Healing is a messy journey, and journeys—sometimes long and unbearable—do always lead to a destination.
My favorite album by Beyoncé is Lemonade. A Black Southern gothic masterpiece, the album is an ode to Black women who experience heartbreak, who mourn, who explore, and who heal and grow in Love. A Love story; not only to Jay-Z, but to the Black Southern roots that bind Black people—especially Black women—to a sort of ancestral healing. One only made possible through the Love of community, self-preservation, nights in the backwoods, summer days on Nana’s porch, destruction of property, and nights out on the town, allowing yourself to feel the anguish of betrayal. As stated in a former piece, Love is a journey. And it’s a dish unpleasant when all the ingredients aren’t present. So while the pain is not part of Love, it very well could be part of the journey to Love.
Yesterday was the four year anniversary of this masterpiece, and it forced me to reflect on my favorite song from the album: the album opener, “Pray You Catch Me”. One of my favorite lines from that song goes, “my lonely ear / pressed against the walls of your world
pray to catch you whispering / I pray you catch me listening.” As I sat with these lyrics—not for the first time, but freshly puncturing nonetheless—they brought back some very recent pains my mind (and perhaps the stressors of COVID-19) had convinced me I’d moved on from.
I have recently experienced a lot of heartbreak. Platonic, intimate heartbreak. And I thought I had at least gotten to the backend of this pain. It wasn’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I was able to navigate the world without thinking only of this heartbreak. But sitting with those lyrics brought that pain rushing back. My mind, now flooded with memories of what once was and what could have been, started immediately trying to comfort me with affirming thoughts about the complexity of healing. At the head of those thoughts: “healing isn’t linear.”
Perhaps that’s true. In fact, I know it is. And sometimes that fact comforts me. I’m comforted knowing that I’m allowed to fall over obstacles I thought I’d already made it over; that it’s not abnormal for me to become the pile of mess I thought I’d already cleaned up. But sometimes that isn’t comforting. Sometimes what comforts me most is the idea that healing is a destination; a final resting place; a moment of solitude. At least with that truth, I know when I have and have not healed. Maybe the answer to Lara Witt’s question is that healing isn’t possible for Black people. Or maybe it is, and we just won’t know it until we’ve arrived there.
Or, maybe because it’s not linear, we just have to rest with that fact. Because even though Beyoncé ended Lemonade with a mended relationship and in a place of healing, she reveals several times afterward that it has not been easy. On her joint album with Jay-Z, Everything Is Love, she sings these words as the chorus of “LoveHappy”: “the ups and downs are worth it / long way to go, but we’re working.” And later, on the recorded soundtrack for The Lion King, The Gift, she sings on “Bigger”: “tryin’ to be a good wife / it’s still really hard, I can’t lie
But I promised you I will fight, so I fight.”
No matter the answer we arrive at, no one wants to feel that the hard work put into caring for themselves, seeing themselves through hardship, and guiding themselves through deep introspection to discover a new reality was ultimately all for nothing. That the struggle to forgive, to release and let go, to create new memories—with or without said person(s)—can all lead back to sorrow and pain. And still I know that this doesn’t change the fact that, at least for me, healing isn’t linear.
So here I am, at 6:38 in the morning, writing with conviction around some very conflicting thoughts. I’m not a Black woman, but as a Black queer and trans person I am thankful that Beyoncé captured the essence and multiplicities of healing through this album. I honor the fact that she led with trust, not in the world and maybe not even in herself, but in her art to share words as vulnerable as the lyrics on “Pray You Catch Me.” I am doing the same by writing this. Trusting my art enough to make room for me to publicly hold conflicting feelings, opposing views, and two vastly different truths. Because that’s ultimately what healing feels like to me sometimes: in a state of conflict; in opposition; a moment of wrestling; intimate struggle.
RECOMMENDED: Love: A Dish Unpleasant Without All The Ingredients
While I do welcome that reality, Love is as Love does, and sometimes what Love does is push us to accept that the “other side” can be just as messy as the first. And we have to do our best to heal anyway. Even when it’s not necessarily comforting. But we are also allowed to give ourselves the space to desire to reach that endpoint we worked so hard to get to; to breathe through the anxiety when we just can’t bear to bandage torn wounds yet again. Healing is a messy journey, and journeys—sometimes long and unbearable—do always lead to a destination, even if that destination is not what you anticipated and even if there are a couple of detours along the way. Therein is where I find my comfort.
Healing: I pray you catch me.