About the Author:
Danyelle is a Black woman who is passionate about both women’s sexual agency and the reconciliation of sexuality and faith. She is author of the book “Closed Legs Do Get Fed,” an examination of celibacy for both singles and couples as well as the founder of the blog 'The Unfit Christian.'
By Danyelle Thomas
Like the majority of the free world, I’ve been enjoying Beyoncé’s latest effort, Lemonade, for the past week. Like her 2013 eponymous album, Beyoncé gives us a glimpse into her inner sanctum as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. Whether or not her lyrical evisceration is directed towards her husband, father, or former brother-in-law, the album is indeed a love letter to Black women globally who can intimately relate to its content. Beyoncé is incredibly transparent and vulnerable in this work. She sings with technical precision and emotional fire of a tale as old as time: love, betrayal, pain, and forgiveness as love conquers all. She has channeled her experiences and observations into a piece of art to remind us that when life hands us lemons, it is our duty to make lemonade.
But what happens when you’d prefer to have lemons rather than lemonade? When you’ve decided that lemons of bitterness, anger, and emotional disconnect have become a guard to a broken heart?
As I discussed the album with my sister circle, we all could agree that this album was by and for us. Yet while they all gushed over the love songs and saw their marriages and relationships in the words, I grimaced inside. I rationalized that it was because I’m single but the more I gave it serious thought I had to acknowledge the truth: I have a profound fear of feminine vulnerability.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be like my mother. I was blessed to look exactly like my dad but my mom’s personality runs through me. In wanting to be like my mother, I also wanted to be the embodiment of her strength. She’s been through hell and back (see her story here) and is still standing, strong as ever. In my life, I never witnessed my mother weakened by love for a man. She divorced my father and moved on with her life raising me while maintaining an amazing friendship and co-parent relationship with him. She worked hard, she always bet on herself, and she loved fiercely. My mother, now remarried almost 15 years, continues to be my emblem of strength with a balancing grace of feminine vulnerability. Somewhere along the way, my interpretation of her strength meant the absence of vulnerability.
I’m terrified of allowing myself to become vulnerable for fear of losing the strength I’ve worked so hard to build. I’m proud to be a strong woman, resilient and able to pull myself up from any depth. I own any room that I walk into and have confidence in the success of anything I put my hand to do. Yet, the idea of allowing my heart to possibly be crushed by romantic love is too much to bear. Feminine vulnerability, to me, poses the risk that one man can usurp the power and control I’ve worked so much to gain in my life. I don’t want to be alone forever but my pride keeps me here.
Not only is this fear counterproductive, it’s ungodly. Not because of the cliché “fear is not of God,” but because the desire to suppress or otherwise alter who God created me to be is wrong. Denying myself the right to be full in my womanhood, vulnerability and all, is spitting in the face of the God who created me in Her image. How incredibly wrong I am to alter the masterpiece that is the character and spirit He chose to imprint in me.
There is a constant war in my mind. I want so badly to get on the other side of the walls of my self-imposed prison while also wanting the protection that my lemon tree has afforded me. My daydreams are consumed with me in a future state of openness and graceful vulnerability while my heart wants my head to protect it from harm. This war has me trapped in a place of solitude. I’ve been single nearly two years without so much as a date. I’ve prided myself on my strength but even I am not stronger than nature. My strength, not vulnerability, has become my greatest weakness.
So what do you do when you’re finally ready to make lemonade of life’s lemons?
1.) Prepare your heart: Whether it’s prayer, reciting meditations, reading a self-help book, or some combination thereof, you need to prepare your heart to accept what it desires. Quite literally, you cannot remove the blockages in the heart without opening it up. Though I’m speaking figuratively, the application is the same. You will have to do the work of opening your heart so that your quality of life improves. If you’d like some resources for this process, check out some great tips on mindfulness from Whitley Brooks.
2.) Change your influences: If you have people around you who only praise you for your lemons but never encourage you to make lemonade, it’s time to change your surroundings. People who genuinely love and respect you want the best for you. In my case, my inner circle encourages me to be more open to the possibility of love beyond hurt. But you can only accept this encouragement if you’re willing to be open about your truth. In itself, this process is practice for feminine vulnerability with an intimate partner.
3.) Change your words: Stop saying that you hate the very thing that your heart desires. If you want to be pregnant, don’t say that you dislike children just so you can disguise your pain about your absence of them. If you want to be in a relationship, stop saying you’re happy to be single forever. We are what we speak into existence. Each time you speak more positively to your desires, the more you chip away at the wall you’ve built against vulnerability.
4.) Accept yourself: You need not conform your image to anyone but yourself. If you’re denying part of who you are for the sake of approval of someone else, it’s time to stop. Own who you are and what you want from life. Then, and only then, can you walk in your truth and into the realization of your desires.
As for me, I’m allowing my cleansing tears to become my water, the steps above to be my sugar, and juicing the lemons of my life to create doors where walls to love once stood.