So I am writing this from a beautiful veranda in Italy. I decided three days ago that I was fed up with sitting around vegetating. With no work commitments this week, why not just pack a bag and go explore somewhere. Go and get lost in another country, culture and cuisine!
I have spoken about my parents and their influence on me many times. This trip is a prime example of those who have had a less than positive impact on me. I have over the years acquired too many people who drag me down and keep me down or simple do not instill any confidence in me to help me push myself. However, as an only child I have always been somewhat in charge of my own happiness and sadly my own misery. I have become a class a student at self managing and despite the lack of encouragement from those around me, their attitudes- at least from my parents- have an interesting effect. Admittedly the healthy approach is to encourage your kids and make them feel they can conquer the world and if they try and fail you will be there to pick them up and help them back on track. I did not have this- but in the absence of it- I did have rebellion as a motivator. I look at my parents – well my mother- and see everything I never want to be. I want to be non-judgemental, kind, supportive, a listener, a learner, someone who puts others first, and someone who isn’t afraid of adventure or to fail, who wants to step away from the norm someone who embraces the little things, the emotional things that ultimately matter. Someone who doesn’t settle, who tries to always see the best in people and understand them not condemn them based on my own beliefs. So I suppose, in an odd way. Their faults have become my strengths ( and as my therapist will contest also my weaknesses) but I am what I am and so- in the face of mockery and disbelief – I booked a flight to Tuscany and here I am.
Its been three days of adventure. Not crazy, swim with sharks, hike up mountains, sleep in flea ridden hostels adventures.. calculated rick is my thing after all. No its been simplicity- the warmth of a family run B&B the slight fear of not knowing the native language but travelling to a country where they speak yours and of course finding a place safe enough t get completely lost in your own world. To wander the streets with my camera and capture the smallest of details that passers by often miss- this is my favourite thing to do.
I never really enjoy shopping- browsing can be fun at markets etc but for me, going down the back alleys, searching for shots, looking for spots where the sun it hitting that fountain, flower or tree just right to illuminate it and make it sublime. That to me is where I can let go and immerse myself in enjoyment and the mirco world that most people walk straight past without appreciating. The exchanges between people, the incredible street art that most dub ‘vandalism’ or the tiniest of creatures that others tread on to get where they are going.
I must admit after three days of not really speaking much due to the language barrier- last night our wonderful B&B hosts created a cookery lesson for myself and an American family staying here. It was wonderful to learn a new skill, enjoy the company of new people and have a conversation! A lovely send off to this little trip and a reminder that above all else. I do love to learn new skills.
Now , with a slightly heavy heart, I must return back to normality.
I have learnt a few things about myself out here. Namely one quote I read before I came- keep your head up and your heart open. I think that is one I must remember on a daily basis. For I have recently encountered too many people who allow pain and hurt from the past to close them down. I understand entirely why. As a child learns that fire is hot and not to stick their hand in a flame a second time around! So when your heart breaks or your dreams are shattered, you learn not to risk that loss or pain again.
In some ways I wish I had this ability. I seem incapable of protecting myself or my heart. I always put everything on the line, give my entire heart away and then look on as it is crushed, torn or simply handed back by another. How simply wonderful it must be to not feel the need or inclination to do this. To hold on to your heart and never let anyone near it- then no one can break it.
However, as I thought upon this today a memory came to me of my dear friends funeral last year. Carys was taken too young and too soon and as the packed out church filled with distressed and sobbing mourners. The Humanist preacher asked us all a question. ‘ would we swap the pain we feel now for the joy and love we experienced by knowing Carys’. By this she meant that if we had never known nor loved her, we would not feel so sad to let her go- but would never knowing her be preferable to the pain we now feel after losing her? Clearly all of us agreed that the memories and the love made the pain that day more than justified.
An extreme example but I do think that this is worth bearing in mind with any love. It is always a risk, if it didn’t feel so good, we wouldn’t feel so bad when its gone. However, I would rather live a life where I have opened up my heart to those experiences, to look back and know that I gave myself every opportunity to love and to be loved and to feel that joy- even if it didn’t always end well. This is better than to build a wall around myself so I can never feel the pain of a broken heart. As those walls also mean I may never be able to experience the happiness that loving and being loved can bring.
So with that in mind. I leave Italy a with my chin up and my heart open and I hope that by continuing the way I always have, that when I eventually depart this world and join Carys wherever she is- that I end that journey with a slightly battered heart. As the scars will be signs of a life well lived and a heart well used as its not like its returnable at the end of the day! So I think we should all learn to wear it out .