For HuffPost’s #LoveTakesAction series, we’re telling stories of how people are standing up to hate and supporting those most threatened. What will you stand up for? Tell us with #LoveTakesAction.
I’ve always struggled with love. Up until a few years ago, the idea of loving and being loved was a foreign concept to me. I’ve always been skeptical of love, skeptical even of my closest family members when they’ve professed their love for me. I still find myself slightly bemused when my boyfriend of two years tells me he loves me. I’m working on it.
Because I know love exists. I know it exists because love has saved my life too many times to count.
Love has been the text message from my boyfriend at 2 a.m. saying, “How are you? I’m thinking of you,” when I have been deep within the abyss of suicidal thoughts, a bottle of pills in my hands.
Love has been my mother, showing up at my door with tupperware of home-cooked food and a hug, knowing I haven’t eaten or left the house in days. And love has been the messages of strangers and acquaintances online ― messages of encouragement, understanding and solidarity. Messages that have made me feel less alone in my deepest bouts of depression.
I know love exists. I know it exists because love has saved my life too many times to count.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone than in the early hours of November 9. I woke up bleary-eyed and confused to a world that had, somehow, violently shifted as I tried to sleep away my election anxiety. It was a world in which I felt a little less safe, a little less understood. It was a world that seemed, implicitly, to confirm that all the things that make up who I am ― black, immigrant, a woman ― made me less than; made me unworthy and unloveable. And not just me, but the most important people in my life: friends and family who are queer, undocumented, Muslim.
There was a lot of talk after the election about empathy, specifically empathy towards people who had voted against or in spite of issues that directly impact me and those I love the most. I struggled with that. I struggled with the concept of extending love and understanding towards those who couldn’t do the same for me. There was no part of me that wanted to “understand” the other side, nor part of me that wanted to love.
It’s hard to describe the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that descends upon you when you feel like the whole world is burning. I didn’t want to march. I didn’t want to call my congressman. I most definitely didn’t want to write about what I was feeling. So I withdrew ― from my friends, from my family, from my boyfriend. I stopped responding to calls, to texts, to messages. I resolved to wrap myself in a cocoon of self-loathing.
And then something kind of wonderful happened. The people who love me didn’t let me. They didn’t let me pore for hours over news items that peaked my anxiety. They checked in on me constantly. They sent me care packages, cooked me dinner, got me drunk. They bombarded me love. It was everything I needed to stay sane.
I resolved to wrap myself in a cocoon of self-loathing. And then something kind of wonderful happened. The people who love me didn’t let me.
I realized something, then. Loving and being loved is a radical act. It’s an act of resistance.
What has been most important, most edifying, most vital for me in the past few months is being surrounded by love. Even when I cannot accept it. Even when I cannot give it back. Even when I cannot love myself. Those moments when my boyfriend talks me down from a panic attack, or when I’m completely broke and a friend takes me out for dinner and a movie ― no questions asked. Those tiny, special acts of love have been like shields against the news of every executive action that threatens to keep me up at night. They’ve been the armor that protects me from the anxiety and depression that plagued me before the election and has only gotten worse since.
We can’t all be activists all the time, and sometimes being a fighter is about keeping your sanity in spite of an increasingly insane world. In the moments I haven’t been able to march, to write, to tweet, I’ve been able to love. I’ve been able to look in the mirror and, even for a few brief moments, revel in everything I am. And I’ve been able to extend that love to others who I know are hurting and trying to make sense of themselves in this new America. It helps.
Sometimes being a fighter is about keeping your sanity in spite of an increasingly insane world. In the moments I haven’t been able to march, to write, to tweet, I’ve been able to love.
There’s a problem with that popular idea, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” It’s a motivating thought, but it makes no room for reality. It erases the fact that self-love is a process. Self-love has peaks and valleys.
For the next four years and beyond, I believe in love. I believe in directing my love towards those who need it ― those who are disenfranchised, persecuted, underrepresented. Not the flowery notion of love and romance, not in pithy catchphrases like “love trumps hate.” Because sometimes, love does not trump hate. Sometimes, hate wins. It’s in those moments, now more than ever, that we need to cling to the idea of acts of kindness towards ourselves and others as radical, revolutionary acts.
Know a story from your community of people fighting hate and supporting groups who need it? Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.