By. Neema Murimi
I have never had a problem with asserting myself and making my presence known or my voice heard. In fact, I have never been particularly gifted at filtering my thoughts and feelings. The other day, my good friend Georgia was describing how I communicate and said, “You don’t have much of a filter, Neema... actually you don’t really have one at all.” That’s not to say that I have no tact in conversation, rather, if I feel that something needs to be said, be it good or bad—it will be, because I am only interested in the truth.
So tell me why, in the midst of my aforementioned strong opinions and conveyance of them, why have I tried to destroy the voice of my own heart as it speaks to me? Why have I viewed it more as a weakness than a valuable tool until just recently?
I am 28. Actually, I turn 29 in about two weeks. It was not until June of 2017 that I met someone I genuinely liked. It was a hot summer evening in New Orleans, and I remember it distinctly for three reasons: the music and dancing my friends and I shared, the cockroach that landed on my shoulder and in so doing traumatized me for life, and the man I met that night.
Now I’d had a bit of wine that evening, which almost always makes me flirtatious. I wouldn’t be surprised if I tried to smooth talk a tree with enough cabernet in my system. But I do have standards; it would at least be a tall tree. No short saplings for me, a strong oak is more my stride. All jokes aside, this guy was different. In my inebriated state I remember thinking to myself, “He is something else.” He hardly even spoke so I don’t know how I picked up on that, but we later exchanged numbers and started texting each other. He was only in New Orleans for the summer, but even after he went back up to Georgia, the conversation continued.
It wasn’t all just coy and cute, for the next few months we told each other nearly everything about ourselves. Opened up a lot of skeletons in our closets. He just had the one closet though, whereas I had several—and they were all of the walk-in variety. There was a raw depth we shared that was smoothed over by constant bickering and banter, which I loved. One day he asked “So what are we going to argue about today?” Because your girl likes to fight, if only just for the sake of winning, not the importance of the subject matter that is being battered to death. So we continued on in this way for a while, and I honestly considered him to be one of my best friends, but of course I also thought he was hot as hell. Tall, tanned skin, blue-green eyes, facial hair, nice cheekbones, toned legs for days...he hit ALL of my marks.
Well, around early October, I panicked. I basically had a full on conniption and no one (or my rationality) was able to lend me their smelling salts in time. I told him I was cutting the cord. He then respectfully bid me adieu, but I could tell he was hurt. Primarily because he used the word “Godspeed” at the end of his goodbye. This coming from the man who used so many ratchet terms I often had to utilize Urban Dictionary to translate.
After that he ghosted me. I prefer to say that he Caspered me, because he was still friendly. Actually he wasn’t, saying that just makes me feel better. But guess what? It wasn’t until after he was metaphorically gone that I realized I loved him. I just couldn’t let him go. Well, I could when I was drinking water, but not at night when it magically turned to wine. Insert the texts. So. Many. Texts. I was girling out in a way I never had before. “I’M NOT ONE OF THOSE CRAZY GIRLS WHO GOES MAD OVER SOME DUDE!” I’d tell myself. Yet here we are.
I turned into a version of myself I did not understand, a version that confused me. I wrestled with my definition of what womanly strength was. I thought that I was all, “I am woman, hear me roar!” but instead I felt like “I am little girl, hear me pitifully meow.” I thought that my love and ache and subsequent heartbreak made me weak rather than mighty, and that frightened me. How can one man have the power to make me melt and change my perception of myself? It took some time but I eventually did what was best for me in that season: I got rid of any way that I could contact him or even just reminisce, in order to advocate for myself and for him. We were both in places of healing that could not be processed properly if we continued to communicate with one another. Even when he did finally respond to me, it became abundantly clear that what was once beautiful and fresh was now jaded and stale: we were not bringing out the best in each other. My heart still sang for him, but now it was in the wrong key, and if I was to grow and thrive, I had to cut the weeds.
But I’m still in it. I still want him. I still love him. I still pray for him. I still want the world for him, but it was time to put myself and the voice of my heart first. Right now is that time, to be honest. It hurts so much. I’m having to come to terms with the extent of the damage that he did to my heart. But through all of this, I discovered a part of my heart I had never known before. I let it speak to me. I let it speak for me. Turns out, your heart has a lot of things to say, and it’s not smothered with the bullshit of political correctness or politeness, it just IS. It is unapologetic, whether it whispers gently, whimpers quietly, proclaims loudly, or fights with a vigorous strength.
During my undergrad I remember studying in the library one day. One section of it had floor to ceiling windows, and I got to see the theatrical display of a girl begging her ex to come back. He would shrug her off and she would continue to plead, crying and yelling after him while he turned his back on her. Y’all, it was even raining outside, it could not have been any more dramatic. At that time I snickered to myself smugly. Sure, a small part of me felt bad for her because she was hurting, but I wondered why this sorority sister didn’t pick a better venue to showcase her heartbreak. There I was trying to study for a science test and she was actively ruining my focus. Very actively in fact: she was running, walking, down on her knees, back up again...I started to wonder if she taught any classes at the campus gym I could take. This girl had her cardio down.
But heartbreak is never convenient. It comes up and slaps you in the face. It is raw, beautiful, and messy all at once. I find myself in kinship with the memory of that girl that day, because I understand her now. The desperation, the pain, the visceral pumping in and out of blood to your heart, and you feel every damn thump. You cannot just contain it for an appropriate time or place. You cannot put a hand over the mouth of your heart and tell it to shush, because it will just bite your hand until it is free. Our hearts were not meant to be stifled.
Let the voice of your heart be. Let it thrive. Every single part of it. This past year I got to tap into my heart telling me it loved a man, telling me it was hurting, and telling me that it was there. That it existed. That it is worthy of an audience. So give your heart a shot of espresso, wake it up. Rub some menthol on it so it can breathe in deeply with everything it’s got. Listen to its voice, even if it hurts or you think it will kill you, because in the end it is just making you stronger. To open up your heart is to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is listening to its rhythms and responding. So check your pulse, be it weak or strong, and smile about it. Or cry about it. It’s there. You’re here. Feel the weight of your heart in your chest, and SPEAK.
Neema Murimi is a writer, poet, artist, adventurer, and professional laugher who does not take herself very seriously. She works with children in foster care and is currently saving up money to launch her business focused on helping people get where they want to be.