I attended the Jazmine Sullivan concert at Tabernacle in Atlanta on Tuesday night. It was a great experience; Jazmine was vocally amazing and her band kept me on my toes with excitement. During the concert, Jazmine thanked everyone for the continued support during her extended hiatus in between her newly released album and her first album. The reason she gave was that she experienced a bad break up and she needed time to recover and to find herself again. In the process, her album “The Reality Show” was birthed and it became an avenue for her to heal. As she talked about this, my glance on her softened as did the glances of many around me. It seemed like many of us knew the pain of a break up and the hard work of having to find oneself again post break up. I felt myself emotionally reacting to hearing her story, not being too far removed from my own “finding me again” story.
Growing up, I did my best to be as close to perfect as possible. I always tried to make the right decisions, react the right ways, and live the right life. It was because of these goals that I often found myself in the position to say “How could she ever…?” and “I would never do anything like…”. I was thoroughly convinced that as a self-actualized and well-learned individual, I would not fall prey to some of the same traps I saw some of my peers falling into in their personal lives. I was wrong. The tears I said I would never cry fell often and fell for prolonged periods. The begging I said I’d never do I did more times than I care to admit. The compromising I said I’d never settle into became a way of life at one point. The situations I said I’d never find myself in were where I lived for a while.
Played the fool. I didn’t even know that I had signed up for some stuff when it fell into my lap. But when I found myself face-to-face to these situations, all the resolve, all the knowledge, all the pride I had in what I knew I wasn’t going to do and wasn’t going to have happen went down the drain. I fell, I made crazy mistakes, I lost my pride in situations that were supposedly beneath me, I begged people to stay who were intent on leaving, I loved more than I received love. I experienced life. And once I began to emerge from those situations, I could no longer afford to be proud of what I would “never” do. I did it and sometimes it felt like a slow descent to my grave. But life did emerge from dead(ish) situations.
One of the biggest takeaways from my pain was greater empathy. I did not realize how judgmental I could be until I was wallowing in the depths of my own mess and I felt the scolding judgment that I was dispensing to myself. I would dare say that a big part of the pain, more than the actual situations, was the self-shaming and tremendous amount of guilt I shouldered as I imperfectly navigated through the emotional swamplands. I suffered alone for months because I didn’t want to even tell anyone what I was experiencing for fear of judgment…and because I couldn’t bare to have another reminder that I was struggling. But as I worked through the pain and worked through the shame, I found a greater empathy for people and their situations, which not only is a general help to me but will serve me well in counseling. People get judged every day and whether I think they’re right, wrong, or indifferent, at the very least I can offer a listening ear with a nonjudgmental filter. No matter where you are in your life, there has been one time or another that you have not been in the best situations or exercised the best judgment. Before you jump down that person’s throat or offer a scathing critique of their actions, remember the love that you needed in your similar moments. Love does not mean cosigning and it does not mean rosey dialogue but love does mean having that person’s best interest in mind and letting the goal of your help or instruction to be love (not to be right, to be condescending, or to exercise a power play).
Jazmine told us that Reality Show, her new and well-accepted album, came about largely as a result of this painful time in her life. I can relate. This blog came about after my break up. I needed some therapy; I needed something to help me to believe again. The first eight months of this blog, I typed through tears (I mean almost every post was through the haze of tears). There were so many drafts of blogs that remained in my Drafts because I knew it was too much to expose to the world but I needed to get it out of my system. This is my rose that grew from my personal concrete. Listening to Jazmine talk about her album being her means of therapy served as a great reminder to me of what I gained from my dark cloud – my blog, a greater sense of self, higher esteem, a greater determination to live and to go after what I want, more smiles, a deeper appreciation for the process, etc. The pre-25 Ashley and the post-25 Ashley are not the same person. I am grateful.
Jazmine and I are both turning 28 this year. We’re both still in recovery from crazy periods in our lives. And from the way she closed her eyes and seemed to get lost in Forever Don’t Last, we both still have those moments and recovery hasn’t been perfect. I will have lapses in judgment until the day I die and some of my decisions will be questionable no matter how much I want to do the right thing. And some days, I have and will succumb to those “less than” options. But I’ve learned to keep going and to draw strength from Someone greater than I. So that’s what I’ll continue to do and hopefully I can encourage someone else along the way to do the same.
“Everybody plays the fool sometimes, there’s no exception to the rule…” – Main Ingredient