It’s a funny first question but it comes up more often than you think:
“What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life?”
“I’ve had to let go of someone who wasn’t mine to begin with.”
I’ve never known how to articulate that feeling for others.
But…If I am to ever have a daughter then…
I really hope she never knows what a ‘goodbye hug’ feels like. I hope she never knows what ‘I’ll see you later‘ really means; I hope she never has to memorise the words of a last conversation, because a broken heart feels like poisoned butterflies taking their last flutters in the pit of your stomach.
It was my first heartbreak. I was 9 years old. All over a strong woman I called my Grandmother.
This is where it gets complicated but after years of recounting it, here it is in a nutshell: She was not my Father’s Mother; She was my Grandfather’s mistress, my biological Grandmother’s sister in-law. She had left her husband and children behind to be with her Husband’s Sister’s Husband.
They say love is blind eh! I suppose so blind that you’re not able to tell the difference between right and wrong.
I can’t imagine some of the reactions out there after reading that. It didn’t matter to me though, I was too young and didn’t understand the principles of right and wrong behaviour.
As you can imagine, she wasn’t respected by many but I adored her. My parents were amongst those who didn’t like her much. Enough about who she was, society can take that debate to their ‘morality court’ and fight it out.
She taught me some of the simplest everyday skills that I still use in my everyday life. To name a few, she taught me how to dry my hair after a shower; how to brush with charcoal to keep your teeth white. The trick to hanging clothes quickly, washing dishes; making tea and plating your own hair. There was nothing she didn’t know about to a 9 year old child. Although I must admit, I didn’t quite learn to master hair styling.
Today I remembered something she’d said to me a few times because I would cry a lot. I’d mainly cry for attention but it didn’t always work in my favour. Her words were something along the lines of..
“Just remember, this world wasn’t built for you. So if need be, destroy it to the ground; resurrect it, and make sure it’s as beautiful as you are.”
At the time, those words would make me so furious. I had no idea what any of it meant. I thought they were just words to shut me up. A pretentious way to make me feel like I matter, because if I were really that beautiful, then why not show me off? Why leave me behind?
I remember she said that to me that day I last saw her. I was crying. She was crying. This time however, I wasn’t crying for attention.
She was on the ground struggling to stand up after being hit repeatedly by my Grandfather who used a wooden plank of wood approximately 1 metre long and a couple of inches wide and deep. It wasn’t the first time I had seen something like that happen. Enough was enough!
I told her to leave; Never come back; Things weren’t going to change; they weren’t going to change.
I say ‘they’ because my Grandfather wasn’t in this alone. He’d get brainwashed by one of his brother’s and sometimes his daughters and/ or their husbands.
If you ever want to see evil incarnate, I’ll introduce you to my extended family.
I never thought she’d actually leave and never come back. Who accepts advice from a 9 year old anyway? I wasn’t ready yet. There was so much still to learn.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get to see her again; If she ever missed me like I missed her; I wonder if she still thinks of me as beautiful!?
I was 9. All that I had witnessed in this short lived life had made me question absolutely everything and everyone all the time.
It took me a while but I came to realise I had anger and trust issues. Anxieties they call it. Fear however, was one thing I didn’t have. I wouldn’t make friends easily not that that’s changed much now. You’d have to be extraordinary for me to care of your existence. As years went by, I had noticed I had increasingly become over protective especially towards my immediate family and those I had classified as important.
I had started to see trends in others behaviours as well; changes in vocal tones as people spoke, facial expressions and emotions became easier to read. A little bit like, when we decide to buy a car and all of the sudden start seeing that same make & model or colour everywhere and think, is our taste really that popular.!?
So, just getting back to my answer. I’m not sure if its even accurate to say ‘I’ve had to let someone go’.
Let me tell you, I don’t let go of anything, ever, let alone people. Mother would be nodding at that alright. Sad truth is, I don’t leave people, they leave me. Another analogy to put me into perspective? Basically, if we were at war, I would be the definition of ‘brotherhood’: ‘I will always come for you no matter the cost’ and if that didn’t resonate then I’m sure you’ve heard of – ‘leave no man behind’.
If there’s anything all my heartbreaks have taught me, it’s to be resilient. I’ve spent the better part of my life being caught between a strong mind and a fragile heart.
So here’s a small dedication to all the strong women out there… No matter how we came to be strong.
This is for every woman who knows that it’s far better to stand alone than have a man that will never understand our worth. For the women who are not afraid to cut a man loose if he’s not doing his job. For the women who get hated on by others with insecurities pigmented to their faces. Ladies, they hate you because their confidence is crippled. This is for the women who remind me of my Grandmother.
From one strong woman to another.