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, you are 1) Initiating a major period of transition and uncertainty 2) Embarking upon a host of bureaucratic “to do’s” in Italy. Actually, the latter was easier for me, and became a matter of developing patience and tenacity to get through it all (don’t fret, it IS all doable!). However, the aforementioned personal period of transition and uncertainty was altogether another matter.
Perhaps you’ve developed you’re abilities to “chill”. If so, you’re golden. Me? I was on hyper-alert, trying to manage and control everything, and trying to make it all perfect according to my preconceived notions.
But, the big wallop I received was a loss of identity when I left a long, and successful corporate career. I was thrown off-kilter, and my brain didn’t know what to do with that. It tried to think its way through the discomfort and while looking to drop anchor in a new safe harbor, and to articulate a refined identity. I realize now that was an impossible task.
You have to just live through it, go with the flow, and let life happen.
I realize the truth of this in retrospect. Better late than never, right?
“Man plans, and God laughs.” – Yiddish proverb.
The sooner you accept this, the better. Otherwise, you could be in for a world of hurt.
I’m not saying this to be a naysayer, or to indicate your experience of becoming an expat after your Italy move will be onerous. I’m just saying you can knock your anxiety level down several notches by relaxing into the unpredictability of it all.
Sometimes you just have to wear yourself out with strategies that don’t work.
Yep, that has been me. I attempted to think my way through my transition of living in Italy. Laughable, actually.
Today, I took a walk from my house in the tranquil hills in Umbria – the same walk I took when I first moved here. Today the walk was dramatically different from years ago. Today I was keenly aware of the benevolent presence of the towering cypress and popular trees swaying in the wind of an impending thunderstorm. I felt part of something grander and all-encompassing. Words and thinking were blessedly absent.
But several years back, right after my Italy move, the same walk was characterized by my legs moving while I was attempting to tell myself a story about all I was experiencing. I wasn’t actually experiencing anything of real dimension. There simply was no room for being present. I was too busy problem solving and providing myself an explanation about what each and every thing meant. Frankly it was exhausting.
Don’ t you hate it when your brain is stuck in high gear?
So, I had to live with a hyper-active brain until I realized the utter futility in residing in that part of my brain. I couldn’t think my way through a transition of this magnitude. Fortunately, I eventually began to realize that surrender and go-with-the-flow were strategies worth considering.
I’d like to say the clouds parted and this wisdom descended on me with sudden grace. But no, that wasn’t the case. I simply had to come to the dead-end of a failed strategy, and…
I began to trust that life would somehow take care of me and work out – though maybe in ways different than I had imagined.
Before my relocation, I was certain I’d move to Italy, live in the tranquil hills of Umbria, do my creative work, and that would be that. I’d eventually cruise into my golden years with a rich, romantic soundtrack playing in the background.
Instead, Simone and I navigated a challenging commuting relationship that included a year of part-time living in Rome, and eventually our move to Treviso. We LOVE Treviso and our life there. We LOVE being able to come back to our home and friends in Umbria. It’s an eventuality I hadn’t imagined or foreseen.
Are we settled? Are the big life changes done?
I know better than to say “yes” with any certainty. I’m learning life can present some wonderful surprises and enhancements if we just create a vacuum of possibility in which life can move rather than leaving life no space to work because we’re so doggedly attached to our ideas of how things are “supposed” to be.
Yes, it’s scary, but the potential benefits are way more exciting!
I consider part of my mission in this blog to support you, my followers, in the multitude of issues and challenges you will face when you make your Italy move. The practical and pragmatic aspects are easier to explain, but I feel compelled, every so often, to share the “squishy” challenges that can’t be put into an equation or managed with the sheer force of your will, or through hyper-vigilant thinking. Hopefully you find this post equally as useful!