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.