What are these bonds that evade us? Where is the woman that will remain standing with me when the storm blows over and shakes us to our roots? Are these the dreams of a middle school girl who can’t come to grips with the reality of womanhood? Am I pining for a time past and can never be recaptured? Can true bonds only be forged among the innocent of hearts? Am I too judgmental, bossy, intrusive, brash, needy and attention seeking to be worthy of a real friendship?
We are mirrors of each other, and yet when I get too close I see my reflection distorted. My flaws become magnified. My wounds gape at me manically. I see the void and the darkness. That beyond pretenses and polite facades, there are places we’d both rather not go. That beyond pretenses and polite facades, there are spaces where we both become too large to occupy. We begin rubbing each other the wrong way. And wounds start bleeding and it gets too messy. Where I don’t know where my issues begin and where yours ends and I become touchy and you, moody.
And worse, how can we talk about these things? We are not a couple, and Lord knows I am not gay. I have a husband and he looks at me from that awesome angle where his mirror reflects me in all my beauty and glory. Where my darknesses seem muted around him, and that safe knowledge that at least one human in this entire universe does accept me; my flaws, brokenness and all, and that must somehow redeem all these other relationships I can’t seem to keep up.
They have fancy terms for us “relational aggression”, fancy theories as to why it just can’t work. At heart we are too competitive. We have been socialized to intensely dislike ourselves and anything that resembles us. Some of us were molested and that made us love our enemies at the expense of the victims within that we loathe. Some of us are too busy trying to keep the men we have from the seductive wiles and charms of our counterparts. Some of us are just too busy with the demands of all those who demand of us, we can’t give anymore. And the last thing we need is to cater to the demands of our selves and those like us, with high expectations and higher sensitivities to what is real.
I can’t fake the funk around you. Can’t give you my plastered smile and say all is well. Because your intuition brings me out. And I can say things like F the weather, I can’t discuss pleasantries today, I am deep in my funk. And that’s okay. And it should be okay. And I dream that someday I will be there with someone. It’s just not today. I think it may be because I am too married to my image, to really let go. Still as much as I read and try to un-school myself of all the lies and bile I have swallowed, there are many assumptions deeply embedded within me. Too many “shoulds” that govern my soul. I can’t lift the boot that clamps my being down. And that is the beginning of my bondage and that is always the beginning of the end of our relationship.
It’s not only you. I used to think it is “so and so”, and could talk about all her problems and issues and the specific way she hurt me. And then the issues all came up with a different person. And then another. And another. And I realized as I went through the revolving doors of relationships, the issues are the same. And I am left going round and round and round in endless circles. Dizzy and unable to find my way out.
I have been in exile. I have retreated to the cave many times to lick my wounds and care for my young ones and keep my circle small and tight and safe. I have convinced my self that God is the only one that matters. And “He” (and it ought to be a He) must triumph over all pettiness. That if I orient my being to Him, then the peace will radiate and embrace all those who come into my tight knit circle, my cave, my walls.
Yet something lures me out. Some distant memory of the deep belly laughter that makes me cry and gasp for breath at the same time. Some vague yearning to uncover my own depths. Some relentless need that propels me to want to find and nurture those spaces where I can be wholly feminine and wholly relax into my being. Where I can be wild and free, because I don’t know what either of those realities mean. And that’s when I think of you in nostalgia, and you occupy the names and faces of women who are too far away, who are too busy, who made their appearances when I wasn’t ready and when I was, had danced away with the caravan into horizons I have yet to reach. And I am transformed into a little girl, and you into all my mothers, aunts, grandmothers who had big laughters and larger hearts and who could dance and throw a mean party, because what else is a woman to do?
Or you occupy the name and face of you. And you hurt me. And this hurt plunges deeper than any other, because you know too much, and your knowing is what wounds me the most.
And I am left yet again, alone, grappling with what I can’t seem to keep. Convincing myself it’s all for the best. That my journey in this life is supposed to be one of surrender and who needs friends when I am busy so busy, with my family and life and obligations? And who has time anyway? So I dam up the oceans of grief, and clamp my teeth to the busy task of survival. Resigning myself to the emptiness of it all.
You woman, where are you? And when will I get to know you, to love you, to let you breathe free within me. I, woman, where am I? And when will I step out of the shadows to embrace my own being?
Maliha Balala lives in Maryland and adores mommying her two boys, reading, running in pretty places (okay more like jogging!), writing and daydreaming of all the things she still wants to do when she grows up.