I really never thought that my life would take such an individual turn. I suppose I knew I was dreadfully unhappy doing what others did. From the time I graduated from college, I commuted on trains, I drove long distances, sat in offices, had meetings and did work, the content of which I no longer remember. I produced documents. I sold things. I wrote text and did marketing plans and proposals. I organized conferences. It was not a bad way to earn a living. I threw myself into my work with abandon. I bought clothes and shoes and handbags with credit cards. I looked the part and I managed to fool everyone, including myself, into believing that I was made to do that kind of work. My job defined my life. I rarely thought about anything else. When I took time off, I would get sick because I had allowed myself to get so run down. It felt like there was something else, something big, that was missing. But I did not allow myself the luxury of such thoughts often. They were simply too painful.
I have a sweet friend who told me that she has a problem in various jobs she has had. She cries inappropriately. We talked and tried to figure out what makes her cry and when. I could feel her sadness. I had the same problem when I worked in business. I cried at completely inappropriate moments - salary reviews, conflicts on how to handle a customer, when I heard someone had spoken badly about me, when my boss would challenge me to be better, think more clearly. I welled up constantly. The veneer of my eyeliner would give way to masses of black. I should have known I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. But I had to make a living, and I didn't feel there were any choices.
Then, one day, we moved to Europe and I could just stop doing all of that. I thought it would make me happy, that leaving the burn out and the sales numbers and the fear of getting fired behind. What shocked me is that I completely lost my ability to define myself. I had been so busy, so manically, frighteningly busy for so long, that when that was taken away, it seemed like there was not so much left. It took a long time, years, for me to realize that the true discovery of who I really was had only just begun.
Part of me still fought, though, still wanted to go back and be the power woman I thought I was before. I was sad and angry that I could not excel at business after moving to Europe, although had I really stopped to think about it, it had never made me terribly happy in the first place. One part of me thought that excelling meant working like a dog and getting a big fat paycheck at the end of the week. The other part of me, the part that had started growing and blossoming in Germany, knew that was a completely backwards way to think. Here, I had been presented, through the grace of God and with the loving help of my wage-earning husband, with the opportunity to do anything I wanted. But I was overwhelmed by the task. I was surprised how weak I was, because I had always pictured myself as strong. But I was only strong in my comfort zone. Outside of it, I was a mess.
Given the chance, I did eventually choose creativity. I started to recognize that I had been granted opportunities very few would ever have. I learned languages. I came to understand the beauty of my own language. I started making things with my own hand, and came to appreciate seeing the hands of others in creations around me. The world became more interesting, more fragile from this new perspective. I was surrounded with love and beauty.
I started to consider myself a rather lucky girl.
Life's path is interesting, and I never could have predicted with twists and turns that would have led to this the point where we have been given the chance to lead a self determined life. There is so much about this life here in Italy which surprises me. I suppose the most significant thing is the amount of responsibility we have to take -- for everything we do. We are completely and totally responsible for every aspect of our own survival here. We have to create everything. It's just that simple, and that complicated.
My first reaction to grasping the enormity of what I had gotten myself into with this project came in the form of panic. I was simply not up to the task. I was certainly up to the fantasy of the task. I had been journaling about the possibility of doing something like this for years. But when the reality came, when we signed on the dotted line, my reality shifted, and I realized that all safety nets were gone. It was me facing myself, and I was simply not as ready to depend on myself as I thought I would be.
I had a partner, however, who was. He was brave. Positive. Strong. And he had broad shoulders. He patiently answered my question, asked a million times, in a million different ways.
Is it going to be ok?
Yes, he would say, of course it is.
What I chose, this life that I lead, is not an easy one in many, many ways. I am challenged on every front - creatively, spiritually and emotionally. I have had to confront my demons. I am seeing myself for who I really am. Sometimes I am pleased with what I see, actually pleased and sort of amazed at the journey so far. It's a terribly interesting life, fulfilling in ways I never would have conceived of before. Finally, after despairing and hoping and praying and meditating, I am uncovering the potential which lies beneath the inappropriate tears.
As if tears could ever really be inappropriate.