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.

By |2019-01-19T22:03:58+01:00September 5th, 2017|Personal musings, Starting a New Life|19 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Debra September 9, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Hello, Jed!
    I have been meaning to comment on your last two posts, but somehow time has gotten away from me. I hate when that happens. Never enough of it to begin with for it to just slip into oblivion…..ugh! I’m hoping the Italian lifestyle will help with that.
    I’ve been searching for unique and thoughtful words to express the awesomeness of your painting. But, all I can tell you is I love the feeling that comes over me as I look at it. Thank you for sharing.
    I am so ready to choose those forks in the road leading to who knows where. I want to put all the things I’ve learned, everything I need to discover into a giant cocktail shaker, shake the shit out of it and see all of lifes’ deliciousness that pours out! Sounds silly, I know, but oh…..I am soooo thirsty! lol
    29 days and counting until I’m in Sulmona. Can’t get here fast enough!
    Thanks for all your wisdom, Jed. Sorry this got so long.
    Take care

    • Jed September 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Debra! I so appreciate your comments, and I’m happy you like my painting. In fact, I’ve just revisited the site that inspired this work. Yes, life is full of those forks––those opportunities to choose again. And, more and more, my heart tells me to choose what ultimately will bring me real peace! Soon you’ll be in beautiful Sulmona. Lucky you! So much in store. Jed

  2. Barbara September 6, 2017 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Jed – this post arrived at the exact right moment. Thank you for sharing such great observations & reminders. Grazie, Barbara

    • Jed September 11, 2017 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Barbar, Funny how that happens. I love how life, the universe…whatever plops some things I need to hear in my lap just when I need to hear it, too! Jed

  3. Linda September 6, 2017 at 3:44 am - Reply

    Wow, never quite thought of that but you are right! Che sara sara!

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

      Yes! Che sera sera! Hope all is well, Linda!

  4. Linda Dini Jenkins September 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Boy, did I need this today! As I get closer to our departure date for VIcenza/Venezia I am mad with details. I know I have responsibility for a tour, but a few “I don’t knows” will probably allow me to breathe a little easier. As always, thanks!

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Just breathe!!! I’m amazed at how often I can find my way back in from the “ledge” by just breathing. It will all work out for you. Soon you’ll be here having a great time!

  5. Nicole September 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Love this article….you always amaze me!

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Glad you like the post, Nicole! Can’t wait to see you!

  6. @azicc September 5, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed..So glad to read your post it’s always an enlightening Adventure! I’ve been living in a remote area the last 4 months not much Wifi thank you for all your beautiful writing and ar♡t grazie Anita Apresto!!

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

      Ciao Anita! So good to hear from you! I hope you’re remote location has been bringing you loads of quiet and peace! Baci, Jed

  7. Susan P September 5, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I love that phrase,,,,my transition to Italy…it says so many things,

  8. Joyce Beckett September 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm - Reply


    Your words spoke loudly to me as I read them and I hope they continue to whisper to me for the rest of my life. I just retired and have been trying my best to control everything and do what I “should” do when surrendering and following my bliss would be so much easier and rewarding. Retirement isn’t moving to Italy but it’s a whole different world to me and your wise reflections are exactly what I needed this morning. Thanks! …j

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Hi, Joyce! Me, too! I will benefit from re-reading this post often. I’m amazed at how easily our minds sideswipe us, luring us back into trying to think our way our of a situation. This will be a lifelong lesson for me!

  9. Leigh McLaughlin September 5, 2017 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Hi Jed, thanks for the reminder that there is an alternative to be being driven and that sometimes it’s better to pull back and see how things unfold…Leigh

    • Jed September 6, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

      Thanks, Leigh! I have to remind myself of this daily!

  10. Andy September 5, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Hi Jed,

    imo this is one of the best articles you ever wrote!
    It’s an acknowledgement to live and those who live.


    • Jed September 5, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Grazie Andy! My transition to Italy really is helping me to understand some things that eluded me in my earlier life! Jed

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