Waves that Come and Go: 9 months in Italy

Writing helps take the spotlight off of the nagging, distracting, endless flow of thoughts that seem to have nowhere to go until they are put out in the open, down on paper. Once there, the mad swirling stops, the boundaries become less blurred, and the picture emerges clearer. When my mind is on overdrive, and my kaleidoscopic emotions fail to stabilize, before I process out loud, I write, in my head. I mentally pen then scratch out then pen again until I find the right word, the right phrase, that adequately captures a thought and reigns it in. The last step of this purging process is to pen it on paper – or on my computer (who uses paper anymore?) I suppose it’s the same concept as writing lists – once on paper, you can move forward with a plan and your energies are more constructively spent.

This morning, my mental energies are spent, in part, because I haven’t taken the time to write and release. I’m realizing I need to write. All the good stuff too, not just the struggles, which is my tendency. (As a college literature major, I incorrectly believed this made me a “true” writer;  I fit right in with the likes of Poe, Bronte and Woolf.) Not that writing answers my questions or solves any problems, but the cathartic nature of writing helps to merge the world of ‘what is’ with the world of ‘what can be’ into some form of a blueprint. This blueprint can help me get “unstuck”.  It can help me remember the beauty and privilege of living in a foreign country.

We moved to Italy 9 months ago. We’ve experience almost all of the four seasons in beautiful Vicenza (including a snowfall!) and have visited castles and medieval hilltop towns, Florence, Tuscany, Verona and Venice. We’ve eaten more pizza, pasta, and brioches con crema than ever. We have fallen in love with fresh parmigiano reggiano that now goes on practically everything we eat. Wine, really good wine, is cheap. White asparagus is delicious. We live in a downtown roof-top apartment in a 16th century palazzo, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with views and sounds of church bells and accordion street players – and, it is a few cobblestoned streets away from where the actual author of Romeo and Juliet was born!

Cayden and Anya are involved, learning, growing, now fully transitioned out of Italian school into the DOD school. Cayden was selected to go to a soccer training camp in Germany, his first trip away from us, on a plane at that! He grew up a little more on that trip. Anya had her first Italian gymnastics competition, and being the youngest on her team, we were exceedingly proud of our little cartwheeling gymnast!  Josh has faced many changes with his new position and while he misses students, he is, of course, excelling at what he is doing. I am really proud of him, and the kids. I, well, I’m still trying to figure it out. I can’t say I am proud of how long it takes me to do so.

One of my friends explained it well when she said, “It comes in waves.” ‘It’ meaning transition. Change. Adaptation.

I think I have acclimated to the new culture until it’s 80 degrees out and none of the Italians are wearing sandals yet because it’s still too early in the season. I have two choices: 1) Wear them anyways and stand out as an obvious American or 2) Adapt to the culture and become one of them. I’ve chosen #2 but I need to shoe shop as a result.

I think I’ve accepted the language barrier until all I want is my salad dressing on the side and I have to engage in theatrical charades to get it. It sounds comical. And I suppose it is – and equally as inconsequential. But not being able to communicate day to day can get very frustrating. Sometimes when I’m looked at with a blank stare, I ask if they speak French instead; I’ve gotten lucky a few times. But once, one particularly testy Italian woman exclaimed in Italian (which I understand quite well, just can’t communicate back), “Why would I speak French? I’m Italian! I live in Italy!” Well…..okay then.

I try really hard to make the most out of not being allowed to continue working and pursuing my passion –  I take Italian classes, sip macchiatos at cafes with new friends, and take pictures of the beautiful architecture. But after a few months of what many would call “the dream life,” I have woken up feeling restless and directionless because there is no order or priority in my life right now, outside of my family. I know when moving, this takes time to figure out and discover; everyone says at least a year. 3 more months to go.

The wave has knocked me out this month. I’m tired.  I’m not feeling the adventure and romanticism of living overseas, in Italy to boot (no pun intended). I know this feeling is temporary, it will pass, soon, I’m sure. When it does, I will continue to fully embrace the joys that travel, discovery and adventure bring. And growth! We don’t grow until we are stretched. I do believe this qualifies as stretching. And I’m trying my best to accept and welcome this part of this beautiful journey. I was also encouraged by my insightful mother to remember that sometimes, there can be a very strong undertow, and so to discern carefully as to whether I should approach the water to swim, or to navigate a sailboat. Indeed, there is a time for both.

With these thoughts now on paper, I think I’ll go eat another brioche. I feel better already.



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