Let’s Talk About Love

 

 

Below is an adapted version of what I spoke on at the inaugural ‘A Conversation About Womanhood’ event, envisioned and founded by my best friend and visionary Seun Awolowo. To respect privacy (some stories are not just mine to be told), some details have been edited and condensed. After I finished speaking, one of the beautiful women in attendance suggested I write-up the speech on my blog, so here it is, a typed-up version of my notes:

“I want to start with a disclaimer: obviously I am a student of life just like everyone else hearing these words, I am no professed ‘expert’ on love or relationships (lol), so these words are very much delivered in a ‘if my journey could teach you anything’ spirit. This word Seun entrusted me with and asked me to speak on, love, is huge, and therefore in the next few minutes it’s impossible to say everything I would want to on the topic, so instead I’m distilling what has been put on my heart to share as pertinent in this specific environment.

 

What I realised when contemplating this word was that really, at our cores, we are motivated by two things as human beings—love or fear. There are nuances to each of these motivators, but if we strip back the layers, revealed will be one of the two in every decision we make and every choice that we have. To frame everything I’m about to say, I wanted to share words from scripture that Seun actually shared with some of us girls before we attended Colour Conference last year, they seem apt as a preface:

 

To Start All Over Again

 

“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to start all over again.

I’m taking her back out into the wilderness

where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.

I’ll give her bouquets of roses.

I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.

She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,

those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. ~

Hosea 2:14-15 (emphasis added)

 

What I love about these verses is that they show that God always intends love to be romantic, romance is not solely reserved for the realm of ‘significant-other’ relationships, you can have romance in your friendships, your familial relationships, in your relationship with God. He intended romance for us: the giving of reverent attention, extra care, taking us somewhere out of the ordinary to revive our relationship, so that we can start all over again.

 

First dates, I love that reference, I’m going to draw more on that later on; to return to the place where we first met, and the feeling of newness, anticipation and a blank slate that accompanies that. I also want to briefly touch upon the fact that God gets what it is like to be in ‘Heartbreak Valley’ and he will meet us there, in fact, as Psalm 34:18 promises, he will be closer to us than ever before, as he is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. I can testify to this first hand. Anyway, all this to say, let’s reframe what we think of as romantic love and not separate it from any relationship we have.

Tell us your story: what does this word mean to you?

 

I remember learning that before the age of 7, science has proven that we, as children, have developed a blueprint for how we will think about the world and relationships which we will view through for the rest of our lives. I dug deeper into this and discovered UNICEF’s study which shows that our brain at the age of 3 years old is actually twice as active as it will ever be when we are adults, that blew my mind. The architecture of our thinking and the blueprint for how we understand relationships and love is formed at such an early stage of our lives, our earthly pattern can be perverted, and though I firmly believe in the promise of Romans 12:2that we can be transformed by the daily renewing of our mindsthat takes active and conscious work, otherwise we can remain in the patterns of our formative years for the rest of our lives, and sometimes those patterns are extremely negative.

I want you to think quietly for a moment, close your eyes if you need to, and think back to your first experiences of love. When did you first feel loved, when did you initially comprehend what love was? What it felt like to give it? What it felt like to receive? When I did this, I quickly realised that love was not verbalised in my household growing up, it’s a pretty common cultural thread in Chinese upbringings—you don’t tell your children “I love you”—you show them. Love was enacted for me, it was felt and shown through food, pride, acts of service. It was also not particularly physical in my household, we weren’t super tactile with our parents. My early truths about love were therefore: love is enactment, love is sacrifice, love is so much more than a feeling, love is unconditional and beyond mere emotion. I am grateful to have had this as my initial blueprint for love.

It’s interesting to me as well, that though I love words, the gravity of love felt, love enacted, was beyond them. In fact, speaking of language, one thing I’ve realised in the years since my mother’s passing, which, perhaps by virtue of being mixed race, seems to come up in even the most innocuous conversations on almost a daily basis: “where are you from?”, “where do your parents live?” etc. I always find it slightly awkward to answer these questions (for the listener, not for myself, as people often find it difficult to talk about death, particularly in a small-talk context) as it is revealing of bigger truths through the use of different tenses for both parents, present for one and past for the other. Sometimes the listener picks up on this, sometimes they don’t, but even my mouth forming those ‘was’ versus ‘is’ still feels subtly telling of a much deeper truth than the average stranger is prepared for. The one verb I have realised I never have to say in the past tense in reference to my mother though, is love. I love her, she loves me, love is the only thing that outlasts us, it is the only verb that we can always say in the present.

 

Of course, I couldn’t speak on this topic without talking about romantic love. It is the area of love which vastly impacts our everyday lives and changes who we are as people.  One of my most hated phrases in regards to romantic love is “we fell out of love”. No, no, NO— that’s fake news right there— there is no such thing as falling out of love, it is an active choice. Lust and infatuation can be fleeting and they can be hella powerful, but real love is not something we merely fall into and therefore we cannot haphazardly ‘fall out’ of it. It is a choice, there is a moment, conscious or subconscious when we decide to love a person, the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of gaining intimacy and deep knowledge of a person can follow that and your momentary feelings of affection towards someone can waver, but when you choose to love someone for who they are, their inherent being, it goes beyond that to enacting love on the daily, weekly, monthly, year in and year out.

 

I currently have one close friend who is married, and having spoken to her before I spoke on this subject, her insights crystallised everything for me. She verbalised why romantic love is so important and so incredibly powerful and significant in our lives. It’s probably the only type of relationship in your life where the conjoining of all three aspects of our being are fully engaged: the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. Most other relationships in our life will have two of the three, some of them maybe only one, but it’s only really in an S.O context that all three are fully realised, or on their way to being so. But what I want to make clear is that my realisation over time has been that love is not different in different contexts, it is expressed in different ways but the core values of what love is and its essence are very much the same.

 

What has your journey of discovering your feminine power in relation to this word been like?

Funnily enough I’ve always had a lot more male energy in my home life than female, I grew up with three brothers and a father, so my mum and I were the only feminine forces in our home. I have definitely found in the years since her passing that I became more of an emotional conduit for the men in my life, it is something that is partially conditioned by society’s perception of masculinity (which is definitely shifting for the better but still very much in-progress) but I think as much as this can be a burden and I have learnt in recent years to draw my emotional, mental and psychological boundaries when it comes to pouring out of myself (to the point of being empty)—we can encourage the ultimate strength of vulnerability in the men in our lives in a positive and productive way, we can encourage them to talk to each other about real and deep and necessary things rather than just to women. Emotional labour is not just ours to carry, but maybe in this moment of cultural change, ours is still the model they are following for now.

 

What do you know now about this word and yourself that you didn’t know in your teens?

 

A few words to my younger self on love: love isn’t tortuous baby girl, it isn’t melodramatic (it may be beautifully dramatic at times, but there’s a clear difference), love isn’t toxic. If what you’re experiencing is any of the above, it most definitely isn’t love, PSA for both parties: get out while you can! Also, though love is self-sacrificial, it is NOT self-obliteration. I really hope you see the difference and know where to draw the line. Love is synonymous with respect, and a good relationship is the ultimate collaboration. Not only are the best relationships built on mutual respect, but they are corner-stoned by self-respect. Don’t leave your self-respect at the door, again, there’s a key difference between self-respect and pride. One is still loving, the other is putting your ego above your own needs and what you actually want to ascertain in a situation. Sometimes you need to step back and self-evaluate, or do so with someone who knows you better than you know yourself. I came to realise that in relationships we too often place so much value on love and not an equal or greater amount on respect. It takes love and respect in equal measures to have a successful, healthy relationship. Toxicity breeds when respect leaves the room and one is clinging to your notion of love sole. A significant relationship in my early twenties helped me to realise the beauty and the key of having respect and friendship as an integral foundation for love. Even if circumstances lead to the breakdown of a romantic relationship, mutual respect always remains and will allow you to hold love for that person despite a change in your relationship status.

 

What scriptures have encouraged you or brought light to your sense of self in relation to this word?

 

I can’t speak about love without interpolating what the Bible has to say on it, what is commonly referred to, even in secular society, as “the golden rule” is a direct quote of what Jesus said and a clear definition of love as enactment:

““Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, “you shall love your neighbour as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.”” Matthew 22:37-40 Amplified translation

These verses honestly floor me. They answer every question about legalism, judgment and condemnation that is often associated with religion, when Jesus says that the law and the writings of the prophets (essentially everything within the Old Testament, which he directly quotes from Deuteronomy, also a part of the Torah) hangs upon the commandment he gives, and ties the New Testament with the Old by associating the first commandment issued to the Israelites with the final one he issues during his time on earth. The explanation of love given here is so counterintuitive, the unselfish seeking of the best or higher good for others above ourselves, but not forgetting that we are supposed to love ourselves in this way as well, as this is how God loves us. I love that though self-love can seem very new age, as can vision boards and manifestation, these concepts are all within the ancient scriptures and texts, nothing is new under the sun. e.g. ‘A Course In Miracles’ is actually based on biblical scriptures.

Following on from the above, this verse sums up what I believe to be the definition and embodiment true love: ‘Love makes it impossible to harm another, so love fulfills all that the law requires.’ Romans 13:10-12 The Passion Translation. Obviously, oft-quoted 1 Corinthians 13 defines love in terms of actions and is such a beautiful and definitive map of how to love and what love looks like in its tangibility. I’ve included it below for those who would like to read it afresh:

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

 

What is a healthy truth we need to remember about this word?

 

To finish, I just want to leave you with the lessons I have learnt about love through personal experience and revelation: it is mysterious but it isn’t illusory, elusive or intangible. Mystery has to do with allure and the ongoing sense of revelation that you have in discovering the many layers of someone’s depth and breadth, that continues to change over time. Love is most definitely tangible and in reality it can be seen. It is not fickle, it is not insecure. Everyone has love languages, and if you take the time to learn those of your friends, family et al. your relationships with them will become infinitely easier to navigate in both how they express and how you show love to them, e.g if theirs is words the way they talk to you (not just in what they say but tone, method and consistency) is an expression of lack thereof of love, if it’s time, they will prioritise and make time for you.

 

When someone shows you who they are, believe them. It can be tough to swallow this truth, as sometimes we have vision for who someone can be/see their potential, but it isn’t our place to necessarily be with them on that journey. Remember, love is sacrificial, but it’s not self-obliterating.

 

Two last slices of learned wisdom to leave you with, firstly a quote from my fave, Bobbie Houston:

 

May love be the last great act to shock the world”.

 

And finally, these words from a previous blog post:

Love isn’t blind. Love is intelligent, love is considered. Love is so much more than a feeling. Love is synonymous with respect. Love is an enactment. Love is tenacious. Love is a moment-by-moment choice. Love is in the doing as much as it is in the being.”

 

Always in love,

 

J x

 

Feature image: Wefie snapped in the English countryside, July 2018 (spot the sibling)

Catch The Vision

‘Where there is no vision, people cast off restraint’ Proverbs 29:18

Vision has been at the forefront of my mind recently. Maybe it’s because it’s towards the start of the new year, in fact, I’m still in the midst of celebrating the Lunar New Year (celebrations officially last 15 days). However vision isn’t just for new beginnings, it can also help to realign us in the midst of doing something or when we feel we’ve lost focus. As Proverbs states, those without vision cast off restraint, and it can become so easy for us to give up on something we used to feel so strongly about, whether it be our purpose, a relationship, or a goal merely because we lost sight of why we began it in the first place.

 

It is key to write down your vision. And actually write it out with a physical pen and paper, the act of writing it manually sears it into your brain and makes it more memorable and real. I actually wrote out a vision for this space last year. Note that vision is not just about what is, in fact it is much more about what will be than what is right now. I wanted to share my vision for this space with you all, so that we can clearly see the aim and where we are heading towards. Sometimes you need to cast the vision, state the intention to those who are along the journey with you in order to connect and resonate with those who catch and support it, and can contribute to its community moving forward. Sharing a vision to begin with isn’t necessarily always right, some things are birthed in our hearts and in order to protect them, we need to be very choosy about who we share them with. Don’t cast your pearls before swine (another Proverb, it’s the book of wise sayings for a reason), in other words, don’t take what is too precious and valuable and put it in front of those who will not fully understand or appreciate it.

 

catch the vision
Photo: Jennifer McGeever, January 2017

 

In its foetal stages, vision needs nourishment and care. One of the most powerful women in the Bible actually didn’t reveal key information about her background, as she had been advised not to do so (“Esther had not revealed her people or family background, because Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it.”
‭‭Esther‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

In fact, if she had revealed this information at the wrong time, her entire purpose would have been thrown off course. Revelation is God’s timing and domain: ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, it is the glory of Kings to reveal it’ (Proverbs 25:2).

SS Vision Statement:

« This is a space for those who don’t see a division between intelligence and investment in style. Who know their taste but are equally informed about the human heart. A place for art and acquiring knowledge, a place where artificial separations are demolished, as SS stands for style with substance and understands that the creative is in every one and every walk of life. In that vein you will find essays on faith alongside articles on where to find the showrooms of the best independent jewellery designers in the world. Feminism alongside food, the best breakfast in Bali side-by-side with informed writing on the mixed race experience. As a 25 year old woman who has lived in both hemispheres and is educated, inquiring and aesthetically astute, I find it harder and harder to find a space and words that combine both style and real substance, that talks to me not only as a peer but as a human, not enticing me with clickbait or SEO-friendly headers but honesty and integrity. I have set out to create media that I want to read and that resonates with my peers who are changing the game in their respective fields.

Many of these pieces are like transcribed extensions of conversations I have had with incredible friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, social stratas and ethnic backgrounds. SS is authentic and representative not because diversity is trendy (*cough cough* every major fashion and beauty brand who is only now diversifying their nude range) or commercially viable, but because this is the world in which I have grown up and thrive within, the world as it should be, is and can become where it is lacking. Style with substance: let’s be men and women making strides to embody this. »

When it is right, casting and sharing vision can allow something to ascend to its next natural progression of growth. Everything growing needs to see the light of day at some point in order to evolve. Thank you for allowing this vision its space to breathe, sit and soar. I hope it resonates with you.

Always in love,

Jennifer McGeever

x

Women of Style & Substance: Jessica Lee

Jessica Season Lee, a name as beautiful and unique as the girl herself. I would say what first bonded us was art. We’ve both always loved to paint and draw naked people (formally known as life-drawing) and although we went to the same school, we were in different forms throughout our time there. If it wasn’t for our love to create, we may never have bonded the way that we did. We are both a little whimsical, and away with the fairies at times (disclaimer: we may both still believe in fairies). Our artistic tendencies brought us on art department trips together to Paris and New York (which was a school trip for the history books on the scale of hilarity and sheer number of things that went wrong) and solidified our bond.

J Lee
Jess snapped by me in Jaipur, India. Candidly beautiful

She is one of my absolute favourite women in the world, my travel buddy (adventures include burns from bad boys on motorbikes in Langkawi and getting trapped in a bear-roaming National Park after-dark), confidante and someone I can be 100% myself with without fear of judgement. She is my go-to gal for matters of the heart; I remember after one particularly bad break-up I got a handwritten card in the post from Jess with a Seneca greeting on the front: ‘Thank you for being’ it read. So beautiful and so quintessentially Jess (I still have that card on my wall today, it will forever be the right word at the right time in the right place). One facet of her character which I don’t think she even fully realises is her inner resilience and quiet strength; she is living testimony to the reality that kindness isn’t weak and that living with whimsy isn’t congruous with not understanding pain, she inspires me with her unassuming tenacity in both personal and professional spheres more than she will ever know. Soul twin, oriental sister, partner in trying to make voice notes cool (seriously y’all should try it), without further ado here’s Jessica Season Lee and a little insight into her captivating and oh-so-beautiful mind…

A post shared by Jennifer McGeever (@j_wenghan) on Mar 26, 2015 at 8:20am PDT

 

SS: What did you last Google? 

JL: I last googled ‘Sustainable Fashion Academy’. I want to enrol in a Sustainability Fundamentals course which will give me more of an insight into the sustainability challenges and opportunities we face within the fashion industry, and identify how I can improve processes within my own job. Working at a company that promotes fast fashion has really highlighted the importance of being environmentally and ecologically mindful – I feel somewhat responsible to ensure I am doing all I can to help and educate myself.

SS: Name one app you love that we might not know about: 

JL: I share a food blog called Galstronomy with two of my best friends so I’m on the hunt for good editing apps. I’ve recently discovered Foodie which specialises in filters catered to photos of all my food snaps.

 

SS: What is your happy place?

JL: My ultimate happy place is enjoying good food with good company – for me, it’s definitely the case that the way to my heart is through my stomach.

SS: What book are you currently reading or did you most recently finish? 

JL: I’ve just finished reading The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett which follows two people and three different versions of their future – both together and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations. I would highly recommend this book – I love how it illuminates themes of fate, relationships and how impactful the choices we make can affect our lives and the lives of those around us [Ed note: This has just gone on my reading list.]

Image result for the versions of us laura barnett

SS: Who embodies style with substance for you?

JL: It won’t be a surprise to many that I think my mother is the ultimate embodiment of style with substance [Yes! Yvonne is the epitome of chic and all of our woman crushes ❤ ). She is chic, elegant and artistic with a distinct sense of style – her love for fashion has definitely filtered down to me. She is generous, brave, strong, a dreamy mother and completely beautiful inside and out – I’m so lucky to know her.

Jess
Actual twins no? The Lee ladies ❤ #TheUltimate, blessed to know you both

 

SS: What is one lesson that you’ve learnt in the past year?

JL: You have to go for what you want unashamedly. I have never been good at shouting about my achievements, nor am I vocal enough about telling people what I feel I deserve. Being new to the working world has been a huge learning curve for me where I haven’t always backed myself with conviction when it comes to things like promotions. I think women in general need to be better at this, and being brave and bold is something I’m trying to focus on – let’s close this gender pay gap! [Floored by all the wisdom here, amen, amen, amen! We are both huge fans of Lean In, the recent ’20 Percent Counts’ campaign they ran has loads of practical insight and wisdom on negotiating pay and the bottom line benefits for businesses in closing the gap, see more here.]

SS: Do you have a favourite podcast?

JL: There are so many good podcasts out there, but my favourites would probably be Desert Island Discs and Strangers. I am known as someone who asks endless questions because I want to know all the little things about the people I meet [lol YES this is such a J Lee trait that we all know and love, the most eternally inquisitive girl I know]. These podcasts provide unique insights into individuals and their stories which I find so interesting.

Image result for strangers podcast
‘Each episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were.’


SS: The first thing I do when I wake up is:

JL: I’ll hit the snooze button about three times and then check Instagram before getting up. In my dreams I’m the ultimate morning person who does sun salutations when I wake, has time to eat my breakfast at the dining room table and goes to the gym before work – sadly I’m more of a night owl than a lark.

SS: What is your guilty pleasure?

JL: Word play, cheese jokes, emojis and memes – they’re things that brings me so much joy but annoy the people around me endlessly… [Jess has a meme for every situation and will send them accordingly – classic example below – it’s a talent].

 

SS: If you could travel the world in a day, what pitstops would make and why?

JL: I would start the day with breakfast in the company of giraffes at the Giraffe Manor in Kenya [Omg this looks insanely magical], pop over to Japan for my favourite sushi and ramen with friends for lunch, and then visit my family in Singapore for dinner. Time in between would be spent sunbathing in the Maldives. Dreamy times.  

giraffe manor kenya 5
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, image by Travel For Senses

SS: Any final words of wisdom?

JL: Roald Dahl once wrote ‘watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. Where we live in a world of so much sadness and uncertainty, and where many of us end up stuck in the same old routine life, I think it’s really important to look out for the magic that surrounds us and take note of even the little things that bring joy.


Wow, couldn’t think of more perfect and adept words to end this interview with than the above. A lot of people don’t believe in miracles, but there is actually miraculous in the everyday, we are just too often distracted to see it. Thank you Jess, for reminding us to unravel the mysterious and the beautiful in the moments of each day.

Follow Jess @instagramjessica and Galstronomy @Galstronomy