I didn’t know I was miserable until the first morning I woke up in Perugia and looked out the window at the valley below me, one of the most outstanding views in the world, and felt… nothing. I drank my coffee. I stared at the morning sun rising over the mountains behind Assisi. And I felt… still nothing. I had a chocolate croissant, twisting and turning it over in my hands and in my mouth. It was tasty but still I felt… nothing.
Soon I was in tears so I guess that was an improvement over feeling nothing, but it was devastating to think that Italy, which until this summer had been my safe haven, apparently had nothing to offer me.
And I very quickly decided that state of affairs would just not do.
I spent every morning for three weeks in front of that view. I made coffee carefully each day upon waking, and drank it in small sips as my eyes drank in the beauty of that view; the layers of history were covered with layers of greens and gold and umber and browns, and I contemplated the stories that could be told about the generations of lives and loves and death in just this small section of Italy I could see from my window. I ate my chocolate croissants slowly, paying particular attention to the flakiness of the pastry and the smoothness of the chocolate as it melted on my tongue.
And I wrote. By hand. Sometimes a page, sometimes five or six pages. I wrote and I drank coffee and imagined people’s laughter and tears, and I wrote more. I let the flavors and the sights and the smells and the sounds that drifted from the valley—sheep calling to each other and dogs barking and sparrows diving for insects and an occasional baby laughing—seep into me. And I wrote more. Poetry and thoughts and dreams and lots of sentences that began with the words ‘I’m unhappy and I’m staring at the most beautiful view in the world….’
One morning I woke up and made coffee and opened the window and sat down and picked up my pen and realized… suddenly… I was no longer unhappy. Instead I felt a quiet joy and a growing sense of connection to the world that I, until that moment, hadn’t realized I hadn’t felt in years.
The first sentence I wrote that morning was this: I am full of joy and I love this view, and I cannot imagine a more perfect moment.
It’s two months later and I wake up every morning now here at home and I make coffee and sit at the window of the view that is not quite so stupendous but still lovely, and I write. And my first sentence every morning is still: I am full of joy, and I love this view, and I cannot imagine a more perfect moment.
What ‘caused’ this shift? What changed?
The easy answer is that Italy worked some kind of magic, and that is in some part true. But Italy is, in the end, just a place. It is full of wonder and beauty and passion and years and layers and, yes, magic. But it is backdrop, and echo chamber, for all that we are and can be, rather than some kind of panacea.
The more accurate answer for what changed is that it was the process of waiting, of writing, of watching and listening and of being that changed me. And Italy provided the space and the beauty and the moments in which to let the magic happen.
Come with me. Let Italy be the space in which you find your bliss.
Our next adventure happens May, 2017!