Last night @vulnerablepodcast hosted a beautiful dinner party, and guided a group of us - single, married & dating, through a series of questions about love and healthy partnerships. The evening was themed “A Seat at The Table: #RelationshipGoals”. It was clear that this was a labour of love for the podcast creators Sade and Rochelle, and their experience in enabling vulnerable conversations showed.
All the staples of a good dinner party were present: wine, flowers, gorgeous food in abundance, and attentive but discreet waiters. But you need more than that to create meaningful conversations. There were cues and questions to gently guide discussion through the night, but most importantly, Rochelle and Sade understood the trick of planned seating:
There were natural opportunities for dinner guests to speak with someone at a different stage in their love experience. They also created a little distance between familiar faces so we weren't just talking to the people in our existing social circle. Some familiarity is helpful though and the general pre-dinner mixer was a great touch.
I came in late and dishevelled but still in time to greet the friendly faces I knew; and I would especially like to shout out @amyhouldey because your two hugs touched parts of me that were hurting; that I was respectfully hiding.
That hurt is something I want to be honest about; because these spaces inevitably uncover the love deficits we all negotiate. Whether that’s intimate & sexual, or familial, or self-love etc. Throughout the night as we began to open ourselves up to the questions I heard myself saying that I had never had my communication needs met in a relationship. My heartache filled me. It wasn’t a new realisation, but I did not want to be present to it in that public moment. For the rest of the evening I either spoke over, or sank quietly into my pain. I remained present nevertheless. Watching lights of realisation flicker in other’s eyes as they listened to my personal growth stories. I too had my beliefs about masculinity and love challenged by the men in the room who spoke honestly about their needs for, and approaches to, spiritual intimacy.
With several conversations had, delicious food eaten, and sweet wine sipped, I kissed the hosts, praised their efforts, and sought the comfort of home. Moving through London, now returned to its centre of grey and cold, I reflected that for the past month at least I have not felt listened to in the ways that I need; and yet am often in the habit of giving to others.
I have been met with distraction during conversation, disappointing for me, though legitimate for them. Or the insufficiency of “I know”/ “I hear you”, which of course leads to a premature end. This is no condemnation of my friendships, as they have and will experience me in the same way at times. But what I want now is to be deeply met, to be asked questions. Knowing that there are no promises of answers in the moment, but that gentle enquiry is the spiritual work that reveals lessons and gives way to empathy. I prayed on this weeks ago. I was told to continue giving my love that listens. So last night I sent a few messages, and with no replies, I buried my heart in bed.
She beat waves of distortion through my dreams and I tossed in my tiredness. This morning the ache had not ceased. I breathed a few deep breaths and then checked my phone. I was on Instagram in a matter of minutes. Erykah Badu shouts out a creative couple, I follow. Before I know it last nights conversation is continuing on my phone. We asked what is patience and how long should you wait? Tobe and Fat Nwigwe seemed to answer that for me this morning.
And much like the matter of love itself, there is no neat and tidy way for me to wrap this prose up. No point to drive home. Just that I am starting my day in recognition of how brave I am for allowing myself to be alone.
Leona Nichole Black