I’ll be moving soon. Still staying in Texas, but moving to a different city. After two years in my apartment complex, it was time for a change. After searching and perusing, I found a lovely new area that I’ll share more about in a forthcoming post. But before one moves, one must pack.
Read this if you need a reminder about how I feel about packing, especially when it comes to moving.
At the end of this month, I need to be ready to go. Ask me if I’ve done single thing to prepare for this timeline. Go ahead, ask me. Did you? Good. The crickets you hear are your answer.
I’m reminded of when I was in college. Knee-deep in essays and homework and my on-campus job and my off-campus job. When there was a deadline for a paper, I would write that thing at 2 in the morning the day it was due. Typing furiously on the computer in our basement at some ungodly hour. And I would, nine times out of ten, score high. Naturally, I started to believe that my waiting until the last minute to complete my homework was the key to my excelling; the last minute fear and adrenaline was somehow resulting in amazing theses statements and sentences. It had to. (What can I say? Youth.) Anyway, procrastination became a bit of a crutch. My younger brain theorized that waiting until the last minute met success.
Enter adulting. I do my best to get things done on time. Emphasis on my best. No worries: I pay my bills on time. But when it comes to a project at work that has a loose deadline…
Were we talking about packing?
I haven’t packed. Haven’t moved a thing. Empty boxes and crates crowd my living room, waiting to be used, calling out to me. We have 18 days…
One of my characters in one of my stories makes reference to not dousing her hope with her usual brand of doubt and cynicism. I am her and she is me. (Incidentally, one popular writer-related question I get is, “who are the people you’re writing about in your fiction?” I am them, they are me. What writer isn’t writing about themselves in some way? Anyway, digress. Back to the outside of the parentheses.) The truth is: I am terrified of hope.
We need hope. We thrive on it. It keeps us going. I hope in a lot of things. In a brighter future. In seeing my father again. In finally living what the Scriptures describe as “the real life.” But there’s one giant aspect of life that I hesitate to hope in, for fear of repeatedly breaking my own heart and spirit: love. I’ve discussed my track record when it comes to relationships. I’ve yet to meet my Person. The pathway to said Person hasn’t been easy; it’s been sad, disappointing, weird, head-scratching, and just ultimately completely unfulfilling. Naturally, when this happens more often than not, the wall builds itself. Brick after brick of solid, hard doubt. And when hope tries to poke her head in (could this be…?) I nudge her away and steel my chest for what realities may hit me in the face.
Admittedly, it stinks to look at things this way. But can you really blame me? Without the benefits of preserving myself, my sanity, my heart, I’d be in a corner somewhere, rocking back and forth and worse off than I already am. Of course, we must then discuss self-fulfilling prophecies. A good friend, more often than not, has reminded me that I tend to manifest negativity when it comes to finding my Person and finding love. She’s called me out on statements such as: no one wants me anyway, and whatever, I probably won’t find him, whomever he is. Regardless of whether my comments were made in jest (they were, on the surface), in her estimation, those comments end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies: if I am expecting these things for myself, then I’m basically writing my own future. I’ve agreed with her and have promised to work on not pronouncing such negativity for myself. Deep down, though, I’ve struggled to communicate that those comments and related, unspoken thoughts come from a fear that believing the opposite and resting in hope will just leave me completely wounded, waiting, and disappointed. And so I frame things in dry, deprecating humor, hiding truths. (I try to avoid the whole self-deprecation thing as a rule, especially since I’ve done so much work to not relegate my own self to zero status as I did in the past. But old habits rear their heads when we’re talking about fear.)
Where is the balance, dear reader? How can I be both hopeful and realistic? How can I stop submitting to fear by way of self-deprecation and be mindful of what I say/nurture my own self, without appearing as if I’m on a one-track groove whenever it comes to talking about my personal life with my friends?
For four years (and really, for many years before, since I was an avid reader and was already consciously and subconsciously doing this), I analyzed plot lines, characters, meanings, subtext. I did this in everything I read. I did this in art classes, in play writing classes, and most certainly in the plethora of psychology courses I took. Looking for meaning. Looking for rationale. Looking for archetypes. Identifying and explaining symbols. Breaking everything down. And I did it well, to toot my own horn. And I loved every minute of it, too. I was one of those people anyway, like I mentioned before. Listening to music was always an adventure, for example, when it came to lyrics. What does it all meannnnn? I’d like to thank Led Zeppelin, by the way, for Stairway to Heaven and the Eagles for Hotel California–I spent many a sweet hour researching and looking for the meaning behind those intriguing pieces of music. (I still don’t know.) Anyway, my point in saying all of the above: when you’re already looking at the world that way, it makes it hard to not look at the world that way. I’ve discussed trying not to psychoanalyze and overthink things to death before. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a constant struggle to not look for underlying subtext and motives. This becomes even more difficult when it comes to relationships. When it comes to potential romantic relationships, to be specific.
Sometimes a hello is just a hello. Sometimes a touch isn’t more than a touch. Sometimes a look is not meant to communicate anything other than the natural progression in someone’s attention or line of sight. Logically, I know all of these things. But when you have someone in waking thought, and you want to find meaning, and you want substance…all those perfectly natural things become potential somethings. Plus, I’ve read fiction my entire life. I’ve written fiction my entire life. I’ve read the lovely pairings designed by authors. I’ve done the same. I want that for myself. So I recognize now that my search for meaning and depth in seemingly simple things is coming from a place where I want there to be meaning and depth–and those things may not be there at all. A mess.
But This Square Peg, you lovingly say, maybe there is something there. Maybe. But I can’t look for a symbol here. I don’t want to. I just want the real thing. And my nine year-old bratty self wants it now. But that’s another post. (That nine year-old though…she asserts herself during the most inopportune moments.) I’m just working on taking life and people at face value. That becomes more difficult when I have a writer’s heart and an English major’s brain, all of which long for 1) meaning and 2) control. And love. Actual, true, real love. Yes, I just went way, way deep on you.
So: what does it all meannnnn?
Let’s leave that question unanswered for now.
Talk to me in the comments about whatever you like, but specifically, if and how you deal with overthinking and unnecessary analysis.
This post is inspired by a very moving and honest post on In My Sunday Best, where blogger Sade openly discusses her experience with relationship rejection. Read it and reflect; I appreciated her candor and discussing the inspiring lessons she learned about herself. As I read it, it reminded me so much of my own journey. A journey fraught with rejection.
Before I go on, I want to thank my tried-and-true readers for hanging with me in this little corner of the webverse. I’ve always considered This Square Peg to be an online journal. And in a journal, you talk about the highs (loving my natural hair, my writing, my adventures) and the lows (managing my depression, emotions, and the various disappointments of life). Thanks for supporting your Square Peg through it all, with your comments, your follows, your reading.
My first foray into admitting my feelings for someone and the rejection that came after happened in the 8th grade. At the time, I didn’t necessarily feel rejected; although my declaration of “love” was by no means mutual, I still felt that the object of my affection and I became somewhat friends after all of that. Nevertheless, it started the ball rolling. The combination of movie fantasy, being a romantic (more on that later) and an intense desire to be loved/be in a relationship were usually the catalysts. Despite being a shy girl, something came over me during those moments–being bold and expressing how I felt meant more than anything. Throughout my 20s, it happened time and time again. Meeting a guy, finding myself attracted to him, eventually opening up and telling him how I felt. I continued on despite the pain of rejection; somehow, there was a degree of hope that one day, the person I was meant to be with would cross my path. But hope isn’t steel. Eventually, it all started to affect me: what was so wrong with me? Why didn’t they want me in return?
After this happened, I was officially done. I told myself that even if I was attracted to someone, the weariness on my heart and the embarrassment of putting myself out there with no mutual return were simply things I no longer wanted to risk. I was also suffering from what Sade eloquently described as “rejection as reflection.” Their rejection of me had translated into seeing myself with incredibly negative eyes. Unworthy. Unpretty. The rest. By the time my 30s came along, although I became committed to now loving myself and repudiating that negative self-view, there was no way I was ever going to put myself out there again when it came to relationships and matters of the heart.
These days, I continue to remain stalwart in not approaching a guy with my feelings; I’m fine with the menfolk doing some work. However, I also don’t believe in coyness or not being open if I share his feelings or his interest. I don’t believe in stringing people along. But that man hasn’t shown up.
Let’s talk about that word, yet.
A friend recently described me as a romantic. Deep down, I balked at the description. Something about that word completely turned me off; I imagined treacly women who were hopelessly waiting on fairy tales and other unrealistic, rose-colored wants for a relationship. Sure, I believe in love and in falling in love, but I’m also not naive to the uneasy parts of relationships. I lived in a household when things got all too real, at times. Never doubting that my parents loved each other, I was equally exposed to times when things weren’t so pretty and escape, by all parties, seemed ideal. So being described as a romantic wasn’t my favorite thing. But it’s me, folks. I had to analyze why it put me off so much. See the previous sentences. I associated a romantic nature with a weak nature. Weak and unrealistic and living in a total fantasy world. But that’s unfair. A romantic person who believes in love and wants it for herself can also be a realistic person who has her feet squarely planted on the ground. So yeah, I’m a romantic realist. It is what it is. Thanks to that friend who got me thinking and ruminating.
So, to wrap rejection and the yet in a pretty bow: not allowing my history with rejection to douse me with negativity, cynicism, and a belief that love will never come is something I’m trying to balance. I don’t want to give in to mentally throwing away the idea of love because it hasn’t appeared, or base my feelings on things not working out in my past. Like Sade reasoned, none of those guys were meant for me. Looking back, I can make that statement with absolute certainty.
I decided to change up the ‘do again. No surprise there. As I mentioned to a friend who remarked about the merry-go-round of styles we as Black women are happy to explore, hair is one of the few things in this crazy life that I can control. (Although I’ve long believed that my hair, known as She, controls me.) As you know, I visited the lighter side of the hair color spectrum in January. And I’m very happy there. Which is why, two weeks ago, I decided to go bolder, brighter, and much, much blonder.
Popular questions/statements I’ve received since:
Are you having fun yet? Do you like it? Whoa, you’re brave. Something new for the summer, huh? Wow, you’re always changing your hair!
I love it.
Not just for the summer, no.
Indeed I am.
Here’s to the merry-go-round.
And before I go: leaving you with my favorite song this month. You know how I feel about Emeli Sande (or maybe you didn’t, but the link is yours to see). Here’s her recent single, which I have on repeat. I love it not only for the melody, and her soaring voice, but for the simple message: we’re all extraordinary. Something to keep in mind–for me, for you, for all of us.
Honestly, sometimes the hardest part of my life is the inertia of the day-to-day. The routine. The same ole. When you add to all of that the desire to share my days with another person…everything is compounded. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pretty sure inertia sets in with another person in the next room, too. No rose-colored glasses here. But it’s still a feeling, it’s my feeling, and it’s not easy. But for the purposes of chasing down positivity: there are plenty of people who aren’t here. So opening my eyes to another day, however drowning in the same ole, is an enormous blessing.
I plan on also chasing down some of the things that brighten my days, things I haven’t done in a while because the emotional and physical energy was thoroughly absent. Museum afternoons. Exploring new cities and places. Getting back to me, one step, one day, at a time.
“My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness and my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation.”
I saw this quote a few minutes ago from Today show anchor Dylan Dreyer as she discussed her ongoing issues with infertility and sadly, a recent miscarriage. Contextually, it was just announced this morning that Dylan’s colleague, Jenna Bush Hager, is pregnant with her third child and that her other colleague, Hoda Kotb, adopted a new baby last week. Looking at the environment she’s in, then, you can imagine how her words struck me. I felt for her. Because those words are the absolute truth. Because those words are my truth.
~My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness~
Having longed for a partner and a love for many years now, I have shared in the utter joy of being present for friends, family, and others who have found their persons and their loves in life. I have smiled, cried tears of joy, cheered, whooped, encouraged, and have experienced every iota of their rejoicing. I have also experienced mind-boggling levels of sadness, loneliness, fear, and discouragement. I have cried tears of pain in my very private moments, supplicated my Heavenly Father for faith, love, and the power to simply go on, and have struggled to not drown in questions of why not me, why my person remained unseen and elusive. And I know I’m not the only one. I’m sure, whatever you’re going through in life, you’ve been there, as well.
~my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation~
But I have another personal truth, something else that Dylan’s words spoke to, something I need to change: I tend to minimize my emotions when they escalate, believing that my sadness is nothing compared to what some other folks are going through. It’s my way of not drowning; whatevering it all and trying to think of others who have it worse. I even go as far as trivializing how I feel: how can wanting a love compare to the sheer suffering I know some people are going through? (We engage in a variety of things for self-preservation, don’t we?)
Anyway, let’s try to help each other, because my struggles continue, and I’m sure yours do, too.
As Dylan pointed out so well, you can be happy for someone and sad at the same time. It’s the duality of life. To me, we were wired to juggle, not just work and tasks, but our emotions. You can be genuinely thrilled for someone and still feel the pangs of your own personal distress. It’s life.
Don’t dismiss or whatever those difficult emotions. (I’m also speaking to myself here.) The world is large enough for plenty of people to feel what they feel. If someone is having it worse in life, pray for them and pray for yourself, too. You both need the same thing–relief–despite the differences in what you’re individually enduring.
I said it before and I say it to all of us and I say it to myself: please continue to hang on.
It’s been rough, mi gente. (One thing that characterizes the year so far is my newfound interest in watching Spanish videos on YouTube. Go figure.) Anyway, I’d love to say that my year has been going well, but…it hasn’t been easy for your Square Peg. I won’t go into too much detail. Just know that loneliness and sadness and painful self-reflection and unfulfilled expectations have been so real. So vividly real. Are you going through it? Life and all of that? I’d love to say that I’m handling it and healing but…it’s a slow-going process. Even writing has been hard. Even writing this brief post is difficult. Because I don’t have a desire to do much except lay on the couch these days.
But despite the slowness of the healing, there is some of it going on. What’s been working for me?
Prayer. I deeply believe in the significant presence of a Creator and a Heavenly Father in my life, and I see and recognize that He’s watching over me.
People. Because He’s been ensuring that my closest friends and family and confidantes continually reach out to me and check up on me. And I’m a private person when it comes to personal pain. The fact that I’m confiding in a few folks about what I’m going through is hardly random to me.
Pause. My desire to permanently be on my couch notwithstanding (I realize that I’m dealing with depression and the loss of interest in doing anything that comes with it), moments of deep rest have been helpful.
Whatever happens, if you’re having a hard go of it: speak up. Say something. And try very hard to hold on. Even if it hurts.
(One more thing. When you pick up on empathy in your life, really being understood, the presence of true compassion: these are the people that should remain confidantes and listening ears. Not everyone has this capability. Not their fault; to me, empathy isn’t a common thing that we all own and can share with others. I’m working on it myself. Anyway, when you see empathy and feel empathy, move in that direction. And own the right to not share your heart and confidences with everyone, and certainly with those that will never truly understand or don’t know how.)
Specifically: A watched pot never boils. Time moves slowly when you’re waiting or watching for something to happen. I’ve been thinking about those words this week, specifically because my mother said them to me on the phone. During our conversation a few days ago, I hinted at one of the major Worries for a Singleton, which is #1,089,556 on the list: hesitating about making a major life decision because you wonder if something or, rather someone, waits for you around the corner. (And a part of you wants to wait to make that major life decision until you’re 1 of 2.) Her response: “Oh, Adjoa, don’t worry about those things. A watched pot never boils. I don’t want those thoughts to consume you. It’s easier said than done, I know, but don’t overthink it.” I let her words marinate before replying that I wasn’t necessarily obsessing, but merely thinking aloud.
My initial, knee-jerk reaction? 1. Pure irritation. Couldn’t I just express myself without the assumption that I was engaging in overthinking? Couldn’t I just say I was thinking about the future and what will be without being reminded of a slowly boiling pot? My next reaction: 2. I’m never not going to think about my future and whether I’ll share it with someone. It’s always going to be a thought. It pays rent, that thought. It shares a room in my brain and it ain’t going away. Next reaction: 3. Grateful for the acknowledgement that it’s all easier said than done. As I get older and those desires to have my own family grow, it’s certainly harder to just be carefree and let it go and don’t think about it and la la la. It just is. Final reaction: 4. She’s right, don’t overthink it. And as much as I have a Master’s Degree in Overthinking, my mother was absolutely correct in knowing that I do overthink, I do over-worry, I do over-consume in endless ruminations about life and the future and love and all that. And she, my biggest fan and cheerleader, didn’t want me to drive myself crazy.
Y’all. It’s hard wrapping your brain around needing something and going through life not seeing that thing manifest itself. It’s just hard. No amount of well-meaning advice…
Don’t think about it!
Are you even ready? It’s really hard!
Are you putting it out there?
Just move on!
…will remove the fact that in life, when we need something and we’re not seeing it, it’s just difficult to la la la and keep calm and carry on. Overthinking will happen. Mental over-consumption will happen. Emotional merry-go-rounds will occur. But it’s important to extract what you need–the acknowledgement of things being easier said than done, for example, or the reminder that people who love you don’t want you to stress yourself out–and try, very hard, to keep it moving. It doesn’t mean you stop thinking or praying or wondering, but it means you fight (fight hard) to not be consumed.
So the pot is there and I take comfort in knowing that it will boil. Until then, I’ll be peeking in the kitchen every now and again.
Yes, dear reader, after years and years on the darker side of the color wheel, I decided to make a big Year of 40 change and go blonde. My hair is now a honey blonde hue and I love it something awful. Initially after the coloring, as you can see in some of the pics above, it had more of a reddish-blonde shade as a result of my red color before and the repeated lifts to get all the red out. These days, it’s definitely more honey and closer to the shade I was looking for. And I plan on going lighter! Now that I’ve learned that going blonde won’t make me look like a dancer of some sort of cheesy Vegas revue, the blonde is my oyster.
And let’s chat about that for a moment. Upon seeing my hair, my sister said the following: “Why haven’t you done this your whole life?!” Other friends also asked why I had never experimented with a lighter color before. You know me: hair experimentation has never been an issue for me. But sporting dark hair as a woman of color was most definitely a safe choice. I couldn’t imagine my brown skin against an even lighter color. (Even bright red was far more safer in my mind than anything lighter.) Now I’ve been reminded that my brown skin is beautiful against any backdrop. We hold ourselves back, even in tiny, seemingly insignificant ways, don’t we? But none of that anymore. Embrace change, embrace newness, embrace the blonde. Because…