I wrote the following essay when I was in Italy in 2013 on my transformational travel retreat! As I was re-reading it this week I realized I am working hard at surrendering the past, letting go of the past hurts and past patterns and that is what this particular writing is all about. There was a realization when I was in Italy that others didn’t define me by my past hurts, I did. I realize that I have healed a lot and continue to heal a lot. I realizedthat I missed these women and what they meant to me. I realize that I have finally gotten to a place where I like me (most of the time!) and don’t need validation that others do. And so, I wanted to share this story with you along with the picture that sparked it as part of my journey. Enjoy!
It is said the eyes are the window to the soul, the smile to the heart. I remember once reading that Tibetan Monks relax the muscles around their mouth into a slight smile so they are always practicing peace. I recall looking at my husband and realizing his natural look was that of a scowl. He had deep grooves from his mouth to his jawline, the corners of his mouth turned downward. His lips pursed tightly almost into a narrow line. I wondered why he always looked unhappy. He repeatedly said he was happy, he professed happy but looked miserable. I made excuses. He’s an introvert. He is an intellectual. He is deep in thought. No. He was unhappy with him. We had so much to be thankful and grateful for. But he couldn’t feel it.
Walking around Nervi, Italy, I noticed that many of the elders, especially women, never smiled. Their serious faces, with deep worry lines across their foreheads made it appear as if they were always angry or unhappy. I wanted to understand why they were sad in this beautiful slice of heaven, with its vast history, nestled along the Liguria Sea. Nervi should provide a backdrop only to inspire. The beauty in the architecture, with statues adorning building tops and pastel colors ensuring fisherman could return to their righteous place at home. Children laughing and dancing with abandon. And the food, the glorious food! Thin crusted pizzas and pesto as green as the pine trees that bore its fruit. I felt peace and contentment here.
As I looked at the caption written by Melissa under the photo, I felt a teardrop roll down my cheek. Her words touched a place so deep inside. Here is someone who has known me for five days and sees something within me that I could not or would not see.
I have always questioned if people really like me. As a young girl I thought people liked me because I had handsome brothers. As an adult I have questioned people’s motives; especially given my view of me for all those years. My greatest fear is that people will figure out I am not lovable and I will be alone, completely alone. My ability to be loved, truly loved for me, flaws and all, has been elusive.
Most of my life I have appeared confident and filled with self- worth. Yet, I struggle to believe I am worthy of being loved; being cared about for me. I still cringe at the memory of Craig’s words as we stood in that dark empty parking lot on that cold November night over 20 years ago, “You are unattractive, unappealing and no one will ever love you! I never loved you. I married you because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. You aren’t capable of being loved.” Those words have haunted me since.
The photo, one of many from Italy, is just a moment in time. I am standing in Giulia’s kitchen about to eat some bruschetta, a dish so delicious my mouth waters thinking about it. Tomatoes, a beautiful dark crimson, fresh from the garden chopped in small pieces. They were sparingly sprinkled with basil as green as the sea that when mixed warmed me like Christmases past. I held the toasted bread, piled high with tomatoes, added salt and oil and looked at Melissa as she snapped the camera. I am surrounded by warmth, love and acceptance and I embrace it fully.
I continued to look at the picture, realizing that these amazing women, virtual strangers, loved me. Writing the caption, “Suzy doing what Suzy does best, smiling,” caught me by such surprise. I could feel the lump in my throat. To know that is how she saw me, and not the broken 32 year old I had carried for over 20 years was liberating and frightening. I realized at that moment that she cared, and in a way loved me for me. Was I finally there? Was I finally rid of that person? It was like the shackles came off and I was free. Free of those words, those feelings, and I finally felt worthy. I finally liked me and knew I could be loved.