Oh I have missed you, my love, she concludes, at the end of LEMONADE, and with it I cried heavy, loaded, sobs of relief, because I have missed you, too.
I thought she was talking about her husband, at first. That she was coming back to him after an affair, ready, after many tears and so much anger, to try again. I don’t think she does mean that, though, and the realisation, when it hit, is what had the emotion push for escape. I think she has missed herself. I think she is tired and renewed, broken and healed at the same time, and that’s because she’s willing to slice open – wrist to elbow - and bleed in the name of truth. And I also think she has only just learnt that doing this once isn’t enough. That our becoming is endless. That the work of humanness is exhausting, and it is beautiful, and it is true for all of us that growing pains do, indeed, hurt.
Nobody is immune.
Hero-worship is so very dangerous when we think they have the answer to everything it is we question. As I watched the hour of footage that is, essentially, the most famous musician in the world saying yes, I got cheated on and I have daddy issues and the women of my life are the ones who have saved me meant, that for sixty minutes, Beyonce and I were the same. The humanity of that is staggering. The humility of it. The vulnerability. LEMONADE is a visual album that serves as the great equaliser that truly, none of us is fucking up like we think we are. We will continue to worry, though – even if we are Beyonce. Why can’t you see me? she asks, desperate, like me, like you, like everyone, to be recognized in love. I tried to change, closed my mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less awake, she explains, mirroring, painfully, the dance of the lost: practising different shapes of self, desperate to find the right combination of angles to be deemed loveable.
If I seem dramatic, forgive me. It is easy to dismiss a middle-class white girl fawning over the bootylicious, freak-‘em-dress of a pop star. Don’t worry if you don’t understand: this post isn’t for you, then. This post is for the ones who have hurt, and wonder why the healing never quite seems complete.
This is a post for the ones who struggle, who marvel at how easy it is for everybody else.
This is a post for the ones frustrated at the work of it all. Of life. Of being. Of becoming who it is we know we are capable of being and how we are not icebergs, alone. We need each other, and those relationships are messy and complicated and marred by mistakes we have to forgive and forget and learn from. If Bey’s last album was about growing into herself as a woman, this album is about how that is not enough: we must grow into our relationships with everyone around us, too. How horribly frightening that is, for so much of that is out of our control. I don't know when love became elusive. She doesn’t only mean the love of another. She means the love for herself, too. The goalposts forever change, and it takes a lifetime to master changing with them.
The backdrop to Beyonce’s world unravelling, her descent into “crazy”, is the elements. It made me think: I am woman, too. Resourceful. Unbound, creative, able, running with the wolves. I home the elements within me, as well. My fire will burn you, and fuel you. I flow like water, fluid, but uncontained will wreak a hell you cannot prepare for. My feet are on this earth but there is dirt under my fingernails, because the work of humanness is never, ever done. LEMONADE is a story of a woman coming home to herself, through the heartache of having to forgive others and we don’t talk about that so much, do we? We’re selfish, fulfilling our potential without talk of how everyone around us challenge that. Affect that. Stump us and punish us and push us and confound us. There’s relief, for me, that the lesson of Beyonce’s life is that of my own: how to play nicely with others, whilst never losing sight of who we are.
Reconciliation. That’s the word. I watched LEMONADE and saw myself in the way Beyonce is reconciling being who she is with who the people around her need her to be. How other people have made her: her parents, and her parents’ relationship. Her husband. Her children, both dead and alive. I cry when she says, oh, I have missed you, my love, because losing yourself and rediscovering yourself and learning and relearning how to trust yourself so that you may trust others is… is exactly where I am at. Trade your broken wings for mine, she offers, and the generosity of so unabashedly saying “I have not been okay, either” makes the tears come again.
If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious, she says, and because another woman has so poetically, thoughtfully, shown me her scars, I too have the strength to upturn closed, trusting eyes to the sun, inhaling the glory however it may come.
I appreciate that much of Beyonce's inspiration for LEMONADE has come from Warsan Shire, who is a force and woman from whom we can all learn so much. Start here, maybe. I am in awe.