By LoriAnne Mullins
First off, I always wanted to go to Italy but didn’t expect to get there the way I did. I imagined going there as a tourist with my mother. Someday we may. As it turned out though, the opportunity to attend the opera, language and culture program was exactly what I needed to teach me four valuable lessons.
Lesson #1 – Don’t Worry.
“Don’t worry, LoriAnne,” is a phrase I heard several times by locals including our italian language coach, Carlotta. I think it’s because I ask a lot of questions and tend to ask well ahead of schedule so that I can be prepared. I am someone who loves learning and I don’t mind the unexpected (sometimes) but I just may cry if I get a bad grade. Yep. I’m THAT person. The thing is though, any time you are in a different country, unexpected things happen and worrying doesn’t really help. Stressing about the learning curve doesn’t either. Going with the flow does. Shifting from the “results” mindset to “progress” mindset does.
Lesson #2 – Enjoy life.
Enjoying life is what Italians do best. They do it with flair, style and art. They literally can take an ordinary thing like a tomato and make it extraordinary by flashing a warm “buongiorno”, and presenting that tomato as if it were the sweetness of life itself. Between sharing food, drink and conversation, Italians teach the world the beauty of “dolce vita” because they create what they want, share it and enjoy it. The process itself is a work of art. I’ve seen it in the way the shop girl will package a purchase for you. I’ve seen it in how the produce market owner talks about his fresh ‘frutta e verdura’. I’ve seen it in the way people of all ages present themselves in their clothing or style their hair. To many, their ways may seem frivolous. To me, I saw a degree of respect for their own lives that was refreshing. Just walking through a side street one notices the artful lives lived. Go to any government building or church, town square, or even the outskirts and there is an expression of an artful life. Being able to slow down and enjoy an artful and intentional life is a wonderful gift Italy gave me.
Lesson #3 – Embrace.
The italians know how to embrace people. Even people not from their own culture. They hug you and kiss you (both sides) and that is their greeting. How this translated for me was two-fold. First, it is wonderful to embrace people, embrace other cultures, embrace the present, and embrace the community you are in. We do a good job at staring at our phones and tricking ourselves into believing we are connected on social media but truly embracing people isn’t exactly achieved online. Second, I honestly felt saddened in this one regard upon my return because I could feel the disconnect around me (even in our communities of faith) and how much we’re desperately missing this enriching aspect of our lives by our lifestyles. To simplify, the lesson I learned was how lovely life is when you connect with your community.
Lesson #4 – Live the music.
Music in itself is glorious. Learning more about my voice and being able to focus on it was a gift. Singing in a castle, taking masterclasses and becoming excited about the musical texts was well worth my time and focus. At one point in a master coaching, I was able to access a part of my voice I had never accessed before. If I were a scientist it may be like making a new discovery while working on a theory. If I were an accountant it may mean the feeling you get when everything zeroes out. For me, it was like riding the air unafraid, and above the noise. You could say I was able to feel, breathe, experience, sing, love and literally “live” the music while in Italy. I am grateful.
Thank you, Italy. I salute you! You taught me to not worry, to focus on my progress, to enjoy life and on the things that bring me joy. You taught me to embrace situations, people, community, music, and my own unique voice. You gave me permission. Permission to be myself. My 100% female self. After all, I may live in Lake Tapps, but I’m not a typical NW lover of all things outdoors. While I do enjoy riding my bicycle, I just may prefer to do so on afternoon “luce de sole” in a dress and heels.
Reader Challenge: What is one way this weekend you can celebrate your own progress? Where can you make new discoveries in music, art, connection or in what brings you joy?