Radical Choice; or Reflections on Love
Hello dear ones,
I’m writing to you from Palm Springs, where I’m on vacation with my love — and so it feels appropriate to share these reflections on love and radical choice.
Some reminders/FYIs before we dive in:
Become a paid subscriber! I’m so grateful for all of the folks who help support this newsletter. If you feel like you can spare $5/month (or a little less if you get the full year subscription), you can become a paid subscriber here. 10% of each month’s paid subscriptions are redistributed to a mutual aid call from someone who is Black, Indigenous, or a person of color.
Sharing is caring. Another easy way to support this work is to share this post with others who you think might benefit from this writing. You can hit the button below to share, or share a snippet of the writing on your IG stories with a link to read the rest.
Thank you, as always, for being a part of the CARESCAPES universe! It’s such a deep honour to have you here with me!
This winter I went to LA and I fell in love. It feels so simple, so true, to write those words out. As we jammed three months of dates into the span of five weeks, I knew in my gut that this was it: I’d found my person. We said our first “I love you”s over a FaceTime call one morning, after I’d woken up to one of the most beautiful text messages I’d ever received: “Margeaux, I’m not running away. In my deepest of guts, I have a feeling you are my person. I’m invested. I’m here to grow with you,” they wrote.
I knew I loved them before I left LA to return home. We’d just had sex. I was bleeding. They asked me to take a photo of their hands, covered in my blood. Later, they’ll reveal to me that they knew they loved me when I peeled the dead skin off of their feet — the result of foot masks we did the previous weekend in Venice Beach — with pure joy on my face. “Freak4Freak,” I said to them as we shared our “I knew it when” moments with each other.
As all of this was happening — this stepping into love — I kept saying “This is so wild. This is so insane. This doesn’t make any sense.” I felt this need to convince anyone skeptical of our love (no one, for the record, has been skeptical). Who has ever said that love must make sense? How am I, a deeply emotional Cancer, invested in applying reason to feeling? While I’ve long romanticized the story of meeting your person “and just knowing,” now that it’s happening to me, I feel like I must question it.
Part of this impulse to rationalize my love is a trauma response to my attachment wounding — if it doesn’t make sense, I should get the fuck out — a desire to protect me from having my heartbroken. And it’s also cultural. While we love love, we’re also deeply incredulous to its magic. Someone, somewhere (probably a cishet white dude) that you shouldn’t love someone until you’ve been together for X period of time. As if duration of time is some kind of insurance policy on love.
I see these temporal rules in queer culture too. In the month that we were apart from each other, we decided that we’ll move in together when I arrive in LA this summer. By the time we take this step together, we’ll be hitting our 5th monthiversary. While I’ve never felt so sure of something in my life, I am also filled with doubt, with little voices that whisper “Are you seriously u-hauling with this person you barely know??? What the fuck are you doing?!?!?!”
For folks unfamiliar with the term u-hauling, it’s defined as two queer people — usually lesbians — moving in together within a few weeks or months into dating. It’s a lesbian stereotype that has become a joke in queer culture. In an article for Refinery29, Sadhbh O’Sullivan explains, “The stereotype that women in same-sex relationships commit at the speed of light is one of the most pervasive.” Sadly, as with all stereotypes, we are not meant to think positively of u-hauling.
In a Bustle essay entitled “Is U-Hauling Real?” Lea Rose Emery asks “Is it really that easy to become immediately co-dependent with a partner?” Again, the emphasis on time — “immediately” — paired with pathologization — “co-dependent” being one of the dirtiest words for describing relationships. Emery goes on to quote Dr. Lauren Costine who argues: "We live in a society that tells all women being in a relationship is one of the, if not the most important life goal. Combine those two factors with low self-esteem caused by internalized lesbianphobia, and you’ve got the U-haul recipe." And so we’ve learnt that this is a recipe that we’re meant to avoid.
I’ve lived with three partners. In two of the three relationships, we didn’t move in together until around the two year mark. And in the case of the third, we moved in together after about eight months because we both needed a roommate. I’m typically a human who moves fast in all things (hello Sag rising and Aries moon) — all things except living with a partner. Having grown up in a deeply unstable home, one without heat through many winters, one in which I was subjected to my father’s emotional abuse, one that we’d be evicted from before I finished high school, I am anxious about anything disrupting the sacred and safe home that I’ve built for myself as an adult. And so before I move in with someone, I need to feel as sure as I can about the relationship.
What I’ve learnt from these experiences is that the duration of those relationships had very little impact on whether or not living together worked. In each relationship, we moved through the ups and downs of adjusting to nesting partnership. We discovered things about one another that we hadn’t fully seen (dirty underwear left on the floor, directly beside the laundry bin; one’s need for the toliet paper flap to go over, not under; mood swings and irritability). Those relationships eventually came to an end. And it had nothing to do with the speed at which we said — or didn’t say — I love you or how quickly or slowly we moved in together. They ended because our visions for the future were incompatible — because we were incompatible.
Last week I brought my u-hauling anxieties to my therapist and found myself trying to justify how what my partner and I were doing was definitely NOT u-hauling. She looked at me and said, “There’s a difference between moving in with someone after a few months because you feel like you must be close to them at every moment” — a sign of insecure attachment — “and because it just makes sense, emotionally and logistically to do so. You’re radical choosing, because this decisions is coming from a secure and grounded place. And, even if it wasn’t, this is your journey. There’s something to learn in every choice we make.”
I’ve been reflecting on the idea of “radical choice.” The word radical comes from the Latin radix “root.” That which is radical originates in the root or the ground. When we talk about radical politics, we refer to the need to get to the roots of injustice — white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, ableism, transphobia and homophobia, colonialism, and other forms of systemic oppression — and to pull up the weeds from the roots. When I think about radical choice, I imagine the act of planting a seed and tending to the roots. And, I see myself as this rooted being. I am grounded. This is an act that comes from our adult self, rather than from younger, triggered, wounded parts of ourselves. When I’m radically choosing something or someone, I am doing so intentionally.
I’m reminded of bell hooks’ definition of love, in which she asks us to think about love as a verb, rather than a noun. “Love is an act of will, both “an intention and an action,” she writes in All About Love. “Love as 'the will to extend one's self for the the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.’ Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action.”
Radically choosing another — as we do each time we utter the words you are my person — radically choosing to become nesting partners — at five months, a year, five years — are acts of love, of will, of intention, and of action. No amount of time, no amount of rationale, can assure us that the choices we make will last, or if our love will work out. If I were to listen to the voices in my head, those scared protector parts, if I were to listen to those who crack jokes about u-hauling and label others as co-dependent, I would not be radically choosing. I’d be stuck under the weight of others and their beliefs. I’ve spent too much of my life in that state. And so I’m choosing to listen to my body, to my heart, to my inner knowing; I’m rooting into my values and into my choice. In this love, I’m radically choosing.
If you’re unsure whether you’re making a choice from your adult self or a younger part of you, you can ask yourself the following questions:
What am I feeling in my body? Is my pulse racing? Am I feeling anxious or a sense of urgency? Does it feel like if I don’t make this choice, something horrible will happen? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may not be inside your window of tolerance.
How do you know if you’re in your window? You feel a sense of calm. You’re curious. You feel excited. You feel present with what it’s happening around you. You can acknowledge that this choice may not be easy, but you feel able to move through the hard moments. You might also feel afraid (anxiety and excitement often come together), but you know that you’re not acting from that place.
When I think about making this choice, are there any stories or beliefs that come with it? E.g. If I don’t make this choice, [insert horrible thing] will happen; If I choose this, [insert horrible thing] will happen; This doesn’t make sense; I’d be so stupid if I did or didn’t make this choice. Doing X will ensure that Y does or doesn’t happen. If I do X, people will judge me. Notice how these stories rely upon black and white thinking and absolutes. There’s no space for nuance or possibility.
If you notice a story coming up, ask yourself: When was the first time I remember thinking X? Doing so can often bring us back to an original wound. Joan Didion famously wrote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” And so many of us are walking around with stories we created — or that were forced upon us — to make sense of why X horrible thing happened. These stories are rooted in the past. Placing them into their historical context can help us assess if that story is true in the present.
Who’s story is this? The stories we tell ourselves might be cultural. These stories are inherited and more often than not, they come from institutions and system of power that seek to oppress us and have us adhere to what they believe is true. I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the stories I learnt about how I should act in relationships: “Don’t talk about what you want long-term on the first, second, or even third date. That’s too intense.” This is just the cisheteropatriarchy, which makes women, femmes, AFAB folks, and emotionally-intelligent men feel like they’re “too much.” We also hold stories about our own desirability, which those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, disabled, trans and gender non-conforming, fat, etc. as less worthy of being loved and desired. When we get clear on who are stories belong to, we can hand them back, and begin the process of unlearning them.
Is doing X aligned with my values? This question always helps me in moments where it can be hard to discern whether or not I’m in my window of tolerance. As someone who values compassion, I take notice of when I feel shame coming up when I think about my desire to make a particular choice. Shame will often tell me to not do X because maybe I’ll fail or maybe I’ll be judged. This is not in alignment with my value of compassion. And if I decide to not do something because I’m afraid I’ll fail, I’m also not rooted into my value of learning — and we cannot learn without failing at least some of the time.
Want some support learning whether your actions are aligned with your values? I have a workbook you can check out here for just $10.
About: I used to think that I stood solidly in my values all the time. But the more I learnt about trauma and the ways it showed up in my body, the more I realized that I was often struggling to live according to my values. In other words, my actions weren't always aligned with the kind of person I want to be in the world. So I went back and reassessed:
What is it that I value?
Are those values dictated by my trauma brain or my adult brain? (Turns out, they two are not the same)
What would it look like for me to take action from my values?
How can I build more discernment so that I know when I'm acting from a place of fear (aka my trauma brain) and when I'm acting from my integrity (aka my adult brain)?
Why talk about values? Our values are our "why" behind the choices we make in the world. When we anchor in our values, we take purposeful and aligned action. 30+ pages long, with numerous activities and writing prompts, my hope is that this workbook can guide you through these questions so that you can show up in the world, anchored in your values, more and more.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! If you have enjoyed this newsletter and want to support me you can: