The sign went up by the driveway on a cool Wednesday evening two weeks ago. By that Saturday, the paperwork had been signed and our house was under contract to be sold. We find ourselves suddenly, effectively homeless since we'd not anticipated such a quick sale. Two days? Not in our wildest dreams! We need to scramble to find an interim home for the next few months.
But the sale of the home isn't the real news. The real news is the reason behind the sale. We are, after a couple years of dreaming and plotting; years of reading every book about Italy that came down the pike; years of looking at photos and webcams and sighing...we are now seriously making plans for a move to Italy. We are planning to stay for at least a year. Hopefully longer.
We made this decision official by telling our parents and family members, as well as close friends. Most said, "hooray for you, be happy". Others questioned "why?", to which I promptly replied, "why not?". I realize it's a bit of a simplistic answer, but really...why not? Life is short! We want to live it and enjoy it while we're, well...living. (Makes sense, right?)
This answer doesn't seem to satisfy everyone, though. They want a more complex explanation. Some seem to think we just woke up one morning and said, "gee, let's move to Italy". It wasn't that spontaneous or easy. We have spent several years dreaming of this, and at first it was just that - a lovely dream. After a couple more trips of immersing ourselves into small Italian towns, we came home a bit restless, and noticed a growing dissatisfaction with the "rat race," consumeristic mentality of our culture, the lack of focus on what is important in life that seems to surround us. We started to long for the piazzas where people gathered; evening strolls where the entire town turns out to flood the streets in a nightly parade of interaction; leisurely meals prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. A sense of community. The beautiful rhythms of life being carried on from time immemorial, still a part of daily Italian culture. So many aspects of our own culture began to seem so gaudy, new, shallow, homogenized...fake.
Our vision may be a bit romanticized, and all of Italy is not like this, of course. Cities and industry are very present, and times are changing there, too. But we'd like to experience this historical and beautiful land while it still retains these cultural elements we so admire.
We love the stone houses. Buildings that are hundreds of years old being lived in and oozing charm. Heavy wooden shutters on the windows. Kitchens with fireplaces for roasting meats. Weekly markets that roll into town with fresh produce and other goods. People who know how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Amazing art and architecture at nearly every turn. An emphasis on beauty- natural and artistic. Millenia of history to explore and study. A musical-sounding language to learn. Real cappuccino, not the overly-milky, $3.50 a cup insipid, burned-tasting stuff passed off as "cappuccino" here. These are among the reasons we want to move.
Besides all this, no man knows the number of his days. Why is the propensity to put off the "living" part of "making a living" until it's too late and we're too old to enjoy it? "Life energy [the hours of precious life available to us] is all we have. It is precious because it is limited and irretrievable and because our choices about how we use it express the meaning and purpose of our time here on earth," writes Joe Dominguez in Your Money or Your Life. "These hours are all you've got. There is nothing in your life that is more valuable than your time, the moments you have left. You cannot put too much awareness and intention into the way you invest those moments"
So we've decided to take some these precious moments of our lives and invest them in this dream. There have been many occurrences, conversations, readings, and emotions that have served to confirm, strengthen and clarify this dream and the actions we'll need to take to make it come true. The sale of the house was a big step (and a big confirmation since it sold so effortlessly and for asking price.) Now the hurdles begin: dealing with the Italian consulate to obtain a visa along with all the accompanying documents we'll need before we can apply; locating housing and enrolling in language school for the first few months; determining where we'd like to settle for the longer-term. These are more sketchy and scary aspects of this process and we realize that it will be frustrating and challenging. "The way of the Dreamer is difficult-but anything less is hardly living at all!," says Bruce Wilkinson in The Dream Giver.
A recurring question, showing an area of concern for some who may not be entirely comfortable with our move, is "But what will you do there? If you can't work, what will you do with your time?" First, I'd like to say that I don't think a person's work is entirely determined by what he or she does to make money. Unpaid activity is often seen as worthless, "worth less than paid activity". Why is that? What we do to earn money isn't the sum of our identities or abilities. Our work will include learning a foreign language, not a casual endeavor, to be sure. We'll study the art and architecture and history. Make friends and renew old friendships. Observe cultural differences and place ourselves into the local rhythm of life. Shop in the local produce and fish markets. Write. Eat. Study. Stroll. Learn. Love. Live.
That is the sum of our dream. We now walk down the road to making it a reality. We are pursuing it now because we don't want to look back with regret, to wonder "what if" or "if only..." No, that's not for us.
Is it all going to be beautiful and fulfilling? I honestly don't know. But I can't wait to find out.
"Well one thing I've noticed wherever I wander
Everyone's got a dream he can follow or squander
You can do what you will with the days you are given
I'm trying to spend mine on the business of living
Seize the day - seize whatever you can
'Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
Seize the day - pray for grace from God's hand
Then nothing will stand in your way
Seize the day"
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider