THE BLOG
10/25/2013 08:38 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What Am I Doing Here, Anyhow? A 67-Year-Old Woman's Year in Italy

After almost 3 weeks in Florence (Firenze), Italy, on my year of exploration, I am wondering - How did I get here and what in the world am I doing??? Unfortunately, I, who like answers, have none.....

Here's my memory of the events that have lead me here -

1. My 3 wonderful adult sons are now all married and holding good jobs and living their own lives, just as I had wished and hoped.

2. None of my 3 wonderful adult sons live near me, unfortunately, so we no longer share the daily events, triumphs and intimacies that we once did.

3. Two of my wonderful adult sons got married recently - within 4 months of each other - and life for all of us changed quickly and drastically, with a minimum of drama and a multitude of emotion, with the expansion of our family to now include three wonderful, beautiful and accomplished daughters-in-law, each of whom loves and is loved by her husband.

4. My youngest son, Alex, home to visit his mother (and his friends, possibly) for a few days before his January wedding, and I were talking about how his living and working in London for a couple of years was so good for him, and for all of us who were able to share it with him. The experience, of course, was mind-expanding, challenging and ultimately fabulous for him and his (then) fiance. He then said to me some pretty incredible words:

"You can do that, Mom!"
"What are you talking about?", said I, in utter ignorance.......
"You can do anything you want, Mom.", he said, generously (I like to think he heard me telling him that over the years!).
"Why don't you take a year off and live somewhere else?"

Thus, my journey began....

This gift, the permission to explore the possibilities, continues to amaze me, and the generosity and understanding of all of my 'children' has allowed me to make it happen. In effect, this 'year off', this sabbatical from my 'normal' work and life, is, I believe, some form of 'reward' i am lucky enough to have; I have been, basically, taking care of someone, and often many 'someones', since my early teens, when my mother died, and, suddenly, I have only myself to care for on a daily basis.

I was born in the 40's, and was, in so many ways, shaped by my upbringing (in Portland, Maine) during the very innocent times of the 50's. As the oldest daughter and child, I was a real 'good girl', studying hard and getting rewarded for obeying the 'rules' (of which there were many which seem so foolish and unnecessary now - everything and everyone was clearly either 'good' or 'bad') and staying on the hypothetical 'straight and narrow". I graduated from college with an engagement ring on my finger, got married, held down jobs, and viewed the upheaval of the 60's on tv, instead of in person, because i was busy changing diapers and paying bills.

Now, in my 60's, widowed for over 20 years, with a great Family Law practice (non-litigation, thankfully!), many friends, a good life, and good health, I find myself very alone, and that realization took my breath away, since i honestly never considered the possibility that my sons would be grown and gone and that I would be partner-less. I care about many people, but realize that I can most likely depend only on me - that, for me, was a sobering thought.

So, after Alex had given me the gift of new possibilities, I decided to seize the moment and give myself the adventure I had never had. Somehow, Italy seemed like the right place for me, and, since nothing I am doing is completely rational, I have no idea why it is such a good fit. I was able to organize my life, at least minimally, to allow me to take a year off, and now I am in Florence, recovering from the frenzy of the preparation. In essence, I have changed everything in my life - the physical part (where I live, who pays my bills, what time I eat dinner) as well as the more ethereal stuff (how I see myself, what I am comfortable with, what makes me happy). And, of course, for me, the best part is that I am at the beginning......I don't know yet what lies ahead. I have a lovely apartment in Florence for 4 months, and plan to explore the city and people, the culture and history, the food and countryside; then I plan to go somewhere else, and the 'somewhere' is, as yet, an unknown. So, for someone who always planned well and found comfort in the organized and the predictable (learning, of course, that life often has other plans!), I am now trying to let myself be content with 'I just don't know yet.'!!! That in itself is a challenge!

So, my first 3 weeks in Florence have been interesting (look where i am, in the company of such great genius and such great art!), challenging (I still get lost easily, still cannot make my Italian machines work right, and I have noisy student neighbors who are on a different schedule than I am!), and rewarding (I do have victories every day, and have learned to appreciate them - for example, I can now hang the laundry out my kitchen window without fear of the towels (or me) falling to the alley below and have learned to drink my cappuchino at the bar with the rest of the Italians!).

I have noticed a number of truths -

I get very irritated when anyone compares my adventure to any previous book or movie - I don't know why I am so bothered by this, but assume it is because I want my 'story' to be mine alone, without comparison to anyone else's.

In spite of the pasta, pizza, gelato, bread and otherwise (all delicious), I do not see any heavy Italians (only heavy American tourists, I fear) - it must be the millions of miles 'we' walk each day, as well as the (usually) small portions of food that the Italians prefer.
No one thinks I am Italian, even for an instant. In spite of my Italian classes in Boston and my two week intensive Italian class (with college kids), my ability to fool anyone into thinking I am a native is absolutely minimal. Will I get to be a non-tourist sometime? I hope so.

I have met some lovely people, and most of them are non-Italian or ex-pats. I would still like to befriend some 'real' Italians to get a true understanding.

I joined a gym near my apartment, mostly because of the two young and gorgeous trainers I spoke to - and on Tuesday I have my first individual session with Fabio (how can that be bad?).

So - I will be sharing my adventures, and hope you will come along for the journey. Thank you for your understanding.

To be continued....ciao, ciao.....e grazie a tutti.....

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