November 16, 2007

Love: Counting It In, Counting It Out

I have spent a lot of the past few weeks reading and re-reading bell hooks' Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery. I've been working with a copy from the public library, but I need to purchase a copy for myself.

This title is one of hooks' earlier works and her chapters on addiction, loss, work, and beauty are masterful. Her chapter on love, however, speaks most deeply to me and captures the energy that makes everything else about our "recovery" important.

Near the opening of the "Living to Love" chapter, hooks writes: "Many black women feel that we live lives in which there is little or no love. This is one of our private truths that is rarely a subject for public discussion. To name this reality evokes such intense pain that black women can rarely talk about it fully with one another." Before you, dear reader, say that lots of people live without love, please remember hooks is writing about the capacity of black women to recover our lost selves. Does anything think this can be achieved without love?

In recent (the last ten) years, I've had all kinds of informal discussions with other black women (usually at holiday dinners or other social gatherings) about how strong we are and how little we need personal or romantic love in our lives. I don't know how we've come to understand strength as a lack of need for love. Is it possible we really doubt our ability or option to safely, peacefully, and happily love and be loved? Do we then declare through words and actions that love is not necessary, not a vital part of life? It seems like it.

Long ago, someone said "If you don't expect too much, you won't be disappointed." How can this be true? The saddest people I know are the ones who expect the least. Because of their low levels of expectation, they don't think of or create opportunities to be surprised, to be encouraged, or to be joyful. Or to be loved.

At the end, I suppose it's a question of counting love in, or counting it out. For now, I'm counting it in.

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