Personal Epiphanies from an Overdue Hiatus

Sometimes we just need to step out of our grooves.

Yes, step away from the well-worn rut of what we normally do. Step outside of ourselves and take a good look in. Check our fuel tanks. Check our batteries. And, seize the opportunity to course-correct and edit what doesn’t bring us joy—or at least understand where we’re leaking away energy.

I’m glad I took this “me time” to relax and invite some rather important personal epiphanies to show up. And show up they did!

Here goes:

There’s a Tasmanian devil in my head.

I guess you can say I found out that I’m a bit “possessed,” but not in the Linda Blair, Exorcist, kind of way. Let’s just say I’ve been caught up in out-control thinking and have been placing my identity in that “entity.”

When I was a kid I loved Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny was my favorite, followed closely by Sylvester the Cat, and then the Tasmanian Devil. I loved watching him spin frenetically, stopping only momentarily to catch his breath with his tongue hanging out and panting. I even tried to emulate his movements and would laugh myself silly.

During my badly-needed hiatus, when I didn’t have projects continually piling on top of one another, I had the opportunity to observe my brain at work. I’d been so lost in busyness that I didn’t realize that I’d been unleashing a monster made of a tangled mess of thoughts and then called it “me.” The Tasmanian Devil came to mind (I love metaphors) and I said “That’s it! That’s my out-of-control mind.” It was almost comical. The good news is that I laughed at myself (I guess I could have cried). And, guess what? The more I just sat back and said “Knock yourself out. I’ll just observe,” the more my brain settled down. I guess an out-of-control brain fuels itself on engagement and depends on my being unconscious to its shenanigans.

Then I realized a few important things: 1. I am NOT that mass of thoughts (a case of mistaken identity). 2. Overactive thinking has been exhausting me. 3. Silence and emptiness can start righting the ship.

Ahhhhhh…

I’ve been overextending myself. Time to ruthlessly edit.

Don’t give me wrong, I love having my fingers in as many pies as possible. But, some of those “pies” haven’t been bringing me joy and paying me back in ways that are essential to mental, emotional, physical health. Gone are the days trying to do everything and, related to the Tasmanian Devil comments above, trying to over-manage and over think the process. Burnout, here I come.

I’m good at a lot of things. Relaxing isn’t one of them. At least, not up to this point in my life. I’ve chided myself when I haven’t been always on the move, always achieving or accomplishing something. I call myself “lazy” when I downshift. I keep telling myself that I have to MAKE life happen, and the evidence is a constant internal energetic state (above my solar plexus and in my chest) of pushing myself forward. As I observe this I realize it’s not a good feeling. So why have I put my faith in it? Maybe, instead, I can learn to recognize these physical sensations as a warning light on my engine and a reminder to pull off the road, breath, and let life happen.

So, this means I’m going to be saying “no” to more things. This means being less of a diehard people pleaser.

A shift in ItalyWise.com is in the wind.

This a downstream realization from the two previous personal epiphanies, especially since I’ve been devoting so much of my energies and time to the blog and its content.

When I came back from my hiatus and began looking at the comments that had been piling up, I paid close attention to the aspects of having a blog that aren’t feeling good. What are those things, you might be asking? Well, if you’re ready for unflinching honesty, proceed ahead.

My objective, in creating ItalyWise, was to “pay it forward” for people contemplating a similar path. I also wanted to share my experiences and my journey of transformation that comes with embarking upon such a huge life change. After all, it’s not just a change of geographical location. For me, it has been a tectonic-plate-shifting mental and emotional change.

ItalyWise isn’t a commercial site. I don’t have advertisers and I don’t sell stuff. So, when I come across comments, posted to my blog posts, that are cleverly worded (at great length) to dress me down because I have chosen to share my experience in a light-hearted, humorous way on a subject they deem to be sacrosanct, I just punt such comments to the trash. A good, information-sharing dialog…well, I’m all for it and I’ll gladly post them. But, someone who writes to initiate an online sparring match is something I’m just not going to do. I don’t write, purporting my experience to be universal nor do I insist other people’s experiences match my own.

Most of you are probably laughing and saying “Well, when you choose to have a blog, you invited the trolls.” The harsh reality in the online and social world. Yep. But, I can choose how I respond.

Feeling like a drive-up window.

I get my fair share of folks doing quick drive-bys, asking for some logistical advice and urging me to get back to them prontissimo, which I usually do, and then POOF, they’re gone. No follow up, no thank you, nada. I know people are used to considering the internet as free, open-source content. But, I just don’t have the bandwidth anymore to be the equivalent of a manned information booth at a busy airport. I need to reclaim some of that energy and apply it to other things.

I’m backing away from topics about logistics and bureaucracy and, instead, let the existing archived topics thrive on the back and forth comment sharing so my followers and learn from each other’s experiences. I have more energy, and get more joy, from blog posts about my Italy experience as told through my photography and paintings.

Paring back on social media.

A year’s hiatus from Facebook helped me to see this. Even though I’m back on FB, the long vacation taught me just how much I was looking for validation in social media. I’ll maintain a minimal presence on Facebook and focus my energies on Instagram, which fits with my love of photography anyway. Still, I’ve realized felt too compelled to post daily and then I find myself checking too frequently, looking for validation in numbers of followers and like. That doesn’t feel healthy.

Give energy to the things that make my heart sing!

I guess you can say that I’m doing a Marie Kondo to my life. This is the most important outcome of these personal epiphanies. Life isn’t a fixed state. No, it’s a river. We’re constantly getting feedback when we step outside of our daily selves, take a hard look at where we are, see if like how we’re feeling, and identify the things weighing us down. We have a chance every day to change course and then see what such a change produces. We’re always testing the waters, aren’t we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2019-06-19T09:00:02+01:00June 18th, 2019|Personal musings|24 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

24 Comments

  1. Kristen July 15, 2019 at 8:56 am - Reply

    I’m enjoying your blog as I found it when researching Treviso. I resonate with this post as I also recently reduced social media I. My life for the same reasons. I took them off my phone and now the time is spent reading the many books I long to read.

    • Jed July 16, 2019 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Hi Kristen, Thank you for writing and sharing your experience with social media. It’s been a real wake up call to me to have observed my behavior when jumping into the game of attention-getting and being like. I’m looking for a middle way, or lighter way of engaging, to keep this in check!

      Treviso is such a lovely “small city.” I can’t recommend it enough!

  2. Debra Polson June 22, 2019 at 4:40 am - Reply

    Hey Jed,
    Dont know where I would be in this “great Italian adventure” if it wasnt for you, your articles art and photos.
    Doing what truly makes a person happy is priceless. After a short while you’ll wonder why you didnt do it sooner.
    Best of luck and hope to see you in all our travels.
    Debra
    xo

    • Jed June 24, 2019 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Debra. I love cheering people on in their quest for a life in Italy. It’s all about finding what makes our hearts sing. Yes, the logistics are necessary to understand and navigate, but I’m realizing that ample sources exist for that and I think I’ve covered most of the big topics in that regard. Now, I can focus on my artistic voice and my personal musings about big life change. Hope to see you, too!

  3. Maggie June 20, 2019 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Hello Jed,

    I just found your site when searching for information about Treviso. My hubby and I are exploring the Veneto area hoping to find a charming city to live in Italy. You are absolutely right about Treviso. It’s such a charming little town. It’s definitely on top of our list.

    Maggie

    • Jed June 24, 2019 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Hi Maggie! So glad you found my site. I’m glad to hear that you’ve discovered and have developed an affinity for Treviso. With the recent NYT article, though, I’m afraid the secret is out!

  4. Yasmin Rivera June 20, 2019 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Buongiorno Jed, your Blog is special and only 1 of 2 I subscribe to. I’m leaving Madrid after 18 months here with my husband and our 15 year old cat. I read your posts about traveling with your cats and it gave me the strength to know it was doable. Your post on getting an EU license was again invaluable. I was determined to get it here in Spain versus Italy because the Theory Exam is given in English and I was able to take the road test in an automatic car. These options are not available in Italy. We have loved Madrid and it was the perfect transition time before our move to Italy. We have been renovating our country stone house in Italy for the last 3 years. We are on our third contractor and he has been willing to see our vision come true. Many contractors came and saw an old pile of rubble but we saw a beautiful villa 5 minutes from our favorite beach. My husband moved his office to Rome, a dream come true for an Italian kid from Brooklyn. Our new kitchen gets installed next Tuesday so off we go to a new life in Pesaro. Italy is challenging but your posts have reassured me it will all work out in the end. I am an avid knitter and like your photography and paintings that is what has kept me sane. I remember when we made an offer on our house it was face to face and only because she liked our son (reminded her of her son) did she accept our offer and allow our dream to come true. Life in Europe is an exercise in patience and we learn to smell the roses along the way. Thank you for your Blog and giving hope and encouragement to us. Un abbraccio fortissimo, è ti ringrazio per tutto quello che hai fatto per noi.

    • Jed June 20, 2019 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Buongiorno Yasmin. You are so kind to write and share your own adventure of building a life in Italy. I got a good chuckle reading your comment about having the strength to travel with cats. Oddly enough, my California cat continues to be a dream when being transported (in a car now), while Oscar, our Italian cat, puts up a fuss that doesn’t cease. There is NO way I would attempt to carry him on a plane and hope I never would have to anyway (Queen Mary, here I come!). We recently spent some time in Madrid and loved it there. I’m glad Spain has made parts of the transition to Italy easier. I sure wish I could’ve taken the driver’s test in English, but I guess it did force me to go deeper into the language more quickly. I hope you’ll stay in touch and let me know how your life in Pesaro goes (please send photos of your renovation!). I love how you point out how Italians often want to get a sense of a person before they move forward transacting business. Believe me, I’ve gotten used to being closely “surveyed” in situations and I’ve learned not to take offense. Thanks for your encouragement to “keep at it.” Best, Jed

  5. Sue Lassen June 20, 2019 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Jed,

    I am so glad you are going to take care of the most important person – you!! I love your blog and your beautiful pictures. Some day I will make it there, and can’t wait to eat all the lovely food that you have highlighted!

    XO!

    • Jed June 20, 2019 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Sue, I LOVE hearing from you! I’m always in the process of “growing up!” Until you make it to Italy, I’ll do my best to keep bringing it to your door. xoxox Jed

  6. Ani June 19, 2019 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Dear Jed,

    I’ve been a lurker since the beginning of the year with your Prosecco post. Joe sent me your way. I’ve enjoyed reading your practical and reflective posts. Bravo in figuring out a better balance for your social media presence.

    And, I was also a Looney Tunes devotee with vague memories of frustration at not being able to attain the same spin rate as the Tasmanian Devil. Oh the laughter … and dizzy spells !

    Best wishes,
    Ani

    • Jed June 20, 2019 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Grazie, Ani, for writing and your good thoughts. As a kid, Saturday mornings were sacrosanct. I’d be glued to the TV for a heavenly hour of Looney Tunes. Who would’ve thought that the Tasmanian Devil would reach from the past to present to help me see something important? Now, like then, I laugh at his futility. In other words, when I see the crazy brain at work I remember to have a sense of humor about it!

  7. Tia White June 19, 2019 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Good for you Jeb, I hope you don’t take down the Items that you have listed, I go to them often to refresh my memory. Maybe I will start to print them out. Also I asked you about renting out the smaller of your two houses. Well that won’t work because they are probably not registered as a rental. And you get so many e-mails no telling when you would be able to read it before we came to look. Plus you were on vacation. Also I am on a FB site where people talk about their dream of moving to Italy and they talk about the areas they want to move to. Anyway last night a gentleman wrote how he got an apt. for rent, got rid of most of his things that he couldn’t take with him and applied for the long term residential visa. He got denied, made an appeal and got denied again and was devastated. I up until now have not really thought about how it would be to be denied. My husband left yesterday to go look for an apartment or small house to rent. I sent him with a list of agents that he has to meet up with and Robin and Markus are going to help him get to those appointments. The gentleman in the Face book blog said he spent a lot of money in renting the apartment for a year that wasn’t going to be used after all. I remember last year when you took some time off to spend with your family members and came back refreshed everyone needs to do that for sure. Hope we still get the pleasure of seeing your photography and paintings and most precious stories of the Italian people and culture because that’s why we all want to be there! Thanks for sharing,

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Tia! I don’t plan to take down the items listed under the heading of “logistics”—especially since many of the topics continue to generate informative comments and interaction. I may just approve and post such comments without getting into lengthy responses on those topics. As for my houses in Umbria, they’ve been undergoing a major outdoor project to clear out a large garden space and install a beautiful stone terrace with an enormous hot tub so people can enjoy the panoramic views. And, I have the houses on the market (well, they’ve been temporarily off the market until the project is finished) as I am trying to simplify my life and spend more time in Treviso. I’ll still visit my friends in Umbria and the beautiful countryside there but I don’t want to be a real estate tycoon!!! Ha!

      Regarding the gentleman in the FB blog… Did he say what the consulate gave as a reason for rejecting his ERV? I heard a story of a couple who got rejected and, in turn, hired a lawyer specializing in these things. Their rejection was overturned in an Italian court and the consulate involved was ordered to issue the ERV. I don’t know if the man explored this option. But, I can tell you, from the stories I’ve been hearing, that the Italian government seems to be making it harder (taking longer and being too ready to reject valid applications). I’ve applied for citizenship since my spouse is Italian. Before this year the entire process was supposed to be a max of two years. Salvini has changed the law to extend this to four years! So, I must wait, and wait!

      Lastly, you’ll probably see more of my photography and paintings as I continue my blog!

      Jed

  8. Charlene June 19, 2019 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Good for you! I’ve enjoyed your blogs as well as your photography and your paintings. You are very talented, but as you say, being spread so thin can cause exhaustion..

    Keep doing ONLY those things that bring you joy. Your supporters will stay with you.

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Your comments are so appreciated, Charlene. I’m learning to read my internal energy and emotional gauge better and I hope that will lead me to deliver my best work. I’ll certainly keep at it and see what happens!

  9. Joyce Beckett June 19, 2019 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Your post today rings true with me, Jed. For the last year I have been trying to make the same kinds of changes in my own life because I was spread way too thin. Most days I’m successful but some days the guilt I feel after I say “no…but thank you for asking” gets rather heavy. But, when that guilt passes (and it always does), I feel better about myself and the choices I am making. Hang in there! Your life will be even richer…Joyce

    P.S. If you come up with any good techniques for knocking that guilt out faster, please share. 🙂

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joyce. Hearing from you helps me know I’m on the right path. You’re right, saying “no” can feel heavy, especially after a lifetime of thinking we should always be “nice” and equate that with saying yes. Leaning into taking care of oneself and preserving one’s energy is an act of courage. Keep the faith!

  10. Thomas June 19, 2019 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    If someone doesn’t enjoy sharing the interesting and entertaining content of this Blog ;perhaps they should go somewhere else !
    Everyone , including them, will win .

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Thomas! After this post a few people immediately unsubscribed. But that is A-okay. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to make everyone happy and that is an unrealistic task! Thanks for writing and thanks for your support!

  11. Mary Anne Della Fera June 19, 2019 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Jed,
    I love your blogsite especially for your personal insights into your own Self, your personal philosophical musings. The information about how to move to and survive in Italy are interesting and helpful, too, but it seems like there is an overabundance of those kinds of sites. Eventually, one has to stop searching for advice and just do it. Your site is one of the very few recording personal observations of the internal struggle and how this adventure is changing you in fundamental ways. That is much more valuable than all the “nuts and bolts” advice websites. However, I must say that many people won’t understand that aspect of this kind of move.

    As my Jungian analyst would say, it’s the ego vs the Self. The ego gets wound up with all the planning and doing. It’s a necessary piece, but we are not our egos. The real purpose of this kind of move, as he reminded me recently, is to become less ego and more Self. Questioning our habitual responses to situations in life is critical to movement towards “Self”. For most people, questioning those habitual responses never happens.

    You’ve chosen to question, to observe and try to understand the struggle, not to conquer it! To watch how you are changing. Your photos and art work are beautiful and intimate windows into your Self. What you choose to capture, what is interesting to you, how you choose to present those images, and then your writing about what those images mean to you. Those are all windows into your soul, your Self. We are fortunate that you choose to share that.

    I hope you keep writing your blog, in whatever frequency and intensity seems best to you. Some of us understand the importance and are honored by your generosity.

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      Ciao Mary Anne! You have made my day. When I started ItalyWise, I didn’t envision spending so much of my creativity addressing personal transformation and “waking up” from a stupor or a conditioned life. I guess the blog allowed me to journal publically (foibles and all), hoping that other people might be able to relate. Life sure hasn’t unfolded as I expected. It’s mostly exceeded my best expectations, but usually when I’ve jump into the river and gone with the flow! Thanks for your wonderful encouragement!

  12. Mallory Olson June 19, 2019 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Jed
    Thanks!! I totally enjoy your posts, and was so very surprised at a personal response back from you. I definitely did not, and do not, expect this. Life is definitely too busy, and too short.

    I was happy to read that you will still blog. I was a bit worried! Your blog helps me dream of living part of each year In Umbria. (Since I have an addiction to Spello).

    Please block the obnoxious people and understand that your observations from Italy are very helpful! Grazie mille!

    • Jed June 19, 2019 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Mallory, I’m so pleased ItalyWise inspires you and fuels your love of Italy. That makes me happy! I’m learning that I can’t be all things to all people, and I’m becoming more comfortable with shaking a few apples off the tree by sticking to the things that feel good to me! I love Spello, by the way. Sportoletti Cantina is one of my favorite wineries!

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