I just got back from my morning walk, high off the pleasure of witnessing the break of dawn on a clear October day. I stopped at one point near the apex, struck by the surreality of rows of yellowing grape leaves merging into a new blue sky painted with peach puffs of cotton candy. And again, I am overwhelmed with the power of this practice. I wonder how I ever lived without this walk. I can tell you life is better when I make the effort, when I move toward beauty.
I’ve been quiet these past nine months, but it makes sense now; I’ve been creating and incubating, cocooning. Now it’s time to emerge.
Life is better when I make the effort.
Nine months ago, I was so concerned about whether or not I would want to return to my expat life, but when I did, it just felt like Life. Sweet. Mundane. Beautiful. Routine. I returned at the end of January and jumped right back into my small town, work-from-home mom routines: shuttling my son back and forth to preschool, creating order, stealing time for clients, walking the dog, feeding the cat, the daily habits of being part of a couple again, monthly in-law encounters, my Italian class and, ahhhhhhh, my morning walk.
It was almost as if that other life in Washington with family and childhood friends, familiar hangouts and events, the hustle and bustle of American suburban life, it was like it had all happened in another dimension. It really felt okay to be back. It felt natural and right. But then, I returned to Italy a different person than when I’d left it. It was a great effort for every member of my little family.
Life is better when we make the effort.
Unintentionally, I’d been checking things off my American Bucket List. All the things I’d been missing (or thought I was missing out on), I was able to reality check. I could no longer wonder what it would be like to live closer to my family and friends, to work in American schools again, to watch my son hit milestones within the cultural context of my hometown.
I realized that we could be both American and Italian. I could love Mount Rainier, the Puget Sound and the rolling vineyards of the Veneto and Alto Adige’s rugged, looming mountains and apple-filled valleys. My loyalties and nationalistic tendencies softened and the inner conflict I’ve so often felt throughout the past thirteen years dissipated. I feel less torn and more whole.
I’ve been quiet through this transformation because it was just happening, little by little. It still is. When you slide into the bath water you don’t usually describe how the water feels touching your skin, not unless it’s something dramatic. These last several months I’ve been observing my life less and living my life more, taking ownership of “this one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver…again).
Sometimes transformation is loud and sudden and unwanted, like when you are hit with an illness or lose your job, or experience heart break. But, sometimes you can decide to make the effort to change. In this case, transformation is not as flashy. She’s not as fancy or dramatic. She comes into the room silently, moving slowly, she moves forward and then takes a step back. Sometimes she goes the long way around the room, wandering through the shadowed corners, but in the end, she pushes out into the sunlight. She slides into the sea with a smile and jumps out with a splash, telling you all about it.
Life is always better when I make the effort.
I remember that other person; the cynical one, the betrayed and resentful one. I see her sometimes, in the distance, and I try to catch her eye. I want her to look up.
I want to tell her all about it.