This is an excerpt from the book Bouncing Back Stronger - Turning - Trials into Triumphs (coming early 2024).
The brocade drapes easily shift to one side. My eyes squint at the sun’s hello.
Always the multi-tasker I grab my coffee with one hand and drag the pink overstuffed chair and small marble side table with the other – settling them in front of the floor-to-ceiling window.
I take a sip of coffee before putting it down to plug my computer into the adapter. Everything in order, I fall into the chair, close my eyes, and breathe in the warm rays on my face.
There are not enough words to express how grateful I am to be here.
Over a decade ago, I was in an unhappy marriage, at a stressful job, and felt stunted creatively and spiritually.
Inspired by the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, I traveled to Italy with my oldest daughter alone (because my husband hated traveling).
We had a lovely time, but the experience and Frances Mayes’ story made me dream of a life where I was supported in my desire to travel and write - and had a loving and supportive partner beside me.
At the time, I thought it impossible.
Today I am in Italy with that partner, writing a monthly newsletter by a window overlooking the American Embassy.
Not every part of my life or this trip has been rosy (BTW turns out you can eat too much pasta) – but with practice, I mostly see the positive – and let that drive my thoughts rather than drown in daily annoyances, disappointments, and imperfections. And I no longer let one misfire take down days and weeks – and maybe more importantly – notice any positive changes and outcomes of my behavior so I can build on them.
How did this happen?
One dream, intention, and habit change at a time.
A week ago, we were on the train from Pompeii and met a man traveling with his wife, son, and two granddaughters. They spent the weekend before in Lake Cuomo and were heading to Sorrento for the last days of their trip. He went on these trips with his grandchildren each year. He lets them pick a country to go to and takes them.
I turned to my husband and said – I want to travel like that with our kids and hopefully their kids (and/or dogs – Italy is very dog friendly – especially Milan).
Then yesterday, on the train from Venice to Rome, realized to achieve that dream I need to invest even more in healthy habits so I can be around to achieve this goal. This means committing more to reducing sugar and gluten (I have a sensitivity to both), continued cardio, weights, core, and yoga. And of course, maintaining my daily meditation, Reiki, and writing practices to keep my mind, body, and spirit healthy.
But things happen…
The thing I worried the most about when I started contemplating the family traveling dream was the ability to walk during those future trips – we have walked an average of 10,000 steps each day while we’ve been here.
But then remembered all the folks we’d seen with canes and wheelchairs during our travels. My favorite was a woman we met on a water shuttle in Venice. She was in her eighties traveling with her daughter. They told us of their trip to Jerusalem and Egypt last year. Despite needing a cane to steady her steps, she courageously bopped her way off the shuttle and onto the mainland.
She and her daughter were an inspiration.
This reminds me that I also must continue to hold dear the relationships with our children, so they want to be with us. I need to nurture these adult relationships traversing the tricky balance between support and reliance/enablement.
And finally, I need to prioritize travel financially. This trip was due to our continuing to work – and not buying a second car. Similar orderings will be needed in the future to make future traveling dreams a reality.
Bottom line - Dreams are helpful – but not enough. We need to identify the steps and sacrifices to achieve them too.
What do you want to do with your wild and precious life?
The dreams we have and the intentions we make are important – because we become what we focus on.
One of Mary Oliver’s most famous poems is The Summer Day. The poem ends with, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
It was published when she was 55– she was just hitting her stride.
We don’t have all the time in the world to pursue our dreams – and will regret it if we don’t, as evidenced by the top five regrets people have on their deathbeds:
- “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
- “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
- “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.”
- “I wish I stayed in touch with my friends.”
- “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
What do you want? What is your true calling? What would you do if you took the word failure out of your vocabulary? Stopped worrying about it. Removed all the blocks.
Or focused more on being your true self - as Thomas Merton wrote:
“Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.”
Create your life
If you want to explore this vital topic more, sign up for our ever-popular Create Your Life workshop on October 1st at 9 AM ET (or listen to the recording afterward). We will explore what committing to our best life means and look at the daily steps to achieve it. All while surrounding ourselves with others on the path for inspiration. Frances Mayes’ story inspired me.
Who inspires you? (If you have a moment, reply to this email and let me know.)
Love and light to you.
P.S. – If writing your story is your dream, consider joining us for the virtual Soak Up the Sun Writing Retreat October 26-29 (all sessions will be recorded). Five slots left - registration closes October 1st. Sign up here.