This is ridiculous, I thought as I watched. She is getting divorced because she's a quitter. I was watching Eat, Pray, Love on the plane and was trying with all my might to dismiss it. I was in my early twenties. I had a lot of thoughts. She’s selfish, I thought. She doesn’t get it, I thought. She thinks the point of all of this is to be happy, I thought. It was pretty dismal.
I remember that season of my life so clearly... walking home from my first year of classes in my PhD program every day past the construction & the bagel place that always smelled burnt, my headphones in & my hands in my pockets. I was always listening to something about how to be a better wife, how to make this marriage thing work. I had every Bible Study on The Song of Solomon you could find, plus the 7 This & 5 That of highly not-trying-to-kill-eachother couples.
And I remember crying in the bathroom wondering how I could feel so helpless. Wondering why I couldn't A-student my way through marriage. Everything had started to feel broken, including me. I couldn't get through the week without landing in a doctor's office, trying to figure out why my body was in so much pain.
Like so many women, I had pelvic pain that I couldn’t quite explain, and it had shown up basically as soon as I had gotten engaged to my ex-husband.
Looking back, it’s a little easier to understand what happened — my body completely froze up, and it would take years to listen to it, to unwind and soothe it back to normal so that I could feel at home in myself again, swaying my hips and breathing deep without feeling like chopsticks were being poked inside me.
>>These practices are a lot of the more physical side of UNCOVER, and I’m so grateful that I found them. (Our bodies are like wise old sages who live in the mountains, we just have to figure out what route to take up there & what tea to bring as a gift and she will reveal her secrets!)<<
But, I didn't know that yet.
I knew that I was sick of getting MRIs and painful physical therapy and taking 5 types of pills, including an antidepressant for my vagina.
And then I got invited to Florence. And I said yes.
It was a summer job, with my best friend, away from the doctors and the drama and the Bible Studies. (I mean, I could have brought the Bible Studies, but I didn't. I brought two books of poetry and my journal instead.) I found myself relating to Eat, Pray, Love pretty quickly: -finding out who I really was -discovering the possibility that life was filled with pleasure and beauty, and that that might not be the worst thing -ready to ask for more from life Just like Liz. There are still things about the way we tell stories of travel & adventure that I think are problematic, and it’s never a bad thing for me to remember my immense privilege.
Folks abroad, of course, do not exist just to help me along my own personal journey, and it may take courage to stray from the regular path of job-marriage-house-kids but of course it also takes money.
(In fact, this review of Eat, Pray, Love cracks me up & always feels like a good reality check if I start to get too out of touch or veer close to saying things like "my trip to Bali wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped it would be" with a straight face. I try to reread it periodically, and watch things like this Women Gotta Stick Together video, to stay grounded & laughing, even though this work matters so much to me.) But -- this.
One thing that review accuses Eat, Pray, Love of doing, of course, is overusing the idea of Brave. (This is after the author recommends we change the name to simply, Barf, barf, barf. lol.) The truth is, though -- I look back at that girl, broken & believing so much that she was going to be able to TRY HARDER and fix everything, and I do see her being brave. Standing forward.
It did feel scary to say Yes to My Own Life. And it started with a summer, it started with a job. It started with Florence. I was spending the summer at the beck and call of a rowdy group of rich teenagers as we all traipsed through the city.
We lived in a hotel and I was part of the staff in charge of keeping them from falling in the river or skipping their Italian classes.
I barely remember how we never slept, the cold I caught the first week, the night patrolling worried that our bambiniwere somewhere taking advantage of the local drinking age.
I remember instead getting dressed with the sunlight pouring in through the curtains and feeling like I had suddenly become a person I recognized--curly and curvy and brimming with a kind of remembered mischief, as if in my past life I had been a sly little squirrel or a person who isn't afraid of heights.
I remember sitting alone in a wooden pew, cold against my thighs, in the church at Santa Croce, where I had a vision of my own healing, and all the pain loosening up. A healed and happy life came in images playing like a movie screen, pink bougainvillea flowering around and through me, unfolding between my legs and winding up around my back and woven into my hair. It was such a hallucinatory reassurance after a long year of medical tests and scary hospital visits.
I felt myself start to feel better, I felt myself start to feel beautiful. And most of all, I remember my one day off, where I was off-the-clock, allowed to drink wine and spend the day doing exactly what I wanted. I got to choose it. I got to hide from my gaggle of sixteen year olds (of which other grown ups were blessedly in charge for 24 hours) and just wander around Florence like it was my job to be on vacation, which I guess that day it was. Even now it comes back to my memory like dreamy instructions from another planet...
What you want when you wake up on the hotel sheets is a bubble bath, so you take one.
Room service serves up a cappuccino and a croissant which you eat in bed like a messy princess.
Walk downtown past the old men who call, ciao bella, ciao.
A handmade dress in a Santo Spirito shop across the street from the luscious Boboli gardens, greenery so self assured as it lounges fabulously over stone walls and scuplture.
Dinner alone at a bustling fancy restaurant in a vintage lace dress--the sexiest you've ever worn--from the flea market in Rome. A book and a conspiratorial look at the waiter as you order pasta until suddenly, you're not alone because a table of traveling strangers invites you to join them and out of nowhere a bottle of wine has appeared, sent over from a family of tourists who watched you come in and saw you get invited to join, and thought it was so nice.
And over and over you think, this isn't my life -- this isn't the kind of thing that happens to me. And yet, it does, it must, because it did.
At dinner once my friend and I were talking about the power of a smell -- the ways that memories attach to scents and a quick sniff can send you careening down a tumble of memories and experiences, can put you right up next to them again.
When I used to walk up the stairs to therapy I would sometimes catch a whiff of patchouli, for me the anxious smell of high school. And there's a perfume I walk into sometimes in public that I can't identify but feels so much like something a babysitter wore, or maybe a teacher--it's enough to make me feel like a little kid again, that I've found some adult who is safe. The Anthropologie candle that smells like 2007 and my terrifying, beautiful ride through studying and working in Santa Barbara.
The first perfume I ever bought myself--Signorina--which was from a department store in Florence in a little pink bottle with a bow. The one that smells like every day is my day off, the day I get to choose what to do, the day magical things might happen, the day I stop being alone precisely because I don't mind that I am.
This life, the one where magical things happen, IS my life. And it's yours, too. I came home, changed but not really. Remembered. I slowly started to walk back toward myself, to let my body breathe & bloom, to feel what I needed to feel.
It landed me in a place with more passion, more power, more pleasure, than I could have ever guessed.
It landed me back here, in Florence, again, leading the retreat I started planning in my mind all those years ago.
The retreat where I'd get to bring women on the same journey, but maybe with less work, as we all find our way.
On our agenda this week, in our villa just outside the city, is...
-sister circle time (getting clear on our mission, falling in love with our lives, being in tune with our desires, our dreams, ourselves) & strategy for our businesses, relationships and lives
-artsy adventures in this gorgeous city where art, science, beauty & history all dance together
-amazing restaurants I love, including pasta that once made me cry because it reminded me so much of my grandmother
-an epic spa day & spritzes by the pool
-time alone to journal and read in our villa
And that reclaiming, unfolding, budding vision I saw so many years ago. That my life was NOT over (ha!) in fact it had hardly just started. There would be so much more. There would be so much magic.
Next year, you can join me, I'd LOVE it. I'm hosting small retreats in Paris & in Florence next year, with a week in between if you want to do both and explore in between. It will be magical, because you are magical. And, because this is why: why I'm here, why I did all that, why it hurt. This. So that we can be here together. So that we can dance with all that we are & be brave.
This time, both are limited to just 5 people, but you can reserve your spot here: www.uncoverretreat.com (The deposit is refundable & will get applied toward your balance, dates and details at www.uncoverretreat.com. May in Paris. June in Florence. You, uncovered, and across the world.) To your blossoming, Kim
P.S. Not sure where to start as you begin to uncover your real self?
Reserve your spot in next year's Tuscany or Paris retreats (or both) at www.uncoverretreat.com
& also join our new monthly membership for the earlybird rate of $25 and get the gifts from Florence and Paris this summer
& also you can also apply to go in deeper in one of my one-on-one spots for a six month coaching commitment in You, Revealed.