Love has no labels

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Julie Vriends:

The scene opens with a big screen showing different couples showing love and affection towards each other. They are hidden behind a curtain, so the audience can only see their skeletons. After a few seconds, the curtain was raised, revealing a kaleidoscope of genders, colours and ages – because Love has no Labels.

This is the title of a short movie that has really touched me. It made me realise that on the inside we are all quite the same. We all have a craving for belonging in a group, we all want to feel safe, accepted and loved. ‘Very different’ people from across cultures and situations, they – we – all want to fit in a box in order to feel accepted. There are so many boxes: gender, religion, country, political party, social status, the list goes on to infinity; and we dress, move, act and even think the way the group teaches us, not to feel left behind.

Leaving your box

Working as an art therapist, I meet people who are struggling with their boxes every single day. What if one day you come to understand that you cannot keep up with your own box? I remember very well how insecure, even terrified, I felt when I fell in love with another woman for the first time. Back then, I was a young woman who was not raised in a lesbian-friendly environment; I knew nobody in my surroundings who came out. My brothers and I used to make jokes about ‘them’, and suddenly, I was ‘them’ as well, and could not pretend otherwise. I was so afraid to be judged by the people I loved the most. And sure enough, in the first place they judged me; they thought I was confused or on drugs. The funny thing was, once I stepped outside my safe box I realised nothing changed inside of me; I was still exactly the same person. This situation taught me to look beyond my boxes.

Gast Aan Tafel

Gast aan Tafel is a very beautiful programme that connects refugees with Dutch families for dinner dates. After I subscribed my family to it, I suddenly became afraid of judgement again. I thought that maybe my family wouldn’t be accepted by a Muslim guest from Syria. It was purely my anxiety speaking; our guest, Shahira, did not judge us at all! She became my great example, as she is one of the most authentic people I know. She feels uncomfortable being put into boxes and judged through them. Shahira is only Shahira. Once more, I learnt to drop my limiting fears.

Love to love

The more I got to know Shahira, the more I realised how we are the same, despite our different backgrounds. We are not only close friends, we feel like family. It is looking at the differences that makes humans so judgemental; and it is a road to nowhere, as judging excludes, excluding makes us fearful, fear generates anger, anger generates hate… and hate successfully blocks any kind of understanding. Loving Shahira opened my eyes and my heart to many other people who I would consider ‘different’ at first. I found truth in my eldest daughter’s words: We are indeed one big family. The more I love, the more I understand that the greatest feeling we have is not to be loved, but to feel love.

Hard responsibilities

Beware, the lovers of the world: a grown heart and open eyes bring the feeling of responsibility for those you love. Be careful not to break under this weight, as I almost did; the world’s troubles became my own and I could not help feeling frustrated and helpless The second-hand pain was so close to my own and I felt so useless towards this situation.

It was a dear friend of mine who, maybe without realising it, gave me one of the most important life lessons: We should share positive energy instead of focusing on the negativity. We have to shine in order to give light and be there with – and for – our friends. Yes, we are all responsible in a way, we can shape lives, but we can only give what we can handle. First, we have to take care of ourselves in order to be able to give care to others and to inspire through tenderness. This is my path now, this is how I engage in She Matters, a group of great people whom I love to work with for the good of everyone. Love has no labels and understanding this means more than I realised before: She really Matters more than a lot to me!

Reproduced from She Matters; our contributing partner.

About She Matters:

She Matters empowers refugee and migrant women to build their social and economic capital, boost their self-confidence as well as become leaders in their homes, businesses, and communities.

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