On Friday, the 21st of December 2018, I had one of the most violent nights I had experienced in what felt like several months. No, no armed robbers attacked my household. Neither did I get beaten or stabbed or even get into a verbal fight with anyone. All the violence occurred within my own mind; between me and myself. Between me and my God.
With conflicting efforts, I was trying to sleep and trying to pray. It was 3 a.m. and I wasn’t having much luck with either because my heart was troubled, and my mind was stressed. I don’t truthfully know what exactly brought on the attack I experienced. That day, I had hosted several friends in my house, including my best friend. But, lying alone in my bed at the end of the night, although I should have been filled with the pleasure that came from having spent the day with some of my favorite people in the world, I was plagued instead with a large, empty hole right at the core of my being. And then there was a yearning, which I struggled to interpret. It took a while of intense discomfort, tossing, turning and tears, but then I arrived at the root of the yearning: a desire to be loved.
Emptiness and a yearning for love: rather odd things to be feeling, especially after I’d spent several hours with friends whom I loved and who loved me. Where could it possibly be coming from—and why didn’t the love I already had feel like enough?
One easy answer was that there is a specific kind of way I want to be loved and I am not yet being loved in that way. I get bits and pieces of my Ideal Love from various friends, but none of them is my Ideal Lover. If my Ideal Lover exists among the people already in my life, they have not yet shown their real face.
The trouble with all this is, although I know well that there is a way I desire to be loved, I have never really taken the time out to examine and outline what that way is; what my personal, ideal loving relationship would look like. (The word “ideal” is used here more loosely than literally.)
I have reason to believe that as fantastical as my yearning for ideal love sounds, it is likely within reach. A few years ago, I was hoping and praying for a person who fit the description of my invented title of “Someone Who Gets It.” This person would be someone who actually understood me when I spoke—not just someone who merely assumed they understood me but didn’t or couldn’t, even when they had the best intentions. I wanted a person who wouldn’t try to lecture me with counterpoints to what I’ve said; someone who’d have recognized the fallacies I’d have seen in those counterpoints, before the words left their tongue. I wanted someone who would interpret my expressed thoughts and statements within the crucial context of my outlook on the world—hopefully by virtue of sharing that outlook themselves. I wanted someone to whom I wouldn’t have to explain, for an hour, what I felt should have taken three minutes. I felt like such a misunderstood oddity that the idea of finding Someone Who Gets It was almost purely fantastical, even for me.
But I found that person, in my current best friend. Miracles do happen, and I serve a God who answers prayers. If Someone Who Gets It exists, though, even for a self-perceived rare creature like me, why shouldn’t there be an Ideal Lover out there as well? Unable to find a legitimate answer to such a question, I concluded that there was none. Therefore, if I really wanted Ideal Love/an Ideal Lover, all I had to do was pray for one and believe I’d get one and wait for one to arrive. It seemed a simple enough path to me—but only in theory.
I started praying that night. In the hour of 3 am., as I said. I probably hadn’t even reached even thirty seconds into the prayer when my mind, body and spirit, suddenly and in tandem, cut the prayer off. I think I sat up in bed. I know I started sobbing.
Akotowaa, what the hell do you think you are doing, praying for love?
How dare I be so audacious?
The enemy within began its barrage: I did not deserve love. I was not worthy of it. Not only was it effrontery to think I could come to God with such a topic on my heart but it also made no sense! I was not the kind of person who should be loved, much less in her own, ideal way. All the love I was living on already was borrowed, undeserved benevolence from the people I called friends—probably wasn’t even love anyway, just some kindness borne from pity.
Truth lives within us, I believe—and it lets us know when we are lying to ourselves. Lies, in reaction, try their best to be louder than the voice of Truth. Alas, far too often, the lies succeed, as mine did that night.
I felt like a dirty, damaged, pathetic thing, and only later, in trying to process it, would I realize what a relatively new phenomenon this was, within me. I hadn’t, until recently, felt so dreadfully undeserving of love. In the moment, however—which lasted quite a while and was interluded by another, separate but somewhat related, even more violent breakdown—I thought it sufficed to conclude my prayer with asking God/Jesus to please, please make His love be and feel sufficient for me and make me thus in no need of human love to complement it.
I don’t know if there’s any such thing as a “wrong” prayer, but I do know that mine was a cop-out. And that it was founded on very, very toxic grounds.
As I said before, this development was recent. It’s something the experiences of 2018 did to me: the various relationship struggles I had that year in particular have made me often feel unloved, insignificant to the people I love, unworthy of love, a terrible friend, and unworthy even of friendship. All of this went essentially unprocessed and likely had as much of a hand in the deepening of my yearning for Ideal Love as my inability to pray, the effects culminating at the end of the year, in the third week of December.
My relationships with others have taken several lethal shots in 2018—and sometimes, I have been the shooter. These are a few.
Very early in the year, my sense of ostracism from the only community I felt comfortable with on my American college’s campus heightened. I once expressed this sentiment to a friend who also belonged to this community, and I can’t remember her knowing what to offer me in response. The feeling hadn’t simply emerged from nowhere, but from concrete incidents where I found myself being left out of the loop, excluded from invitation, or something of the sort. It’s been a recurring phenomenon in my life, for the past six or so years; a group of people and I all start out on the same level of being near-strangers, and then the others’ relationships between themselves deepen, whereas my relationships with them stay superficial or dissipate altogether. It made college life a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. But like I say sometimes: My loneliness isn’t anyone’s fault; they can’t help not being the right people. Still, the fact that so few people are the “right people” for me often makes me feel as though there is something inherently wrong with me. Because, although I’m not entirely incapable of making friends, I can’t ever seem to make and keep friends the same way or as easily as others do.
At the end of the year’s first quarter, a fracture appeared between myself and a friend so close that I’d thought of her, for years, as a sister. For the rest of the year, from April to December, I was broken and traumatized by it. No heartbreak aches like that of a lifelong friendship you thought would last forever abruptly coming to what looks like an unavoidable end. I shed so many tears for the girl that was one of my oldest friends and acquaintances from infancy. It hurt to the point where, otherwise unprovoked but for the memory, I would just be minding my own business and burst into tears. Always wondering if she knew what I was going through, whether she was going through similar, whether she cared at all. When all my attempts at reaching out wouldn’t persuade her to break her silence, when all my texts remained despondently unanswered. Seventeen years of acquaintance/friendship/best-friendship/sisterhood doesn’t cut without leaving deadly scars. Everything was made worse by my belief that the thing I suspected drove us apart was so trivial to me—and worse than that, I had caused it by bringing the matter up.
Then there was this season that I have already written about, in two blog posts (Underground: A Memoir from May 2018, and Prayers God Chooses Not to Hear), when I fell into stupid deep depressions and was callously abandoned by the man who was my anchor and almost sole comfort. How is one supposed to feel when the person she loves most in the world and whose companionship sustains her when all else fails is shown that she couldn’t be less important to him? Like the threat of each losing their place in the other’s lives is not nearly enough to move him to reveal his presence or act as a friend? This, more than anything else that happened the entire year, was probably where the deepest relationship trauma came from. If I, in my deepest darkness, favored no-one, I favored him. He, in darkness or even dim light, favored no-one—not even me. It was impossible to digest. If my best friend didn’t love me, how could I ever be anything other than unworthy of receiving love?
And then there was the shot I fired. It’s so morbidly interesting, how life works. As I was mourning the death of a friendship between myself and someone I thought I would be friends with forever, I summoned death upon the relationship between myself and a person who’d always thought he and I would be friends forever. I had been nurturing unaddressed anger towards him for the longest time. I’d felt abandoned, under-prioritized, constantly placed in the backseat of the life of this person who’d sworn he was dedicated to helping me and my career. Of course, he’d been going through terrible issues of his own, but when he pulled the trigger of a gun I had always refused to accept would one day fire, my anger only blossomed. I knew the power of words, and yet I used them as a weapon against him—weaving truth with the poisonous lies of my unaddressed wrath and damaging his reputation even further than it had already been damaged. The wrong words, said to even one person, can be all it takes to make a person want to kill himself. I realized what I had done, and I could not forgive myself. I have not forgiven myself.
I won’t pretend these were the only factors that contributed to my breakdown in the midst of prayer, but they were some of the most potent factors in this matter. I hadn’t worked properly through any of these heartaches and traumas and, furthermore, I had no idea how to. It seemed that the effects had all culminated in that night, to convince me that I was a terrible person, incapable and unworthy of basic friendship, much less love. With this belief of myself in my heart, there was no way I could pray for what I wanted.
With God, it was “different.” In theory, I understood and appreciated the concept of His grace. He loved humans who were undeserving. There was nothing I had done or could do to deserve the love He had given or could give. So, I was “allowed” to pray that His love would satisfy me. But humans are not God. I didn’t deserve and ought not to ask for Ideal Love, because it would be coming from a human being—and that was what halted me in my prayer.
The devil is a liar.
While we are on earth, God knows how to give gifts to our physically embodied, living selves—and sometimes, He does that through other human beings. The people He brings into our lives and people He removes from them. I am convinced that no matter how horrible and treacherous I think I am, the God that not only invented love but is Love, the God who saw one human being and declared its isolation was not a good thing, would probably have dissented with me halting and altering my prayer.
I believe human beings, too, are agents of grace. It’s why we also have powers to forgive, reward and favor each other. I won’t lie and say I believe I deserve the kind of love I want. But by all means, I have a right to request for, receive and enjoy it—through grace. If humans are agents of grace, refusing to be loved is as ridiculous to me as refusing to be saved. When a gift with my name on it already lies at my doorstep, what do I really gain from refusing to pick it up?
It’s funny how the process of praying—to a God that already knows our desires better than we do—is often more for our own benefit than anyone else’s. He already knows the conditions of our hearts; but until we open our own mouths to pray, do we?
I know the way I see myself is and has been very toxic. So, I’m going to try, with divine assistance, to rid myself of the poison. And one way I’m going to do that is to intentionally sit down and put on paper, with ink, the nature of my desire for Ideal Love, to be shared between myself and my God—no matter how terrified or wretched I feel while writing it.
How do you want to be loved?
A question I have been running away from. A question I am about to answer intentionally.