Black, Southern, and Increasingly More Agnostic

Much of my self has been transforming and growing, and let me tell you, this shit has not been easy or lovely. It’s been downright hard. In this journey, lately, I’m finding myself in a very strange predicament – a Black, southern woman, who has become increasingly agnostic at exponential rates.

In other words, most people I grew up with, associate with, or are family probably thinks I’m going to burn in eternal flames.

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Being Black and Southern is to Christianity, as peanut butter and jelly is to sandwich, it seemed to me growing up. It just is and there was no other way to be. You went to church each Sunday, sometimes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. You didn’t deny it, you didn’t question it, you didn’t do ANYTHING, really, it just happened to you. And poof, this is who you are.

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Religion serves as a grounding place for humans. It is a key component of a civilized society. We need it. It brings meaning, faith, and understanding to many of us. It helps us explain things that have no explanation and keeps us morally accountable. It is deeply spiritual for many of us and we are moved by it in ways that are not easy or meant to comprehend. I don’t look down on those who are deeply religious; I think each person’s faith contributes heavily to the person’s identity, and at its best, religion, is a source of love and connectedness.

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But it isn’t something I resonate much with anymore. I am not sure when I first decided that Christianity was not for me, and when that developed into most religions not being for me, but I do remember when I was first exposed to the idea that perhaps my God, wasn’t the only God. I was in 7th grade and we will call him Mr. M, a red headed, tall, man, charged with teaching a bunch of unruly middle schoolers about history. He chose to teach us the history of religions and my world was rocked. I could not understand how millions, billions of people were going to hell because they did not have faith the same way I did, and how a loving God could allow that. Of course my church hushed me, my community reinforcing that these were not the ways of God, and my developing mind did not know what to do with that.

I was again exposed to different religions in my junior year of high school. I was selected to attend a selective summer leadership camp. I still remember one of my favorite activities was called Vespers, and during Vespers, different people from different faiths came to speak to us. This was the first time Muslims, Jewish people, atheists, Quakers, Hindus, etc. were actually humanized for me. I saw people, good people that I liked and admired and thought were smart and most of all, not hell worthy, in front of me. I was again confused that these people could go to hell. I was exposed to people who did not believe people went to hell or in redemption through a savior. I was also first exposed to antisemitism and Islamophobia, by teens, who yelled at the people, asked very insulting questions like “but aren’t you going to hell?” and I was astonished. My mind couldn’t totally wrap its head around what was going on, but I knew it was wrong, very wrong.

In college, I started my journey at a small liberal arts college, Queens University of Charlotte. I loved this university primarily because of the authenticity of my professors. Looking back now, this was very rare, the way they challenged us to think more deeply about social justice issues, build empathy, expose us to life different than ours, and push us to really take charge of our own growth in these areas. Everyone may not have been convinced or reached, but I was primed and ready to receive it, and that education opened my mind even more broadly. I learned about the origins of Christianity and other religions, I went to services from other backgrounds, I learned that gay people, were in fact, not dirty or shameful, and that neither was my black skin, or “ghetto” high school. I also learned that there were plenty of people who did not believe any of that was true, and it was an important to be an advocate for the voiceless. I was growing and at the same time outgrowing many things. And Christianity, particularly the judgmental, often hypocritical, and overly damning, version I’d be exposed to, was not fitting me well at all.

These are my earliest pivotal memories that began to sway my mind, but there were many other small memories. I have always been curious, quirky, and questioning. I would follow my mother around for hours and say “why” and I think that this is one of my gifts. I also don’t think a god I serve would make a mistake and so this must be who I am meant to be.

I also have a penchant for shame. I am easily shamed and my early exposures to religion as a girl were filled with shameful moments. From watching a young woman walk down the aisle while a preacher showed that see, women, can detour men from their purpose with their simple walk, from shaming for not complete forgiveness and embracing of a perpetrator, from hearing the shame from a man who declared he still had feelings for men, but is just doesn’t date at all because he will burn in hell, from shaming about not enough money for the collection plate, from shaming that as a woman, in some way, I was the origin of damnation, from my curious mind being seen as a curse, one that goes against god, Christianity for me was a very shaming world. The promise being that if could figure out how to be “good” I could have eternal life. This never made much sense to me, but I was afraid of god’s wrath and so I never questioned it, until much later, and even now, it is scary to do.

I recently read “On Healing Black Girl Pain,” a story about a woman’s career, family, love, and spiritual journey. She talks a lot about Christianity in the Black church and she hit every one of my thoughts. Our stories were actually very similar in MANY ways, but i’m focusing on the religion part here. She talked about the role of Christianity in the US with slavery, the way it has been both damning and redeeming for us as Black people, the hatred espoused by some in name of Christianity (which I don’t think necessarily is what Christianity is) and her complicated appreciation of it – from afar. I agreed on just about every point she made. She helped me find the voice to write this initial post. She gave me permission to explore spirituality in other ways.

Lately, I’ve been looking at Buddhism, Unitarian practices (which feel really good to me), humanistic approaches to spirituality, and other religions in order to understand and inform who I am. It feels good, overdue, and is an important of my journey. But it is scary and something that I have never known and have no road map to follow. And of course there is always the voice that what if you’re all wrong and are going to burn in flames? And I don’t have an answer for that at all.

One of the scariest parts of exploring agnosticism and broadening my spiritual understanding of myself is other Black people and southern people, and especially the combination. The Black community is deeply rooted in traditions of faith and for good reasons. I am deeply rooted in the Black community, and so this piece of difference makes me feel very afraid of being ostracized, talked about, looked down upon and misunderstood, while you all pray for my damned soul, with mutterings of “Bless her heart.”

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But this is my truth.

I’m not really sure how to relate to people in this area. I grew up in the church just as much as any of my Black friends, and I love the community and understanding of this very complex system of the Black church. It feels like going home, but home after you’ve been away for a very long time and you’ve changed a lot, and no one else quite understands the new you. So familiar, but isolating at the same time. And there are not many Black agnostic people I know, none that are very open anyway or that aren’t hardcore anti organized religion, which isn’t quite where I am either. I have a deep respect for all religions and people who practice them, I’m just not sure what or if any of them are for me. If you’re reading this, I ask for patience and empathy, or at least understanding, that this isn’t an easy post to write or divulge about myself. And I haven’t arrived here lightly or without much thought. I’d love to share my spiritual journey with you all ongoing, but am also very afraid of being judged because it will likely not end in a traditional or familiar view of Christianity.

I don’t know where I will land. I just know I believe in a god, the connectedness of the universe, and faith, love, and courage. I believe kindness and empathy reign supreme, and what is encouraging to me, is that when we peel back the layers of any religion or spiritual practice without dogma and egos, that seems to be a common thread. And so, I feel these values puts on the right path. Except in instances of when religion is used to perpetuate hate, discrimination, and oppression

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Say it Loud!…I’m Black and I’m Proud!

I’m rooting for everybody Black.
-Issa Rae

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Despite popular belief, I’m black, and I love being black, and I would not trade that in for the world.

Watching Black Panther in theaters opening weekend was just such an amazing experience. An experience I have not been able to see at a mainstream level in such a long time, if ever. In its first weekend, Black Panther made $218 million. 218!!!!!! To put this in perspective, the Jordan Peele written and directed “Get Out”, which is another great movie, opened up with $33 million and “Girls Trip”, another movie for the culture, opened up with $31 million. Like, can your mind even process this right now? Black people have been WINNING for the past year and some months. However, even though “Get Out” and “Girls Trip” didn’t break the top ten grossing movies of 2017, they did place 15th and 26th respectively. Which isn’t an easy feat. We showed up! We did it y’all. But I can’t help but think we can do better. I can’t wait for when this doesn’t come as a surprise to us, because I can’t wait until other people outside of our race will finally recognize and know our worth.

Black Panther is leading in box office sales for 2018 right now and it’s not even close! Thanks to us for showing up and showing out! Additionally, I wnat to shout out the Marvel fanboys as well, but let me put this in perspective. Black Panther opened up their box office weekend outdoing Thor: Ragnarok, Spiderman: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Logan, AND Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 last year. Only being beat by Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017.

THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE! WE! SHOWED! UP!

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And what’s so much better about this, is that THEY. SHOWED. UP. The Director/Writer, the Actors, every single person who was a part of this project. Black Panther was more than just a superhero movie. It oozed of culture. It celebrated our culture! Even though Wakanda is very advanced, you see women wearing their hair beautifully, naturally, dressed in ensembles that oozed of African prints that seemed to be influenced by Kenyan cloth (I’m sure I’m wrong on the country here, don’t kill me). Even when you see T’challa and crew walking through the city, you see shops with Wakandans selling goods and merchandise, as it being the normal way of living. These people of Wakanda were showing their beauty. Taking Pride in their culture. The dances seen when the “battle” for King went on. The fact that the fate of Wakanda almost SOLELY depended on the women. When you think of advanced civilizations, you don’t think of markets, you don’t think of unpermed natural hair, you don’t think of African print clothing.. I LOVED IT. EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

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I’m so glad that Black Panther embodies this, because for the people that are not of color and do not know much about African culture, they were able to see a part of our history in a positive light. Usually, black people are portrayed as dumb, drug addicts, weed smoking, criminals of some sort and we are so tired of being represented this way in the mainstream. This is why we love ourselves. This is why we love to celebrate were we come from, because in most instances it has been stripped away from us. We barely see or know our history. We were taken away from our roots and forced to work as slaves for hundreds of years. This leads us to yearn and celebrate where we come from. From being descendants of Kings and Queens, to being knocked down to virtually nothing during slavery, only to come back out on top hundreds of years later gives me hope and promise and just joy that my black is beautiful and that I am worth it.

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The release of Black Panther is an event! It’s own “comic-con” of sorts. I encourage all of us to embrace our blackness and continue to show the world how amazing we are. I’ve only decided to focus on Black Panther for this post, but we are doing amazing things in music, TV, and movies. Continue to be proud and continue to support us, as we are worth every single ounce of our existence. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.

#wakandaForever

You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

So at first glance that statement is often confusing to me. Why not? It’s my cake! I should be able to eat it! A quick Wikipedia search though clarified it more for me and it makes sense. In essence you can’t have/retain/keep your cake but at the same time eat it because then it will be gone. You can’t do both. Either you want to look at the cake, have it in a dish for all to admire but never actually experience it. Or you want to devour it, consume it and have it be a part of you forever. An extra inch on your waist or dimple in your thigh. However, you just can’t do both.

Anyone else want cake now?

So, prior to my search for clarification, I came up with a better metaphor that fits what I want to say. And yes, this post is about relationships (or lack there of) because what else do I have to write about.

So, I fancy myself a semi-decent amateur baker. I always say whenever I get fully burnt out from counseling and quit a job in a fit of rage and decide to do something different with my life, I’ll open up a quaint little bakery called “Anything but Coffee” where I’ll just wake up every day, bake whatever I feel like it, so you could essentially get anything…but coffee because coffee is gross.

(One time I made peanut butter chocolate spread for a co-worker and the dream started)

So, while you definitely can’t have your cake and eat it too you know what else you can’t do? Expect to constantly get cake without contributing to the process! Baking is expensive! Eggs, flour, milk, good vanilla, spices, pans, electricity. That shits not cheap! And it takes time. I spent three evenings this week baking until 11 or 12 at night as a way to say thank you to my co-workers as I was leaving the job. I did it because I wanted to. And my payment back was the many thank you’s, some jokes of it not tasting good, the euphoric faces as people tasted it and apparently almost sending someone to the hospital over some double chocolate brownies. When I bake out of love there’s not enough money in the world someone can pay me to do it.

But we aren’t talking about actually baking! We’re talking about relationships.

I’ve learned a few things about myself over the last year.

1. Had I learned these things a long time ago life may have been easier in the relationship or lack there of department

2. I can’t beat myself for not learning it sooner

3. Change is hard

4. When I love, I love hard. Whole heartedly, unashamed, no questions. I’m just like a fountain over flowing with love for this other person.

Things I’ve learned about other people

1. Most people find that very overwhelming and if it’s not what they are looking for they will run for the hills every time.

Back to me:

5. I do this when I just like someone too.

I have sat around thinking for countless hours, why it is that I can go from not knowing someone to head over heels crushing on them with little to no information about them. “Oh you’re paying me some attention…awesome” and my brain automatically starts planning out insane details about the time we will spend together.

I wish I knew who or what to blame. My dads always been there for me so I can’t blame not having a male role model in my life. Sometimes I want to blame Disney movies but even those stupid princesses put up a fight. But here I am, not so patiently waiting for someone to show up and want to receive all this love I’m about to spontaneously combust from holding in.

And I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing. Wanting to love someone unconditionally and completely is not a flaw (though people will make you feel that way and then you will make yourself feel that way). I have realized my trouble comes in that I’m just ready to give it to anyone who shows up. And without fail, they don’t want it an I end up hurt.

But more specific to that here’s what usually happens.

They show up. I get excited. I’m ready to be all in. They can sense this and back out…BUT…they don’t actually back out. They want the option. They somewhere deep down know “one day, this is what I’ll want. Not today. But one day I should and therefore let me see what I can do to keep her around until that day.”

Here is a short incomplete list of ways this typically happens:

Hey stranger text

Just checking in text

Can we still be friends

The Fuckboy Backout (see my fellow bloggers post for reference if you are unaware of what this is)

Let’s just take it day by day

And my personal favorite (insert sarcasm there): begging for a chance to make things right once I finally walk away and they realize what they’ve lost but still having no intention of doing anything different.

So basically, they want the cake, but they have absolutely zero intention of contributing to the cake making process. They appreciate that I show up with a whole damn cake ready for them to devour but have no intention of helping me make another one. Then their like “wait…that was the best cake I’ve ever had. Why isn’t there anymore… you just gonna leave and not give me anymore cake.” Yes. Yes I am because you took what I had and forgot to bring me more groceries to make another!

I can be a limitless supply of cake. And a lot of the ingredients just come naturally. But some have to be contributed. Or maybe I just need an oven to bake it in. Idk. I may need to think the metaphor through some more. But you get the point. And before you even start. Yes. I can be both the baker, the ingredients, the supplies and the oven. How do you think the new cake that the new man gets is made. Self-esteem, self-love and putting the pieces back together after the last idiot ate the cake and ran without paying the bill!

So moving forward, my goal is to not so easily offer up the cake. Pay attention to whose just eating the cake and running away and who is actually trying to invest in the cake making process. Everyone does not deserve my cake.

And if you don’t know already…ask about me…I bake a mean cake (and cookies, and cheesecake).

Harsh Truths From Gentle Friends

Tonight I am thankful for friends who say what needs to be said even when it is tough to hear.

I have been blessed beyond measure with three intelligent, amazing, beautiful, kind and ferocious female friends that make up the inner most circle of my tribe. They have laughed with me, cried with me, traveled with me, gotten drunk on nachos, margaritas and self-love with me, and when I have been completely broken and not had any idea how to put myself back together they have not tried to fix me. Instead, they have gently held my broken pieces and breathed words of life and loving reminders of why I deserve to be whole and complete in my own right. They kept my pieces safe until I was strong enough to put them back together. For this, I am eternally grateful.

But sometimes…a lot of the time…they are more than willing to say the not so nice things. The things that hurt. The things that knock a few pieces loose again and cause me to have to re-arrange and rebuild. It hurts. It sucks. But I know that it is done with the most love imaginable as they only want to see me thrive and be the best me I can be.

This happened Thursday night. So Tegan…this ones for you!

After a long day of work, a rough couple weeks (okay months) in the lack of love department and right before watching the much anticipated Black Panther premier, as I stuffed nachos in my mouth and had another discussion about why men suck, why I deleted tinder and why I refuse to settle. Tegan, my most gentle and kind friend and the last person on this planet who would purposefully hurt someone, after explaining to me what she feels is causing my frustration and patiently listening to my rebuttal uttered this statement…

“But you’re still single”

From a few tables down I legit heard the waitress say “Damn Tegan. Shots fired.” (We frequent this restaurant a lot but they know each other from high school just in case you were wondering).

Let me back up just a tiny bit to give some context to the statement. But trust me. It doesn’t make it any less harsh.

Here is a brief history of my dating life: I’m minding my business trying to live my best life. Random guy enters the picture in some random way (tinder, going out, sliding in my DM’s, someone saying hey I think you would like this guy. Normal 21st century dating stuff). I give said guy a chance. If I had a super power, it would be my ability to see the good in anyone, latch onto that, and fall in love with it. That happens. I’m amazing. Guy decides nope not what he wants. Guy exits in some usual dramatic way that involves either a very confusing argument or him explaining how amazing and wonderful I am but why he just can’t be with me because he is scared, has goals, doesn’t want to hurt me, or they try to convince me I’m crazy for having standards. I’m sad for a while (though the amount of time spent being sad is getting shorter and shorter). And I swear off all men. Until the cycle starts again. And scene.

It works like clockwork it’s almost scary. So after this happening about 13574893020193837920 times (actual number. Not an exaggeration). I guess the people closest to you get pretty sick of it and decide forget it…I’m just going to let her know it’s all her fault so she can fix the problem and finally find a man.

Just kidding. That’s not what she did. I gave her a really hard time and got really loud and dramatic and for the duration of the movie told everyone I was re-evaluating our friendship. But really I totally understood what she was saying.

So the discussion prior to the statement was that I tend to date the same type of guy. And clearly that’s not working. A lot of the discussion centered around looks and the type of guy I am attracted to and maybe that’s why it’s not working for me. Her thesis was that I need to date someone I’m not attracted to and that attraction will grow and that other things should be more important. That I need to try something different.

Let me pause right here. I’m not shallow. Of the list of qualities I am looking for in a man, drop dead gorgeous Michael B Jordan look alike is not one of them (though I wouldn’t be mad if it happened that way)

I have dated some ugly guys (sorry if you’re one of them) but according to Tegan, I even have an ugly guy type.

So her suggestion was try something different. Find a nerdy, ugly guy who I’m not attracted to who would worship the ground I walk on. Attraction will grow.

My concern is however, that to me that sounds a lot like settling. Not to say I would never date a “nerd.” I’m sure plenty of people would call me a nerd for my love of reading, knitting and all things Harry Potter related. But to me it felt like “don’t chase the spark” (explanation to come) and just find someone who is looking for a relationship and see if it works out. And my fear more than being single forever, is settling just to be with someone and waking up 20 years from now not knowing how I got there and wanting to run.

I don’t think it’s wrong to want a spark (see I told you it was coming). And not a lustful dang he’s beautiful I want to have his babies even though he is a butt hole spark. But a connection. One I’ve never been able to explain but have felt on several occasions leading me to no longer believe in the idea of a soul mate. But something that makes me interested from the beginning and wanting to spend time with them and get to know them. To endure bad days with them and be their safe space and to know each other.

and for that spark to grow into a beautiful, committed, connected relationship that is unbreakable by fight, or distance or some random thot.

But here’s the thing. Of all my friends. Tegan is the only one of us not single. Not only is she not single, she’s engaged!

So I would be stupid not to at least take a few minutes (or the remainder of dinner and the duration of Black Panther) to think about what she said.

While I watched all the amazing black women before me on the movie screen with a few glimpses of men in there too I got to thinking about what I admired most about Tegan. I know she hates being called strong but that’s exactly what it is. In particular, her ability to hear “advice” and opinions from all sorts of people, including myself, take it, process it and in the end come up and act on the decision that works best for her. It takes strength to go against almost everyone’s opinion of your relationship and say screw you, I’m sticking with it because it works for me. It might not make sense to you, but it’s my life, I see the vision, and I have faith that in the end it will all make sense for everyone else.

That’s purposefully vague because I’m not trying to put all of Tegan’s business out there but just know, that it worked out. Heck, she got the ring, but more than that she has a man she loves, who adores her and it works for them. I can’t be mad at that.

So, I said all that to say this. As I sat in a movie theater, watching one of the most amazing movies I’ve seen, with a cast full of beautiful and amazing black people, and strong and fierce black women, next to my best friend whom at the moment I was deciding wether I wanted her to remain my best friend, I came to the conclusion that maybe she’s right. She probably is right. But I also came to another conclusion…

Maybe I’m right too…

Maybe it is possible to find someone, and have that initial spark, and be attracted to them in all different areas, and for them to like me back and want to make things work. I don’t like operating from a mindset that assumes that all interesting, intriguing, goal oriented, employed, and slightly attractive men, especially black men, are ass holes. I have seen many a woman with this kind of man and it work. So I have chosen to hold out faith that it will happen for me. That I won’t have to settle. That there is someone out there who as Tegan put it “will appreciate all the awesomeness” that is me.

And maybe he’ll be gorgeous, or maybe he’ll be my kind of ugly. Maybe I’ll have to try something new and get out of my comfort zone, or actually leave the house, or maybe he’ll be at Salsa’s one night overhearing our ridiculous conversations and he’ll be intrigued. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I know that for now I am tired and will allow myself to rest and in the future I will try again. And maybe one day I’ll tell this story at my wedding reception, or maybe one day we will be 60 years old and still meeting for Mexican and movie night and Tegan will say

“I told you so.”

A Love Letter on Valentine’s Day

My Dearest Friends,

Thank you for the love and light you have given me in my life. At my lowest points, when I feel unworthy of love or incapable of being loved, you are there to remind me of my “enoughness” and that I am loved.

Valentine’s is a celebration of love and I’d be remissed to ignore the great deal of love that you put into my life. My oldest friends, those we cannot remember how or when we became friends, thank you. You keep me grounded in my roots, you remind me of the past and how much I’ve overcome, and your love always feels like coming home – familial, warm, and safe. You are my rock. We have withstood time.

To my friends who developed during hard times in my life. Who gave me a love wine and whiskey, fed me when I was too sad or weak to feed myself, and weaved yourselves into the fabric of my being, thank you. I love you for providing me the gift to grieve and reinvent myself with no judgement and lots of space. I’m thankful we are still friends, and I hope I’ve been able to return that.

To my friends who quickly became family. Who encourage me to dig deeper, stay authentic, and fulfill my potential on a level I cannot even see at times, I’m so grateful for your ability to believe and see the good in me when I cannot. I’m grateful that you hold me accountable to be the woman you see, even when I feel like shit. That you remind me of my worth on low days. You give me the gift of self worth.

I’m thankful for the friends who have stepped in as family in my travels. That have been the sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and cousins when my biological family could not fulfill those roles due to space, time, and place. Thank you for inviting me to the metaphorical “cook outs” and family dinners, and keeping me safe and always making me feel like someone has my back.

Thank you to those who know me better than myself, and remind me when I forget. I’m grateful for my friends who tell me like it is, but with a gentle touch that reminds me, they love as they love themselves.

I love you all and the way you make laugh, cry, and rejoice. The way I could never truly be lonely because you all live in my heart and remind me often that you do.

I most of all you love you because you allow me into your worlds, expose your vulnerabilities with me, and trust me with your being and souls. I can only hope the love you feel from me is half the love I feel from you.

You all allow me to be me without condition or expectation. You are my soulmates and my Valentines forever. No matter what happens romantically in my life, I always know I have love because of you.

I love you. You matter. May your life be filled with the love you crave and desire, and not a penny less. Happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my heart.

XOXO,

LeAnna

Sometimes Answered Prayers Suck!

There’s this country song that says “sometimes God’s greatest gift is unanswered prayer.” It’s a kind of lovely notion. You pray for something, it doesn’t happen but in the end something better does.

But that’s not what this is about. Oh how I would be grateful for unanswered prayers after nights like last night.

Instead, last night was a friendly reminder that sometimes God’s most painful gift is a big fat “No.”

So here’s the thing. It may be hard to tell, and that’s probably a problem, but I do believe in God. I struggle with the God presented to me in church. Somehow a loving father figure who along the lines of history has conveniently hated and condemned large groups of people based on what the highly conservative Christian church has decided is unworthy (think black people, gay people, women and anyone else middle age white men have taken issue with). I believe in a God of love and compassion…for all. He’s working on me.

Anywho…

So, as a result of my beliefs I do pray. I pray for all sorts of things, help, strength, knowledge, discernment, a man. Y’all. God is probably so sick of me praying for a man that I’m pretty sure every time it happens he just looks like this 🤦🏽‍♂️. Like dear lord make it stop…oh wait…that’s me.

But here I am. 30 years old. Single and seriously beyond tired of attempting to mingle that I’m so ready to just wrap it up and give up for ever.

Because here’s what happens. Every time. Without fail.

I’m minding my own business. Trying to live my best life. I’ve got my amazing daughter, my beautiful and loving family, and the best friends a girl could ask for. I am not bothering anyone. I’m not looking. Being single is not the biggest concern of my life. But I get bored. I get the itch. “Man. It sure would be nice to have a relationship.” So, I throw it out there. People tell me all the time “you won’t meet anyone sitting in the House knitting Ashley.” So I go out. Or I get on Tinder. Usually Tinder because I don’t go out much. Sometimes I get on. Swipe for a few days. Get annoyed and get off. If I’m lucky this is what happens. Or I go out and don’t meet anyone and life goes back to normal. But sometimes, the stars align and I go out, and so does someone else, we meet, and seem to hit it off. Or I swipe right and they do too and conversation begins. Numbers are exchanged and things seem to go well.

Fun fact: I have a deep rooted fear of being wanted only for sex and also getting into “situationships.” You know, I like you, you like me, we do all the things couples do but never commit. Yea I have spent most of my adult life in situationships so I’m not trying to do that any longer.

Fun fact: I feel it in my soul that I am meant to be someone’s rib. Someone’s support. Someone’s calm and safe place at the end of a bad day. Someone’s cheerleader and support at the end of a good day. There is no way God put all this yearning for love inside of me for it to just sit there almost to the point of explosion.

So, long story short. Without fail here is what happens. My insecurities start to kick him. Probably triggered by some sort of yellow or red flag that I’m working on getting better at reading. Something isn’t sitting right with my soul.

I then pray, what I have come to realize, is the only prayer that without fail I get almost an immediate answer too. Like I pray for stuff and sometimes I wonder if it just gets lost in the clouds somewhere. But this prayer is my direct line to Jesus. It’s like before it leaves my lips I have sent it straight via email to his throne in heaven and it bypasses any other prayers he may be working on. What is it you may ask?

“Lord. If this man is not meant for me. Please let him slip through my fingers before I start to hold on too tight.”

That’s it. Short. Simple. To the point. And without fail. Within 24-48 hours. I receive confirmation that they are not meant for me. Usually just the conversation is had. A lot of times it’s not initiated by me. Or sometimes they do or say something that I have to acknowledge as a large red flag. But it happens. Every time.

Sometimes I fight it. I beg and plead with God to not let it be true. I cry. A lot. And sometimes I stick around only to be miserable and have to walk away later.

It always sucks. It always hurts. And like last night, if there really wasn’t anything wrong and it just really could have been the right person but not the right time, I can literally feel the piece of my heart break off as it chooses to kind of stick around with the other person as I have to walk away.

There’s probably way to many men walking around this world who don’t know they are carrying small pieces of my beautiful, loving, caring, supportive heart. While I sit back night after night fearful, and hurting, and struggling, and wondering “why me” “what’s wrong with me.” And praying I don’t give it all away and one day have nothing left.

So. I’ll end here. Part of me says, never pray that prayer again because the answer is too painful. But part of me knows, especially over the last year, each time it’s answered I learn something, and I grow. I think it’s coming. I hope it’ll happen for me. I doubt it. And sometimes like now I have restless nights where I cry and beg and plead and wonder if those prayers are just getting stuck in the land of lost prayers. I consider giving up. I do for a while. But then I’ll get the itch again and it’ll all start over.

But for now… sweet dreams.

What is Intimacy?

I am plagued by a deep desire for intimacy and connection within all of my relationships and friendships. I call this a plague because often people are not taught to be intimate and vulnerable with one other, and particularly in heterosexual romantic partnerships and so it feels like a curse most of the time.** While I’ve had success with intimacy with my female friends, men, on the other hand, continue to be a challenge.

When I say intimacy, I am not describing something that necessarily is sexual. I am describing the gentle way in which we lean into one another for support, care, and safety. I am describing the desire to know someone beyond their outer shell and take the time to understand someone from their perspective. I am describing curiosity, and genuine love for another human being, because you can see their light that connects them to you. I am describing empathy, placing yourself in their shoes and relaying to them, that you too are human. I am talking about soft kisses on foreheads and lips, arm caresses with no expectation, and soothing hugs. I suppose this is an emotional type of intimacy.

It seems to me, at least in my experiences, intimacy is often a second hand thought or something expected to be a by-product of everything except vulnerability, and often, derived from sex. My experience has been that sex alone rarely leads to intimacy; that intimacy is intentional, requires more work, and requires a certain aspect of emotional availability and maturity than sex. This quote speaks to me about that.

“It’s easy to take your clothes off and have sex; people do it all the time. But opening up your soul to someone, letting them in your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, and dreams – that’s being naked.”

We aren’t truly naked enough with each other and yet, we want and expect others to be physically naked with us. We do this often with false promises of true nakedness that never comes; “Let’s see where this goes” or “go with the flow.” Sex itself is just sex, and perhaps in some circumstances, a gateway to intimacy, but it has never been that for me. Perhaps it is the way my brain has been wired – part genetics, partly influenced by trauma – but to trust someone who has only seen me physically, but does not make an effort to know my spiritually and mentally (and I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about my inner being), is near impossible for me.

I have never had sex with someone that I felt intimately connected to in my adult life. Sure, I’ve loved them. But I did not feel the intimate connection that allows sex to transcend the physical and become something supernatural. I have never had a man try to get know me, understand my intricacies and apply that to how he loved and cared for me, both in practice and in sex. In turn, I have never felt 100% safe with a partner. I am admitting this now, but it is painful and weird to say that out loud and to the world. And I know that the key to this is a deeper level of intimacy. But how do we even go about building this? Does this even exist?

I wrote a post recently about the love I crave and I think within that are many metaphors describing what my ideal relationship; freedom, independence, interdependence, passion, and also intimacy. I once had a garden and although a lot of work, it never felt that way, because I loved the work it took to tend to it. I felt connected to it. I spent time looking at it, admiring it, learning about it, and trying to listen to what it was that it was saying that it needed. I gave it quite a bit of my attention and enjoyed sitting with it quietly. It also made me laugh and we had hiccups here and there, and we recovered together. Growing a garden is a very intimate affair, whether you know it or not. And truly committing to a relationship also requires this (and likely more) great deal of intimacy – at least for someone like me.

I wish that we could learn more about what it means to be intimate with one another and not to shy away from it. I wish we could see that some of us need safety and intimacy to thrive, and understand how that contributes to an invaluable amount of love. And for some of us, that fertile ground of intimacy and safety, can lead to the best sex, and even more worthwhile, love of your life. That every time you say, we can’t be more emotionally intimate because we just met, and yet expect someone to disrobe for you and be fully present for sex, in some ways you diminish the ways that sex can be intimate, that each time I try to tell you something about me or is core to my life, and you quickly switch to asking me about the color of my panties or sexual fantasy, to every time you kiss or touch me with only an intention to have sexual relations, that you create more distance, that you get further from your goal, that I mentally dismiss you, and for some of us, you may even make us feel used or detached.

I am not sure I can convince many of you of this. We live in hook up and fast paced culture that seems to often place higher value on pace and quantity, and well, sex feels good. I am not saying that every encounter should or ought to be intimate, that there is no place for hookups and one night stands (trust me, there are places and reasons for this), but rather, I am offering that should we ever want anything more substantial, we have to become more substantial. I’m saying connection still matters. I’m also offering to those who feel like me, that they are too deep, too introspective, too intimate, that you are not alone. I’m offering to all my many clients who have struggled with meaningless encounter after another, that I understand.

I do not know if I will find this intimacy in a romantic relationship. If not, I don’t know if I can ever fully commit to a person romantically. I may have to be content in my close friend circle that provides me emotional intimacy without any conditions. I consider myself lucky to have that. I cannot imagine how some people go through life without it. To me, it seems like a zombie or a shell of a life, not fully realized. I hope for you all, that you find intimacy.

**I have a hunch from discussions with my friends that this may be true in other types of partnerships as well, but I can only authentically speak from my experience, which romantically have been heterosexual. I’m interested in how this differs for others though!.