As far as I can remember, I don’t recall reinventing ourselves as something we set as a goal in becoming ExPats. Its not that reinvention was an idea we had any objection to. We just didn’t think about it. When we were in the process of turning our lives completely upside down, the idea of reinvention got crowded out by a lot of other issues.
As it worked out, we did change virtually everything around us. That being the case, the habitual, ingrained responses just didn’t work the way they used to. Once that sunk in, it became apparent we would have to do some readjustments on how we functioned in the world; in other words – some reinvention was involved.
We are pretty much in place now. The mad rush of the initial relocation issues is starting to settle down. In one of those pleasant, quiet moments on the couch, looking up at the Italian Art Noveau Painting, which takes up our entire living room ceiling, I came to a realization. I’m not only in a different place; I’m also probably in the process of becoming a little different myself. In short, I just may be in the process of reinvention.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure there are any number of people who have known me over the years who would declare their hope for a better outcome. But since I have a feeling I’m still very much a work in progress, the final evaluation will probably have to wait for a while. As to when the process of reinvention got started, that’s hard to say. Since I only recognized that the process was already underway sometime after it already started, I’m not sure when and how it got going. I suspect, the initial stage started about the time we decided to entertain a crazy idea.
The motivation to do something fairly radical had a number of roots. Elsewhere in the Blog we explored some parts of the decision process. At some convergence point, while sitting around over wine, cheese and crackers we started talking about uncomplex and trivial issues like, “What do you think we ought to do with the rest of our lives?”
Over a period of time, we took a whole range of options into the fitting room and tried them on. In the process, gradually the question of what kind of experience we were looking for began to take shape. At some point, the cheese and crackers was probably augmented by a more adequate quantity of a decent Italian wine. Ideas can work into our subconscious in mysterious ways. We are often asked, “What made you come up with the idea of moving to Italy?” From our past travel experiences, life in Italy held a lot of wonderful memories. However, I still wouldn’t totally discount the influence of good, Italian wine to have helped infuse the idea. Something over a year ago, we got to a decision point and we came to a joint conclusion to sell most everything and try and simplify our lives by living in Italy.
Has it all been positive and without anxiety? – Of course not! In the process of attempting to accomplish something new and positive, some of the old and familiar we had relied on got disturbed. The really tough part of this kind of process has been trying to understand the potential negatives involved and to be able to weigh them against what you hope to gain – in a life you have yet to live!
I mentioned earlier, one of the goals we had in making this transition was to try and lead more simple lives. A significant part of the simplicity goal was to have our lives a little ‘less stressful.’ OK, I can hear it now, “Less stressful! – You moved part way around the world, away from family, friends, leaving behind a lifetime of acquired possessions and away from familiar places to go to where you are still learning to adequately speak the language and didn’t know anyone. And you want to call that ‘less stressful?’”
Yes, – that is what I said. These are exactly the kinds of pluses and minuses we had to weigh. As for family and friends, the modern age of telecommunication has us regularly in touch. Given the way extended families in the U.S. are dispersed, much of our communication is not all that different from here as opposed to California except for factoring in a different time zone equation. The same applies to close friends in the U.S. with whom we remain in contact. Plus, this Blog is an important way for us to stay in touch. The Blog also gives us a way to still communicate in a language with which we are more familiar.
But admittedly, we do have to acknowledge a real deficit of diminished opportunities for that all-important face-to-face contact with family and friends we care deeply about. We are attempting to offset these deficits by starting a scheduling calendar for the anticipated visits here by family and friends along with the idea that we can share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with them. We recently, happily posted some initial visit calendar entries for next spring. We are very much looking forward to adding more calendar entries. And we can’t think of enough superlatives to express the exceptional compensations of getting to know some wonderful Italians.
As for possessions, we are amazed at how much lighter we feel and less burdened and concerned about ‘stuff.’ Simplicity does not mean we are leading any kind of an ascetic existence. Arlene has done wonders, as is her very special gift, in making this rented, semi-furnished apartment our home. Most of the furnishings we added are from IKEA and we found other items in the local, open air, antiques market. We have already made ‘our mark’ having changed enough of what was in the apartment that we have developed a similar attachment to this space as we did to our very comfortable, on the side of a hill, former home in southern California. Only in this case, no mortgage, no property taxes and no property maintenance concerns. Plus, so far, no car and no car worries nor expenses. And speaking of stress reduction, we enjoy interacting with Italians but not while behind the wheel of a car.
We walk all over Ascoli and look and feel much healthier for it. Of course relying on public transportation is not as ‘efficient’ as getting into your car just outside the door. On-the-other-hand, sitting by a large train window and watching the increasingly familiar scenery go by is nothing but relaxing. So we do some minor waiting on train platforms or at bus stops. But who says we have some deadline to keep? It is amazing to realize how much self imposed stress we used to put on ourselves.
Rather than longing for the familiar, we are having incredible experiences in enjoying easy access to wonderful new sights. It will be a long time before we tire of the wonder of living very comfortably in a structure that has stood on this site for longer than Europeans have settled in what is now the U.S. Every day we see and delight in sights that would involve major effort to experience if we weren’t living here. As another example of having exciting experiences in Italy, we have a planned excursion to be in Rome to see the Christmas preparations that is as simple for us as taking a weekend trip.
Then there is the ‘clean sheet of paper’ reality. No one here knows or cares all that much about what kind of job titles we achieved, recognitions we were given, who we worked for or much of anything else in the way of past applied labels by which we had assumed we were defined. Here, they are taking us just as they find us – we are who we are today. Reassuring in an important way – it says we are OK for who we are right now and not defined just on what we were or owned.
Time has moved surprisingly quickly. We have been in Ascoli Piceno, Italy for now almost five months and have been in our own apartment almost three. It seems very frequently we remark on how relatively smoothly things have gone and how really comfortable we are feeling about the turn our lives have taken.
Have we come some distance already in the process of reinvention? – I like to think so. We had to deal with letting go and also moving forward into some uncharted space. By the time our feet touched the ground here we were already strongly committed to making it work. That has probably been a major factor in how well things have turned out. And having some absolute evidence that we still have the capacity to do something like this doesn’t hurt a couple of senior citizens’ self image.
But, so far – so good! We like to think it is a good sign we don’t feel all that stressed about what we are doing. That may be an indication we are doing something that is right for us. We have less ‘stuff’ to be concerned about and we seem to start most days looking forward to what new experiences are going to engage us. Something about that lets you know you are alive. All I can say is, relaxing in the process of reinvention just feels good!