This collage is a compilation of photos of us and me from the world over. Of particular note featured middle us somewhere between Damascus and As-Suwayda in Syria in 2010; bottom left me in Bosra; bottom right in Jordan; top right my wedding dress (borrowed) and our wedding.
11 years ago today, 13 April 2007, a shadow walked across my heart, and the great love of my life entered this space. 11 years is a long time, frankly for me the longest time I have ever been in one place since I was a child. Now my husband of 8 years, Claudio is one of my greatest teachers, he has brought new meaning to the idea that every single situation in life is an opportunity. Each day with him is a chance to learn, grow, and love with wild abandon. He may be surprised to read this, and last month's post with Alain De Botton sums up in many ways the details of this idea. From the day we met, he on holiday for the Easter weekend and me on the cusp of a new life in Rome, Claudio has challenged me to dare to be my truest self. When we met and I felt that I had come "home", I was unaware that this feeling was born from what De Botton adroitly describes as choosing what we know, humorously shared with us in Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person in March Healthy Habits post, Whole love, Mature love, a Healthy Habit.
This month I am dually inspired by the anniversary of our meeting and a talk with another provocative name, Why Won't He Apologize?. In just 13 minutes, this candid, thoughtful TEDx talk by Harriet Lerner makes a powerful impact with a witty display of intimacy. Like De Botton, she approaches a potentially heavy topic with light and tenderness, making it simultaneously accessible and deeply touching. Lerner's presentation spoke to me on so many levels I had to listen several times in order to bring my thoughts together coherently for this post.
Professoressa. This is what Claudio (affectionately) calls me, and I take on fully this aspect of myself. This is the part of me that wholly displays my dual Libra self - as I am Libra (Greek zodiac) and Dog (Chinese zodiac), both characterized by loyalty and deep commitment to justice and equality. In my role as the Professoressa, I am apt to expand upon a point in dulling detail, supporting documentation/statistics, and unflinching one pointedness. From him, I have learned that when the Professoressa shows up on the scene of my behavioural landscape, it may be best to thank her for her diligence and invite her to go into retirement. In Why Won't He Apologize?, Lerner explains that "Margo’s" six sentence note (in place of a 3 page single spaced letter including a summary of research and references) is a valuable reminder of how to communicate with full responsibility for oneself vs with expectations towards, and judgements of, the person being addressed. In less than 3 minutes, Lerner encapsulated the futility of employing the Professoressa, giving insight and tangibility to Claudio’s decades long lament and magically releasing me from my frustration and guilt about this aspect of myself.
For several days I have been feeling quite badly, emotionally and physically. In short, my gut has been on strike, unwilling to digest anything at all. Anything beyond a piece of toast has given me extreme discomfort in every cell of my body. Then, in a chat with a dear friend, in a heartbeat, months of meditation and learning crystalized, and the Professoressa's retirement was secured. In her place, is the sensual, vulnerable, feminine me. The me I have ignored and hidden in the closet for years, especially in my marriage. The person I was 11 years ago seemed a dream away, and I have been missing her.
Listening to Lerner's talk just one day after this epiphany brought me courage, compassion, and confidence; returning to my soft, feminine self is the way. Sharing this with my deepest soul friend she commented, "Just like what the world is going through ;)". Indeed, the reconnection with feminine energy is a popular theme which until this very moment I did not clearly understand or even agree with. Unlike the feminism of the 20th century, this calls for a recognition of the power of the feminine which neither represses the male, nor oppresses the female. This return to the feminine honors both aspects of the self and offers the space to be fully female in a way that suits each individual. This is about energy, not gender. There are no rules, like pink is good or pink is bad, but instead a return to the conscious choice of who to be in any given moment for the sake of one’s own health and wellbeing vs any externally imposed idea of who to be as a woman.
Near the end of this talk, Lerner describes the characteristics of a person who can apologize: self-worth and perspective, acceptance of who they are beyond their mistakes. In hearing this my heart exploded with gratitude. In a moment of intimacy with my mother a few years ago, Claudio said to her, "Something Nicole does well is say that she is sorry. I respect her for this capacity." It never occurred to me that this is who I am, living my full potential within my feminine energy.
For more details on apologizes and healing see Lerner's full text: Why Won't You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts