Home Again, Home Again Revisited

20151006_070116Fall Sunrise 2015I asked you to ask me in three to five months, how I was feeling about my time being “home” in the US after 12 years in Western Europe.

Yes, I have  gained a few pounds and yes there is a lot more TV and sugar in our lives.  The wine gives me headaches and I miss the days when Prosecco was affordable enough to drink whenever I felt like it and not just for a special occasion. I am spending more money than usual and my son has experienced the pleasures of head lice, early vaccinations (and all at once), soccer in the pouring rain, the true American experience of a “lockdown” drill and, since this is Washington, an earthquake drill, too.

But…

The livin’ is easy.

The salmon are jumping

and the rivers are high.

Every morning

I see The Sound and a lone gray heron

So, hush, little baby, no need to cry

I can’t lie to you.   I am relishing my time here.   The mountain, the salmon, the sunrises, the funky, socially responsible and concerned people, the grass-fed bison, oh and the libraries!  YUM.  I love them so.  I’m stuffing myself with inspiring text, cookbooks, audio books, and DVDs.  We’re watching Eloise, The Muppet Show, and Free to Be You and Me on the big screen from bed on Saturday mornings. So much inspiration, information and entertainment at my fingertips!  And free! What?  Online holds and renewal??  Are you kidding me??  I will miss the libraries the most.  Cheap movie day is also pretty tasty. How I miss seeing movies on the big screen in English.  Not to mention, the theater: Charlie Brown’s Christmas on the stage and The Nutcracker, of course.  I am…stuffing myself.

But, it’s not just the superficial stuff; how I have missed connecting with people the way I have these few months.  Granted, I am making an effort, but people are REALLY interesting and so beautiful.  I see so much more vulnerability than I used to see and that translates to humanness.  It is refreshing that some people are so willing to show me who they are.

I’ve been working, subbing in the schools and feeling Confidence pulling itself to it’s feet.  It says, in a low, slow, satisfied tone, “I’ve still got it.  They want me.  They really want me.” I feel restored and “better than before”.  I’ve even  gone to church and its in English, of course!  What a difference that makes, but moreover, what a difference it makes to be able to choose between spiritual communities, to find one that actually fits.  In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, I had a place to go where I could be reminded of the good in the world.  I have felt deeply moved by the words spoken, the authenticity of the congregation, the familiar music sung, the kindness and love of humanity, the feeling that I belong just because I am there.

It’s like I’ve got an American bucket list, things I’ve been longing to do before the person-I-used-to-be died, before kids grow up, before people I love die, before things change so much that I will no longer have a place to come “home” to.

I feel lighter now.  Like something was stuck, clogging me up, and now I’m free.  So, will I go back??  Absolutely.  It was me, Italy, not you.  Home is in me.

I will greet her openly, lovingly, tenderly.  I will put my feet on her ground and light it up.   I am home. I am home.  I am home.

 

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On Fear, Courage, and Living Out Loud

It’s Veteran’s Day and my son has been drawing pictures of soldiers and military vehicles all morning.  He says he wants to be an American soldier when he grows up.  He’s only five, but he’s been saying that for awhile now.  I am struck because he was born and raised in Italy with an Italian father and grandparents who don’t speak a word of English, but he identifies as an American.  He’s visited the US six times and one of those he can’t possibly remember.

Last summer, he found a little American flag that a neighbor had given us on the 4th of July.  He started taking it everywhere he went.  One day, as we drove through town, he rolled down the window and hung the flag out the window, waving it and singing “I love America!”.   16.5 Months 4th of July Celebration.jpg (12)I panicked.  We were driving through a small Northern Italian town.  Tiny cars and people all over the streets.  As I try to navigate the street and convince him to pull in the flag, I struggle to find the right words to explain why I was asking him to pull in the flag and why it would be okay in the US, but not in other countries.   He was being so open-hearted and true to himself.  Part of me was sad and ashamed that I felt like I had to tell him to pull in the flag and keep his pride to himself, but the other part of me knew it was necessary.  Yesterday, as we drove home on American roads, he asked out of the blue, “It would be okay to put the flag out the window now, right?”

What I realize now is that living in Italy, and my own limiting beliefs, have caused me to live “smaller” than I want for myself.  Over the years, I was careful not to draw attention to myself in public places or in community.  There were times when it was legitimately the safest choice, but living safely became a habit.  The fear of miscommunication, judgement, rejection and harm often prevented me  from connecting at a deeper level with people.   So, by living in avoidance of what I did not want, I got the opposite of what I DID want: isolation and disconnect.  Though, I say I don’t want to squash my son’s desire to “live out loud” (and he does loud pretty well), I know I am guilty of allowing my own fears to infiltrate my parenting.

We just finished watching the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade and I am reminded of what real courage is.   It’s moving straight through the fear.  It’s leaning in, being afraid, and doing it anyway because you have faith in your own incredible power, your purpose, and in the strength and humanity of others.  It’s doing it because you must.

When I return to Italy, I will see with the same eyes, but a different heart.  I still don’t think I’ll wave an American flag out of my window when I drive through town, but my fear of being seen is dwindling and my desire to connect is growing.  When someone says, “So you’re American? [Sei americana?]” That’s when I lean in.  “Yes, I am.”