crying in a barn in Tuscany (or why sensitivity makes you a badass)


lisa fabrega



Disclaimer: The horse whip in the picture was handed to me when I got on the horse and no I did not use it on my horse There are many ways to handle your horse without resorting to using a whip. I’m more of the horse whisperer type ;-).

There I was standing ankle-deep in manure & hay, in the middle of a horse barn in Tuscany, Italy, crying my eyes out.

It was a good deep cry, the kind you unleash as a child whenever your mother disappeared around a corner in the grocery store and you are sure she has gone forever, leaving you to die in a wilderness of brightly-colored cereal boxes and fluorescent lights.

Or the kind you usually only have when you’ve closed your bedroom door and you are finally alone.

Except I wasn’t.
I was in a horse barn with 7 strangers looking at me blankly, waiting for me to climb on my horse so our lesson could begin.

This story should start here. But first I have to take you back to 8 months ago.
When my dog, Lucy, died.

Many people just see a dog as a dog. A random pet in their home.
But I did not.

Lucy had been with me for 18 years. She had been with me through breakups, through my family practically disowning me for 6 years when I followed my soul (and subsequently went against some of their religious traditions) and through the hardest times of my business when I barely had enough money to eat.

During some of the darkest nights of my soul, Lucy had curled up next to me in bed, sniffing at me in a way that was so rude & so diva-ish that it made me laugh, immediately pulling me out of my darkness.

When she died, my heart broke in two.  I still can’t talk about it for too long without crying a lot.  The grieving process is still ongoing for this one.

So let’s flash back to the horse barn, where I’m crying my eyes out.


That day when I got to the horse farm, I was nervous.
I was born in the year of the horse (Chinese astrology) and I have always had a very strong connection to horses. They are large, powerful beings.

In fact, their power has always intimidated me a little bit.

As soon as we walked up to the horses, I noticed one of the horses.
The most intimidating looking one. And it was eyeing me up and down.

My mind said “I do NOT want to be assigned to that horse! That horse seems like my worst fear come true! Too scary!!”.

My soul said “that’s the horse you need. I know you’re afraid, but she is your medicine”.

I had no idea why my soul was saying such crazy things.
And I said to myself, “how much you wanna bet that’s the damn horse they assign to me?”.

10 minutes later everyone has been assigned to their horse, and I was the last one left.

Sure enough, guess what horse they bring in for me to ride?

The one I was most afraid of.

That morning I had been talking with the group of women I was traveling with about synchronicity. Everyone on the trip had already received a powerful, synchronistic sign.

“Mine hasn’t come yet, but I know it will”, I said to the car load of women as we made our way through beautiful Tuscan fields & hills towards the horse farm.

When the handler brought the horse I was most afraid of, to me, he said:
“this is your horse…

…her name is Lucy”.

You know how sometimes an emotion comes on so strong and so fast that your mind doesn’t even have time to think about holding it back or processing it before you express it?

That happened to me.

As soon as he said “her name is Lucy”, I felt like a punch in the gut knocked all the wind out of me.  I began full on weeping in front of everyone before I even had a chance to think about what was happening.  It was a full on bodily reaction.

Completely bewildered by this emotional reaction that had overtaken me and through heaving sobs I explained to the horse handler that my dog had died in December and that her name was Lucy.

As I cried in front of everyone in the barn, loudly, unabashedly and exactly how my body wanted to cry, a fleeting thought came to my mind… “should I be embarrassed?”.

My whole life I have been very sensitive. I have felt things deeply. I’m what you would classify as a “Highly Sensitive Person” or an empath. That doesn’t mean I’m weak.
Or that I can’t handle anything.

It just means things affect me deeply and I feel things very profoundly.
I cry at movies and seeing people cry makes me cry.  I have to avoid watching the news because it can knock me out emotionally for days.

And for years I spent my life trying to hide it, show that I’m tough and pretend like nothing was affecting me.  For years, I was mortified of my sensitivity and letting others see it.

We live in a world where showing emotion and vulnerability is viewed as weak.
Annoying. Overly dramatic.

And so from a young age I developed a false mask I like to call “I’m fine”.
I remember my mother telling me that at 7 years of age, I fell and scraped my knee very badly.  She could see the tears welling up in my eyes as she said “are you okay?” and I responded to her “I’m fine” and got up and walked away, even though she could tell I was hurting.

I maintained this mask with me most of my life. A warrior shell with a soft gooey inside only a few I trusted got to see.

Being sensitive was something embarrassing and that could be used against you.

Except that it started to make me feel numb.  And eventually, it developed into physical illness, as I waited in the parking lot of a hospital to find out if I had a life-shortening auto-immune disorder.

In my case I knew this had come upon me because I had spent so many years suppressing who I really was (including my sensitivity), in order to please others and not make others uncomfortable.

In that moment I knew things had to change. So I began to be more honest with my emotions,
I began to remove the warrior mask and let feelings flash across my face.
My health improved.
I felt happier.
I attracted people into my life who loved me for me.

And I noticed that me being honest with my emotions began to encourage others to do the same.

So that brings me back to where I was, standing in horse manure, crying with abandon, with my hands on my horse, Lucy.

I thought the horse handler would be annoyed and think I was crying because I was afraid to ride the horse, or because I was just a “ridiculous” person…I noticed myself begin to contract and admonish myself for expressing my emotions so freely.

But then something else unexpected happened.

That man gently took my hand in his.  Looked into my eyes.  And said in his broken Italian-accented English:

“We need more people in the world like you.  Most people, they just see a dog like some dog, unimportant, or a pet to entertain them.  You are not one of those people.  I have a dog, a Rhodesian, and I feel the same way about my dog.  You have reminded me that we need more of this in the world.  More like you.  Thank you for this.”

And there it was.

There were many parts of me that wanted to shut down that day.  Cover up the fact that I was crying.  My mind wanted me to be embarrassed and explain myself.

But the world is already full enough of people covering up what they really feel and pretending they’re okay when they aren’t.

The world is full of people who see vulnerability as weak and hide their sensitivity in shame.

But in this world, the truly brave thing to do is to feel.
Feel strongly. Feel openly.

Often the very thing we are most embarrassed about in ourselves is our greatest strength.

And if there is anything I have learned is that that sensitivity that made me cry loudly in front of a barn full of people I had just met, is my greatest strength.

It’s that sensitivity that allows me to be deeply intuitive & psychic and help others.
It’s that sensitivity that makes me so good at what I do (a guide for helping you hear the voice of your soul so you can live a soul aligned life).
It’s that sensitivity that has allowed me to hold space for people in their darkest moments.
And it’s that sensitivity that has always connected me to empathy for other human beings and fighting for justice for those who are in the margins of our society and mistreated.

We need more of this in the world, love.
We need more compassion, more empathy, more people feeling fully self expressed and free to be who they are, without shame.

So today, I want you to know that your greatest gift is your sensitivity.
Your vulnerability.

And that open vulnerability is the most powerful, most courageous act you can commit in a world full of warrior masks and pretend-coolness.

When we feel openly, we encourage others to break past their masks and feel their own hearts.  When we express as our bodies want to express we help to liberate others to express their deepest desires and be free.

When we are vulnerable we create powerful connection with other human beings that allow us to see that we are all one and there is no such thing as “other” or “enemy”.

This is the most amazing part of this story.
As I rode Lucy through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, she had the exact same mannerisms as my dog.  She was stubborn just like my dog.  She was the only white and black horse (the other ones were black or brown) and Lucy was a white dog with black patches on her fur.

I felt the presence of my dog Lucy with me that entire ride.  And on and off I cried openly.
It was almost as if she was saying…

“you were afraid of this horse, because you thought it looked like the most powerful horse.
And that was intimidating to you.  But don’t fear your power, Lisa.
Your power lies in your sensitivity.  Express openly.  Feel deeply.  THAT is power.
That is power.

So this one’s for all you sensitive, deep feeling souls out there.
For all of you vulnerable beings who hide out for fear of ridicule.

Wear that heart on your sleeve.

Because that, in this day and age, is true power.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, what is your greatest gift that you tend to feel embarrassed by?  How can you bring that gift more into your daily life & work?  Let me know in the comments below!