Dealing with the Angst of Elusive Answers

Elusive answers, Italywise

Always reaching and begging for the answers?

When did we become convinced that answers should be ready on command?

In my case, I suspect it happened when I began to think abstractly (early teens?) and was taught about the prowess of the mind, relegating other avenues of discovery and knowledge (e.g., intuition) to second or third-tier status. In short, I was taught, quite successfully, that I could think my way through or around any obstacle. I could force answers.

I’ve spent too many mornings of my life waking up to a mind furiously churning to identify any outstanding elusive answers to burning questions or situations.

Why this topic of elusive answers and what does this have to do with moving to Italy?

Unless you’ve had the road to a life in Italy or any similar momentous life change roll out the red carpet of a smooth transition, then you’ll relate. 

Read More

Pope Celestine V and the Courage to Resign

Celestine V

Pope Celestine V – © 2018 Jed Smith

The verb “resign” can be a loaded word.

The word can connote giving up or giving in. When a person is said to have resigned themselves to a situation, it often implies waving a white flag to something beyond their control or their liking.

Then, there is choosing to resign when a person realizes something isn’t working for them, or when they’ve explored a path and gracefully backed out and said, “No, thank you.”

Enter Pope Celestine V

I knew nothing about the man who was chosen as Pope during the 13th century and during the last non-conclave choosing of the Holy Father—that is until I visited L’Aquila with my dear friends Novelia and Peppe. I had, just the day before, visited Celestine’s remote hermitage in the Morrone mountains and seen the small, cramped cell where he had slept. In L’Aquila, I saw Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the inspiring basilica born of his dream. There, I learned the fuller story of the first Pope to resign.

Read More

Taking a Break from Multitasking

multitaksing, Jed Smith photography, Italywise

Multitasking – © 2018 Jed Smith

Actually, I’m recovering from an investment in the illusion that multitasking is even possible.

You may have noticed that ItalyWise has been quiet for the past couple of weeks. I took a real vacation with my dear sisters in a classic, shabby-chic beachfront cottage. I brought my computer and camera. I had visions of working on blog posts, taking and editing photos, catching up on emails, and working on my second novel. Big plans. Big ideas of dancing back and forth between tasks in such a tranquil setting would surely turbocharge my productivity.

Then, I realized I had been on the verge of burnout, and I needed a break badly!

Read More

Letting Your Story Unfold

Letting Your Story Unfold

Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Michelangelo (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve recently returned from a major writers’ conference in NYC and my brain is still on fire with all that I learned from a vast array of aspiring speakers. But, it was the bonus “pre” all-day presentation, entitled “Story Trumps Structure”(also a book) by acclaimed psychological thriller author Steven James that gave me the most potent shot of momentum—not only for my own creative writing but in how I approach and live life.

What the heck does letting your story unfold have to do with building a life in Italy? Well, plenty.

The “Middle Way” can be your sweet spot.

If there’s anything my life in Italy is teaching me it’s that being successful and being happy (and sane) means finding the balance between well-laid plans and loads of flexibility. I’ve written about this before, but the more I doggedly adhered to my structured outline of how I thought my journey was to play out the more I was cutting myself from other possibilities—possibilites that were WAY better!

At the writing conference, I heard, loud and clear, how writing with an outline sitting on one’s altar can become a straightjacket to creativity. “Letting your story unfold” seemed to be a reoccurring theme with other speakers as well.

Mid-conference, I paused, and said to myself, “Message received.” It was as though the keys to my self-imposed jail cell of control had been handed to me with the message, “Free yourself!” I vowed to place greater trust in my inner writing muse.

Then I shifted gears to reflect on my first five years in Italy.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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