A beautiful piece about letting love into our life ... this story is an extract from Sheri Salata's memoir "The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation"
Love. Specifically, sexy, romantic, passionate, real soul-to-soul love. This is tough. Embarrassing. And tinged with what feels like genuine shame. Love is my unsolved mystery—one of the great enigmas of my life. Why does something that appears to be like breathing to others feel like Cirque du Soleil to me? I see a couple strolling along, hand in hand, clearly in love, and my reaction is: beautiful to look at but impossible to pull off myself. It’s been years since I walled off the part of me that yearns for love. Other than crushes and flings and affairs, I’ve used a million “I’m too busy” excuses to avoid the real deal. Why? To protect myself from disappointment and hurt? Yes, that’s part of it. But there is something even more fundamental. I’m not sure what it is yet. But I think I’m ready to find out.
I’ve used a million “I’m too busy” excuses to avoid the real deal. Why?
I’m about to close my notebook and take a break when a memory sneaks up on me, uninvited. It’s 2012, and I’m sitting in an arena with several thousand others. Oprah is sitting beside me, listening with rapt attention as Tony Robbins works his magic on the attendees at his Unleash the Power Within seminar. All day, we’ve been captivated as he has paced the stage with almost supernatural energy and ventured out into the crowd, delivering powerful, life-changing messages and on-the-spot coaching to those audience members who dared to stand up and reveal their most intimate secrets. I found myself gasping at the bravery of these people, even as my stomach churned for them, and I made sure to keep my hands tightly in my lap so it would not appear, under any circumstances, that I wanted to join in.
Now, Tony has left the stage again and is making his way through the crowd. He begins to tell a story that sounds vaguely familiar, about a woman who’s shut herself off from love because she believes she isn’t “good” at it. “Rather than open herself to love,” he says, “this woman chose instead to focus on her career because she knew how to shine there— how to get an A-plus.” Tony is slowly, theatrically, ascending the steps below where we’re sitting, continuing his story as he goes. “Until she is willing to get in the ring and take some big risks, this woman is never going to have the life she’s dreamed of,” he declares. And then he looks up, and our eyes lock. He continues looking at me. I freeze in my seat.
“Oh my God. He’s talking about me and he’s coming over here and he’s gonna call on me,” I whisper to Oprah in a panic. “He wouldn’t do that,” she reassures me. After all, we’re not just any old seminar participants. We’re here preparing for Oprah’s upcoming interview with Tony. I allow myself to relax for a moment. Then Oprah takes another look at Tony and shakes her head. “No, you’re right. He’s coming right for you.”
And he does. He walks right up to our row—and keeps walking. Oprah and I double over, rocking back and forth in silent hysterics. She, because it was really funny; me, with crazed relief. But I know I wasn’t wrong. I just think that as a world-renowned expert on human behavior, Tony no doubt realized I would have had some sort of psychological collapse if he had stopped at my chair, so he walked on by.
The next day, when Oprah asked him, Tony confirmed what I already knew. He’d been speaking directly to me— the girl, now woman, who hates to fail. He saw, more clearly than anyone ever had, one of the traits that forms the barrier between me and romantic love.
He saw, more clearly than anyone ever had, one of the traits that forms the barrier between me and romantic love.
I sit with that memory. It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good to still be single at fifty-six and to know that the real reason is that I was too afraid. Not too busy, too successful, too heavy, too tired. I denied myself love because I didn’t want to fail. But as I allow those feelings to wash over me, I become aware that there’s another feeling, too—a faint glow of something that might just be called excitement if I could turn up its volume about a hundred times.
I focus on that feeling, and I start to remember the times I’ve felt like I’ve been in love. I can feel how my heart leaped when he called or put his hand possessively on the small of my back. I recall how perfect life felt when he threw a passionate glance across a crowded room, or we spent a lazy Sunday morning together, shutting out the world. These beautiful memories are part of the reckoning, too—I’ve been holding them at bay as fiercely as I’ve shut out my shame and self-criticism. Now, I let myself remember how life is so much more delicious when you participate in the dance—when you say yes to love with joie de vivre. The glow gets brighter. I think that maybe, after all these years, I am ready to lower the drawbridge and let love in.
This piece is an extract from Sheri Salata's memoir "The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation"
Sheri Salata is the author of The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation. Named an Amazon Editor’s Choice Best Memoir and an Apple Must Listen audiobook, the memoir has touched thousands of readers and inspired them to reimagine their lives and become worthy stewards of their own wellbeing. “Been there, ran that” is the hallmark of Sheri’s inspirational leadership story. Her against-the-odds rise to the career heights of anyone’s dreams begins as a 7-eleven store manager and continues to the top job with one of the most beloved brands on the planet.
Sheri’s ventures as an author, speaker, producer and founder are the evolution of her life-altering 20-year career with Oprah Winfrey. Sheri’s day-to-day roller coaster ride as the final Executive Producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show was featured in the heralded docu-series Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes. Sheri also served as President of Harpo Studios and OWN.
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