Love is, A Leap of Faith. How Mara Brock Akil Teaches Us to Be Bolder
“Innocence in an adult is not the same as gullibility or naivety. Rather, it is a quality that comes with maturity and arises out of a lifetime’s experience that trusting in the heart for guidance always proves to be the best way to deal with life’s ups and downs. Innocence is the ability to pay attention to the inner voice of intuition and to spontaneously respond to life unfolding in the now”. Ma Deva Padma.
Love is, Innocence
You mean I actually have to drop my walls and allow love to prance its way back into my heart? This was my thought as I watched the first two episodes of Mara Brock Akil’s show, “Love Is”. I believe that love requires a certain amount of naivety, to be able to trust your heart into someone else’s hands. A certain amount of innocence that I didn’t think I had anymore. Watching Nuri and Yasir fall in love with the same child-like abandon that teenagers have, it made me dream, and made me wonder. Maybe my sense of caution was keeping heartbreak at bay, but also preventing me from experiencing love that pulls the caution from under you, and you fall in a bed of clouds that makes you do corny things like spend hours in a coffee shop talking until close time at 4 am, and say I love you after just a few days of knowing each other. I found myself feeling conflicted because I’ve known heartbreak, the kind that shatters your whole world and makes you question whether love is just a figment of the imagination, a thing best left for Harlequins and Hallmark movies. Yet here I was, watching what was the love story of Mara Brock and Salim Akil, two very real people, and I was lulled by their becoming, their surrendering, their falling. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad to let love soften you up a bit. To give yourself away to it, and trust that your intuition was leading you to the right place. Love is innocence.
Love is, deliberate
It was easy to fall in love with the love of Yasir and Nuri. The dedication Yasir has for her, The love notes he gives her asking that she chooses him, The running after her car to declare his love, the prayers he prays for her, the love making to candle lights and 90s RnB, with rainfall on the window pane. It was easy. Their love was easy. Until it wasn’t. As time progresses, we begin to peel back the layers of each character, and we see how Nuri can be entitled and spoiled. We learn Yasir is unemployed, still living with his ex-girlfriend and has a child with another woman from his hometown. We learn he has a difficult time not feeling emasculated and intimidated by Nuri’s success, or feeling like a side character in her story, rather than the lead in his own. But with it we also learn of Yasir’s sense of loyalty and integrity, as he risks his blossoming relationship with Nuri, to take care of his ex-girlfriend Ruby who got plastic surgery. We learn of his relentless pursuit for his dream, of the moments of brokenness when said dream is taking a little longer than expected. We learn of his love of God, of the beauty of ritual, of the anchoring of faith in trying times.
These are the moments when the honeymoon fades. When the red flags poke their head in, when the after of happily ever, isn’t so rosy. This is when falling in love becomes falling out, or staying in. When love moves from happening to you, to you choosing it, deliberately. When you have seen the flaws, the ugly, the not so appealing. When you have also seen the breathtaking, the endearing, the possible. When you have seen it side by side, existing in the same person. Do you stay, or do you go? Love is deliberate.
Love is Choosing yourself
Perhaps underrated in this show in my opinion, is the story of Angela, Nuri’s best friend. When we are talking about love, we often discuss it in terms of someone else rescuing us from our (sometimes self-imposed) ivory tower. There is not so much glory in the love for one self, in slaying our own dragons and conquering our own kingdoms. Sure it’s nice, but we often treat it like a side quest rather that an integral part of our story. This is why I loved the story of Angela, a writer working with Nuri. She was chosen to write an episode of the show on which they both worked, but the storyline they gave her was demeaning at best, and soul crushing at worst. I remember the scene of Angela typing away on the computer, tears in her eyes, trying her best to write a story she clearly didn’t believe in, because her effort to bring more depth to the sitcom had been shut down. I remember the knots in my stomach as she made the decision to quit the show because she refused to continue writing for something she didn’t believe in. I remember wanting her to stay and settle, because I knew I had once stayed and settled for a job I hated. I also remember cheering her on through my screen when upon telling her boss she was quitting, he offered her another position instead. I remember feeling seen and validated, because right when that episode aired, I too, had just put in my 2 weeks’ notice. This must be what it feels like to pick up your own sword, to drive into the dark forest, ready to slay your own dragons. Love is choosing yourself.
Love is healing.
I felt my body tense up, whenever I saw moments of intimacy between Yasir and Nuri. The passionate kisses, his exploration of her body, the love making on the living room floor. I know it was endearing, but it was also tense for me to imagine that level of trust and surrendering my body to someone else. Not when that trust has often been violated. So when I saw Episode 9, in which Nuri jumped out of bed when Yasir tried to wake her up with a tender kiss, I was pulled right back to those moments. Seeing Nuri cower behind her dresser, unable to differentiate between trauma past and safety present, I felt my whole body tense up and then relax again when Yasir picked her up in his arms to try and soothe her back to the safety of his love. I witnessed them both reveal to each other their stories of sexual abuse, peeling back yet another layer of themselves and leaning on each other as if to say, we’re going to heal from this together, with and for each other. We come into love not just with our hopes and dreams and best intentions, we also come with trauma, baggage, and vulnerability. To love one another then, is not just to be present for the fireworks and tender moments, it is also to be the crucible from which we are transformed. To love is to create the safe space for each other’s healing, growing, and blossoming. Love is healing.
Love is mapping your own journey.
One of my favorite interviews from Mara and Salim Akil, is the one they had with Oprah, discussing the show. In it Salim emphasized that this show, their love story, was not meant to be a blueprint. It was meant to give your permission. Permission to live your own love life according to what you want, not preconceived guidelines that someone else mapped as a one-size fits all. For women especially, there is often a very specific way we are told to love. To fall in love early, lest you become an old maiden. To not have too high standards. To find virtue in being the one who endures in silence. To stay when you should leave. But what if you throw all the rules out the door? If you decide to love according to what you want? What if, love is mapping your own journey? What if love is taking a leap of faith?