The Permesso di Soggiorno – Don’t Expect Speedy Processing!

The permesso di soggiorno is essential for stays of longer than 90 days.

The permesso di soggiorno is essential for stays of longer than 90 days.

I am waiting for my fourth permesso di soggiorno. Each year the processing time gets longer and longer. Well, at least it has been for many expats in Umbria going through the Perugia office. My first year took three and a half months. Second year was four months. Third year was four and a half months. And this year already I’m closing in on five months. I have friends who waited six months. Keep in mind the permesso has a year’s validity. Sure you can tote around the post office receipt and application code, which is “supposed” to be a valid holdover until your new card arrives. But depending on where you are in Italy, not having the card can cause all sorts of mischief. For example, for your tessera sanitaria, national healthcare coverage, you may be required to keep going back to the ASL office to get an extension. Again, it depends on who you’re dealing with. It is my understanding that all that is required is your application receipt.

And so, I give myself the advice that I dole out so often in all matters of Italian bureaucracy…

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Embrace the mystery of life, and prepare for things to change…

Mystery of life, Italywise

Contrary to a life-long desire to figure “things” out, and arrive at a metaphorical destination in which I finally can relax, I’m learning that constant seeking…a constant insistence on being able to explain things, instead keeps me stuck and limited. These days I keep finding myself being invited to embrace the mystery of life, and to trust that, when I do, life will carry me along to unforeseen, and unimagined places of creativity and possibility.

And, I’m reminded that I don’t know squat. Most of the time, that’s actually is a huge relief, and I feel something inside of me let go, and relax. My, what a price we pay for being on high alert while simultaneously trying to lasso life and manage it to our liking.

Might life have better plans for us than even our most lofty ideas? I believe so.

This is the scariest part for me – actually to keep moving forward while trusting in the mystery of life. Moving to Italy and throwing myself headlong into all my creative passions (writing, painting, photography) feels like a huge roll of the dice. My inner judge tells me I’m being indulgent and irresponsible. It then tells me “Well, if you insist on this path, step aside and let me manage the process.” Yikes. Talk about a creativity killer.

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Via Garibaldi, Rome – Photo by Jed

Photography, Jed Smith, Italywise

Via Garibaldi – Photo by Jed Smith

I love capturing images that imply mystery. Often I search out a spot that offers a nice composition, like this corner looking into Via Garibaldi in Rome. Then, I wait for the right moment with the right character/s, and the right sense of movement. Sometimes I wait, and wait, and snap many images, hoping to catch that split second when it feels like a story emerges, and when all the elements work together. While I like this strategy, I also know I can’t try controlling what happens. I have to “be” there, be alert, and then be open to what presents itself.

This has many parallels in my life. I’m reminded again of the credo that a good friend, and mentor taught me:

“Show up. Do your best. And, be unattached to the outcome.”

I’m employing this sage advice with my art, my writing and my photography. I have so many ideas bouncing around in my right brain, all vying for expression. Easily I can become overwhelmed, and frozen into inaction. It’s like my rational, thinking left brain doesn’t know where to start. It also is pretty insistent on knowing that we’ll safely (and perfectly) arrive at our destination before taking action. That’s a recipe for going nowhere.

My latest, and rather huge, revelation is that I’ve spent too much of my life sitting around thinking about stuff, rather than leaping into the unknown, and sayings “Let’s see what happens!” to the Universe. That’s changing, thankfully.

My mom, Liz Smith-Cox, readily leapt into the unknown with her art. A wonderful photo of this wonderful, artistic muse adorns my studio wall, and serves as a reminder to show up, to do my best, and to be unattached to the outcome. Liz would add, “Don’t forget to play!”

To see this and other photographs, be sure to visit my online gallery.

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Remembering Morris

Watercolor of Morris

Morris – Collection of the Artist

I’m still getting familiarized with the holiday schedule here in Italy. Many of the biggies correspond with those in the U.S., but others, like Father’s Day, vary significantly. So, since Italy’s Father’s Day was celebrated in March, and since I’m not receiving a barrage of advertisements for the U.S. event, Father’s Day, as I have celebrated it, almost passed me by. Tributes to dads, ramping up on FB, reminded me to pause and be thankful for being blessed with not just one, but two great dads. My birth dad, Ed Smith, died twenty-three years ago, and his passing came too soon, and the pain cut me to my core. But, soon, another wonderful dad came into my life, and his presence helped ease my pain – especially since his presence brought so much joy to my mother Liz Smith-Cox.

Morris Cox, was an extraordinary man, and a wonderful stepdad. Mom married Morris in her early 70’s, a few years after my dad’s death. I remember Liz remarking, after the first years of being married to Morris, how fortunate she was to have experienced “love like this” twice in her life. Morris made a point of telling her, everyday, how much he loved her and how fortunate he was to have her in his life. This was a powerful lesson to me, as Morris exemplified the belief in gratitude. Studies show (check out this article from Greater Good) that our brains “light up” when we remember and practice gratitude.

Morris also demonstrated an engagement with life and with keeping one’s mind and passions engaged. He was an English professor (and Dean of the Liberal Arts College) at Clemson University, yet in his 60’s he became a student again, this time of law. He practiced law (this is how he met my mom) into his 90’s.

Morris was the epitome of a fine, southern gentlemen. Whenever he and my mom were out and about (often in his baby blue Rolls Royce), he would race around to Mom’s side of the car to open the door for her. He was keen on having impeccable manners and always being kind and generous.

I am incredibly grateful for Morris’s loving presence in my life. His marriage to Liz also brought three wonderful step-siblings into my life, and we enjoyed many “big family” gatherings.

In 1999 I painted the watercolor above of Morris, after a trip with Mom and Morris, and my sisters Shelley and Dale, to Santorini, Greece. I always loved watching Morris. I found his face rich with character, intelligence and kindness. Painting him was my expression of love for this remarkable man.

Morris, I miss you. You lived an extraordinary life, and you gave handsomely.

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