It’s not often that I will drop £350 on myself without pre-planning the expense, working it into the budget, rationalizing why I, and the items that I desire, are worth it.
It was a new and rare experience when I found myself freely handing over my credit card without any of these mind games going on. A spontaneous shopping spree on the 2nd day of the True You Italia retreat as we were wandering the streets of Rome.
Technically, we were looking for a place to sit and have a drink and a snack together (when in Rome…). My mission at the time was to get us off the main street and into the quieter alleys that were not so packed with tourists (those darn tourists).
As I paused to invite the others to cross the street, I looked up and saw a dress that caught my eye. It was an orangey mustard colour with a subtle blue flower print, the light material flowing off the mannequin in such a way that stirred something in me to try it on. To see if I would feel as beautiful in it, as the beauty the dress itself created.
Plus the price was right. 39 euros? I can do that.
So I meandered into the shop, browsing the racks, imagining how the gently feminine styles would look on me, keeping an eye on the price tag.
I found a navy pullover for only 19 euro made in a light viscose material, with long sleeves and a long torso, that made me feel comfy and softly sexy at the same time.
That was a definite yes.
Then something made me ask the sales assistant if I could try on the dress in the window… the reason why I had walked into the shop in the first place.
Maybe a different day I would’ve settled for the comfy sexy pullover, but the whole Retreat was about coming Alive… part of that means acknowledging and acting on my desires. And I had a desire to try on that dress.
The young man explained that the one on the mannequin was the last one in the store, he could get another one from a sister store, but would I like to try on the same dress different colour in the meantime?
Sure. Go for it.
And go for it he did.
I put the dress on and it was shapeless. Not what it looked like on the mannequin. A subtle disappointment creeped in… once again my desires don’t look good on me.
I showed my two amici, Liberty and Becki, and they agreed… something was missing.
The belt! The mannequin was wearing a belt!
‘I’ve got a belt at home’, I said.
The sales assistant, whom we soon learned was named Emanuele, perked up. ‘No, not your belt from home. I will get you a belt. Stay there.’
He brought over a blue leather belt that matched the sprinkle of blue in the dress. He lovingly tied it around my hips and flounced the material around it.
Wait, you need the necklace.
2 minutes later I had my choice of necklaces to try on. I chose the one that felt most me.
Yup, that worked.
Something inside of me was awakening… I started to feel playful. ‘What shoes would I wear with this outfit?’ I asked. ‘Heels?’ I was picturing strappy stiletto Roman-esque adornments for my feet.
‘Ah, No. I will show you. What size are you?’
‘Ok good. Here, put these stockings on your bare feet while you’re waiting.’
Next thing I know, I am standing there with Emanuele down on his knees scrunching the soft leather of a pair of handmade boots around my calves, just so, to give the outfit the exact look and feel he could see for me.
Me? I had no clue boots could scrunch. Left to my own devices I would’ve rigidly kept them knee high. I was not expecting the inviting look, and the internal surrender, that came from the boot scrunch.
Again he eyed up his creation. ‘Something is missing’. He declared. ‘Stay here.’
I stayed and looked in the mirror. Definitely not an outfit I would’ve picked out for myself, but it was working. I liked what I saw.
He returned with a blue jacket that matched my belt, hand crafted from lambskin, as soft as a baby’s bottom.
Trust me, I was not expecting to ever try on a blue leather jacket. It just wasn’t in my view of what works for me.
But to my surprise, this more than worked.
Another look in the mirror and I could barely take in what I saw. It was like I was lifted from the page of a magazine. The outfit popped, and in wearing it, I did too.
Becki and Liberty were oohing and ahing. Turn here. Look that way.
I let myself be seen. Playfully and coyishly posing for them to admire. Hand on hip, knee bent, head tilted.
Something inside of me desired to savour this. Let myself receive the attention, care, and admiration of those around me.
Forget the outfit, this experiment in receiving was a whole new look for me. My norm is to downplay and shy away from compliments, and then crack some joke so as to dumb down the beauty.
I chose differently yesterday. And it felt damn good.
I felt like a woman. Like a divine being. I tried on the ability to receive, without any strings attached; without owing anyone anything or apologizing for my radiance.
I was empowered to own this moment, and so I chose to take that moment home with me. To own it for good; without figuring out where the £350 was coming from, or what would my husband think, or do I really need or deserve this?
It didn’t matter. Because being more of me is priceless. So is owning and living the truth of who I am… a woman who can delight in herself, and let herself be delighted in by others. A woman who knows she is worthy.
And as I did that, something else changed in me. I let the walls down between me and Emanuele.
Because at first the cynic in me thought, hmmm, he’s a really good sales person. I better keep my eye on the price tag here because he’s up and cross-selling me, all for his gain ie commission. And although he’s doing a very good job, I’ve sussed him out.
But the more I let myself receive, the more the judgement melted away. I stood back and let him do his thing, because he was actually having FUN! Decorating and dressing me was not a job for him.
It was Play. His Art. I was his Creation.
I got curious about him… Tell me Emanuele, why do you do what you do?
I like to put the colours together for people. They would never think green goes with this, or blue goes with that, but then I put it together, and dey lahv it!
His finds joy in seeing others experience joy.
His True You comes alive as he helps others come Alive.
We asked if we could capture this moment on camera, and so Liberty asked him, ‘When do you feel most alive?’
And this is when it became clear our shopping spree was not really a shopping spree, but a Divine experience. A meeting with God.
‘When I pray.’
Here, in a women’s fashion boutique in Rome, was an openly gay Jewish man who admittedly talks to God (and sometimes Jesus…) and who comes most alive when he prays. (If that doesn’t mess with your view of who’s right and wrong when it comes to religions and sexuality, I don’t know what will.)
Not something I was expecting, and not something I can explain.
It brings tears to my eyes and sends me to my knees.
Because Emanuele, God with Us, was giving me more than a new outfit. He was acting out the gift from the Creator who likes to Play. Who likes to make Art. For whom I am It’s Creation.
And for whom You are too.
Dear ones, know that you are delighted in. You are loved. You are a work of art. Let yourself receive this gift.
Surrender to the work of Emanuele. You are already adorned by your creator. Regardless of your race, religion, sexuality, gender, number on the scale, bone structure, percentage body fat, health problems, emotional problems, your failures, your successes, your pains and your joys.
You are You for a reason. Let yourself come Alive.
Awaken to your own playfulness, your own creativity. Be curious about the world around you.
Let the walls of judgement, shame, fear, expectations, and perfection, fall down around you (those same walls that try to separate Christian and Jew and Muslim and gay and straight and married and single and divorced and you name it.)
Let the beauty of your True You shine through.
Please, I beg you.
The world needs your True You. It needs you, and me, to be like Emanuele; shamelessly and vulnerably letting ourselves be seen (even the parts that could easily have us hung on a tree) and sharing our gifts to the world. Lighting up others by just being our quintessential selves.
We all left changed that day. We wanted to take Emanuele home with us. And not because we’d be guaranteed a good-outfit-day 7 days a week. But because being around him touched something in each of us; awakened us to something bigger than us that we can’t explain.
And when we put down our guards enough to connect with what he had to offer, we were changed.
Truth is Emanuele is with us always. That spirit, the delight of something bigger than us that we can’t explain, is always with us. Just look around you. You will see it.
In the wind, in the waves, in a flower, in a child, in a dog sniffing and licking your face. In the laughter and the art of another soul walking this earth with you.
Emanuele, God with us, is With You.