Change is hard. We are all creatures of habit and when faced with circumstances that force us to break from that habit it doesn’t feel good. It can be scary and intimidating. Downright uncomfortable actually! For some, it can also be exhilarating and exciting. I like my comfort zone, but I’ve also always appreciated shaking things up a bit. I love adventure as long as it doesn't have to do with heights. One year ago tomorrow, my family and I mixed it up. We took an amazing opportunity and did something that was….well unconventional, really. This journey changed my whole life; in perspective, and attitude. We were, in my opinion, given an amazing opportunity to go live in Tuscany for seven weeks. Each of our lives changed. My world view was profoundly impacted.
On our way and my first night with our new friends. Tania felt like I had known her forever.
Our journey imprinted deeply in our hearts. Not only did we experience the beautiful countryside that only Tuscany provides, but we were blessed with relationships that blossomed and will continue to for the rest of our lives. We were afforded the opportunity to live in paradise and be accepted there. Words will never express how it felt to be living in your own fairytale. Just like all good stories ours had some rough patches. The kids and I had extremely sad moments. They saw their mom in a heap on the couch (more than once- not proud I promise) crying because she missed their dad. It took me, in my own self evaluating opinion, a little too long, to grasp the enormity of what we were doing as a family and get over myself. I, however, pulled myself up by the bootstraps, as my grandpa would say, and immersed myself in a country that was not my own but captured my heart just the same. We had way more beautiful days than we did sad ones and on the last day alone as four, when our family was arriving, I found myself longing for just a little bit (or a lot) more time with them in this place. Hindsight right?
I learned a few things when I was allowing myself to experience this self-pity party, however. Seriously, I was a bit of a wreck and pretty upset with myself for allowing my kids to see it. Who does that? Ashamedly, me. We were living in freaking Tuscany and I’m boo hooing about missing their dad. At one really low point one of them asked me if he had died and I wasn’t telling them because they couldn’t understand the hysterics they were seeing. Parenting fail!!! It was that day that I realized I alone was setting this dark narrative. I was creating what their minds would remember about this once in a lifetime opportunity- or they may view it as the lack thereof. No matter what or how I was feeling it was up to me to make the most of this special time. I was in charge of the changes we were experiencing and I needed to do a better job of giving them my best foot forward so they experienced them through their sweet rose colored glasses, instead of my tinted ones (which, by the way, shouldn't have been tinted in the first place, he was coming to visit). Why waste another day? Seize the moment.
No matter where we find ourselves in our lives, change is usually right around the corner. Nothing stays the same. Some people experience change in big ways when they are young and some don’t experience them until they are older. Even when I’ve experienced the kind of change that has carried with it great pain and diminished my hope, I have learned, grown and gained from it. My faith is definitely my anchor. No matter what none of us are immune to change, but how we deal with it determines our path. What I realized on our friends couch, in Tuscany, was that not only was I blessed but that these kids were looking to me for hope and happiness. (On a side note why the heck was I allowing myself to cry on a couch in Tuscany- I should have at least gone outside to be surrounded by the beauty. I digress.) These three people in my charge were in a foreign country probably not totally sure why we were there if their mother was going to act like this. I was feeding into a bad narrative. I needed to change my own behavior.
That sadness wasn’t our story. Our story was beautiful. Our story was one of deep bonds, abounding beauty, scenery that was divine and gratitude for the entire journey. It was anchored around communal tables with people from all different backgrounds, countries and beliefs. We were talking, disagreeing, laughing, sharing and respecting one another. We had friends and family that visited. The truth is that this is my side of our story. I long to go back. My heart aches when I see pictures. I would jump at any opportunity to be there. RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. My kids don’t feel exactly like that. (Four weeks tops they tell me- HA.) I tainted their waters. I ruined a part of their narrative. I have the ability in my adult brain to separate (or forget because I’m getting old) a few sad days from the absolutely memorable and life changing time we had. I look back with absolute love and desire. I crave my friends there. They don’t. (They do miss their friends, and talk about them a lot, but they don’t crave it like I do. I figure in time they will.) I set that tone by allowing them to see my sadness and I alone put a road block in our journey. Thank God this was a familial opportunity and not a life altering attitude or perception that I was helping to create.
Some of our favorite memories.
How we deal with change starts at home. As parents, especially, we have an enormous responsibility to teach them love, patience, acceptance, compassion, courage and strength. Our actions and reactions to all situations are being observed, ingested and repeated. (That makes me sick to my stomach because I DO NOT want them to repeat so much of what I say and do.) Let that sink in a minute. If you’re anything like me I WANT A DO OVER!!! If you breathe, change is going to happen. It’s a fact. If you are reading this you may look at my family living in Tuscany for 7 weeks as a good change, right? Well clearly there were a few days when I first got there that I DID NOT see it that way. (I DO NOW THOUGH.) I wasted precious time, and opportunity. Change is all about perspective. Most of the time, hindsight provides us with the perspective we wish we would have had when we were walking through that change. If I could have gotten out of my own head and exhibited strength, love, and excitement from the beginning, even if I wasn’t feeling it, they would have most likely looked at their journey differently. We alone are in charge of how we deal with change and how we present ourselves to the world. We cannot expect greatness out of others if we are not demonstrating it ourselves. We may not like every change that happens to us or because of us. They don’t always feel good. We don’t even always have to want to be in it… but we are.
We chose, as a family to go to Tuscany. We chose our change but when Jon left the first time I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE WITHOUT HIM. It didn’t feel good. I was scared to death. I feared for my children…..being in a foreign country, not speaking the language…oh the details. Had I not allowed myself to get rid of my own self-pity and start experiencing life in Tuscany I wouldn’t have created those deep bonds or fallen more in love with a place that truly holds part of me. My kids may not want to go ‘live’ there without their dad again. I do know, however, that once I allowed them to start experiencing the beauty of the people and the place instead of MY sadness, their chains came off and they started to see it for what it was and not what I was showing them that it was in those first dark days. They were able to experience our circumstances for the absolute beauty of the moments and LIVE, instead of being handcuffed by the change that their mother wasn’t sure about. They made friends and wanted to take adventures. They knew the towns, restaurants (because thats of the utmost importance), and museums by name and communicated with the beautiful people that they were now familiar with. They embraced the change.
My passion, your passion, for both good and bad things are viewed by impressionable people in and outside of our homes. One of the many life lessons that I learned in beautiful Cortona was that my attitude and passion have a direct correlation with how others around me view and react to life. With every change we must look for the beauty and the relationships that we can develop and strengthen and the example we can be... had I not figured that out when I did, had I wallowed in my fear of change, I would have missed out on the greatest journey of our lives and people that I value more than the change I feared.
“Life’s about changing. Nothing ever stays the same.” Patti Loveless