Reality Bites

Yesterday, my entire world shifted as the ground fell from beneath my feet. Suddenly the reality of my decision to move overseas was all too real. Pride would not let me admit that I was petrified. Tears filled my eyes as I sudden saw my friends as irreplaceable. Even more shocking is what can only be described as a moment of insanity; I collapsed into a blubbering mess at the thought of leaving my biologically family behind.  In the moment they seemed for a lack of a better word “perfect”. The fact that for that brief moment I actually consider my overly dramatic family; who can be a source of annoyance to the point that I have questioned my belief in a  higher power, as the most perfect family in the world was trippy. This feeling of familial love was enough for me to realize that my life is changing for real.

Sure growing up I idolized Hemingway. I longed to sit al fresco at a cafe in some foreign country observing life will sipping wine. Naturally, this Brooklyn girl figured that if I could survive a ride on the NYC subway at night how dangerous can any country be? Now on the heel of my next big adventure a nocturnal subway ride seems like a cake walk compared to walking the streets of Europe. At least I know the language of Brooklyn a simple F-word followed by a “one figure salute” is the equivalent of saying, “I love you too buddy!”

How do you curse in Italian? I’m serious. What’s the equivalent of the F-word in Italian? Like most Americans I think everything sounds slightly sexy when said in a foreign language.

I know exactly one person in Italy and well he’s a pain in the ass. So, my current status at the moment is that once I reach Italy I will be homeless, lonely and scared but I am a New Yorker to the heart and that has to count for something.

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Florentine Summer

In a little more than a week I will be on vacation till September.  I am in fact looking forward to the time off.  My other blog Gastronomer.co needs more love.  My time spent in the kitchen cooking as well manning the grill will be fun.  Again and again my inner nerd manifests its self.  Cooking is my nerd pursuit.  

More to the point in a little over a week I can turn off every single one my alarms and reminders for a while and just take life moment to moment.  No schedules, agendas, meetings or clients it will be just me recipes, farmer markets, gardens and wineries.  Long flowing dress and sandals will be my daily uniform.  Jogs through the park along the river will be how I get my days started in the right way. No plans just living.

The idea for blogging was given to me by a colleague to whom I will be forever appreciative.   Through ‘In the footsteps of Hemingway’ and ‘Gastronomer.co’  my voice has been found and with my voice my true self.  These are outlets to be imaginative and an outlet to be honest in short to be my true self without fear, shame or doubt.  Once is something is out there you are out there and you cannot retreat backwards.  Twitter has long since been a no man’s land for me.  Oft I’ve said that I have nothing to say worth 140 characters.  While I still believe that to be true.  Cooking elegant food on a modest teacher’s budget is worth 140 characters.  Me, myself and I are not 140 characters worthy but food and wine is wholly worth speaking about.  I am even thinking of starting a Pineterest.

The rain has started. As you can see from the picture above the clouds have gathered and akin to the people of Italy here when the heavens open up to unleash its worse.  The tempest lasts for no more than for a moment when in an instant the sun is shining as if it were there the entire time.   The lone evidence of the passing tempest is your soggy clothes drying in haste under the Tuscan sun. But I digress. Back to the kitchen I go….

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1+1⇏2

The first math problem you are taught is that one plus one equals two. You spend the rest of your life learning that equation is wrong. The world in which we all live seldom makes sense. Logic and order are as foreign to normal as a tea party candidate is to the scientific fact that global warming is real. The thing about living outside of your home country is the realization that what you think you know means absolutely nothing. You must empty your mind of all rational thought and except what is tangible at each moment.

So many of my friends and colleagues struggle with living aboard. Italy most certainly is not for the faint of heart. Bureaucracy here is so convoluted that the patience of Buddha would be tested to the breaking point. Everything here is different people, food, relationships and everything else you can you expect. Moving to a different country means big change. When I decided to move I committed to the idea that change would happen. In fact I credit my ease of transition to one basic fact. When I decided to move and I settled on a country I arrived with zero expectations.

I assumed that I would have to relearn everything from point one to infinity. This doesn’t mean that I don’t seek out familiarity. I do. Each time I try to aim for a path of familiarity I end up being frustrated. Up is down while left is right. Last year I had no idea what to expect so I did everything by the seat of my pants. This year I have enough sense to have enough awareness to know that I don’t know enough. If I didn’t have this blog and Gastronomer.co then nothing would make sense. These are my safe havens a pocket of sanity where logic and order flourish. For whatever time it takes me to write I have a modicum of respite from the chaos of the world.

These moments of respite are necessary for a stable mind. Right now I am looking forward to vacation season. During this holiday I will practice my Italian and hope for the best. What little comfort I have comes from the knowledge that one plus one does not equal two.

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Thanks for the Memories

Some days I question the value of friends and what the word really means.  I have been blessed to have known truly wonderful people.  I have also had the fortune to meet some people for whom I wish we had never net.  Friendship is a thing that is developed over time. There are friendships that last a lifetime and there are those that are just for the moment.

Recently I have had to question whether or not a friendship is one for a lifetime or is just for the moment.  I say this fully aware that I am judging the unjudgeable the internal feelings of another person.  People can be weird. One errant comment and a friendship can be scarred for life. When it comes to people you do not know if they are a keeper but time and circumstance reveals their true value.

In this moment of self reflection I am all too aware that I have to change my perception of someone from a friend to mere acquaintance.  This change is one that makes me sad.  Good friends are hard to come by and great friends are the elusive of almost all things.  My circle of people I call friends is very small. Friend is not a word I throw around lightly.  But, it is a word that when I use it I would like to believe each time it is a term that I can use for life.

Unfortunately this will not be the case with this individual but such is life. You live, learn and try again. Hopefully when this life is over I will have built a circle of friendship that may be small but strong enough to weather the tempest of life.

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Battle Scars

To know me is to look at my music playlist.  It is one extreme or another.  It is love songs or metal, rock even death metal.  There is no middle ground.  My life is one extreme or another.  I wanted a change, so I left the land of my birth and moved 6000 miles across the pond. My life has never been more peaceful.  I have never had more fun living as I do now.  The longer I am away from the toxicity of whatever was holding me back in the US serves as a constant reminder that I don’t feel the same pressure here.  Working hard is my everyday, but that’s cool hard work is fine so long as the trade off is peace and quiet. This is not say that the people that I called friends and family were for bad for me. It is to say that sometimes you need to clear out the sounds of other people thoughts from your mind. In my past failure meant that everyone felt that it was their right to give me their opinion solicited or not. I fell into what is clinically called depression. Happiness was an emotion I faked in order to appear normal. A smile was a mask I wore to hide my tears. Laughter was a shield to protect me from those who would smother me with faux concern. Everyone likes a train wreck it helps them feel better about their own life. I became rather good at pretending to be normal (happy) in fact I considered acting for a brief moment. I figured since nothing about me was real why not be a fake person all the time.  It would have been a perfect excuse to never be a real person. The truth of my depression was something I never shared with anyone. This deception was not done out a sense of shame but not wanting to hear the countless opinions on how and what I should do to get over it. No one can tell you how or when to get over depression.  The healing process is long, slow and very individual. There is no explaining this concept to people no matter how well intended they may be.  My life in the US was killing me. If I didn’t leave I would have ended myself or let life beat me down till my body gave out. This sense of mortality was also a secret that I shared with no one not even my therapist. If anyone I know were to read this blog they would be floored at my confession. Yes, I was depressed and wanted life to be over.  Now I have a different perspective. I love life and wanted to live for as long as possible. Each day I am a little less afraid to live. I smile for no reason and every reason. To what do I owe this shift in perspective. That is not an easy answer. Therapy help me give a voice to my inner feelings. But really it was action and time.  I gave myself permission to save myself no matter what that would look like on the otherside. Learning to speak the truth even if made me look like an asshole was the most helpful.  One day in therapy I said how I really feel about my ex husband, which is I hate his guts. It is benign hate. I wish him to no harm I just want nothing to with man.  He earned my contempt which is sad but true. I love my family but they are drama all the time.  My mother recently remarried a man twenty years her junior.  I advised her to live in sin for a while before getting married. Actually I asked her if she was pregnant. given that her childbearing days are way past her I figured why not check given modern medical breakthroughs and my mother is crazy enough.  Since my sisters don’t seem like they’re ready to make the grand babies my mother wants.  The drama comes from my sisters complete meltdown over my mother’s boytoy. He signed a prenup so in my opinion what’s the big? My sister has made the whole thing about her. As we say in Italy, lo non so (I don’t know).  Granted my sister is getting the brunt of my mothers new found sense of sexual liberation. The conversation on sexy lingerie brought me tears of laughter.  This current state of comedy is not motivating me to move back to the US. Its only funny because I am here and not receiving daily calls on why am I not fixing this mess.  Case and point when my mom told me about her then pending nuptials. She asked if I would be attending the wedding, to which I said, “No, this is your third trip down the aisles…you know the drill”.  This was not the start of the conversation.  The conversation started with my sister sending me an urgent whatsapp asking me to call.  Her first words were, “You had a step daddy…tell me how did you handle it?” My response was “Dude I was like 11 years old you’re a grown ass woman…now stop making me laugh..where’s mommy…mommy are you pregnant?…shack up for a year or two first”. Add to this a bad economy and pressure from those around to get married or shack up. A general sense of lack purpose and you have a nice recipe for slipping into a depression.  Is this a complete picture of what cause my depression of course not that is a story for another day and time. I am in recovery. Recovery has been a surprise in that I had no idea I could smile from the sheer happiness of life. Not that life is perfect or that it should be perfect.  I smile because I simply can and for this I am grateful to my new home. I do not know what happens next but I am confident that I am eager to greet it with a smile on face. A real one this time.

A Real Smile

A Real Smile

 

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The Love You Save

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We all make decision in life that we think we can live with but as time progresses the burden of those decisions become more than you feel you can bear.  Life is not for the faint of heart nor does it play out like a Disney fairytale.  Today is one of the those days where I want easy but all I have is hard and more difficult.   Trying to strike a balance between Gastronomer.co, my full time job, this blog and my very limited social life is not working out as I had envisioned.  My judgement of myself is unforgiving at best. At worst I am incompetent.  In my mind I always think I can handle more or that I am not trying hard enough.  When I dare to share these thoughts my self assessment is often too harsh.  A kind word right now would do wonders but I seriously doubt that I would be receptive through the haze of my doubt, insecurities and fears.

The conundrum of wanting it all and actually having it all remains an elusive fantasy spun by people with more resources than I have available to me.  This is not a pity party. I am highly aware that I can make changes.  No one is forcing me to continue down the path that I am on save for me. But, is it so wrong to want encouragement or a guiding light to help reaffirm that I haven’t completely gone down the wrong path.  Much of what I say at this point is rhetorical as I am not so much seek honest answers as I am wanting to be heard. Often when I write it is my inner dialogue’s overflow.  The dialogue is a rhapsody of faustian deals I make with myself to keep going no matter how much I would like to give up.  The best comparison I can make is when I go on my long run I deliberately choose a trail that forces me to make my miles no matter if I have to crawl my way back home.

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World Hunger Day

I believe that we are all our brother keepers which is why I created Gastronomer.co as more that just a place for recipes we are committed to learning and contributing the art of Gastronomy by making positive impact when where we can. According to the figures released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization there are an estimated 870 million people out of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, suffering from chronic undernourishment.  Recent estimates from the World Bank states that 1,345 million poor people in developing countries live on $1.25 a day or less.

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For World Hunger day we are taking the challenge to create meals that do not exceed the budget of £1 a day for five days (£1=$1.68=1.23 euros; five days £5=$8.40=6,15 euros).  The reality that in every country families are facing with having to provide nutritious meals with severely limited economic resources.  Life is not about excess but instead about making the most out of what resources are available.  We ask everyone to join us in remembering that we are all apart of the global community and have a responsibility to make a positive impact on current and future generations.

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The Art of Knowing How to Bend

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“The flexible are preserved unbroken.”- Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

 

I first discovered Lao Tzu in grad school when I was discussing the Art of War by Sun Tzu in my business philosophy class.  The Art of War is a tome that I have read and reread on many occasions.  The ideas put forth by Sun Tzu strike an accord with the combative nature of my life.  By no means does my life resemble a battle field but in order to be successful one has to navigate decision after decision all with varying degrees of consequences.  To live well is to take risk because living is not the absence of pain or suffering but by going through these experiences you hopefully gaining strength and wisdom along the way.

 

This week has been my bend or break moment. I have been living in Italy for nearly two years.  Building up my life from scratch across the pond has not been easy. I am not even close to being settled. I work hard not because I have to but because I choose to.  One of the great lessons that I have learned is that choice is much different than lack of choice.  Most things that we do in life are a result of our free will.  We tell ourselves we ‘don’t have a choice’ thus denying our culpability in the how the situation turn out.  No one made me move to a new country and start over. Just like no one makes me get up everyday and work 8 to 10 hours a day.  No one made me start Gastronomer.co and no one is making me write this blog entry.

 

Still knowing when to ‘bend’ is a nuisanced skill that I am learning.  As a type “A” personality, my sense of being in control is at times directly connected to how well I organize things in my life.  Knowing that I do not exist inside a glass bubble I must depend on the world around me to play its part.  This is where the ‘break’ comes in.  The world is at best organized chaos.  The weather doesn’t cooperate sometimes raining when I need sun. The metro does not cooperate the train showing up 20 minutes late when I needed to somewhere 10 minutes ago. People never cooperate operating based on who knows what on any given day.  No amount of self determination can overcome these obstacles which is where the skill being able to ‘bend’ is priceless.

In the past my first reaction to any all challenge has always been run through, over or around it.  This tactical strategy comes at a cost most often to my sanity and well being.  This week my body start to show signs of too much work and not enough rest.  The choice I made was to bend to the reality of the situation was life affirming.  Allowing myself to be flexible in an inflexible situation gave me a more tranquil mind. To say that the art of learning to ‘bend’ is comfortable would be a lie.  In the first moments of my bending my inner warrior wanted to fight against everything including itself.  The spark that moved me towards the art of ‘bend’ was merely the self desire not to ‘break’ which is something I cannot afford to do when everything is still in a critical stage of development. So now I am teaching myself the gentle art of bending and yielding which is according to Lao Tzu the disciple of life because  tree that is unbending is easily broken.

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