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June 27, 2011 / allyo


A couple of decades ago I spent the summer in Urbino, Italy. I studied Italian, drank a lot of wine, made a lifelong friend (Jamie came back from our most recent visit calling her boys his cousins), and had a fabulous affair with a really cute Italian guy. I also learned about a different pace of life, a reordering of priorities, and that eating in the car? Not human (true quote!).

There’s a lot about small town Italy that I don’t agree with. Living with your parents until marriage, studying at the local university because it’s close by, even if it doesn’t offer the course of study you want, and women? Oi, they were several decades late on equal rights.

What I thought I had taken home with me was the idea that life is family, not work. Life is enjoyment, funded by work. While you should always enjoy your work, it should never come first. Family, good food, good wine, afternoon siestas, those are the priorities.

So I came home way back in 1993 and I kept these ideals close to my heart for a very long time. But then I landed my “dream” job. My natural ambition took over. My sense of self became intertwined with the job and my importance to a limited number of political players became everything. I lost sight of the important things in life until my priorities were once again reordered for me. Losing my job was an opportunity that I’ve tried to make the most of and letting go of the house is a manifestation of that.

I don’t want to be driven by yard work, by home repairs, by the need to keep up with the neighbors. Making our home “perfect” consumed me for years and we have nothing to show for it.

I don’t want to work full time in order to finance a lifestyle that causes more stress than happiness. MD’s health means that I am solely responsible for yard work and – more and more – cleaning and I don’t want those things to be my top priority.

This weekend we spent a good part of Saturday at Indian Lake. We came home late that evening smelling like lake water and campfire. So far this summer Jamie has ridden his first adult roller coaster, his first water rides, he’s spent every possible minute at the pool (not many of those yet, unfortunately), and this week he’ll get his first plane ride and his first ocean (Gulf of Mexico, technically). And I’m actually doing many of these things with him. This is the life I want him to have, not one with two stressed out parents who don’t have enough time in the day to get anything done.

I’ve felt guilty about the number of hours I’m working this summer and I’m trying to let that go. Letting go of the house, of the mortgage, of the maintenance and repair obligations is helping. We looked at a place yesterday that is not in our target neighborhood but is at least on the right side of the freeway. It’s small, it’s outdated but the price reflects this and we could make it work.

Letting go of expectations is like peeling an onion. Each time you think, ok, this is where it ends you realize no, there’s more that you can get rid of. And every layer lost can make you feel lighter or more bereft. It’s up to you to choose.



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  1. Laura Scholz / Jun 27 2011 11:00 am

    So brilliantly written, my dear friend. Tim and I were just having this conversation this morning, after yet ANOTHER something needs to be done to the house, and we wonder if we’ll ever have money to buy a sofa. But it’s those little moments in life–the true living–that are important. Everything else is just noise.

    Glad you’re finding some peace through all of this. Letting go of perfection and keeping up with the Jones’ has been a big, big life lesson for me these past few years.

  2. dawn / Jun 27 2011 11:36 am

    I so admire the way you’ve risen to this crisis and are coming through it more and more the person you want to be. Not everyone would be able to do this and watching you go through it is inspiring. Thank you!!!

  3. Mystik Momma / Jun 27 2011 11:38 am

    Let’s see, since I met you, ahhem… way back in 1993 on that hill in Italy…I have seen remarkable growth and ownership of who you are. Guess you could say the same about me. In the end of the ride this far, it is nice to see you have returned to that special place we met. Urbino seemed to represent priorities to you on how to live. So happy to read you are getting those priorities back to a place of inspiration, family and love. And when I say family, it extends beyond the blood lines, but really reflects the spirit family we tend to gravitate towards through experiences. I thought about you today and your Italian roots, for some odd reason, and pictures you traipsing through Assisi of all places.. hills and vistas galore. Maybe that came to me as you were writing this piece, I don’t know. But we are family and connected at our roots, our Italian roots.

    Life is a journey, which we know through painful and exhilarating experiences. However in those quiet spaces, the ones where we level off and do the day to day, we define what sort of life we desire. I know for me, I desire La Bella Vita, un boun vino, abbufati, famiglia, eccetera. Life is just better when it it lived in the now, instead of putting it off until you have time away from work. Work is just that work… living is just that living… we all need to define how we live and live it and the resources will come to support it, if living is in harmony with life! HA, now I need to take that quote and do it! Hugs to you and so blessed to have seen you that dark night…to see the real you emerge and your spirit soar!

  4. Thorn / Jun 27 2011 3:46 pm

    So glad you’re finding parts of the life you want and figuring out where to go from there! I too really appreciate reading what you have to say here.

  5. Kelly Smith / Jun 27 2011 4:11 pm

    An amazing post. My core struggle is deciphering between what I really want, love and value; and what I *think* I am supposed to really want, love and value. Your post reminds me that this struggle is not unique to me. Perhaps it is common, universal even. Ripping the layers back can and is painful. But you are right that it is also liberating.

  6. Jody / Jun 27 2011 8:08 pm

    “Letting go of expectations is like peeling an onion. Each time you think, ok, this is where it ends you realize no, there’s more that you can get rid of. And every layer lost can make you feel lighter or more bereft. It’s up to you to choose.”

    I need to remember this.

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