Big Life Changes and the Shifts of the Soul
When you decide to up-end your life completely and plop yourself down in a completely different culture like Italy, you might want to be prepared for your soul to start asking some questions. At the very least, it’s going to start poking at the status quo.
First, I offer the following disclosure: What I share is my experience, and I don’t claim that my particular situation is universal. I share my perspective in case any pearls of wisdom emerge to help you along if you are considering similar monumental life changes.
Where “are” you, as you live your life?
My soul has been asking me this question, a lot. The answer? With a foot planted in each of two worlds: the worlds of thinking and being. And I’m learning that putting most of my weight in the realm of thinking leaves me feeling unsatisfied, small, and with limited options.
Yes, I’ve favored the world of thinking. It has been my default stance in life for far too long. Somewhere along the way, I decided that if I could intellectually deconstruct any situation and then analyze the hell out of it, I could control it. In many ways, this has served me well. But there’s been a price to pay because, rather than reserving it for good ol’ logistical problem solving, too often it’s taken over the rest of my life. I realize this now and I’m asking the universe to show me how to live without trying to figure out and control everything in advance.
Thankfully, my art has been my savior. Almost without exception, when I am painting, doing photography or doing creative writing, my brain shifts. I find myself in a state of flow. Peace shows up. It has actually been there all along, underneath the chatter of the left brain. And now that I have space to explore my art, it’s teaching me to let go and not try to figure out life in one fell swoop.
Your passion may be something completely different. But, whatever it is, that passion, when fully embraced, has the ability to lead you to a more expansive, connected experience of life. I heartily encourage you to drop anchor in this as you navigate the big life changes that come with something like moving to Italy.
Diligently make plans and attend to the details, but learn when to surrender.
When I moved to Italy, I had it all planned out. I had been hyper-vigilant in attending to all the requirements for getting my elective residency visa, and subsequently getting my permesso di soggiorno. I was certain that, through mental vigilance, I would lasso all the remaining logistics and then I would neatly control and manifest my romantic vision of living in Italy. I thought I would be able to muscle my way through it all.
Then, life happened. Yes, my vigilance and anal-retentive nature helped set me up for success. But then, there were countless other things that forced me to abandon preconceived ideas and open up to things being “squishy” (yes, there’s a lot of that here in Italy). Take for instance the whole adventure of getting an Italian driver’s license. That turned out to be the biggest surprise of all, requiring much more energy and diligence than I had anticipated. But only when I got out of my head, and stopped creating awful stories about how it would turn out, did I clear the hurdle. The turning point for me was abandoning a posture that was stuck in the unfairness of it all (why should I have to prove my driving abilities and be treated like a novice when I’d been already driving for decades in the U.S.?). It was when I relaxed and turned the whole situation into a game that my anxiety abated and I found my way to a successful conclusion.
Life is chock full of forks in the road where you get to choose between trying to think your way to success or embracing surrender.
Frankly, I don’t know why I don’t surrender more often. Perhaps it’s due to a lifetime of conditioning that has taught me otherwise. Every time that I’ve surrendered, after feeling stuck and panicked that I haven’t seen a clear solution and a path forward, the answer has presented itself. Maybe it doesn’t happen as fast as I would like, but the answer comes nonetheless. And I ask myself “Why the hell didn’t you get out of the way sooner?”
The life changes that come with moving to Italy are significant, and through Italywise I’ve committed myself to sharing all aspects of the transition. I’m not limiting that to pure logistics. I’d be remiss in leaving out just how a person can be shaking up their entire existence in the process of a wholesale cultural change.
In closing I share with you my biggest learnings in this regard:
Life can’t be controlled and manipulated.
The more I’ve endeavored to nail down my idea of what “should be” the more I’ve invited trouble. The world of “should” is a hard, suffocating place that comes from too-much left brain thinking and conditioning.
Possibilities exponentially multiply when I get out of the way and when I’m willing to say “I don’t know.”
It’s incredibly freeing to step aside from the need to know the answers right away and according to my preconceived ideas.
Pay attention to when you start feeling hard and tight.
For me it’s a sure sign that I’ve moved completely into my thinking left brain. My body responds by preparing to do battle. It doesn’t feel good, BUT it can be a gift. It can be the alarm bell that tells me a shift to a more expansive and relaxed stance is needed. Usually, that means letting go at the very moment I feel like I have to “make something happen” through the sheer force of my will.
Surrender is powerful stuff.
But don’t beat yourself when you resist surrender. Just dust yourself off and begin again. Paradoxically, you’re learning to relax the muscles you’ve used your entire life to manage outcomes and therefore ensure you always feel safe.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
My wish for anyone considering building a life in Italy is that they find a life as rich and rewarding as I have. If my experiences help, in any small way, in realizing your dream, then I will have been handsomely rewarded.