I met Mariska in Antigua, the ancient capital of Guatemala.

I joined a small group of tourists for a two days guided tour and Mariska was sitting next to me in the van. I glanced at her. She looked in her thirties, nice looking, bronze skin – she could easily be an Israeli, but she was from one of the Caribbean islands. Naturally we started a conversation. I wasn’t wrong about her age; she was in her thirties, a divorced mother, PhD and researcher in one of the major universities in her country. Asking about her parents, she mentioned that her father had left the family when she was 3 years old and she hasn’t seen him since then. She asked about me, I told her a bit and then, trying to move the conversation back to her, a stupid question popped out of my mouth: “Who initiated your divorce?”
“It was me,” she said quietly.
“Will you tell me more?” I asked.
“I don’t want to elaborate,” she said…crossed her arms and pulled back into her seat.

I felt embarrassed. Usually I’m good in interactions, but here, I said to myself, is another proof that I’m too direct. The rest of the trip was burdensome for both of us. We arrived to the hotel, split to our rooms and at dinner time I found myself with our group on a balcony of a romantic local restaurant and, guess what… Mariska is sitting next to me.

I took the opportunity to apologize. “No hay problema,” she said in Spanish and we dived into a new conversation on the difficulties one faces after divorce in creating new relationships. It was clear to me that the bad experience Mariska had with her ex-husband makes it difficult for her to date men again, as if she lost trust. I mention it to her, trying to strengthen her, to convince her that the past doesn’t necessarily teaches about the future and that she better be open to new experiences… but then… our attention was shifted to the rest of the group.

I assume that she was waiting for the right moment that our eye sight will cross, because as it happened she said quietly to me: “I’ve found new love.” She paused for a second like she was hesitating, and then she added: “I’m in love with a woman.”

I felt embarrassed again, watching my assumption system collapsed, but Mariska… she gained my empathy and appreciation for her sincerity. I don’t remember what I’ve said to her but I guess that I’d reacted naturally and I gained her trust. When we walked back to the hotel she ‘released her brakes’ and told me her story.

“Something in our conversation dragged me to open it up, despite my fears,” she said. She already loved a woman when she was young, but somehow she was tempted to marry a man, trying to grasp to something conventional. It didn’t work out. She never loved him, neither was she attracted to him physically. She ascribed her distancing from him to the pregnancies and to how she felt after giving births. With much pain and against all local conventions she decided to ask for divorce without sharing the reasons with anybody except him. And now she is in love with a woman. She paused, searched in her purse and pulled out a few pictures of her kids and her new love, a professional, nice looking woman dancer. She told me about the difficulties she is facing now with telling to her mom, her kids and her friends. Just recently she had decided to open it up to the outside world by telling every month to a new person. “Because of you,” she said while smiling in relief “I achieved my next month quota.”

“But let me give you a small tip as a coach.” She added “I saw you making assumptions that strongly led you in our conversation. As a coach you should use intuition, this is fine, but do not make assumptions and then believe that they are true.”

I hugged her warmly and I thanked her for the lesson I’ve learned from a young woman.  

Next morning while I checked out from the hotel there was a small handwritten note waiting for me at the reception.

“Hi Shuka,
 I didn’t tell you yesterday, maybe I was afraid of a mystical interpretation… but… in your physical appearance you look similar to my biological father whom I didn’t see from when I was three years old. It means something to me. Thanks for the interest you showed and the acceptance. Mariska.

 (Mariska gave me her permission to tell her story)

Fireworks (36)
Shuka, Thursday, August 20, 2009

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