Writing this column from Venice, Italy adds so many more levels of inspiration and introspection.  Truly, this is a place with a charm unaffected by time and a magic that beckons for your spirit to come alive.  One of my friends said, “You will fall in love in Venice!”  And, I did.  I fell in love with myself again.

For the past year, I’ve had to navigate some difficult moments with relationships.  Naturally, I pride myself on my ability to maintain and manage my relationships, hence, why I’m able to write this column.  With that said, I have found post long-term relationship dating difficult and I have had to deal with the ending of a professional partnership and friendship.

My long-term relationship ended approximately two and a half years ago.  Initially, I found the freedom of single life to be exciting and a breath of fresh air.  Recently, like many other single people, I have found dating to be exhausting and the pickings to be very slim.  Nonetheless, I take my own advice and stay in the game because I believe in love.  But, you all know it’s hard out there.  You look around and you’re in a dating pool filled with a bunch of crack heads and crazies – all the while hoping you’re not one of them.

Then, if that weren’t enough relationship stress – a business partnership and friendship I had cherished came to an abrupt end.  It broadsided me and left me feeling dejected and down.  Professionally, it put me at a crossroads leaving me contemplating what to do next.  Personally, it crushed me to my core, as it was completely unexpected.  

Dealing with both personal and professional relationship disappointments at once was daunting.  I am a firm believer in going to gratitude under any circumstance and keeping it moving.  So, that’s what I did.  I kept going and stayed grateful.  Notwithstanding my commitment to doing so, I still had an emptiness that was left from my lackluster dating experiences and my ever-dissolving partnership.  

If you don’t believe in miracles, just look around you.  About three weeks ago, I received an invitation from an Australian friend, who I met once two years ago, to come to Venice, Italy.  Under most circumstances, I would have been flattered by the invitation, but politely declined.  This, however, felt different.  My spirit was screaming at me to accept the invitation to adventure.  

I had no idea how much I needed this trip.  Being in a city like Venice has caused me to confront some of the core issues and feelings I was dealing with regarding relationships.  More importantly, it has forced me to look within and pull out the things that I love about me.  It is, honestly, a city of pure magic.  However, the awakening self-awareness and self-appreciation has been in major parts fueled by my conversations with my friend who knows very little about me.  Having to speak in detail about myself – my goals, my dreams, my fears…my life – has been one of the most cathartic experiences of my lifetime.

As a result, I have been reminded of just who I am.  And, I’m remembering that I’m the pooh!  In turn, it has also caused me to seek and see inspiration in all that I encounter.  Sitting at an outdoor café eating gelato, breeds an inspirational moment.  Listening to a virtuoso string ensemble play Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” is a garden for new creative expression.  From the mundane to the exquisite, once I started lovin’ on me again, I have come alive.

We get so consumed in everyone else’s opinion and views of who we are we forget that there’s only one human opinion that counts – our own.  My pastor says, “If God is already impressed with you, who is left to impress?!”  I hear him and once again, I’m living it.  If me and God love me then, that’s all I really need.  Everything else is just gravy.  Now, I like gravy, but mashed potatoes without gravy are still great.

I know that my setting lends itself to these romantic musings and discoveries, but it doesn’t matter if you’re in Venice, Italy or Venice, Florida you can start loving on yourself again.  Take a look at your awesomeness inside and out and love on it!!!  For, it is the only way you will be whole enough to love anybody else.

In Toni Morrison’s masterpiece novel, Beloved, the preacher Baby Suggs says it best in her sermon in the Clearing:

“[I]n this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard….Love your hands! Love them! Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you!
This is flesh I’m talking about here.  Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you.

The dark, dark liver – love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet… More than your life-holding womb and your live-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”  From Beloved, Toni Morrison (edited)

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