Masterpieces are meant to be admired, not dissected, but I know I would only be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t at least attempt to place myself between the guttural cries and soft chords of Beyoncé’s latest album. The hardest part is not deciding which layer I most identify with, but rather, which layer is most willing to identify with me.
Because that’s how art works, right? It’s a two-way street. Just because you see yourself in the mirror doesn’t mean anything is looking back at you. Just because you think you’ve found yourself doesn’t mean there’s anything on the other side. But you can hope, and you can pray, and you can believe — because that’s how faith works.
So I hit the repeat button again, for what feels like the twentieth time today…
“My lonely ear, pressed against the walls of your world.”
Suddenly I’m at once myself and beside myself — taken back to a time when loving and being loved was the one obstacle I’d never overcome. When you’re damaged, as most people feel they are, there is a great divide between the love you feel like you deserve and the love you’re given. If you’re lucky, the love you receive will be far better than anything you ever believed in. But that doesn’t mean you’ll let yourself believe it.
“I’m prayin’ you catch me.”
Just because hope seems faint doesn’t mean there is none, and just because you’ve been faithless for so long doesn’t mean there is no room for it in your heart. Maybe it’s a cry for help, maybe it’s a literal prayer — maybe it’s a plea to let yourself cross that divide once and for all. Then the violin hits you in the chest and no matter much air you think you’re inhaling, you can’t quite catch your breath.
“Something don’t feel right, because it ain’t right.”
Sometimes you’re meant to cross the divide, and other times, you work up the courage to take the leap of faith and only end up hanging from the edge. Maybe it wasn’t anyone’s fault, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. No matter how many times you jump, you can never quite reach the other side, but you keep trying.
“Who the fuck do you think I is?”
This is when your blood boils and you feel the heat rising from the pit of your stomach. When you realize you’re no longer hanging from the edge, but ready to jump off of it. You feel the reality of your fate hitting you full force — when the weight of the betrayal sinks in and you can’t move beneath it. But you don’t let it keep you down.
“When you hurt me, you hurt yourself.”
You are not to blame for someone else’s failings, for their inability to realize the consequences of their actions. You are not the reason you couldn’t reach the other side of that divide, you are the reason you’re still standing on the right side.
“Now you want to say you’re sorry.”
There is nothing more empowering than dodging a bullet and living to tell the story — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a hole in the center of your chest. So you fill that hole with every vice within arm’s reach and use your middle fingers to shield it from the rest of the world. You’re unstoppable, you’re invincible — if you’re not now, you will be soon.
“She grinds from Monday to Friday.”
You’re focused, you’re determined, you’re not broken. You build, you work, you stack, you move, you breathe easily for the first time in a long time and no matter how often you find yourself wanting to glance over your shoulder (come back), you push forward.
“Daddy made a soldier out of me.”
If there’s one thing you can always count on, it’s being daddy’s little girl. But he didn’t raise you to be weak, or taken advantage of, or tricked into believing false truths. He taught you how to be strong, he taught you how to shoot. So you do.
“Nine times out of ten, I know you’re trying.”
But there will always be doubts that creep in at your loneliest hour, when the other side of your bed no longer holds the other person’s weight. When the apologies seem to outweigh the actions, when words feel like the only Band-Aid you’ll ever need.
“Ten times out of nine, I’m only human.”
You played strong for so long, but are you really? Maybe there’s a reason you’re so hard to love, maybe there’s a reason the one person who promised to stay couldn’t. If not him, then who? If not now, then when? You want to move mountains, but you feel like you can’t do it alone.
“We built sandcastles that washed away.”
What is love if it doesn’t last? Can you be proud of something that you can no longer point to? Can you call upon something that feels like it never existed in the first place? The picture frames are empty because you were never brave enough to fill them, and now, you have nothing to show for all of your pain.
“Your heart is broken ’cause I walked away.”
But who’s really doing the leaving? You play the victim, but when you look over your shoulder, it’s you who’s walking away. There is a road back to that familiar place, but your feet are carrying you in the opposite direction. “I’m sorry,” you say, because you know it was always your decision.
“We’re going to hold doors open for a while.”
They say you can never go back, that you can never rewrite history, but the pen is shaking in your hand. You know you could do it if you really tried, you know it wouldn’t really be over if you didn’t want it to be. But you’ve already come so far, and you’re finally starting to believe in yourself, so you push forward.
“I’ll trade your broken wings for mine.”
Your heart will never be new again, but it will beat with a force unmatched by those untouched. And you––you’ve been touched. You’ve been touched by tragedy, you’ve been touched by fear, you’ve been touched by pain, but your light is still shining.
“With every tear came redemption.”
And there is someone standing at the end of that tunnel, there is someone waiting to welcome you with open arms — and they will come. And you will recognize their face when you meet them, because you will have been searching for them your whole life without ever realizing it.
“True love never has to hide.”
The trumpets will sound and you’ll feel the weight of the world lift from your shoulders as you finally let love in.