I have this affirmation I like to think to myself:
I love my community, I love my people, I love my family, I love myself, I love my ancestors, I love this land.
I tell myself this in the times where I feel like love doesn’t exist, when there are moments where the overwhelming pressure of everything feels like it’s too much. I tell myself this when it feels like I’m completely lost trying to navigate this life. This love, this rootedness and connectedness I’m trying to conjure, is something that grounds my heart and plants my feet and allows me to walk through the rest of the day with some sort of assured reason for being. I can make it through whatever this life has thrown at me because I can feel love.
I’m not the first person to talk about the importance of love in the decolonization of self, obviously. Love is this thing we talk about, in the abstract, as some invisible metaphyiscal force that exists to binds us to each other and things. Within our capitalist structure, love has been commodified into roses and heartshaped boxes of chocolates; we need to consume to show our love. We even have Valentine’s Day to take expressions of capitalist love even further into an entire day dedicated to spending mass amounts of money to show our love to our partners. But when we take it all away, and all we are left with is empty bank accounts and floral shop receipts, what are we left with to prove that love exists? If we keep supporting love within this structure we are left with nothing, because love is not Valentine’s Day or a dozen roses. Love is not two white people almost kissing on the cover of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Love is work. Love is hard work.
When I think of love, and I think of decolonial love, I think of a line in Leanne Simpson’s “indinawemaaganidog/all of my relatives”: “nothing in life is free. the best things in life are free. there is no such thing as a free lunch” (1). The love we have for each other, for the land, and for everything else is never free. The love comes with responsibilities. We cannot just say we love something and that be enough, just saying we love is not enough: our words are empty without action. We need to show our love with direct action.
Love, this word that holds so much yet is expressed so halfheartedly, is the basis for everything we do. One of the most powerful expressions of love I have ever experienced is the February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March, which honours the memories of missing and murdered women and girls in the Downtown Eastside. This march reminds us that love, powerful and painfully honest love, is sometimes sad. The work that is put into expressing this love is sometimes so raw and unnerving that we need to persevere to heal. Together. As much as I buy into romanticized love or capitalist expressions of love and romance, I am always reminded that love does not exist within that realm.
Love is ugly, love is sad, love is beautiful, love is tender, intimate, and vulnerable.
I love my community, I love my people, I love my family, I love myself, I love my ancestors, I love this land: honestly, tenderly, and fully.
1. Leanne Simpson, “indinawemaaganidog/all of my relatives,” Islands of Decolonial Love. ARP Books, 2010. Pg. 11.