“Eat, Pray, and Love!” Countless people exclaimed this when they found out I was essentially quitting my known life to follow a dream to travel Italy for some months. “You are just like that movie!”
I rolled my eyes in good humor, knowing that life in reality is neither like a box of chocolates nor like a certain movie. Yet today as I sit and reflect on what I am thankful for, I realize that these three subjects have indeed become a huge part of my journey.
Several times I have spoken about the food during these months. Taking the extra time to shop daily for your meals. The hefty food restrictions that allow people to choose fresh food with confidence and know exactly where it comes from. Using less ingredients and keeping them whole and simple. Letting yourself taste the food as it should be instead of what a group of scientists in a lab deducted would be the most addictive taste to keep you spending money.
The freedom to trust the food you eat and to take a little extra time to prepare it well. And then, as I learned throughout the country in close to one hundred meals: enjoy the company you are with. Abundant and thoughtfully prepared family meals each Sunday afternoon. Talk. Listen. And slow down. Slow down in your preparation. And then take you time to drink the wine and chew your bites. Get to know the person you are with. Dance while you cook. Sing while you do the dishes.
As I was told in preparation for a meal this past month, “Don’t worry, take your time, we are in Sicily.” These are the common sense and daily incredible habits of the people I have met and the country they are in.
Faith is a big part of what makes up my life and thoughts. I believe in Happenstances, but I know that what is chance to me is actually directed by someone higher. I have had the fortunate happenstance of being led into encounter after encounter that has enriched my life. I will never forget a thousand different moments.
When I first wrote about the decision to quit my job and go to Italy without a plan I stated that moving from daydreams to reality makes you own it. You own the story instead of just dreaming about it and it becomes part of your history and memories. Part of your life. Maybe at times it will look a bit messy and perhaps different then originally thought, but it is beautiful in its reality.
Today on this day of Thanksgiving in America, I reflect on all of the moments and people that I am now thankful for here in Italy and across the globe. Thankful for the opportunity to experience it, knowing that I will never regret it. Thankful for the prayers that carried me on this journey and the ability to rest in the certainty that my path of Happenstances has a bigger guide than me. The peace not to stress over the next step. And this brings me to the final topic.
Ah love, a theme that has been poignant in my life especially over the last year. Learning about it and how to do it better. Its significance in my life, in my relationships with others, and who I want to be. As a girl when I dreamed of coming to this country, I would search for my family and they would love and welcome me with open arms.
Here near the end of this part of my journey, I can honestly say that this country has taught me the meaning of true family. In Pescara when I first arrived, a family took me in and made sure I was situated with practical advice for my trip. They took joy in showing me their life and giving me hospitality like I had never known before. In Naples another family gave me a home and welcomed me into their lives spontaneously. In Arezzo a family invited me to a workshop that would change my perspective forever.
And in that workshop I found my own Italian family. And they welcomed me with love and open arms. I found self proclaimed sisters, an Italian mother, and a father. I learned what it is to have true joy around a dinner table, singing in one moment and sharing deeply from the heart in the next. Then in Maida a couple of weeks later this same family included me in their daily lives. They exhibited the practical love of accepting people where they are, telling your children stories when they cry, and making sure they are protected, warm, and cared for.
Family is not always about blood. It is about standing by one another and learning life together. About accepting one another where we are. About talking over meals and taking time to find joy in simple things. These are things that run deeper than blood.
This journey to find roots and family has brought me to a new understanding. I have a huge family. My family of friends in NYC that love me unconditionally and teach me each day that I am around them. My siblings. We have a bond that ties us, love and the desire to learn. To rise above trials and support each other. And now, people across the country and around the globe that will forever hold a spot in my heart in this huge and inclusive family tree that has its roots buried deeply in joyful meals, connected faith, and most importantly love.