4:45 (For Sisters Who Want Healing in Real Time)
It has been a little over two months since I shared 4:43 with the world. Since then, it has been read over 300,000 times and shared more than half that. One of my favorite online communities Cassius Life picked it up, I got the opportunity to talk about it on Essence Now and will speak with one of my favorite writers about it at NYU later this month. But more than whatever opportunity came as a result of giving the world a peek into my heartache, every week since July 4 I’ve heard from one of you. Whether you were a sister who thanked me for giving words to your pain or a brother who reckoned with seeing himself in each sentence…or the occasional f*ckboy who wrote me just to say that this was all my fault- I read each and every message and, for all of them, I am grateful.
It should go without saying that I didn’t expect 4:43 to do what it did. I was trying to make sense of my own deep pain and, as creatives, we are often inspired by the work of others. Jay’s vulnerability allowed me to be courageous with my own. Yet, what people often don’t realize is that just because we share our stories doesn’t mean we’ve stopped living them. I celebrated with sisters when they told me they received their 4:43 apologies and congratulated brothers when they wrote to say they finally offered them. And all the while, I was reeling from the fact that I hadn’t gotten my own and never would. I slowly had to accept that he wasn’t ever apologizing for what he did because, to him, he didn’t do anything wrong and it was better to move forward as if we never existed than to face the aftermath of his actions. And there were those who wrote anti-4:43 pieces and threads (I quickly learned to stop reading online comments) basically agreeing with him suggesting that I was the one in the wrong and that I simply needed to let it go. So many said that it was my fault that I was broken and attracted a broken man. Because everything is our fault right? Because Black women can never be wronged. Because somehow our issues are all of our own making and we're just out here being reckless, making messes of our lives.
....*Jay Z voice* "okay"...
But if the overwhelming response to 4:43 taught me anything, it’s that letting it go is not that simple. Over and over, sisters asked me the same question: “How do I move past this pain?” I told them what I believe: before you can move past any pain, you must give yourself permission to acknowledge that you’re hurting. There aren’t enough spaces for sisters to grieve the loss of love. We actually shame women, especially Black women, for vocalizing the pain of a breakup...unless we can benefit from it.. Just think about how many folks celebrated how amazing Mary's next album would be when she was going through one of the worst experiences of her life. If we're not even giving Mary J. Blige the space to be undone, Mary down the street from us doesn't stand a chance. Women confided that they’d been holding on to the pain of a heartbreak for 3, 5, 10, 15 years with no room for release. They said they felt ashamed for even saying that what happened to them was traumatizing and were often met with "you're stronger than that...let it go" or "you're still talking about that after all this time?" Because they couldn't find safe space, they retreated into themselves. Relationship “experts”, charlatan pastors and online trolls would say it’s their fault for carrying that pain so long. But the shame is not theirs- it’s ours. When we don’t create spaces that invite women to just be sad and mad and cry, we’re doing them a disservice. When we, as homegirls and fellow Black women, continue giving each other dumb and trite advice, we are doing more harm than good. I wouldn’t have made it without the spaces that gave me room to grieve this loss. And I make the commitment to pay it forward by creating spaces that give women that same necessary grieving room. If healing is to come, we must be willing to sit with sisters in their pain.
…and be clear, healing does come.
But understand that healing is messy. It is "no trifling matter", as Minnie Ransom tells us in Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters. It’s not wrapped neatly and packaged with a pretty bow. If you want it, you will work for it. There came the moment, after I’d given myself enough space to grieve and mourn, when I had to tell myself that it was time to stop focusing on the apology that would never come and embrace the life that was staring me in my face. I actually stopped praying that God would show me what I was supposed to learn and asked God to give me the courage to fuel my dreams. I had to trust that whatever lessons were supposed to be mine, the Universe would manifest them. So, I didn’t need to waste time looking for lessons that would come but refocus my energies on the Candice I wanted to be going forward. In January, I dubbed this “The Year of the Glow Up” and realized that I needed to return that manifesto. So much happened since then that took me off course but I was committed to glowing. I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish before December 31 and began tackling them. So far, I’ve lost all my trauma weight, my skin is clearing up and my life seems to be making sense again. For weeks, I wrote love notes to myself in red lipstick (…of course!) on my bathroom mirror and when I realized I’d gone a month without needing one of those messages, I celebrated the growth. People ask how it’s done; there are no shortcuts. You just dig deep, create your own plan of healing, ask people you can trust for accountability and be gentle with yourself on the days when it’s not easy.
…because those days will come.
That day came for me when I heard a song that reminded me of the worst time in that relationship. The time when I was literally on my face praying to God and fasting for a resolution. I remembered begging that God make me enough for the man I loved, to make him see how valuable I was and how much I actually love him. It was the combination of still missing him and remembering how little I thought of myself that made me inconsolable. I cried and I didn’t care. I didn’t care that the tears were because deep love is still present. I honored that. But more than honoring that, I gave reverence to the truth that I am not her anymore. I am not someone who thinks that she is insufficient. I have done and am doing the work to remember that I have always been enough. The tears that day came from a range of emotions, all of which were seated in a vessel who knows without a shadow of doubt that she is a good and perfect gift.
…and it was in that moment I realized THAT is 4:45.
My sincerest prayer for all of us is healing. This world is hard enough and sadly so many of us have been broken by people we loved and trusted. We are human. That pain is real and it is with us. But we don’t have to be consumed by it. If the apologies never come, and for many of us they won’t, there is still beauty in this life. We are Black girl magicians…alchemists able to spin gold worlds out of dust. These pains broke us- that is true. But brokenness is not destruction. We are still here. And realizing that will always take us one step closer to where we truly want to be.