Luggage and loss in Sicily

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Buddha and I take it all in stride during sunset in Siracusa, Sicily.

It’s noon on New Year’s Eve, and I’m washing the only pair of underwear I have in the marble bathroom sink of my hotel room in Sicily. Everything is made of marble here: the floor, the walls, the marbles. I suspect even the genial owner of this charming waterfront hotel might be partly marble, but you can’t just ask someone that.

The excess of marble (or in my interpretation, cold floors) is the reason why I packed the fancy soled slippers that Michael got me for Christmas, a real indulgence that I would not normally bring with me, as I’m a very practical packer. An exception was made in an attempt to treat myself on this eve of the new year – I’ve earned comfy feet, haven’t I? Of course, in the spirit of Murphy’s Law, my luggage never made it to Sicily with me, so here I am with frosty toes, scrubbing soggy underwear in the sink.

It’s a cruel irony, and perhaps an unintentional lesson in materialism, that I broke my own travel rules and packed items that I would rather not live without only to experience my first ever loss of luggage.

Gone are my faithful running shoes and new workout clothes (a gift from my mother), the never-been-worn leather Aquatalia shoes that were a Christmas present from my grandmother (which even she knew was too generous a gift), and the hip black jacket with lace sleeves which I had just lost enough weight to finally wear again. Perhaps the most upsetting loss is the pomade Michael uses to keep his hair coiffed to Italian perfection – how will he fit in with his people now? I haven’t reminded him that his coveted straight razor is in the abyss as well.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 2.12.47 PM.pngGame theory enters the situation – how long do we wait before buying new clothes? I am proudly self-employed as of two weeks ago, and as such I no longer have an income, meaning every penny must be pinched. I’m hesitant to drop money on fine Italian clothing (which is the only kind available here) only to have the luggage suddenly appear in our midst.

The very unhelpful website that is supposedly tracking our goods advises us to indefinitely “check back later,” though this message has yet to change, so  I’m currently cultivating a conspiracy that they are hoarding my underwear for nefarious purposes.

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Despite the inflexibility, and frankly the unsympathetic attitude of Vueling Airlines, who are responsible for our lost luggage, it’s hard to be too upset. Sicily is stunning: its people are abundantly friendly, each of their words spoken as if read from a poem, and the food, in both both quality and price, make one want to gesticulate wildly in affirmation. Not to mention the reason we are here is due to generosity alone, and we can’t let a few lost items of clothing spoil that.

8d39756a-15cc-4627-9b16-c4b80044dd33We are relaxing in this city of antiquity, surrounded by places deeply integral to the course of human history. Tonight we will dine in a restaurant from the 1400s, and later on ring in the new year with a musical celebration in the Piazza Duomo, which is bordered by a church of both Greek and Italian heritage. Over the next few days we will explore the town of Siracusa, namesake of my future husband, and possibly to me should I decide to go that route.

Until then I will be here, practicing detaching myself from material goods while trying to make underwear out of marble.

 

Onwards

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”

– Ray Bradbury, from Zen In The Art Of Writing

 

I quit my job so I can write full time.

I’ve had various reactions to this development in my life. My parents and family are understandably concerned, partly because they believe I came to this conclusion too quickly, and partly because the full time work I was doing was in all respects, very practical. I was doing well for a 40-year-old, and even better for a 26-year-old.

A number of friends, especially those my own age who are similarly working to find themselves, have told me that discussing the process I took to reach this decision has caused them to reevaluate their own career decisions, or at least how they choose to live their lives on a day to day basis, which can be good or bad, depending on what they choose to do about it. I’m not trying to make anyone do anything, but it has been validating to learn that my journey is in any way inspiring.

So how did I come to make this decision?

I’ve been writing and rewriting this paragraph, trying to go back to the beginning, only to realize that it’s bullshit. I’m trying to tell a story full of details meant to please, meant to alleviate the worry people have in me making this decision, and that’s not the truth. The truth is, I’m not concerned with concern. The only thing on my mind is living a life that honors my values, that speaks to the truth that sits inside of me, and doing so in alliance with my future husband.

The truth is, for too long I’ve acted in accordance with what I perceived others’ expectations to be, so detached from my own desires that this template was the only one I could follow. So the reason my decision may seem sudden is because it is. I’ve been on the precipice for years, entirely too frightened of failure and judgment to take a risk, scared of what might happen if I become vulnerable, as any creative pursuit demands. It’s only recently that I’ve felt enough clarity to see that the life I was leading was out of line with who I am.

The part that gets my friends thinking is this exact approach. All of us have a limited time on this planet, and it’s just not worth it to spend that life living it for anyone but ourselves.

Make no mistake, the route I’m taking is not a prescription. For some, the ultimate realization of the self is in creating and supporting a family. For some, consistently making enough money to guarantee that they will never again be without a meal is the ultimate in living. There’s a trope in the media that ditching a corporate job to pursue a creative path is the ultimate in living, but this simply isn’t true. It just happens to be the case for me at this point in my life.

You don’t need to know the particular values I live by to understand my decision to honor them, only that a life where said values are prioritized leads to fulfillment, even as those values shift over time.

If you know me, you know I love writing, or any kind of storytelling. I know I’m no Steinbeck, Bradbury, Garcia Marquez, or Stephenson (side note: why are all my favorite authors men?), but I am a Wunderman, and I need to find out what I can show for it.

I also love taking photos of animals, which no one knows. I want to explore this too.

I don’t know where this path will lead me. I could end up back at a desk, on the New York Times Bestseller List, or somewhere I would never conceive of right now. What I do know is that I’m done living my life in the shadows. I’m ready to take a risk.

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También la piscina

Note: I wrote this in June 2015 and never hit publish. It remains unfinished, but I feel the little that is written has importance, at least to me.

I’m not ready to leave. That’s pretty much the singular thought I have with one day left in Iceland. When I visited last year I felt a similar compulsion to stay, but attributed that feeling to typical post-vacation nostalgia. Yet that feeling lingered, giving me the impression that I’d left my heart on these black sandy shores. It’s no surprise that after months of closing my eyes to find Iceland in my imagination I returned here in less than a year’s time.

So here I am, faced with leaving once again. Part of me hoped that by staying for such a long time my Iceland-fix would be satiated, but like any addiction I only want more.IMG_0216

I’m finally ready to admit that my heart is in Iceland, whether it’s practical, convenient, smart or any other adjective that would describe being an accountant.

There are good reasons why I’m so drawn here, and why it’s painful for me to see images of the country when I’m not physically present on this volcanic island. They include the people, who have made me feel beyond welcomed despite my gruff American exterior. Of course a lot of the draw is the landscape, a literal representation of the toughness of Iceland’s inhabitants. I could go on and on.

The other reasons are less tangible. I can only really describe the way it feels when my plane’s wheels touch the ground in Keflavík. It’s a lifting of the spirit, an opening of the heart, and a sudden churning in my brain of creative inspiration. It’s not anything that I can forcefully replicate, nor do I believe I should try.

Despite all this, I am going home. I know I shouldn’t be, but it’s happening. The most I can hope for is to return someday, hopefully soon. After all, I can’t survive separated from my heart too long.