Painting by Peju Alatise (Owned by Adewale Ajadi)
Nothing in this world can match hearing you say ‘I love you’. These three words that seem to open up the deepest of dreams as well as fears, the insecurities and aspirations of the world around us. When we say them, we wonder whether we will hear those words back and if we do, will it be true or even will it last? In that same moment of the deepest connection our most fearsome demon is exposed, the multi headed hydra that is insecurity. Not true for us, our love is so pure it gathers no residue. I promised myself I would do anything to help keep it so. So here I am capturing for you the wisdom that preserves the greatest organising principle and fountain of a life without limitation, Love.
For many years the teachers of this wisdom have been women whose own initiation have been scars tissues of experience nurtured in the womb of time, seared in the burning heat of the Equator. They preserved the wisdom over generations, from mother to daughter ensuring not only survival in predictable difficulties but prosperity in spite of them. This wisdom no longer speak to their daughters these days. This great heritage is now lost to modern exposure and indoctrination. Love has become a PowerPoint presentation with the predictability of a Hollywood blockbuster. Every woman seems to have the same expectation and dream of Cinderella or more accurately Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Women of my generation now see love like a consumer choice designed in the west, marketed through Oprah and returned if it does not deliver gratification. Like the little black dress every woman should own one preferably with a premium brand name. They choice to distance themselves from them their mother’s life of submission and subservience is long overdue. For this generation of our brightest and most exposed women who will rescue Africa from much heralded decline. I sometimes wonder whether the loss of the wisdom about the complexity of love is a price worth paying?
I hope I honour you with my directness. It is the least I can offer for the many damages inflicted by men. That there are many grown males but there are a lot fewer men is very trite. Manhood is now a rare art and it now seems the women are going the same way. I hope it is not too late.
I learnt of love from the best and the truest. My Grandmother always said in Yoruba ‘ Eni a fe la mo a ko mo eni to feni’ a literal meaning is, ‘I know who I love but can never know who loves me’. Many have misunderstood that to be a statement of distrust when it is quite simply embraces the true vulnerability of Love. Love is what you give. A choice you make irrespective of what you get in return. When you say ‘I love you’ it is a declaration that you are ready to, live rather than exist, to prosper rather than survive. Love is life in full bloom with all its risks and challenges it captures the significance of all things. Majesty of the blowing wind, spectrum of the dazzling rainbow even the devastation of a raging Tsunami. I however feel as a man, i am unworthy of the responsibility I have to share with you.
My teachers extend back three generations, yes as far back as my great grandmother and in your case double great. Each one of them followed love fearlessly and relentlessly. In most cases they married at least five times with one exception my mother, your grandmother. I say this to expose the complexity of who they were and how they lived. In fact my maternal great grandmother had nine children from eight husbands. Therein lies their first wisdom that seems to be lost to many. No two people experience or travel love’s journey in the same way. Find your first and enduring love is yourself. This is the core of this wisdom. It is about insight, understanding as well as embracing of you and your complexity. To love yourself you will need to embrace all within, the princess, mother and dare I say the bitch and courtesan. Love is life, a gift from your creator; live it like there is no tomorrow. Let no one define it any less or suggest in any way you are not worthy. I know the circumstances of your birth and the social hierarchy maintained by wagging tongues but define for yourself your kind of love. Without it life is simply a travesty.
The second is insight about who, what and how you love. For too many, love has to have particular qualities to dignify its name. It has to be exclusive, joyful, affectionate, romantic, wealthy sometimes even belong to a profession or be articulate. Certainly love is not blind but the qualities that many seek are themselves another form of blindness. My mother always said to love you have to become the child of your intuition. With insight into your love you educate your intuition and with foresight you express it. Express your love authentically as a discernable energy that connects with others on your frequency and projects to some as charisma. It is a myth that it is only for one person because as the world becomes smaller it increases the likelihood that you will meet many people who share your connection. How you express that is entirely up to you. It is not about negative or positive but about evolving and growth. Love is the fuel that propels your life never be afraid of using it even when the consequences are painful it will always pay off in growth.
The third and final wisdom of is around decision-making. Your choices shape your life. There is a quote attributed to Dr Mae Jemison first black woman in space, she says successful life is captured in the word lifestyle, Life is the gift from your creator and style is what you make of it. This style is dependent on the depth of insight, the length of foresight and finally the quality of decision-making. Please life is not a Teddy Pendergrass love song and it is never 50/50 balance for long. You will not be half of someone else nor can you own or be owned by another. Love just is. This is the basis of making effective love decisions. For example it is quite important to draw a distinction between intimacy which is a battery that recharges the connection of love and sex which is one of many acts that expends its energy. It is nurturing to find the intimacy of love with those you share the connection with but quite unwise to have sex with everyone of them.
In the person who you choose as your sustainable partner in this journey always look for your worthy adversary. Someone versed in the ancient battle that is timeless as well as complex. You both must win. If he/ she wins and you lose then you both lose as he/she will lose interest in an opponent that has no more to offer. If you win and he/she loses then you lose for he/she no longer is an adversary who brings out your deepest resolve. As you evolve and the butterfly in the stomach starts to fade make decisions that transmit the authentic energy without fear. Your adversary if evolved will still connect with the frequency eventually even if sometimes the signal seems lost.
I put my pen down to reconnect with our signal. I welcome you into the family, such a rarity it is to be a girl in the Ajadi family. I cannot wait till we can talk but for now I write down my thoughts so that whatever happens you retain the wisdom of our mothers to pass onto those who come after you.
A Letter to my niece whose first words to me is 'I Love you' and written for magazine publication in June.