The sunset was showing off on Monday. Daylight faded, and evening pulled back the curtain to reveal a dusky sky drenched in a pink, purple and gold-hued tie dye. Even in the monotony of winter—when everything is brown, sparse and bland—a beautiful sunset demands awe and at least a few moments of peaceful reflection. Coat on, leaning over my balcony, puffs of breath wafting into the air, but I was uncharacteristically still, and I had a very clear, very honest thought: I was stuck on stupid. Not the kind of flowery epiphany one hopes to have against such a marvel of nature, but it was one I needed to have nonetheless.
Just a few minutes before, I had been sitting on my sofa, cell phone in hand, about to contact the same man for the 1,000th or 100,000th time and randomly express my undying love in what probably would’ve been the text message equivalent of a Keith Sweat song. I am impulsive, and paired with unlimited texting and rambling thoughts, I am downright dangerous sometimes. It’s a steep, slick slope into pathetic, and I was about to aim right at it and launch. I didn’t know what I was going to say exactly, but whatever it was was going to put me under love’s stiletto bootheel for the 1,000th or 100,000th time.
Divine intervention tiptoes in at the most fateful moments, thank God, and I paused because words surprisingly failed me which, for a writer and self-aware motormouth, is a miracle in and of itself. Drawing that blank is how I ended up on the balcony and when I slid the glass door open to walk back inside, I had a new perspective. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” rational Janelle said to emotional Janelle, “to get these messages instead of being the one to send them?”
When you find yourself always playing the part of event planner and never, ever the invited guest, when you’re the one initiating conversations that wouldn’t have been had if you weren’t the one who started them, you’re in a relationship with yourself. The other person is just there for decoration.
I’d have a mouthful of advice for one of my girlfriends if she was consistently sweating a dude who treated her like an option, not a necessity. But love had punked that better judgment into a cowering corner somewhere. All of his wonderful potential and all of his adorable qualities—and he does indeed have plenty of them—had made me overlook my own. I was shortchanging myself. If I’m the only one expressing love, it’s not the kind of love I want.
A few weeks ago, I railed against the barrage of self-proclaimed experts making money off of so many sisters’ hopes for a good man and a good marriage. But I can’t discount the tendency we have to give our 150 percent all into relationships that aren’t worth the time or the energy we invest simply because we can envision how things could be if this would be like this and that would be like that. We gotta learn the hard way that you can’t make something be what it was never capable of.
Alicia Keys’ “Brand New Me” is my song—it’s playing right now, as a matter of fact—but there’s a line by Erykah Badu that speaks to me, too: “If I get off knees, I might recall I’m 20 feet tall.” I’ve never physically begged—I do have a little bit of pride, y’all—but I compromised a lot of my me-ness to make something unworkable work for as long as it could.
It took a lot out of me to write this. Heck, I might need a nap. It’s not easy to publicly admit, especially as a super girl-power flexing feminist, even one who shares all kinds of personal business, that you’ve been strung out on a dude who’s ever-so-nonchalant about you. I suspect I’m not the first and, unless Apple finally markets the technology to walk up and zap a dude into acting right and falling in line, I probably won’t be the last. But I felt compelled to share on behalf of girls with big hearts and bad experiences. If God truly favors the brokenhearted, then we’ve got ours coming.
So this is my official manifesto to myself to let it go. If I put it out there, I have to stick to it. And even if I never get married, even if I never find this fabled man who is supposed to be The One, I will at least know that I didn’t cheat myself by settling for chasing after The One Who Wasn’t.