Trying to resist, change, or avoid the enormous influence of the past keeps us foolishly focused on it. Yet we’re reluctant to leave it behind, reluctant to transform the pervasive hold it has on our present-time lives. Not doing so, however, results in an endless continuum of living a “now” that is littered with the detritus of the past. There’s no better arena to watch this play out than in our relationships. (Nancy Zapolski, Ph.D. from "If I Weren't My Past, Who Would I Be?")
I met a brother about a year ago at the Harlem Book Fair. We'd met before in a class I taught but it was all business and there wasn't much time to chat. When he stopped by my booth at the book fair, we struck up a lovely conversation and in that moment, I was interested. I never said I was interested, though. Why? Well, he didn't eev-er (I was 13 years old not making the first move. Waiting for the other person to lead).
We did exchange cards or info. And it took quite a while for us to actually meetup. We went out on a whim. I had extra tickets to Jazz at Lincoln Center from one of my class outings. He joined us. We had a great time, but all the while I thought he's not really diggin' me because he's mostly talking about what's not been working for him with women. He'd had a breakup that hurt him.
I'M INTERESTED IF YOU ARE
I was no better off than he but it was so easy to be checkin him out and not check in with me and being vulnerable. I never just asked, "Hey, I am interested in you. Is there any interest in me or is this just a nice hang?" I decided the latter and built a case about it. He had walked me to my door which was out of his way. I said I hope we do this again and when he didn't reach out I made another decision that he wasn't really interested. I had evidence that "he ain't into me." He was a nice brother. Had issues just like the next person (me, I was sittin next to him), but, I decided, he just ain't into me. I was mostly being selfish and not wanting to be audacious (and anyone who knows me says I am). I just wasn't being me. But I was going to town with these decisions.
So from time to time he called since then. But the filter through which all his calls have been received is kind of like "It's a courtesy call, Kyra. That's all. He ain't into you." What I had really already decided was I was no longer into him. But of course you can't see you're own eyeballs.
In the last two months, he's been a bit more persistent. Leaving emails or messages saying "Why won't you get back to me!" He message was urgent and also kind of like hey you're neglecting me and treating me rudely. I often do this with men AND women in my life. My "only child-no one really cares for me" syndrome is what I call it. Most days I spend alone worrying about what I haven't done or catching up on what I didn't do before. So I always sound busy, act busy or just plain stay alone. (I suspect I am not alone in that).
LATE BUT GETTIN' IT
I am getting personal here and being really authentic about how it is because this morning I decided to ask the question I never asked from the jump with brotherman by email. I am such a late bloomer ;-). Call myself a turtle. Slow and easy, they say, wins the race.
I emailed him today and guess what? I met myself in the response. It's really sad how many of us great black men and women are resigned about the litany of people of the opposite sex we have gone through and not succeeded with as we search for a mate. In this brother's email response he said something that stuck with me. It occurred like a sign of not just his resignation but my own:
Many say that you cannot use the past as a beacon for the present or the future, but I disagree. The past is the precedent from which the future is experienced.DO YOU HAVE A PAST or DOES THE PAST HAVE YOU?
How dead on was his statement?!! Maybe you agree to disagree, too. But the thing that I think is missing from this powerfully valid assessment is that the past is over.
It ain't happening to us anymore (the last girlfriend, the last breakup, the shady brother, the promiscuity, etc). I really got this to the bone when I had to give up what I made the past mean about not having my father in my life for 40 years. (R.I.P. Norman Lee Evans, Sr.) We had 5 years together before be passed all due to my giving up the past view I held onto.
The moment I gave up that I had been abandoned or wasn't important to him, a future empty and wide open for creating became available to me again and the love I'd always wanted with him and other men became available too. It was me, not him that was dead. Now, life WAS NOT perfect for us after that, mind you. Like some fantasy. But it was a miracle what we shared since so many never give up what the past meant to them about their fathers. Only thing that was sad about it all was that my father died not really getting how much I and his family truly loved him, or maybe he did. I really don't know. I never asked.
There was something ultimately that this brother was really trying to say to me in his email and through a lot of angst. What we really all want is being together. Being with each other. Being intimate. Just being with each other the way we are and the way we aren't and THAT makes ALL the difference when it happens. It's just so rare between black men and women.
Bottom line: The resignation from the past is only a filter of resignation ABOUT the past. It's not the past. Someone once said to me there's the TRUTH and then when you start believing the truth, it's no longer the truth. It becomes a BELIEF about the truth. Tricia Rose used to say that about hip-hop scholarship. Most of it in the early days was about ABOUT rap. Those were the early days. Maybe it's time for our beliefs about relationships to mature, too.
JUST NOTICE - THERE'S NOTHING TO DO
Hmm. All this leaves me with something to consider. There's just something to notice when it's happening. For instance, that I don't ask or say I'm interested for fear of the outcome and then I force the outcome I fear. What is we let ourselves be with each other exactly the way it is and be straight about what we are curious about? I wasn't then. I could have been. Now I can be. It's really possible now after all.
PS. I was quoted in NYTimes Metro section yesterday. Check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/education/31double.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss