While the debates over Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s iconic choreopoem will continue long after the film’s theatrical run (and for the record: I have seen it and prefer not to comment about it), one thing most fans and critics of the film can agree with is the power of the original playwright’s pen and the timelessness of the themes she touched.

One of the For Colored Girls monologues that has stuck with me even some fifteen years after reading the play for the first time is, “somebody almost walked out wid alla my stuff,” in which the poet laments how much of herself she gave to a man who was not worthy of such a gift. In fact, he seemed content receiving all she had to offer until he didn’t want it anymore and had no qualms walking away from her, now broken and empty.

A lot of us have been there, I’m sure.

It’s important to know that when we share with a lover, it is a managed transference of energy, love, time, space, etc. Reckless abandon and unbridled passion sound great in theory, but you can’t jump off the emotional deep end for someone who hasn’t so much as shown a willingness to slide into the shallow end of the caring pool for you. You can give and give . . . but you cannot give up all of your stuff. If you give until you are empty or drained, you may find yourself with nothing left and nothing to show for it but tears.

Personally, I am happy to cook, clean, pamper, spoil, nurture, adore and protect when there is someone worthy of receiving that. But I won’t give until it hurts in a relationship—because it’s not supposed to hurt. And when it starts to, that is your cue that the person you are sharing your all with probably isn’t holding up his or her end of the bargain. They are just taking your stuff and not even pretending like you are getting something in return. When you see something like that, you run, girl. You run.

If I ever become one of those sad women who can’t bear the demise of a relationship and finds herself blowing up some man’s phone or showing up at his job because I have literally given him all of myself and no longer know how to function . . . my friends know to call my family to come collect me from wherever I may be—and take me home. Like, home home. My mom’s crib, some 1,000 miles away. Just don’t let me be out here empty-handed and confused.

You can’t share yourself with someone to the point where, if faced with them leaving, you’d find yourself with a lot less than you started the relationship. You can’t let nobody walk out with your stuff, and the best way to avoid that is by first being wise about who you give it to and how/when you distribute what you share. As the piece says, you “needs” your things. You need your heart to love again, your mind to understand it was wrong—and you need your entire self to be strong enough to walk away with grace. Don’t you ever let anyone walk off with your stuff.

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