Pull the plug on the narrator in your head.

narrator in your head, Italywise

The narrator in your head doesn’t like to shut up.

It thrives on constantly voicing its opinions and judgments about whatever is happening. For me, it has taken becoming still to become aware of its incessant activity.

Maybe you’re different and you’ve found equanimity and balance through a growing awareness of yourself and the internal dialog and have been able to staunch the narrator’s constant stream of blah blah blah. If so, I’m envious. If not, then know you’re in good company with the vast majority of the human race.

Moving to Italy invites the narrator in your head to have a field day.

As does any significant life change, no matter how desired or loathed.

When I moved to Italy over five years ago, I had the storyline all locked and loaded. It was just a matter of it all happening according to my tidy little plans, right? I’d seen plenty of inspiring movies, read tons of colorful books. The scripts were plentiful.

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The Transformative Power of Stillness

Stillness, Jed Smith Photography

At Rest © 2018 Jed Smith

My mother always joked that I was the vagabond of the family. She learned not to be surprised when I pulled up stakes and headed off on a new adventure (I’ve lived in eleven U.S. states). I believed that life would be boring, static if I slowed down and wasn’t in a mode of constantly tackling new experiences. But recently have I begun to understand the benefits and the necessity of stopping and making space to get quiet in a substantive way. I’ve started realizing that stillness and quietude (internally and externally) can be where the real juicy stuff of life gets going.

My ideal of life in Italy has transformed significantly.

First, I’m dispensing with the word “ideal” since I’m convinced, more and more, that when we live for ideals we’re setting ourselves up for a world of hurt. In my experience, my ideals have always remained out of reach. They’ve been fantasies based on conditioned, flawed beliefs of what constitutes happiness.

I came to Italy with my picture of idyllic life nicely painted. I did the New Age thing of creating a vision board. I was certain it would be magical and that everything would just fall into place and the happily-ever-after credits would start rolling.

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It’s a Matter of Perspective, Isn’t It?

Jed Smith Photography, Italywise

A Matter of Perspective © 2018 Jed Smith

Recently I was reminded of the benefits of entertaining different perspectives.

As I’ve indicated in previous posts, my art and photography often teach me lessons that apply to life in general. Two weeks ago, a trip to Venice with my sister and brother-in-law taught me, yet again, that life is a matter of perspective.

I’d been anxious to take my new Canon 300mm f2.8 lens out for a spin, so I lugged it along (it’s cumbersome). This would be the first time I would be experiencing Venice through such a different lens. In the late afternoon, we made our way to the roof-top terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is a super-upscale department store just steps away from the Rialto Bridge. The terrace has become a hot spot (reservations are best made via the website above) since it offers perhaps the most breathtaking, panoramic views of Venice. Having entertained visitors on multiple occasions, this wasn’t my first trip to the terrace. How might it be different this time vs. something rote?

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Building a New Life, Stone by Stone

Building a New Life, Jed Smith photography

Stone by Stone © 2018 Jed Smith

Building a new life means recognizing you may have to lay new stones and tear out old ones.

This realization has been smacking me in the face again and again lately. Just when I think I’ve shaken off the slumber of a lifetime of conditioning, I find myself all too often in the jaws of a repetitious past. Trying to reorchestrate my life with my move to Italy has shaken things up and challenged the status quo that remained hidden from my conscious awareness. I wanted change, and I got it in spades.

Bypassing the work and discomfort of changing one’s life just isn’t an option.

As I write this, I’m realizing that I should metaphorically duck the certain onslaught of rotten fruit and vegetables surely being hurled in my direction. Who am I to take the shine off of the nicely packaged ideas of moving to Italy or any similar major life change?

I’m one who continues to navigate the journey while discovering and stepping into the potholes of my conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade this for anything, but I wasn’t fully prepared for being pushed, actually shoved forcibly at times, out of my comfort zone.

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Ready To Take the Plunge and Hit Reset?

Jed Smith Photography

Puglia Plunge © 2017 Jed Smith

If you’re moving to Italy you’d best be prepared to hit reset.

Why do I say this? Because, in my experience, many people can be so swept along by the romantic notions of living in Italy that they end up being blindsided by an avalanche of change. Other people are purposely steering into major change and are itching to hit reset. Either way, life is going to change significantly.

I recently returned from a trip to the States. It has been almost five years since I jumped off the cliff and left my American life in the rearview mirror. I don’t know if the amount of personal transformation I’ve been through just now is hitting the tipping point, but on this particular trip I was homesick for Italy and I didn’t have the least bit of nostalgia for my former surroundings (exempting, of course, my close friends). I felt like a tourist in my country of birth. And, when I returned to Italy and stepped off the plane, I breathed a sigh of relaxation. I was home, truly home.

This is my wish for all of you who embark upon the journey of moving to Italy, to embrace Italy fully and eventually feel in your bones that she is home.

But…

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The Power and Perils of Being Liked

Being Liked

Being liked. Am I too motivated by approval?

This question has been percolating for at least a month. In fact, I considered making this subject the launch into the New Year. But, as with many topics, I needed a bit of reflection first. Now, I’m ready to share my musings.

Why, you might ask, is being liked relevant to this blog? As I enter year four of ItalyWise, I’ve been asking myself how influenced my writing is by a need to please other people and generate comments and subscriptions as validation. I ask myself if I’m willing to “damn the torpedoes” and be unflinchingly true to myself. Do I compare myself to others too much? Am I chasing a definition of success that is measured by likes?

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Learning to Dance with Both Life and Death

life and death, Italywise

San Michele Cemetery Angel

I believe spending time in cemeteries helps remind me to wake up to the intrinsic dance of life and death. That’s why I love, in particular, Venice’s San Michele and Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemeteries. They help me to zoom back to the present and examine my life and whether I’m living on autopilot by keeping death at arm’s length and pretending that I’ve got nothing but time.

You may be reading this and proclaiming “How morbid!”––especially as a New Year’s contemplation. Stick with me, as I believe my musings are ultimately hopeful.

Two things conspired to bring the dance of life and death to my attention.

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Trapped in a Thought Bubble?

Thought Bubble

Thought Bubble – © 2017 Jed Smith

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you won’t be surprised that my photography often ends up prompting me to write about a subject that has been commanding much of my attention. I have to laugh at how my subconscious works and slaps me, in a good-natured way, to wake up. This often happens with dreams (I sometimes keep a dream journal), but now it’s happening more frequently with my art and photography, as demonstrated by the thought bubble photo above.

A thought bubble is fine, now and then.

Yes, thinking is necessary to living and taking care of oneself. But when it becomes so habitual

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Relax into the Unknown

Relax into life, Italywise

Let the river take you…

This has become my mantra.

Why? Because, for most of my life I’ve tried to master and control my experience. Trusting life and knowing how to relax into the unknown were things I gave good lip service, but knew little about in reality.

LIfe continues to heap lesson-upon-lesson in this regard. In response to experiences asking me to “let go”, I’ve usually answered by whining. That is, until I’ve remembered that life has a tendency to repeatedly serve up lessons that can vastly improve life. They aren’t meant to make life miserable. For me, ignoring the lesson “relax into the unknown” is what resulted in pain, unhappiness, and exhaustion.

Moving to Italy requires an enormous amount of thinking, planning and doing.

I realize how fortunate I am now that I’m clearly on the other side of all that up-front stuff. You know, getting the elective residency visa, closing up “shop” (job and home) and getting my permesso di soggiorno and residency. The list goes on. I share this because, if you’re about to do the same, or are in the process, you’ll understand how easy it can be to get stuck in high gear. And when it comes finally to downshifting, you may find yourself mired in hypervigilance.

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Exploring the Rich Potential of Spaciousness

Spaciousness, Folegandros

A Sea of Possibilities © 2017 Jed Smith

I was ready for some spaciousness…or so I thought.

Our long-awaited trip to the tranquil island of Folegandros, Greece, finally had arrived. This would be easy. A quick (and inexpensive) Volotea flight from Venice to Santorini, and then an hour by fast boat to Folegandros. We’d arrive, unplug, and fall into complete bliss while staring out into the vast expanse of the Aegean.

Yep, I had it all planned out. And then, like a drug addict who couldn’t really own up to his addictions, I was hit with the pain of withdrawal from constant doing and thinking. Talk about feeling slapped sideways.

A valuable wake-up call.

Consequently, during our first full day in this glorious island paradise, I was about to jump out of my skin. My personal throttle was stuck in high gear. And my mind was tackling a mess of thoughts at a velocity and ferocity that would leave Pac Man in the dust.

And then it hit me…I’d been filling up my life and distracting myself with constant busyness. When it came time to sit still, I didn’t know how. Well, not at the level being offered to me on this breathtaking island.

“Wherever You Go, There You Are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Crap, I was busted. What was I to do? Jump into planning or doing something to distract myself? Run from being still and avoid inviting the uncertainty of spaciousness into my life?

Then I remembered something

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