Perhaps it started before I even knew what love was. Maybe it was the first time I felt infatuation in my heart and the desperate measures we feel when affinity floods our heart. I’m sure most of us have stories like this; remembrances of the first time we felt butterflies in our souls. My first brush with crush was like a movie scene; at the age of elvent, I traveled to New York to attend an Ethiopian wedding. The reception was epic; a bigger celebration I have yet to witness since that Saturday July night in Manhattan. I was taking it all in; an awkward adolescent, I stayed on the sideline as I watched others dance and do eskista.
All the sudden everything paused as I looked across the room and saw a girl who was about my age dressed in a black and white polka dot dress. Up until that moment, I was too busy in life watching cartoons and playing dodge ball and such to take notice of girls. I guess I’m showing my age; I grew up in a time where being a child did not entail having debauchery pushed in our face. In fact, back then boys my age used to get teased if we even admitted that we liked a girl. What a change in only one generation, I feel like I’m living in a bizarro world when I compare the past to the present zeitgeist where kids are being forced to be adults before they enjoy their 13th birthday.
But I digress, let me return to the wedding weekend during a Manhattan summer in 1985. That night, I felt a magical connection and the last thing I cared about was being teased by my friends for being enthralled with a girl. For the first time, I felt an attraction to someone else. It was not an attraction based on flesh, I was too young to know about lust. I just wanted to ask her to dance. But at that exact moment, fear set in and my palms started to sweat. What do I say? Do I just walk up to her and ask her to dance? Do I say my name and ask what her name was? Would she laugh at me and say no? These deliberations became debilitating. Stuck on the same spot for what seemed like an eternity, after a few minutes the song ended and so did my chance.
My first blush with love was aborted by fear. The lesson of that day gnawed at me for a long time. Instead of acting out of faith and taking a leap, I withdrew like a tortoise and let fear dictate my choice. I made it my purpose to bleed that spirit of fear from my heart even though it took a long time before I finally learned to have courage. After seeing time after time nice guys finishing last and having one too many crushes crush my heart because I was too kind, I put on a pretense of bravado and decided to be “that guy”. I unlocked the combination, be a charmer with a smile and say the right words and I can have as my mind desired. I went from fear to bravado, both symptoms of fear but I did not have the wisdom to understand that back then.
This mask of a player worked for a while until I entered my first relationship. The first time I said I love you to my first love, fear returned like the monsoons in Calcutta. Fear that is not dealt with never vacates, it just lurks in the background waiting to reenter when the opportunity is present. Afraid to lose the first love I had, I did all I could to be perfect. Trying to keep her, I lost myself. The more I feared losing her, the more I tried to control the relationship. I’m not talking about controlling the other person but controlling myself for fear offending her. Self-editing is nothing more than self-bondage; few things in this world shackles the soul quite like the cancer of people pleasing.
You see, we become the very things we run from. Fear that motivates flight ends up trapping us into another prison because a reaction and an action based on refusing to face our demons locks up our souls. I’ve been a part of this saga, of going back and forth between love and lust. Each time it was fear that drew me to love and it was fear that motivated me to become the opposite when love did not work out. When we are not healed from within, it is impossible to be with someone else. Only when you can stand on your own can two people stand as one in love. All else is codependency no matter how much it feels right. If you can’t be yourself with someone you are with, you are with the wrong person. Not everyone that comes into our lives is the one; too often we let fear dictate who we should be with instead of living in faith. I write this inspired by song titled Yene Merafia by Yared Negu. This song is about two people who fell in love and then got torn apart. This was the sad song that played in my heart for over a decade way before Yene Merafia was sung. So afraid of losing that I let fear get in the way of living in the moment. I don’t write this in regret or remorse. We make mistakes in life in order to grow and often the first person we love becomes a preparation for the one we are meant to be with.
These things are not evident during our time of distress and darkness. When one is marooned in a cave of sadness, it is hard to see the light of love ahead. What I tried to control for too long ended up shattering into the abyss. When I was ready to say goodbye to love and close my heart to anyone else, the most astounding thing happened as an unexpected blessing restored love in my heart. The lesson in all this is that love does not exist where fear lives. Only when we face our ghosts can and free our minds from the past can we love perfectly in the moment. But we learn through experiences and we grow through the fire, in time tears become the broken water that delivers love and purpose. #LoveWithoutFear
The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.
Check out the video by Yared Negu that inspired this article and make sure to check out the Ghion Cast below this video where I discuss love and healing from past pains in the YouTube video titled ‘What is Love”.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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