Love, Palesa

I’ve been deeply examining my ideas around love, what it means and how it looks to me and what part conditioning has played in all of this.

I used to think I was a manic pixie dream girl. I used to think I waltzed into people’s lives and filled them with whimsy and sunshine. The truth with the manic pixie is in the name: she isn’t real. She has no wants, needs, insecurities and expectations and I have many and more of those. My favourite literary character is a girl named Susan Caraway from Jerry Spinneli’s masterpiece StargirI. Stargirl is a whimsy dreamscape of a human who loses her lustre in the eyes of the (male) “protagonist” when she reveals that she’s a teenage human girl. What she taught me is that You can be both. I still think, in my heart of hearts, I have a bubblegum pink afro and I leave pixie dust in my wake. As hardened as I’ve become I still think I’m one of the most optimistic people I know (that’s scary) but, in the immortal words of Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: “I’m not a fucking fantasy!”.

As a real girl let me say, I’m flawed and wonderful and worth the wait, the quirks, the work and the give and take. I will enrich your life in ways I don’t even know and help make you better and it’ll never feel like work to me. I will expect more of you than maybe you’re used to and that’s OK because it’s not more than I’m willing to part with: loyalty, consistenty, support, kindness, thoughtfulness, meaningful and sincere compliments, honesty, intelligence, curiosity and ambition. I will hold you accountable and you may not like it, I’ll tell you uncomfortable truths and I have my issues (which I don’t shy away from). I’m 75% certain that I have PMS (evidence pending) but, you’ll never have to ask me to love you. Don’t make me have to ask for love. I don’t stay where I’m not wanted: I will leave.
Speaking of leaves, I’m a big fan of the plant analogy. It’s one of my favourite #ArtistSpotlight questions: “if you were a plant, what would your care instructions be?” (I first discovered this concept from Shannon Boodram link here) You can love your orchid to death but if you water it like you do your ficus it will die. Some plants need sun, others can only grow on a Vine or only in slightly acidic soil. If you are a hurricane, stay away from succulents. Admire them lovingly from a distance. Alain de Botton’s conversation with Krista Tippett on her podcast On Being expands on this better than I ever could (castbox link here). Or learn to turn down the waterworks because you can rain as much of your love on someone as possible with the very best of intentions, it won’t stop them from drowning if they’re designed for drought. The most painful thing a lover has ever done to me was consistently demand that I “do more” in a specific way he’d envisioned when I was already at my personal limit (I think the dramatic words I used were: “I feel like I’m splitting myself open to show you how much I love you and you’re still demanding ‘more’ “) . I felt violently misunderstood until he realised one day, after much explanation, that he was asking a water lily to float in the dessert. I’m not telling you to apologise for how you love or how you receive love, I’m telling you to share it because that information is not general knowledge. Sometimes two sunflowers meet and it’s perfect (he loves me exactly how I need to be loved without me having to tell him). I’m just saying there’s no harm in teaching someone what kind of plant you are. Compromise is a gift (and if we’re being real: sex is a lubricant).
It’s no secret that friendship is sacred to me. Chosen family is, in many ways, a voluntary expression of pure love: I choose you. Family is a built in obligation that is a gift. We need community and you’re not going to get along with everyone naturally. I also think it’s beautiful to have people born to be in your corner. And you understanding that it’s your job to go hard for people that share your blood thus teaching us, early on, that love is both a choice and an emotion. And before you start listing the ones who you’d rather not love, remember that your family gets the best and worst of you. We’re much meaner to people closest to us, especially if they can’t leave. We adapt to people we otherwise wouldn’t choose and love them all the same. How that love manifests differs and sometimes removing yourself from some family is a vital act of self love. That’s why it’s wonderful if you like your family members. Your love is allowed to evolve and be complex. Your sister can be the bane of existence then magically become your favourite person when you turn 16. Your mom can be your safety blanket. You can grow apart. You can find solace in how much you can love someone you don’t like, discovering that love stretches and weaves in ways you didn’t know possible. Because it’s not a fixed concept.

I like looking at my friendships. I see so much about myself through the people I choose to love (especially when blood and pheromones aren’t involved). All of my friends are wildly different and I’ve never done well in large groups. Most of my friends aren’t originally friends but discover each other because they’re forced, by proximity, to take a second look (I’m a big fan of second looks). They all feed and enhance a different part of me and as a result test a different part of me. I get to sample multiple love skills and experiences in controlled doses (like spices). It’s great. I learn new things about myself and am affirmed and seen in my complexity and in detail because it’s so many different pairs of eyes. The friend I talk nerdy shit to isn’t the same friend I relive my Avril Lavigne phase with. The one I ask about a blog post isn’t the one I’ll ask for music. It’s a tapestry of love I’ve woven around myself in colours and fabrics I couldn’t have dreamed up myself. Love comes when it wants, how it wants and it’s not alway going to be in the form you expected. So before you shut the door on an unfamiliar fabric remember that unplanned masterpieces happen all the time (and that penicillin was discovered by accident).

Love isn’t always what you know. I was once in an open relationship. I took it on as an anthropological experience: how much of my ideas about monogamy are socialisation I asked. This was coupled with an extreme need for freedom, genuine curiosity and a desire to get to the bottom of what hurts the most about cheating: do we think we possess the people we love? is it the lies? Being made a fool of or is it primal? And if we can control other unpleasant emotions like anger and fear, why not jealousy? The thing about being open minded is that it needn’t dictate how you react to anything. You don’t need to be cool with anything just because you agreed to it. You’re allowed to hate the outcome and never do it again. Or better yet discover you love something you otherwise would never have tried. Interesting facts: I learned a ton about myself and was happy to try it with a partner because our communication was airtight. We both had to step it up in the communication department despite this (I was shocked). I discovered that I’m way more territorial than I ever knew or needed to know. I also learned that I’m not a fan and the only way I’d try it again was as the non-primary partner (As in, I’d happily vacation in another relationship if invited but I don’t like other women in my home). I’m also terrible at juggling, so entertaining more than one man, even just emotionally, is the opposite of fun for me. I learned, much to my surprise, that I’m a monogamous human and I can trust that knowledge until I die because I’ve explored the alternative. It’s the difference between choosing and having something dictated to you. Test your theories about yourself and love: you’d be surprised.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I love about my favorite couples and the way they bring out the best in each other. Each couple I study has a different dynamic and I’ve been thinking about the things they have in common that I want in my life. That includes my past and present relationships. Ben & Sidra see magic in each other. Tom makes Freddie feel like she can be all her many forms and literally put his money where his mouth is to prove this. Keisha & Andrew truly see and enjoy each other. Sharleen & Andy make each other feel like a once in a lifetime love. Nneka’s partner makes her better, made her a believer. Shannon & Jared are natural and easy but they also work so damn hard at it. The list goes on. I want all of it. Freedom and kisses, validation and criticism, safety and butterflies, commitment, partnership and magic, familiarity and growth, safety and challenge. I highly recommend this exercise: what do you love about your favourite love stories?

It’s really easy to get caught up in the love that’s coming. This future ideal. I’m trying to enjoy the love I have; The many ways the man I’m with has loved me in unexpected and delightful ways. The clarity and perspective he’s given me about myself. The parts he’s given me of himself. If there is a list of attributes I want and need in a partner, a “future ideal” , I hope all of the lovers that have passed through my life see their contribution. I hope you see yourself a smile knowing that I’m forever changed by your gift. I discovered hip hop because of a crush for crying out loud! I particularly love the way you clearly explain why and what you love about me in great and specific detail. Unprovoked.

Thank you to all of my friends past and present, family loved and lost, boyfriends (all 3.5 of you) for the love you brought into my life and the many ways you’ve enriched and changed me. I learned more about myself getting to know you all. It is a privelige to love and be loved and I am grateful. Wherever you are and whenever you come into my life future lover know this: I will love you as fully and fearlessly as I know how. I promise my love and ideas about it will evolve (as will I). Sometimes I’m a hurricane, other times I’m a tranquil stream, a heat wave and summer rain but, ask anyone I’ve ever loved: I will never ever ever stop loving you.

I’ll post links when loadshedding let’s me be great but while you wait, do yourself a favour and check out the YouTube series {The And}.