Visualize this: You are on indefinite holiday in the Greek Islands, living your happily-ever-after with your former star-crossed lover from India. You finally decided to let go and let love take the reigns and you are feeling lit up from the inside.
And now, here you are, walking this earth with your heart open and expanding and ready and wide and then-- it hits you. Out of nowhere. Like a grim reaper taking ahold of your shoulder in the dark night.
You realize that you are walking this earth with your heart open and expanding and ready and wide and, holy shit, this could end really badly.
You realize this person could find out that you aren't perfect. That you actually aren't an enlightened yogi. Or the docile Indian princess that you aspire to be. And now you are going to be living with this person and they will be able see all this and more. They may discover you have a dark side. And that you are an American. With a big mouth.
Essentially, they will be able to see all of who you are. And in the end, all of who you are could add up to not being enough.
Now, let's be real. It doesn't take much reflection of my relationship with Kishore over the years to clearly see that he has already seen my dark side. In fact, he's probably seen the worst of it. But that argument is easily drown out by the heavy voices of insecurity that arise when you start trying measure love and whether or not it can truly receive you. So, despite the clear reality that I was already irreparably exposed, I began a process of experimenting with different personas to hide under.
And I should mention that this kind of experiment isn't out of the ordinary behavior for me. In fact, this is something I am actually quite used to doing. You see, us air signs are natural people pleasers. Geminis, in particular, are born with a keen ability to sense exactly what the person in front of us wants, and serve up exactly what they expect. It's mostly a good thing. It's what makes us diplomatic and adaptable. It's what makes us strong and effective communicators. It's what got me every job I've interviewed for. But sometimes, in moments of insecurity, we can turn this talent against ourselves and get a bit lost in the process.
And so I assumed that this quiet, meditative, sun-gazing Indian man couldn't actually want me. Maybe me in a sari. Maybe me in more jewelry and feminine frill. Maybe me turned down a notch or two to a lesser degree. But certainly, not me.
So I tried to play the part of the bashful Indian princess like I was trying out to win the role. I tried to be shy. I tried to be quiet. I tried to be modest. I tried to pacify all the traits that make me distinguishably me.
Thankfully, my inner resistance toward playing small ensured it wouldn't be long before I got called out:
"I don't want you to be my Indian wife," said Kishore, "I want you to be yourself. The person I fell in love with was you. I want to be with you. I don't want you to ever seek to please me. I want you to do only what pleases yourself."
Feeling slightly silly, I dropped the personas. But the fear of inadequacy still plagued my mind.
On the first night in Milos, after concluding my week-long yoga retreat in Santorini, I walked down to the small beach down the hill from our hotel. And as soon as I felt the soft sand cradle my feet, I fell into a puddle on the ground and began to cry. I cried from exhaustion. I cried from joy. I cried from overwhelming relief after feeling compassionate sand beneath my feet after months of hot pebbles and coarse earth.
I cried from the feeling that I could finally release my full weight into the earth and be received without holding back.
Arriving on that beach, after two weeks of traveling, felt like coming back to the water in Eressos. Like I was Pocahontus coming to visit Grandmother Willow to tell her she discovered life was unfair. Only what I had to report was that love is still hard. Even after you let go. Even when there are wide open arms to accept you, you still have to get out of your own way. And once you do, you have to do it again and again, every day, for the rest of your life. Or as long as you decide to live in the space of love.
On my last full day in Greece before making my way towards Turkey, I wanted to reflect and integrate my past three months. So I took the whole day to be in one place and do nothing. To do what Eressos taught me to do best:
Relax and collect energy for the things to come.
I spent the whole day resting on a beach bed in Paliochori village, where I came across the most incredible beach I have encountered yet.
Perhaps from an outside glance, others would find some of the beaches I encountered in Santorini and Crete to be more exquisite. But this beach called me home unlike any other so far.
The language barrier in this village was the hardest for me to navigate. So instead of attempting to explain how to make my coffee the way I like it, I simply ordered the ingredients separately. A bucket of ice. A double espresso. And an empty glass. And I nested myself in a canopied beach bed, concocted it on my own, and gazed off into the horizon as the sounds of the lapping waves took me away.
I was in love with this beach.
It was colorful and messy. With true volcanic potential. Breathtakingly beautiful but lacking any real consistency. Some areas were covered with jewel-like yellow pebbles and glistening white stones. Some areas had soft, yielding sand. While other parts were covered with fine pink dirt, broken dried clay, or course gray sand ready to burn your feet in an instant.
The beach was surrounded by a tall volcanic rock that looked like the God of Wine threw himself at it in an angry fit. Marked by the red and yellow streaks thrown down its sides and the warning signs posted of its potential to landslide at any moment.
It reminded me of my time back in art school and the way I used to throw paint in creative fury when I felt the blank canvas before me was threatening to pacify me. When the edges of the canvas felt like they were trying to put me in a box.
And there I found myself, walking the colorful shoreline of this beautiful beach, emerging from an attempt to pacify myself.
This beach had a way of reminding me who I am.
Of reminding me that it's okay, to be bold, and bright, vivid and loud.
It's okay to live undaunted, inconsistent, lively, and ablaze.
It's okay to be vulnerable, spirited, sensitive and exposed.
That it's more than okay.
Milo's island's big claim to fame is that the ancient Greek sculpture, "Aphrodite of Milos" (better known as "Venus de Milo") was discovered on the island. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BCE, the sculpture is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. You can find little souvenir statues of Aphrodite all over the island. Usually composed of a pure white material to mirror the original. But as I was browsing the local artisan shops of Plaka village, I found a statue of her covered in layers of multi-colored paint splatters. Similar to the aesthetic I found on Paliochori beach. Similar to the way I sometimes feel inside.
I decided this was the souvenir I would take from Greece. This colorful depiction of a classic beauty. This wild representation of beauty itself. Beauty. Boundless, uninhibited, and free.
This little Aphrodite statue, and the colorful stones I gathered from Paliochori beach, are my reminders to be myself. A reminder to expose my own colors. A reminder that I, too, am love and beauty even if my colors are vibrant and pronounced and undeniably American. A reminder that I am not lovable despite this; I am lovable because of this. A reminder that who I am is completely and entirely enough. And, most importantly, that keeping my colors in is a disservice to the world, and a real inhibition to all-consuming, boundless love.
As I had my last lunch in Milos, and my last glass of Greek wine, before taking a ferry back to the mainland, I heard God speak to me and affirm this realization through the speakers of the cafe where I was sitting. Or rather, as the way God usually speaks to me these days, I heard Whitney Houston:
Share my life
Take me for what I am
'Cause I'll never change
All my colors for you
Take my love
I'll never ask for too much
Just all that you are
In Greece I encountered the most variety in landscape I have ever seen. Soft sand, fine sand, coarse sand. Pebbles, stones and hard bricks of clay. White sands, black sands, pink sands, red sands. Sapphire blue, deep navy, turquoise, soft teal and light blue waters. So many different expressions of beauty emerging from the same place; from the same source.
It's a beautiful reminder that we don't have to live one color at a time. That what comes forth from us can manifest in a multitude of beautiful ways. That not every expression of ourselves needs to match the greater whole. We can let our colors out, play with the inconsistency, and continue to explore the edges of what it means to live a beautiful life. And what it means to be entirely, whole-heartedly ourselves.
May we all live our colors loud and bright. And may every story end with a Whitney Houston song playing as it rolls into the credits.
P.S. This beach showed me a way back to love but, once again, I forgot to bring one of those tiny silver hearts to leave behind. But, fittingly, as this was a lesson learned about receiving love, existence stepped in and did it's part. Like it always does.