Remember Love is author, artist and poet Cleo Wade’s latest collection of poetry. But before it was available to the masses, it was a mantra she repeated to herself. Wade needed the reminder as she navigated the changes motherhood invited into her life and while she navigated postpartum depression.
She writes about the experience in the collection: “It’s hard to love a stranger. It’s extra hard when change has turned you into the stranger.”
But more than just adjusting to motherhood, Remember Love: Words for Tender Times is about renewing our relationship with love as we grow, change, shift and adjust to the challenges of life.
For Wade, remembering love looked like accepting this new version of herself and extending grace.
“I realized I didn’t know how to love myself when I didn’t feel like myself,” she tells ESSENCE. “If I was moving slower, I was like, ‘Why are you moving so slow? What’s wrong with you?’ I was treating myself like I was broken when really I was just different and required a different type of healing and love for myself.”
From there, she considered all the times where she had to adjust the way she cared for herself. She has a section of the book dedicated to heartbreak, another to letting go. In another, she discusses worthy rebellions and asks us to consider a series of questions: “In hustle and grind culture, is there room to love ourselves? Does my pace have to be the pace of the world? Because the pace of the world does not leave room for me to love myself.”
Wade hopes that the words found in Remember Love will be timeless, but she also feels that they are particularly relevant right now, when we’re all, as the subtitle suggests, feeling tender.
“We know everything that happens in every corner of the world and are able to connect it,” Wade says. “We live in the vulnerability of climate fear and climate change. Then we spend a lot of time in this online space that really asks us to compare ourselves to others and not journey on our own unique path. We are reachable 24/7. Even our brains are changing so much. It’s hard to process the constant flow of information along with just the regular emotional things that happen in human life. Things just are affecting us in ways where it’s almost like every time you get into the water, the water’s cold.”
Still, Wade is hopeful.
“I feel like we can get through tender,” she says. “It feels natural. Tender moments belong to the human experience.”
In addition to her own experiences with self-love, she wrote this book with her friends in mind who are also experiencing life’s changes. At a dinner with five girlfriends, Wade says one was having troubles with her child, another was dealing with her mother’s cancer coming back. Wade wrote to provide comfort.
“I just thought, ‘This is what my friend is going through. This would so help her in this way,’” she recalls.
She says that the relationships she has with her friends touch every part of her life. She considers friendship, including the relationships she has with her children and partner, her life’s greatest achievement.
“It’s ancestral,” Wade explains. “Black women have always been in the kitchen together. In the living room together. Black women are the social safety net of the Black community. Whether it’s fundraising at church, bringing someone’s kid in, making sure the next door neighbor had dinner, that is the nature of who we are. The energy of that really runs through me and so many of my friends. My kids call every single girlfriend I have ‘auntie.’ I really take the divine responsibility of friendship seriously so I have really beautiful friendships with people. We have a way of loving and having a real presence with each other.”
But even with women as her lifeblood and muses, she found that others took inspiration from her words too.
“When my partner Simon read it, he felt it was incredibly helpful for career advice and being able to help men find a pathway to lean more deeply into family relationships, creating the appropriate space to work as a human being and not like a machine,” she says. “He felt affirmed by that as someone who is a type A overachiever. I never really considered that.”
Beyond her loved ones, Wade said the book is for anyone who feels like they are searching around in the dark in any aspect of their lives.
“This is for anyone who is looking for the light and all of a sudden realizes, ‘Like damn, I’m the light. The light’s in me. I have to create it here. And what is the first step I take? What is the first helpful thought I can have? How can I love myself into my light?’”
Remember Love: Words for Tender Times is available now.