Settling into JOY. I've discovered that for me, this has been a long journey, albeit a beautiful one. Sometimes it's difficult to believe I've only been in Italy a little over three months. And so much has happened in that time that gives me joy.
From the big 'exhale' when I first arrived in Milan, easing into this big dream that I've held close for years, to the six weeks in the flat over the incredibly noisy bar with my wonderful view of the lake, to the 'big move' to 'il mio posticino tra gli alberi' ( My little place in the trees). So much.
I've made some friends. I've learned how things work in a village that dates back as far as 900 A.D. I've heard the joyful sound of 'Ciao Tia!' ring out in the piazza, on the lago lungo ( the boardwalk by the lake) and in the small grocery store and Thursday market. It's worth breaking through my introverted wall to introduce myself and say hello week after week. I can feel the community here, something I never found in London or where people live and work far apart. I'm so grateful for my London friends who broke through their walls to invite me in. They will stay in my heart always. In America, I lived in the same neighbourhood for 23 years and barely knew my neighbors, even thoughI tried. Community there is based on 'sameness'. The same schools, the same churches, the same sports. It's transitory and the suburban life rarely feels connected- or at least that is how it felt to me.
But here, this is different. Here's an example. Last week I walked to the 'far' end of town (a 3 minute walk from the 'center' lol) to the Farmacia to renew a prescription. We are all still observing Covid protocols, so only 3 people are allowed in at separate counters at once. There were about 6 people waiting and chatting in the small piazza in front, all masked, all smiling, all patient. A man and his friend walked up to join the queue and an a chorus of 'Ciao Fredo' rang out. He laughed and returned the greeting. Then someone said, 'Auguri Fredo!'. This is the traditional Birthday greeting. One by one everyone waiting added their personal greeting. I was by that point, next in line to go in, facing away from the crowd and smiling so big, and after a moment, I turned to him and added mine. And then I said " Mi piace molto un piccolo village, dove tutti sanno che è il tuo compleanno." ( I love so much a small village where everyone knows when it's your birthday!) . And everyone laughed and nodded and smiled. Because they know that in this sort of community, no one ever has to feel alone. A walk to the 'bar'(for coffee), or to sit on one of the many benches by the lake is like the best kind of family visit. People here might leave for school or work or to 'see the world' , but they come back. For this.
I know that some of you are migrating part of your lives to places where you can have a taste of this, and some of you are moving your whole lives. It's worth it. The last two years has taught many of us of the importance of connection. And for me - this enormous leap of faith across a continent and an ocean, is worth it. I feel this community rising up to welcome me. And I know that feeling will only grow.
I thought that navigating the many steps on the path to formal residency was the most important part of this first few months. But I was wrong.
The truth is, I can't help but believe that the process unfolded so perfectly because I am meant to be here. To become part of this place, to share my joy in all the simple beauty of the history, the land and the people . And to let it fill me up - without apology. We all deserve this, and it's only taken me a lifetime to understand this. I hope that you don't wait another moment to breathe in whatever and whomever gives you that same feeling. The one I get when I look out the windows each day at the glorious mountaintops above the shimmering lake, feeling the power of the universe, and my own beating heart.
Let it soak in to your heart -that joy. Because you deserve it too.