our words.

You Must Live

Photo Cred: Josh Collins Photography, 2016

Photo Cred: Josh Collins Photography, 2016

I am tired of broken hearts and empty promises. I am tired of lost dreams and killing inspiration in the name of realism. I am tired of losing hope. I seem to be surrounded by a lot of this lately, but I still believe in great love. I believe in dreaming big. I believe we can actually change the world if we want to. You may call this naive optimism, but I call it faith. It's a risk. And it scares me, too.  Honestly, I don't know how to live another way. This kind of living makes the ground hurt a little worse when I fall because the higher the dream is, the harder the fall.  But, I must always find the strength to get up and try again. I wish I could tell you I felt stronger each time a dream fell--each time I was disappointed in someone or something, but that's not always true.

After my two-year relationship fell apart, I took a year to get myself back together. I casually dated but never risked real feelings for anyone. I wasn't ready. I spent a lot of time in prayer and growing in community with the Lord. It was one of the best yet, hardest years of my life. It was equal parts terrible and beautiful.  It's not an easy thing to have your heart shattered. I needed that year to find my identity again. So, I did just that. Looking back, I'm thankful for the refinement. I'm thankful I have a God who always redeems and always works things together for my good. However, please hear me when I say, faith in God does not evaporate pain.

If you are grieving the loss of a relationship the only advice I can give is to walk directly through the pain. Stare it in the face. Cry.  Then, laugh at how bad it can be. Laughter makes everything better. Believe me--I know. Imagine sitting with your boyfriend’s parents at his graduation while his side-chick is death-staring you 20 feet away. If that isn't an episode of a reality show--I don't know what is!

After a year of healing, I decided I was ready to pursue a relationship again. I met someone. Someone I would have NEVER expected. The polar opposite of my previous boyfriend. He inspired me to  believe that I could love again. I dreamed higher with him, but, unfortunately, it didn't work. It still hurt, even though we weren’t fully attached, yet. The truth is, that though I may have been ready, he was not.

So, I have come to this place again, where I have to decide what I'm going to do with closed doors. Do I knock? Do I wait? Do I sit down on the stoop and mope? No. No. No. That is not who I am. That is not the daughter of the King. That is not who I would want my sister to be. That is not the example I want to leave for those that look up to me. Sometimes, you have to look in the mirror, boss up and take your own advice.

So, I say to myself, live.

Live. You must Live. Live boldly. Turn from closed doors recognizing the entire world you have right in front of you. A door you should walk through will open on its own. Keep loving. Keep dreaming. Keep getting your hopes up. The world needs more people that still believe. Your great love is coming.

Till Death Do Us Part

Photo Cred:  Jasmine Newton

Photo Cred: Jasmine Newton

I have never believed in marriage. In fact, marriage has always been a bad word to me, as it was always a negative force in my own life. My parents never had a wedding. They got married at the courthouse and hid it from my mother’s parents for as long as they were able. There were never any photos or romantic stories of flowers and colors and dresses, just cynical musings about my mother’s white pantsuit and my father’s indifference. When I think of my parents’ marriage, I think of screaming and thrown objects and packing for my grandparents’ house after a particularly bad fight. Marriage was never the best thing for my family; in fact, we celebrate its conclusion. My parents’ divorce was finalized on my grandparents’ wedding anniversary, and we celebrate both with equal elation. Although we have never fulfilled our wish of having an official divorce cake, my mother and I send texts to each other every September 17th: “Happy Divorce Day!”

As I studied more history and sociology and got more plugged into the activist scene, marriage took on even more of a negative association. Marriage is an invention of the patriarchy in which a woman’s father trades her virginity for three goats, and anyone who is familiar with my poetry knows how much I love to smash the social construction of virginity. You get married and your life is over. You take your husband’s last name, and your entire identity is subsumed within his. “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.” You literally become your husband. From Disney movies to ever more elaborate wedding announcements, our culture constantly reminds us that women are not complete unless they are legally attached to a man.

With all my disdain for marriage, I am a person with a deep need for security and stability. I always knew this about myself, but the more “adulting” I do, the more I realize this is the case. I am an introvert; rather than spending time in large groups, I like to have a couple close friends and a close partner. I like having someone to go home to. Someone who knows where my keys are when I don’t and makes sure I don’t sleep through all my alarms. The idea of a lifelong stable partner is comforting to me. For the first time, I am in a relationship with someone I can envision as the father of my children. The fanfare, the fantasy, and the ever-growing number of engagement and bridal shower and wedding photos on Facebook make it even more tempting.

My conflicting feelings about marriage beg the question: to marry, or not to marry? I am in love with my boyfriend, but I am cynical enough to know that things happen and people change. I worry about doing it too young, with the inevitable prospect of job changes and traveling and big moves. And there is pressure from millenial activist circles to reject the institution of marriage and live in rebellious domestically partnered sin; if you buy in, you’re a sellout. So what is a virginity-hating, patriarchy-smashing feminist to do?

After a lot of tossing and turning over the m-word, I’m thinking I’ll eventually take the plunge. Monogamy and lifelong partnership is not for everyone, but I think it might be for me. But if I’m going to do it, I have to do it in a way that relieves my feminist conscience. And this means getting to do some really cool things, from a nontraditional ethical engagement ring to perhaps even being the one to propose. Keeping my last name. A gothic death-themed wedding (“Till Death Do Us Part”). Red and black colors, with a red dress, not a white one, because everyone knows it’s too late for purity. Traditional Palestinian wedding songs. Slam poetry vows. The wedding and the reception all in the same place. Sidekicks instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Perhaps a flower boy; f*&% the gender binary. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it loud and rebellious with two middle fingers as I dance down the aisle (by myself). Because tax breaks are fun, and because marriage doesn’t have to be a defining moment in a woman’s life. It can just be an invitation to join her along her wild, unpredictable journey.