Friday, June 19, 2015

Today's Friday, I think I'll Move to Italy

Buon Giorno from Italy!

One month ago I decided I needed a change. Now, some people rearrange the furniture. Me, I moved to Italy. For a time, anyway, exact dates yet to be determined.... 

People ask, "How did you just up and do that?" Well, I hopped onto a website, found a housesitting position in Tuscany, and two days later bought my ticket. 

Most people are not comfortable with such drastic changes, and for good reason; There is the house and car and pets and job and all the stuff to take care of.  

Several years ago, I started simplifying my life by paring down on life's "stuff." I ruthlessly sold, gave away, or threw away all kinds of things, even those items that held memories or family significance. 
Sure, I still have the photo albums of my kids and some small family mementos, but did I really need to store that antique dining room table for the "someday" that one of my kids might want it? Nope. Let it go. What about the extra coats and blankets crammed in the closet? (in case of a terrorist strike on our power grid) - Let 'em go. What about the piles of electronic cords and bits accumulated from various past computers? (might need one to garrotte a zombie during the apocalypse) - Let 'em go. What about the blenders (how did I end up with three?), the broken lamps, the mismatched Tupperware, the extra frames, the scraps of paper/wood/fabric/metal/junk that I might need someday for something? - Let 'em all go. 

And, I discovered that with each layer I let go, I felt lighter and lighter. I tell people, now, that I spent 25 years accumulating stuff and I spent the last five trying to get rid of it all.
I see so many houses full of clutter - old magazines, figurines and trinkets, a china cabinet full of vases and never-used crystal glasses. Walls, corners, closets full of precious "stuff" that accumulates like layers of papier mâché, restricting our mobility. When I walk into a house full of old stuff, I immediately feel it weigh down my energy. There is a reason spas are so spartan, clean and bright; Open space allows energy to flow freely. I often notice that the inhabitants of cluttered homes are perennially tired, overweight, or even sickly. It is no wonder! Their energy is slumping with the dust bunnies beneath the unused piano. 

Step one to being open to change is to get rid of stuff. Trust me, you'll feel better. Take your stuff to someplace like Goodwill and allow someone less fortunate to benefit from your discards. I love to shop at Goodwill. I like that no new resources are consumed in what I buy and I also find some awesome, unique clothing that is impossible to find in the ubiquitous chain stores.

Step two to making positive changes is learning to develop a comfort level with the unknown. The unknown is scary, kind of like that monster under your bed when you were a kid - I vividly recall how terrified I was, as a child, to put my feet on the floor because of whatever it was that was lurking under my bed. And yet, like that imaginary monster, the reality behind our fears doesn't really exist. 
Yes, real and present on a recent walk

I ask myself, when fears crop up (and they do), "Is this a real and present danger, (i.e., the house is on fire; I could perish in the flames) or is it an imaginary scenario?" 

Imaginary scenarios include, "What if the plane gets highjacked?" "What if my money and passport get stolen?" "What if TSA finds more than 3 ounces of lotion in my carry-on and throws me into the gulag?" 

Yes, any of the above could happen (well, maybe not the gulag...) but they are not real and present dangers. Yes, I need to prepare adequately and take precautions, as with anything, and then I need to step forward boldly in action. That is where the fun starts to happen in life. New experiences, new people, new challenges to keep the mind and body and soul growing. Change is invigorating!

"When you step out boldly toward change, the universal plates move to support you -
dance lightly and joyfully on the shifting times"

Step three to experiencing the benefit of change is to cultivate a sense of attention. Be aware of when something doesn't feel right in your life. If your life is feeling stale or unsatisfying, be open to looking it in the face and asking why. In all likelihood, it won't require a wholesale move to another country, but perhaps a little change will breathe more joy into your life - take dancing lessons, learn to fly (had to throw that one in), get a sex change (just a quick nod to Bruce Jenner there). Be attentive to your life. It's the only one you got, so don't waste a single day wishing it were something different. 

And when you make a change, be attentive, and accepting, of whatever it brings. 

This is me without luggage
For example, lost baggage. Okay, I can wear the same clothes for three days. The other passengers in the train may not like it, but c'est la vie! Oops, thats' French, which brings me to the next difficulty: I don't speak a word of Italian (other than pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, etc). Not being able to communicate is an ego leveler. On my first trip to the supermercado, I brought a bunch of fruits and vegies to the check out not realizing I was supposed to weigh them and put the pricetag on myself. Of course, the line was building up behind me, with me stumbling to understand.... Embarassing, yeah, but I just smiled, said grazie and headed back to the produce section. 

Unlike some European countries, very few people here speak English. And why should they? It's Italy, after all, and their language is perfectly good. So, I am busy learning enough Italian to not feel like an idiot in public. Other little challenges crop up every day - how to get around, how to find a public toilet, how to smile at the attention from handsome Italianos without giving them too much encouragement....

Change is life's way of opening new doors for us (although sometimes you have to wait for that door, as in when you bike into town several kilometers away, only to find that the store is closed from 12:30 to 4:30! - see left)

Sometimes change is a little painful during the transition period, especially when it comes unasked, as in the loss of a loved one, but there is a whole new world available to us when we step across the threshold of change. 

So, see if your life could use a little (or big) change. And if you do end up in sure and look me up! But wherever it is life brings you, I hope your view is grand!

xox, Cate

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