Dare to Belong
by Tania Carriere
April 22, 2018 - 6:38pm

I met this woman in a shop doorway in Quito, Equator.

Poking my head in, I saw the walls covered with the most wonderful hand-stitched tablecloths. Every colour you could think of. The result was a collage of joy that left me feeling like a guest at a family celebration.

This woman sat on the wooden chair outside the shop and I could not stop looking at her. Her very essence matched the abundance I had just seen inside. In her eyes there was an invitation … to see her…to be seen… and to share a moment in which she seemed to find delight. She had beckoned me over in a way that invited me into her world. Her focus never seemed to be on introducing me to the goods in the shop, rather it seemed to be in sharing a happy exchange. I felt drawn into a connection - Shop keeper to customer? Seeker to wise woman? Gypsy-soul to gypsy-soul? Who knows? Despite my ardent attempts to communicate with her, anything beyond indicating that I loved the beautiful colours was beyond my vocabulary so, in the end, a little flustered, I simply asked to take her picture.

She smiled,

and then really smiled.

I honestly don’t know what adorns her more, her necklace or those laugh lines around her eyes. Both embellish her energy and her warmth which seem to tumble out. I took the picture, returned her smile and then in the same way that you can be surprised by a burp, I threw back my head in a wholehearted, “I love this world” laugh. She then waved her hand at my head, in a kind of a benevolent blessing, and I left feeling like we had managed the conversation after all.

That was years ago, and I still think of her smile.

What I am struck by is how generous she was in that moment. I don’t know what kind of insecurities she had; I don’t know what kind of life she had led. I don’t know what self-talk plagued her, if she mourned her lost youth or how she judged herself on a good day or a bad one.

But whatever reasons she might have found for being guarded or defensive when meeting a stranger, she didn’t go there. Instead, she left the veil aside and simply let me in.

Gifting me with the greatest generosity of spirit;

there she is, open, authentic, unguarded.

When are my unguarded moments?

Oh ya, take a photo of me and you’ll immediately see the skin tighten beside my eyes in a reflex akin to a lizard’s. I am suddenly thinking about who you are seeing while you look through the lens instead of who I was being such that you thought you should take a picture in the first place. In an effort to hide myself and not be so vulnerable I find the right “pose” for you. I hold my head and smile…  and I take a pretty good photo.

But do I let you in? Do I let you see and capture the part of me that really holds the smile?

Not before that day, I didn’t.

What do I hide? Oh, you name it…a sense of failure, imposter syndrome, insecurities. I don’t want to seem egotistical- so I don’t show my gifts. I don’t want to seem silly – so I don’t show my quirks. I don’t want to seem too artsy, intellectual, wishy-washy, old, emotional, airy-fairy, plump, self-important, not-in-control …(ok, the list goes on, but you get the point…). The point is I don’t want you to see those things, so I manipulated who you see. And in doing so I close the door.

And in closing the door I had created my own world of being disconnected and alone.  But here’s the thing, People have to see you in order to welcome you in.

Since that day, I practice allowing myself to be seen – to show up with the ultimate gift- an offering of generosity and authenticity. By inviting you in for a cup of tea with my soul, I have come to realize that more often than not, it is connection that follows.

So I try to look right down the barrel of that lens of yours, to hold your eye contact across the table, to engage in your conversation and if I don’t speak your language, to share my heart in a smile. I simply fight to stay present and be generous with the door that I hold open.

See what you will.

In letting myself be seen, I have found the gateway to belonging.

This woman created connection with me in an instant.

And as only wise women can do, she gave me the lesson of a lifetime; When you smile, throw the door wide open- dare to belong.

In celebration,


Anonymouson April 23, 2018 - 5:34am


What you describe above in a face to face interaction is a feeling you just created with the mere mastery of word choice and placement.  I’m destined to be forever changed and more mindful from this moment!  Thank you!!!!!!! 

What a true gift of expression and connection you have.  What a profound feeling you have produced in me.  What a blessing it was to have opened my FB, seen Dewitt’s Post in the group about your blog, and instantly followed his urging to read it.  

I’ve been a special kind of mom with a special kind of son for just over 17 years now.  My youngest was born 3 mos premature & has profound cerebral palsy.  The journey and experience has taught me to live “raw & real” and take nothing for granted.  On the flip side, I’ve been painfully aware that mine is now an existence that more often then not, makes many people uncomfortable on so many different levels.  I’ve worked hard to be authentic, unaffected and loud and proud of my truth and family dynamics, mainly to show my boys that being genuine and unashamed of ourselves and our lives is the only way to live.  But your blog today showed me how far I have yet to go.  I suddenly realized something.  Like a fuzzy wide shot that zooms in with instant clarity, I realize that I’m quite adept at playing a “real movie” projected outward...something unadorned and reflective of an honesty that strives to comfort and make others at ease...showing how much I care about THEM.  However, you just taught me something.  Your words  lifted a veil I didn’t even consider I was creating.  In an effort to NOT trigger in others what I’ve come to understand is a very vulnerable and often uncomfortable, awkward place (when faced with being around me after they learn a bit of my story), I now realize that my very efforts to be “considerate” and merely be authentic in my outward expression...are failing miserably at the most important part. The “invitation” INto my world.  I let others “observe” it and like a movie, you are briefly permitted insight as you watch and derive feelings from the experience, but you can’t interact and create an exchange where you actually “become” a part of the moment,  except in your own mind.  The barrier of “separate-ness” is always there.   The epiphany I celebrate in this moment is a “hurts so good” kind of one.  I’ve discovered what I hold back and what in so doing, is preventing a connection I know would make my journey feel so much less isolated.  I fail to invite others IN.  They think they’re invited, but it’s only a level 1 or 2 experience...to see the shop, see what’s there, develope an opinion, feel comfortable in a conversation.  By trying to protect the space from feeling uncomfortable in any way, I’m the one actually putting up a one way mirror to my soul, not letting people make their OWN decisions about how far to enter and deeply to express whatever they feel inclined to.  

I know how hard I’ve had to work at embracing and learning to thrive with a path I didn’t get to chose...I know how “rich” and colorful my life has become because of it.  By filtering for others on the front end, to protect them from the “raw” they might not be ready or able to process, I’m actually preventing them from an experience and preventing myself from ever knowing just what level of connection they are capable of having with me.  Ultimately, I never get to know or feel what they’d be willing to give me back.  The loneliest parts of this journey for me are not created by the circumstances or the facts.  I am the one creating them! What a wonderful hurt-so-good-laugh-and-cry-at-the-same-time moment!  This pain is real and you’ve hurt me...but it’s tied with a great big bow of Hope and you gave that to me too today.  I’ll carry this gift the rest of my life.  Thank you!


most sincerely, & forever changed, 


Taniaon April 23, 2018 - 3:26pm

In reply to by Anonymous

OH MY GOODNESS YOU HAVE BLOWN MY HEART OPEN! What a beautiful, heartfelt, authentic comment and how I SO resonate with what you are experiencing. I do remember saying to a friend once “let ME be the judge of whether your life is too hard for me to manage”. In protecting others from our lives we end up victimizing them, not trusting them to make the right decision for themselves. I am so profoundly grateful for your note and that these little musings may have brought you to the doorway of a wisdom that was ready to just burst open in you. I genuinely hope that our paths cross - I will want to hear about all of your life. For I would wish that you stand in this world as all of you. Glad you also found me on facebook!! Tania

John Barclayon April 23, 2018 - 8:23am

A great thought provoking post. THANK YOU!

Thanks for letting me know John! It is still a bit “scary” to open the window and share...by little lizard is always tempted to come out! But it helps a lot to see that my words and musings may bring a moment of insight or reflection for others. Tania

Barbara Bozzoon April 23, 2018 - 9:17pm

Isn't it amazing how our smile is the most effective way of communication when we don't understand each others language.  A perfect example is with a baby.  Who doesn't grin from ear to ear when trying to connect on some lever with a child who has yet to find its "words"?  The secret to any connection is to "Really Smile" and it is through that expression that we open ourselves up to invite a deeper, more intimate connection.  Over the years, so many of us have shut down our openness due to the fear of vulnerability and being judged.  Even worse is the latest "fear" of wrinkles that make us avoid showing any extreme facial expression or it may accentuate those wrinkle lines.  If they do show up, we get botox to erase any lines and often permanently prevent us from ever showing facial expressions and in turn warrants us "expressionless".  One of the most wonderful part of your image is the depth of this delightful woman's "smile lines".  I do believe she has opened up before and that is one of her true gifts.  Thanks, Tania, for this wonderful blog and lesson on the virtues of opening ourselves to the world of those who would welcome to know us on a deeper level.  


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