On Loving and Writing

Photo by Dalal Nizam on Unsplash

Originally published in Aug. 5 Sunday Kind of Love newsletter

I.
Loving you is something like swimming in still waters and driving with the windows down. Easy. Calm. Even. Smooth. I once believed that love was more of a roller coaster, with skyrocket moments and precipitous drops. Perhaps that is why I was so afraid of it, convinced that any sort of love would come complete with complicated emotions and an ongoing rumble of anxiety. I only ever knew relationships that involved waiting with bated breath for text messages that only sometimes arrived and squeezing substance out of small exchanges. My sole sign that things had crashed and burned came from a stream of silence on the other end—forcing me to read in between the lines, pour a glass or two of Cabernet Sauvignon, listen to SZA on an endless loop, and pick up whatever shards were left.

II.
But, then I met you. I used to think people were full of it when they would say “And then you just meet someone.” It seemed to oversimplify the kind of shift I imagine would only ever be tangled, difficult, and impossible to find. But, everything I once believed about love shattered and is now being to rebuilt. I’m still putting the bricks together. I’m still remembering to stop holding my breath or waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m still savoring the taste of “I love you” on my lips. I’m still soaking up the way it sounds coming from your end. I’m still learning how to be kinder and softer, unarmed and not so sharp at the tongue. I’m still learning the responsibility that comes with holding another person’s heart in your hands. I’m still learning. My sweet love, I am still learning.

III.
I fell in love with you early on a Friday afternoon, in a one-bedroom apartment on the other side of the world. 74 Franklin Street in Adelaide, South Australia. It was gray and overcast, the kind of day destined for curling up in a ball and flipping through television. I would fly to Sydney later that night, but not before I sent you a voice memo, with the phrase “I’m falling in love with you” cutting in somewhere around the one-minute mark. We were two weeks in to the trip by then, with another three remaining before we would see each other again. The weeks we spent apart did not necessarily make us, nor did they break us. As we both would probably put it now, we survived and are glad it’s over. But, with an ocean and a 13.5 hour time difference between us, I learned that there is something unwavering about you. There is something that lifts me up and keeps me steady. Perhaps this is not the stuff that fairy tales are made of. But, I do believe it’s the stuff that lives are built on and upon which lasting commitments are forged.

IV.
The Buddhist says if you meet someone and your heart pounds, your hands shake, and your knees go weak, then that’s not the one. So often, my past relationships felt like walking across dilapidated drawbridges that could give way at any moment. High highs and ground zero lows. I’ve now learned that love is much more balanced and rooted. Love should not leave you flailing or fighting for air.

V.
I spent five years writing about heartache and aching for connection. It seems strange to say that finding love has now made it more difficult to write, at least in a public forum. It’s strange, but true. In fact I’ve been doctoring these words for a few weeks, afraid to relinquish them to any of the online spaces that I’ve abandoned for the greater part of the year. I’m trying to uncover where I go from here—how I transition from lovelorn to in love, from lost to a little more found—and still manage to tell stories that resonate, roar, and ring true. I’m not sure if I even want to tell some of these recent love stories, now that they have shape, soul, and another person I admire attached to the end of them. I want less of my life out there now. Some days, I wish I could collect every morsel I ever left on the Internet and take it all back.

VI.
And I wonder if some of the magnetism and magic of my writing from these past few years was because heartache is so easy to understand; pain is a story we’re drawn to because we can so easily identify it in ourselves. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of writing about past lovers just so I can still sound like the same girl and writer I used to be. I’m still learning how to write from the vantage point of the woman I am now, a woman who feels a bit more grounded, somewhat more judicious, and a lot less willing to surrender her life to the Internet. I’m uncovering the voice of a woman who is searching less and discovering more.

VII.
Joy and love aren’t always easy for others to access. But, isn’t that the work of a writer, to take any sort of human experience and distill it from abstract to accessible? Maybe that is where I begin again. Love is a much more complex language for me to write in—harder to learn firsthand, tough to scribe in, and even more difficult at times to understand.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Allure of the Mess

I wanted to believe that we could live somewhere above labels and the law. When I think of it now, it all seems so juvenile and silly, two adults with deepening feelings for one another and a refusal to put definition around them.

“We’re both adults; we know what we’re doing and not doing,” I told you on our second date. But by the eighth or ninth date, only one part of that sentence remained true. Yes, we were both adults, but I no longer had any idea what we were doing.

Somewhere in the realm of 1 a.m. Australia Central Time and 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, my boyfriend and I dig through my jagged relationship history. I tell him about you. I mention you and the lawyer who lived in the basement and the guy who flew in for the weekend. It’s the end of my first week in Australia, and he and I are on one of our longer calls, not limited by the confines of one of us needing to go to work or go to bed. He doesn’t understand it, the way I’ve willingly subjected myself to emotional mazes, mixed signals, and dead end roads with most of the men I’ve dated. I don’t quite understand it anymore either.

“Why are people drawn to messy situations?” he asks.

I try to explain it, almost in the interest of defending myself, until I realize that there is not much more than a heaping pile of dirt and bullshit to defend.

And yet, there is something alluring about the mess. At least that’s what I once believed. I believed there was something beautiful and boundless about an obscure relationship that still contained all of the vivid emotions of a defined one. I don’t know if I lived in the grey by choice or by default; looking back on it, I’m sure it was some combination of the two. Either way, that amorphous spot became my home and fueled the narrative I wrote repeatedly for five years. The mess became the magnet of my writing over the years, a gravitational pull for all of the women who had fallen for someone among a field of red flags. There we were, united on common ground with the burned love letters of half-baked lovers shredded beneath our soles.

Maybe we stood on that ground because we so hopelessly believed in sparks, even after they subsided and turned to ash. Maybe it was because we were convinced we could change people and the way they were wired, firm in our belief that the connection we forged with them would compel them to commit to us. Maybe it’s because we fell in love with the idea of bad boys, even when they proved they were still years away from being good men. Maybe it’s because the emotions pulled us under and we didn’t know how to come up for air. Maybe waiting for texts and holding our breath became reflexes, and we couldn’t learn how to live any other way. Maybe it’s because we scoffed at monogamy, realizing how on trend it was, and still is, to remain detached while sifting through an endless assortment of options. Maybe we were scared to admit that the idea of one life with one person sounded beautiful or terrifying or some blend of both. Maybe we were afraid to let someone in and show them our scars; maybe we only ever knew how to be someone’s sweet escape. Maybe we were even more afraid that our one life with our one person would never come.

I’d like to believe I redeemed myself from the mess. I’d like to think I walked away and bid it farewell because I became a stronger woman, resolute in what I wanted and the kind of affection I was willing to wait for. This is the story I like to tell myself.

But, I never really escaped the mess. Something greater and more solid just found me first.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Responsibility of Being Loved [By Yetti]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

Next up is Yetti. 

Yetti is the thunder. From penning positive affirmations on post its to tackling self-care long before it became a trend, Yetti brings a boom to everything she does. Our relationship as bloggers-turned-friends is one that I’m most proud of. Because where we are today reflects mountains of personal evolution, intentional growth and shared understanding. Yetti is also a web wizard; when my blog crashed over the weekend a few months ago, she stayed on the phone with me, working tirelessly to get some semblance of my site back up. I’m incredibly grateful to know her and to have grown with her over the lifespan of Twenties Unscripted. I hope you enjoy her piece, “The Responsibility of Being Loved.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“I feel like you have one foot in and the other out when it comes to us.”

He sat across from me in my office chair, and I sat in our new bed. He was doing that thing he does–requesting a response by searching my face. I, on the other hand, made a point to avoid giving him the eye contact I knew he was looking for. It had been two days since the blow up about our dresser but the blow up wasn’t really about the dresser. Doors were slammed, voices were raised, and after two days of bare minimal conversation, he decided to break the ice.

“Us ending is never a thought of mine. But it’s clearly a viable solution for you. Maybe I’m just naïve, but breaking up isn’t something I see for us.”

Again, I avoided eye-contact. This wasn’t Petty Yetti coming out to play, this was Yetti ashamed that this conversation was even happening.

We sat in an uncomfortable silence. Him staring at me. Me staring at our comforter. He was waiting to be proven wrong. And I was trying to build up the courage to deliver it. He was waiting for me to state that this wasn’t the case. And I tried to, I really did, but my pride couldn’t give him that satisfaction. Not because what he was saying was definitely true, but because letting him know that I have my feet firmly planted within our relationship means dismantling a wall around my heart. Giving him 100% means stripping myself of the protective layer I have struggled to maneuver into place. Standing hand in hand with him in this relationship means standing with him bare, mind and heart wide-open.

It means I must come undone.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I responded, finally making eye contact. He got up and left the bedroom.

 


 

I’ve come undone for a man once before. Laid out all of my secrets, my insecurities, my fears, and my dreams. I gave him my all. I trustingly stuffed it into his palms where he promised to protect it, and he ruled my heart from my late teen years to my early twenties. I loved that man more than I loved myself and he knew it. And he abused it. And after transitioning from heartbroken to full blown crazy and conniving (which I take absolute full credit for), I created a distance I should’ve created many moons ago and made a promise that I would never put myself in that kind of situation again.

But I landed in Love’s Den once again, wanting to prove to the universe that I can have the magic of love while remaining absolutely whole in the process. To be honest, I had slowly become comfortable with the thought of being single indefinitely. Dating was hard, and managing the anxiety that came along with it was even harder. But then he happened, and he happened swiftly. He came in with the intention of a relationship, bypassing all that extra hard stuff of trying to figure out what we were and if we both were on the same page. In fact, I played coy the first couple of weeks, dodging the exclusivity statements instead of simply going with the flow. I had prepared myself to remain in control no matter how our situation may pan out. I had trained myself to protect my ability to bounce back and be okay if love decided now wasn’t the time again.

But being in control for one’s own selfish reasons and being rooted in a relationship doesn’t mix well. It’s a recipe for delayed failure.

 


 

“Your love language will be understood by those fluent enough to listen and reciprocate. It’s not your duty to teach people how to love you.” – Billy Chapta

After a few more hours of uncomfortable silence within our home, we ended that argument with make-up sex. No secondary conversation was attempted, and he never did receive those words of assurance he sought after. He accepted it as this was how I needed to protect myself. He accepted it as another thing Yetti needed to be skeptical of, even though he knew he didn’t deserve it. And as he made peace with my inability to think of forever, I promised myself to be better for him and to love him the way he ought to be loved. I promised to make peace with my insecurities of happily ever after. I committed to learning to unravel with him while not losing me in the process.

I guess this is a part of the responsibility of being loved: making sure the love that ties both hearts together is pure, selfless, passionate and fearless.

Yetti, creator of yettisays.com, provides the uncensored truth sometimes served with a side of wit, sarcasm, and a few curse words. She is passionate about storytelling, mental health advocacy, and striving to live ones best life always.

 

Field Notes From the Fallout

Photo by Pedro de Sousa, www.unsplash.com

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

One. You must let your heart break. Your strong will and your rock solid resilience are not a match for the tornado winds of heartache. Your precious hands will not hold your heart together. So let go. Tilt back. Fall free. Crash hard. Resistance does not serve a heart that’s already splintered.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Two. Your heart knows things long before your mind will accept them. Your heart, your intuition, that feeling you get at the pit of your belly – those are your strongest compasses, and yet you still question them. But your heart knows. It always does. Your heart knows the very moment a connection bears a crack. Your heart knows that in the grand scheme of human connection, those cracks often times become craters.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Three. There are the shifts that happen and the courage it takes to recognize them. There is the moment two people break and the moment they choose to articulate it. These two moments are hardly ever the same. The tug of war between reality and reluctance has almost always resulted in a ripped rope.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Four. Your heart’s somewhere in between the breakdown and the breakthrough. She vacillates between letting go of something old and holding out for something new. So let the pendulum swing of the present teach you what it will. Allow the in-between moments to minister to you in the ways that only they can.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Five. Your heart will break one thousand times over in one life span. It will break because of lovers and friends and half-lovers and family. It will break because of the Universe’s relentlessness and the unpredictable ways in which the wind blows. It will break when you expect it and it will break while you are fast asleep. We do not get through the tunnels unscarred; we do not sail across the seas unscathed. So, yes, your heart will break one thousand times over. But it will mend itself one thousand times more.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Six. There is something beautiful about the way the ground rips apart when your heart breaks. It splits your world wide open and gives way to new galaxies.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Seven. You are every last one of your broken bits. You are the sacredness of your shattered pieces, the patchwork quilt of your tattered threads. You are the magic of your split skies and the grace of your new galaxies. You are the sum of your jagged edges, enchanting in the way your experiences melt together.

So, gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. Build castles from your fractured pieces and call this new place your home.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Love Me Well: Tamm and Yalabe

Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.

I can’t think of a better couple to conclude Love Me Well with than Tamm and Yalabe. I have a special tie to each of the couples that have been featured in one way or another, but my connection to these two spans a good fraction of their relationship. From Yalabe pulling me aside back in February to tell me he was going to propose to sharing in their love by reading a poem at their wedding last month, it has been an honor to be their friend and watch them evolve. In the final installment of Love Me Well, Tamm and Yalabe bring us back to a core element of this series and its love stories – vulnerability.

Photo by Erika Layne
Photo by Erika Layne

 

When were you first truly vulnerable with one another? What did that feel like? What was most challenging about it and what was most freeing?

Yalabe: I was first vulnerable with her when I admitted that I was depressed and needed to seek professional help. For me it was very difficult to admit that being as I hadn’t even fully accepted it myself. I was very ashamed at first, but over time I believe our relationship has become a safe place to express such sentiments. Nobody wants to admit that they need help. For me it was getting past my ego and perhaps how I thought she may perceive me. All in all, it was more of a mental obstacle that I had to overcome.

Tamm: Early on in our relationship, I had to be vulnerable with him. I was already invested in him emotionally, but I needed him to know all of me. It was freeing in the moment, but when it came back up, that was where the challenge came. It’s challenging to let anyone into you in your truest rawest form for the first time, but it is even more challenging getting the feedback.

How has your perception of black masculinity changed because of your relationship?

Yalabe: My perception of black masculinity has changed because when you share such an intimate space with someone, you are forced to be vulnerable. You have to willingly show your scars, your hurt, your sorrow and even your insecurities. I grew up feeling like men in general had to always be strong. We always had to carry the world on our backs and no matter how heavy that burden was, we had to keep pushing through. So, to be in a relationship where you can be “weak” and those qualities are not accompanied with a negative stigma is refreshing. It allowed me as a black man to be me, in a holistic way.

Tamm: Honestly, I don’t think my perception of black masculinity has changed. I’ve always been around different types of black men – intellectuals, pastors, goons, hoteps, athletes, etc. They are not monolithic, and it would be a disservice to them for me to ever think they are. Because I’ve always had the mindset, I think my perception of black masculinity has been reinforced. There are different types of masculinity in our culture, even when the experience is shared because life molds all of us in varying ways.

Photo by Erika Layne
Photo by Erika Layne

What is one myth about black men you believed coming into your relationship that you no longer do? How has your love helped dismantle that myth?

Tamm: I can’t say this is a myth I believed, but it’s a common myth…they don’t know how to love in a healthy manner. I truly believe our love is healthy and balanced. Relationships are give and take; and, I realize and appreciate he’s done as much as I have to make our love, not just work, but flourish. I’ve seen men say they love you and dog you (not me, per se) over and over again, and then get passes for their behavior so much so that I understand some think this is normal. Fighting against this norm can be daunting, but you do not have to settle. Our relationship cemented the necessity of not settling because the love you want and deserve is out there. Maybe that’s more a myth about men than black men but in these situation sometimes the black version is more worldstarhiphop than others which adds another level of dramatics.

What’s one thing that’s special to you about black love?

Yalabe: Black Love is timeless. It is rooted and deeply seeded in a rich history. It shares so much culture and not just from the Americas. It can truly be the ultimate test of time, but for me it knows no end.

Tamm: Black people are regal, extraordinary and exceptional; therefore, our love is all of the above as well. We are people that have been put down and forced to struggle simply because of the color of our skin, but that has only made us resilient. As I said in the previous question, sometimes the black version of relationship discourse can be so dramatic, it seems like we cannot love without it. But, just like how we crush other stereotypes, we can do the same with our love. Our love is king, just like our people are royalty.

Tamm is an event planner by trade, still waiting on her “calling” (whatever that is). She loves to acquire new things, not necessarily shop, and eat, not necessarily cook – but she’s damn good at it. You can reach her on the twitterwebs, for now, @puregr8nesss, and Facebook, T S Fitzgerald. 

Yalabe is just a typical fun-loving nerdy bald black guy. A bit of an artist, a bit of a writer.