauty. Sometimes, walls erected to protect the heart calcify to the point where we're no longer able to identify the emotions we begin to feel when we're asked to engage in relationships. The decision to engage is a courageous one. Love brings pain as well as passion. The giddy happiness that first accompanies love can, sometimes very quickly, turn to fear and anxiety. Expectations begin to weigh down the relationship to the point where you might think, "If I don't get what I expect, I won't have the upper hand." It seems that relationships become power struggles rather than partnerships. Yet, once the protective walls around our hearts come down, we struggle with setting boundaries, compromise more (which sometimes is a bad thing), and can't seem to give up the pain - because we're waiting for the passion to come back.
"See, torn and confused, wasted and used
Reached the crossroad, which path would I choose?
Stuck and frustrated I waited, debated
For something to happen that just wasn't fated
Thought what I wanted was something I needed
When Momma said no, then I just should have heeded"
After experiencing more pain in a relationship, we reach a point where we have to decide if this is the road we should be traveling. Often, we spend more time debating the pros and cons of a relationship than we do actually experiencing and enjoying the relationship. Our expectations, and others' expectations for us, can lead us to believe a relationship is supposed to go in a certain direction. Many times we look at what we consider to be successful relationships and say, "I want what they have." However, we don't see beyond the surface of others' relationships. We don't know what they're struggling with, and take it from me: every successful relationship has been through at least one major struggle. As the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."
Many times we engage in relationships without taking the time to reflect on the difference between our wants and needs. I might want someone to call me everyday, but do I really need it? Would three times a week of genuine conversation be more akin to what I need? Is it more important to receive gifts, or to know that, in your greatest time of need, that person will be there for you? Sometimes we're in the wrong relationship for us because we're so distracted by what we want that we never stop to think about what we really need. Our own lack of self-reflection causes us to feel frustrated. Only true awareness and introspection can move us out of the rut caused by the disappointment of unmet expectations.
"Misled, I bled till the poison was gone
And out of the darkness arrived the sweet dawn"
Bleeding is the emission of blood from the body, whether internally or externally. No one can bleed for you; only you can emit blood from your own body. Bleeding can also be considered draining, and in the case of love, time alone, in anguish and pain, can have a cleansing effect. Once the bleeding caused by brokenness diminishes, the healing process can begin.
"Father, you saved me and you showed me that life
Was much more than being some foolish man's wife
Showed me that love was respect and devotion
Greater than planets and deeper than any ocean
See, my soul was weary, but now it's replenished
Content because that part of my life is finished"
This particular lyric hits close to home for me. For those who haven't followed my blog posts, I was previously married. It wasn't a very long relationship, and truthfully, I was young and lacked the wisdom that comes with age and life experiences. Not only was the man foolish, I was foolish as well. I got married without really knowing and understanding what love is. I thought I needed to be married in order to find those qualities that were missing in me. So many times we're told that our companion in life should balance us; I wouldn't disagree with that, but we don't often understand that "balance" means steadiness or equilibrium. It doesn't mean that whatever we're missing will be compensated for by another human being. That's asking too much of someone. There's always a risk that the scale is more weighted on one side than the other. When my marriage ended, a chapter of my life was finished. Losing that "love" gave me the desire, the hunger and need, to find true love. I found that unconditional love in a relationship with God. I realize, in every interaction with everyone in my life, there is a capacity for hurt and disappointment to occur. With God, there's no abandonment. There's no pain. There's only the contentment of knowing that there's Someone who's always there for you. As Hebrews 13:5 states, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
"I see him sometimes and the look in his eye
Is one of a man who's lost treasures untold
But my heart is gold, I took back my soul
And totally let my Creator control
The life which was His
The life which was His, to begin with"
Let me be transparent (can I be anything else?): I have been contacted by several men from my past, especially over the past three years or so. Some of these men broke my heart. Some of their hearts were broken by me. Apparently, and of course I speak only from personal experience, as men reach their mid- to late 30's, they seem to take time to reflect on some of their more genuine relationships. This is not to say that I was always as self-aware and introspective as I am now (a counseling degree doesn't hurt). It is to say that I wasn't as calculated, or manipulative, or guarded, as a life of broken relationships can cause a woman to become. I gave my heart irresponsibly, irreverently and with abandon, to some of these men. Some of them were little boys, and I didn't know how to be anything but a little girl who liked, or was liked by, those boys. Some of these men are unhappy in their marriages, and contact me to reminisce about the innocence of young love. Some of these men have experienced so many broken relationships with women in general, that they think going back to the one who first made their heart beat quickly is a way to start fresh; the heart's "do-over". Some of them, I think, might just have memories of me that make them smile. I have to admit that it is flattering to be contacted by the men in my past. However, I often wonder why there are so many from my past, but none (past or present) pursue a committed relationship with me (either because they're married or emotionally unavailable). I might be reaching, but sometimes I think God allows these re-encounters so that I could look back at who I was when I was involved with these men and remember who I am at my core. Before some of my heartbreaks, and the ultimate heartbreak of divorce, I was more willing and able to share my heart. I have a heart of gold. Everyone I know deserves the truest version of me. And the best way for me to be the truest version of me is to allow my Creator control over my life and my heart.
"I used to love him, but now I don't"
The difficulty in reuniting with past loves, for me, is having to reconcile who I was with who I am now. I can't throw out all of my experiences and reject the wisdom that comes with a broken heart. I need to let down my guard, but I need to protect myself as well. I want to be that innocent, loving, caring young girl I once was, but I still encounter men who forgot what it was like to feel. I'm dealing with men who have been so hurt and disappointed that they might even be looking to hurt that little girl in me who once broke their heart. However, the need to protect myself, so strong and essential in the ten years since the breakdown of my marriage, is being overcome by a need that is much stronger: the need to love and to be loved. I used to love him, and heartache, bitterness, and disappointment make me want to say "now I don't". But I would be lying.
Thank you, Lauryn Hill, for speaking what is in my heart, and the hearts of many women who have loved, and now don't, but still want to.