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.

Read More

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…

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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

Read More

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.

Read More

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

Read More

Big Life Changes and the Shifts of the Soul

Life changes

What will be your guiding light as you embark upon major life changes?

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.

Read More

The Appeal of a Quiet Mind

quiet mind

Stillness ©2017 Jed Smith, oil on canvas

I’ve just completed my latest painting. It’s a big one (39.5″ x 60″) Painting this subject has been immensely gratifying. While the intricate play of shadows was anything but simple, the subject was incredibly soothing to render. More and more I’m letting my heart and intuition guide me as to what to paint. And often it’s only in retrospect that I understand my choice of subjects.

This painting represents, for me, stepping into a quiet mind.

This scene comes from one of my favorite places on earth, the island of Folegandros in Greece. Living in Italy makes hopping over to Greece pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. If you don’t know Folegandros, it is a blissfully serene island with cliffs and views that can stun a person into silence. Its remote location and the absence of an airport help keep this island free from being overrun by tourists.

Sp. when I sat before the blank canvas and considered what I wanted to paint,

Read More

My Italy Move, Several Years Later

Italy Move, Italywise

My enduring metaphor for life…

Here I am, several years after pulling the trigger on my Italy move. And I’m damn glad I made the decision, even though it didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned. It turned out even better than I’d imagined. In the process I’ve realized one over-arching piece of wisdom:

You’d best get out of your head, and your pre-conceived ideas about how things are supposed to be.

I didn’t realize just how imprisoned in my head I was when I landed in Italy. My left brain was hungrily involved in a mass of thinking and problem solving – so much, in fact, I mourn the fact that I wasn’t fully present for my first days as a resident in this extraordinary country.

I share this in hopes of preparing you, if you’re about to embark on a life as an expat in Italy, for the shifts in your being that have the potential to be of seismic proportions. It’s easy to be lost in the romantic notions of the beautiful life awaiting you after your Italy move. But, the reality is, if you’re anything like me, 

Read More
Page 1 of 512345