A new view. A new season in a new country. A new place to wake up every morning where the days are mine to design. And slowly, the realisation that the life I imagined is happening and it's better than I could have dreamed.
And I'm just getting started.
The goal, in the beginning was to simply gain dual citizenship. Partly to honour my ancestors, partly to give me the opportunity to live in a country I have grown to love and a little bit to have one more chance to reinvent myself.
But it turns out, it is so much more.
After years of sorting through the ashes of a life I spent forgiving myself for things that were not my doing, I realised a few important truths.
1. We get to have the life we want. And while I am all too aware that my privilege and the opportunities it provided helped me find the definition of what I wanted- part of what I want this next 'season' of my life to be will include helping doors open for those without that privilege. How will I do that? By helping those who want to design their own definition of the 'dream', through what I've learned. By teaching English to young men and women in my new community to help them rise in the work they want to do, both here and abroad. And by using the lessons I've learned to help them see a future beyond their own mistakes, or failures.
I learned all of that through my own failings and some fairly rocky detours.
2. We don't need to be forgiven for what we didn't do.
It only took me 47 years to learn this one. Like many women, I spent a lot of time apologising to people who hurt me. Without even realising that many of those people never acknowledged the injuries they inflicted. Until I realised that I was only responsible for my own actions, my own words, and my own mistakes. And apologised for the times I hurt someone, no matter my intention. When I saw the impact of my part in these moments, I made sure to show up and take responsibility, and make amends. But I stopped beginning any other conversation with the words. " I'm sorry". Instead, I have learned to say " What you (said, did, inferred), hurt me. I want you to understand the impact it had on me." I'm grateful I've not had to have too many of those conversations. Because I also learned to walk away from what doesn't serve me.
3. All adventures begin with a brave heart.
I'm so happy that despite all that got in the way of this dream, it worked out. I had wonderful teachers along the way who helped me understand the two most important ingredients for that bravery. The first is to surrender to what is ... the pandemic forced a lot of us to learn this fast. I was able to lean in to the circumstances and direct my frustrations into more positive actions. Educating myself about our true history in the US, working for the campaign to rid America of a tyrant president, learning how to be an ally for people of color, and using my skills to help others who struggled with surrender. Every single action helped me grow into who I am today, and helped me to keep my faith in the future I wanted.
I am thinking about 'fall' today. Autumn, the season were so much change happens in nature, where living things fall to the ground in glorious demise, where creatures stockpile food for the uncertain months ahead and animals and humans alike find ways to stay warm, to find light in the brief hours of sunlight, and to keep the faith that winter will lead to spring, and new birth.
As I walked down the hill today and stopped to admire the beauty around me, I wondered if the universe didn't plan the wondrous colours of this season for simply this reason - to remind us that all life has seasons, that each one has merit and beauty, and that all we need to do is stop and breathe it in, realising we are just falling leaves ourselves, turning and evolving in every moment, finding our place in the landscape. Grateful for every breeze that helps us find home.
This is the easy part. That's my mantra these days when it doesn't feel easy, or manageable or sometimes, even possible. Because after everything ... well, it's true. This is the easy part.
The words that tell the story of my life so far are as varied as a garden store rack of seeds. I wrote a book about the hardest parts, so I don't feel the need to tell those stories anymore. Instead, I plant the seeds that fell from all the things I planted that never bloomed. Sound strange? Here's what I mean. I planted two marriages, but the soil wasn't right. The seeds that fell as the plants withered blossomed into my children, the most glorious things that ever bloomed in my garden.
You see where I'm going?
I planted a career that paid the bills and put food on the table. It blossomed pretty well, but in time the light changed and the flowers failed to bud. But the seeds from those years fostered another career, and another, and each one left me with new strength, new confidence, new goals.
The first time I traveled to Italy I knew that I'd found a place that 'fit'. I remember coming home from that trip... around 10 years ago, and telling everyone I would live in Italy one day. I'm not sure anyone thought I was serious, but it didn't matter. I started planting seeds for what would bloom into the life I dreamed of.
And then I watered them.
In the beginning, all I had was the place. I knew that I wanted to live near water, trees, mountains and somewhere I could get by without a car. On our second trip to Italy, we stopped for a few rainy days in Como. I honestly only have one strong memory and that was taking the ferry in the rain to Villa Carlotta to see the amazing sculptures there. But the seeds were taking root, and I knew I'd found my place. I started researching the process for becoming a citizen, and a resident in Italy and gathering documents. When it simply became impossible because I was then living in London, I hired an immigration specialist. I have a direct bloodline to Italy, so I thought it wouldn't be so hard.
It took four years to complete the process.
The rest of the story is old news. We managed my daughter's Como wedding in September of 2019, never dreaming how the world would change in just a few months. I threw a tarp over those baby dream plants and kept the faith. And then in August, I managed to get on a plane in the two weeks before Delta closed the borders to non essential travel again.
When I got here everything was a little bit harder, a little bit slower, a little bit stranger than I had imagined. But I found an apartment and my seeds were starting to bud. The moving of my things from Milan to this little village seemed a little bit impossible, but two good humoured, very strong and determined movers managed to get everything up the road and into the flat and a good friend spent the day reassuring me it would all be ok.
The dream was here. Everything was happening. The flowers would bloom.
And suddenly the overwhelm of being alone with all the bits and pieces of 66 years of living threatened to bury me. The boxes, the plastic, the missing screws for almost every piece of furniture that needed to be reassembled, those boxes... did I mention how much cardboard goes into this kind of move? And then has to be disposed of. I won't lie, on the day I moved the last two suitcases out of the airbnb and into the new apartment, and saw those four washing machine sized boxes of cardboard waiting for me to somehow get them down the hill for the trash pickup, the tears started to come. It seemed like there was no way I could manage all of this by myself. But I knew I had to keep going.
I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath and changed my clothes, and my mindset.
I put my hands on my hips and said out loud to no one in particular, the thing that I had just realised, even though at least two weeks of non stop unpacking, arranging, rearranging, and cleanup lay. ahead....
"This is the easy part".
Turns out that was all my garden was missing. Perspective. Faith. And the same determination it took to get me to now. I'm sharing this because if you are where I was ten. years ago, or even last week... if you are facing a garden full of blooms that are struggling, or even a hallway full of things you must let go of... maybe this will help. I'm sure you have navigated harder things. Felt deeper pain. But you're here, and you have a garden to tend. This really is the easiest part.