Refine My Heart: (Love Unconditional)- Part 4

To continue from where we left off... " Linking our will with the mind and will of God and allowing ourselves to serve from that marriage." Marriage. Where do I begin? This may be my most vulnerable sharing yet. It's hard for a women today to have "everything" and still feel like she lacks belonging. I had been struggling with my marriage and how we saw each other for sometime, but it was my experience in Italy which allowed me to voice how I felt. Before hand I looked at my unhappiness through the lens of shame, guilt and not being thankful for what I had. To be completely honest what my marriage had was a lot of codependency and inauthenticity masked as love. My new year's resolution this year was to connect with my roots and heal my ancestral pain in order to aid in healing my heart. I was ready to move forward in my life with a new understanding of what being “in love” even meant. Through this endeavor I was on the search for unconditional love. How to give it and how to receive it. Through yoga I have learned that time is not linear and if I did the work now on myself I could heal myself in the present, heal generations past and break a chain for the future. I was finding the courage to know that I have the right to be here and the right to journey towards the depths of love. I was ready to feel - everything. This is not something that I necessarily learned growing up and understandably so. I was raised by a lineage of strong black women, but that was just it, there wasn’t much room for vulnerability or softness. If we weren't surviving physically, we were surviving emotionally. For generations we didn't have a right to our own bodies let alone to feel. I was finding that this story had played out in many forms throughout my life. Making myself small to make others feel big. Masking my hurt. Silencing my voice. Believing others opinions of me over my own. It was time for this cycle to end. It was time for perfectionism to take a back seat to authenticity. I was tired of putting conditions on love. I was ready to step into the unknown.

" You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable." - Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between The World and Me.


On our downtime in Italy between yoga and exploring, I started to read The 12 Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. I had watched this courageous woman be interviewed on Super Soul Sunday a few months earlier and was moved by Oprah's inability to hold back tears after reading these powerful words of love and redemption. The book revolved around Hattie and her children as they journeyed north from North Carolina during the great migration of blacks in the 40's- 50’s. This is my grandmother's story and so many other women in my family. As I read, I started to understand that this was the reckoning of past, present and future healing that I was searching for. The more I read about this woman's courage, the more I tapped into mine. Her pain became my pain, her joy became my joy. This book is the true definition of the power of words to connect hearts and transform minds. One lazy afternoon sitting on the couch in our Italian apartment, I finished the book. As I rested the book down on the small side table, I immediately felt my heart tense up in my chest.  It felt like my idea of a heart attack. I continued to breath and not panic in the hope that the tension would subside. Shorty after,  Jess and I started to watch a movie and I kept breathing pretty deeply to alleviate the strain. "Are you ok?" She asked me. "I don't know." I replied. Very similar to the moment with the healer in Mexico, I opened my mouth to explain further and instead burst into tears. I became Hattie in that moment. A deep empathy for her character poured into me and in that moment my heart exploded in my chest. As my teacher would say I burst through a spiritual knot. My heart had been refined. In that moment I felt my heart. I physically felt love. A true expansion. Love from the inside out. My experiences in Italy were being measured by the capacity of my heart. It was thrilling and also frightening because I couldn’t ignore great joy or emense pain or suffering anymore. From that moment on I decided to commit my life to love. To rise up and live from the abundance of the heart.  

" Something ashtonishing happened... The journey had lifted her out of the plainness of her life... She felt herself a single red flower in a field of green grass." - Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie


A few days afterwards, on a yoga adventures with the family in the mountains, I lead a class on child-like wonder. We zip-lined between trees, climbed rocks by streams of water and practiced postures that may have scared us, but we approached with openness and abandon. Michaela (who had never taken yoga before this trip) was standing in full headstand without any assist. No fear. After the practice we divided into pairs and drew how we saw each others hearts. Christian and Michaela (The landlord and his wife) were paired together and as they spoke in Italian to each other, another transformation took place. Another moment of true empathy. They saw each other. They were love and allowed themselves to be loved in return. Jess and I had no idea what they were saying but we both looked at each other and were moved to tears.

 The next morning over coffee, we saw Michaela walking down the street by our favorite cafe and wifi bar.  Using our trusty google translate, we explained to her how moving that moment was that we witnessed between her and her husband the day before. She wrote back "we have been through a lot of suffering and a lot of joy." Without any exchange of words, Michaela and I both looked at each other and began to cry. In that moment we saw each other's pain. By allowing our pain to be seen, we mirrored it back with compassion. Our vulnerability transformed our fear into love. Without any explanation we both knew that we were journeying parallel paths in our lives and our marriages and looking for the same thing. Through her openness I was able to find the kind of love my heart had been seeking to find.

Come to find out, our last night in Piobbico was Michaela and Christian’s 14 year wedding anniversary (go figure). "You are our angel." Michaela text to me that morning. "You have brought new meaning to what was broken." "It wasn't me." I honestly replied. And it wasn't. I was open enough to be used by God as a vessel and in that moment we both received full circle healing. That evening we had our version of "The Last Supper." Pizza and wine at a long table under the starts with an almost full moon cascading down (do I need to break into song?) We ate, and ate and drank and ate some more. We laughed and cried as the prosecco flowed for the happy couple. We exchanged more hand written notes, One of my favorite being from one of the two twin girls who took my class every day religiously. " You do not have to be sad. We will always be in our hearts. We had the desire to learn english and enjoy ourselves. We had a lot of fun doing yoga. Your stories have been beautiful. You have a precious heart." - Eva (9 years old). The realization was settling in. In the morning we would have to say goodbye. These people had changed my life and I was going to miss them dearly but it was time to put this practice into action and into my life back home. Now lets be honest. This is not the first Italian memoir about finding love and I am sure it won't be the last. Italy is pure magic! I was heading back to my family and my marriage with less of a grasp on love than ever before. My problems, miscommunication and hurt were waiting to greet me as soon as I landed, but maybe that was the point. To surrender to it all. To the fact that I will never have a grip on love because it isn't mine to own. I will never truly understand it because it is endless in its dimension and scale. To love through the pain of it all and try and fail and try again. Love's job is to show us ourselves. Our true humanity in all of its mess and ugliness. Can I love myself inspite of myself? This is the adventure if I dare pursue it.  

I was brought to the mountains of Piobbico, Italy for one reason. To fall in love. With a place, with a family, with a community and with myself. To surrender to the transforming power of true love. My heart was refined in the fire of deep connectedness. I learned the meaning of reciprocity and that love comes in many forms. You know when a word just doesn't suffice? Well that is LOVE. It isn't a word, it is everything! I knew that I would be leaving the mountaintop soon and heading back to the valley. What I had gained was invaluable. My marriage could only grow from this trip. My ability to love as a mother could only expand. My work and my relationships all stem from love. Not a lovey dovey type love but a messy, painful and revealing kind of love. A love that burns at the core of who I am. To think that all of this growth stemmed from a seemly selfish endeavor to "find myself." If anything, my hope is that through these blogs others will be inspired to chase LOVE at all costs. Love is now the first thing on my mind when I wake up and last thing at night. Loves the warrior's path straight to the heart of who we are.

" For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:12-13