Italy and me

It’s the beginning of October, which means we have been in Italy for three months. In this time we have had a wonderful holiday in Rome, moved to a small house in the foot hills of Florence, the boys have been home schooled in English, they then started Italian school, we have walked at least 80 km and counting, and we’ve even gone on a couple of day trips in the country. I think it is fair to say we have jammed quite a bit into the past couple of months and I thought I needed to give an honest account on how life is right now….something for me to look back on.

Whenever we decide to move countries, and we’ve done it a few times (Australia-Chicago-Italy-Chicago-West Virginia-Chicago-Sydney-Italy) I get all excited about the fabulous idea of the move and the excitement about eating new foods, walking new streets and meeting new people. Yet every time I move, once I’ve actually done the hideous flight, I feel the weight of reality on my shoulders and think ‘Shit, what have I done….again!??’

The reality hit was masked this time because it’s the first time we have taken a family holiday before moving into our new life and I really like this approach. We eat more gelato, drink more wine and relax on holidays so what’s there not to love? However, once we strip away the fun times and get down to the reality of everyday living, this is when you start to wonder why the hell you made this decision in the first place and secondly why the hell didn’t you study more Italian before you arrived!!

As daily life progresses, Nic goes to work, kids go to school (Italian) and I go……nowhere, that’s when I start to think about what am I doing, where am I going? The house work is done, I’ve walked a few km to do the shopping and yet I still have half a day to fill. Back at home, in the comfort of my own language and environment I had it all sorted out: this was going to be my year to do something new, find a new interest, maybe even change careers and do as many foodie things as I can….live the dream!

Three months into my ‘dream’ I have had more anxiety attacks that you can poke a stick at and I have asked myself more questions about me than anyone really needs or wants too! You see my WORKING life back home was full on: it was chaotic, busy, not enough hours in the day to do everything and yet what I now realise is that I have nothing in my day except what I do for my family to keep us ticking along. Don’t get me wrong this is important but what is more important for a healthy mind is not losing who you are and what you do in the world and I kind of feel that is what I have done.

Daily I have a freak out about not being good at Italian and feel everyone is judging my progress. I’ve taken classes, I have apps on my phone to teach me and the daily emersion with school and shops etc but I am pathetic at keeping it in my brain, it goes in and then straight out again. I’m starting to think I am not built for this, by the time the year is up I’ll be one step up from basic beginners!

The question is, what am I going to do about my anxiety? I can’t go through life letting it control me, especially not this year.

I’m actually sick of feeling hopeless and useless so I have decided to find some volunteer work around the city, surely some organisation can put my skills to good use?? Another choice I have made is to stop drinking coffee (not happy Jan!) until I feel more like myself again (insomnia is a bitch!). Coffee is a stimulant and I have noticed when I drink coffee it increases the chances of a freak out. Much to Nic’s disgust I haven’t had coffee for 5 days and I also haven’t had any major anxiety like I did the previous weeks. I’m not saying this is the cure but it sure makes me feel better and I don’t feel like my nerves are on high alert……a week ago was a dark place and not somewhere I intend to stay.

This week I feel good, I have finally talked about how I have been feeling with Nic and some friends instead of keeping it all within and trying to be strong (this doesn’t work….you just feel like you’re going mad!) and it has made a difference to me. There is nothing wrong with me, I just need a purpose for being here, something for me to offer or give back to the community and when I find it, living in Italy is going to become the reality I want it to be for me. Who knew working myself into a stupor all these years was the only thing keeping me together? I just thought I had bad management skills!

23 thoughts on “Italy and me

  1. Oh Camilla, I’m sorry you’re going through a hard period now. I’ve been there – for 4 or 5 years I experienced something similar – I wrote about it in a blog called ‘mature age renaissance – one of the first posts I wrote. I felt very lost for a long, long time. It’s awful, and it can feel like your identity has been taken away.

    Ok, so maybe languages are not your strong point but you have other more important strengths and talents – try focusing on those. Are there any ex-pat groups you could join?

    Well, if nothing else your blogs are really good & interesting, and you’re keeping it real by covering the good and the bad. Take care & take your time to heal, G xxx

    • Thanks Gilly, I think if I’m going to write the blog it needs to cover the real year, with highs and lows. I have some great friends here but it’s more about reaching out to those instead of reaching in. I met with all my friends this week old and new friends, hence the turn around I think. I am good, just got a bit lost🙂

  2. I tip my hat to you, taking on this adventure and being so honest about it all. I can only imagine the anxiety of the changing of schools, cities and language. You appear to be enjoying it, and trust me, I am certainly not the only one who gets excited to see a new post from you. Your honest and up front look of one of my favorite cities is fantastic. Not to mentions the food! You have this invisible audience cheering you on!

  3. Hang on! I will be there soon! We will have a blast running around Florence drinking wine and living “la dolce vita”. It is OK to just be, slow down and not feel you need to accomplish so much in a day. It is so healthy to allow yourself to slow down and be at peace with yourself. It is a very hard transition from running your own business working 50+ hours a week to living in a foreign country with a new language and not being task oriented. Talk about life upside down! Embrace the change of pace, wander around areas of Florence you have not been to and get lost in its beauty!
    Love ya,
    Kathleen

  4. Oh gosh, yes, it’s true. The simple things are suddenly hard (especially in a foreign language) and undo you sometimes, and you do need to create a purpose for yourself. But you seem to be very experienced at this and just needed to remember – it seems now you have you are all on track again. Probably a good thing you wrote it down for next time! Must bookmark this post.

  5. I only know you via your blog, and I just really want to give you big hug now! I get inspired by your recipes and excited by the new experiences, and now you’ve touched the one subject I’ve been thinking of in case we’d move somewhere due to my husbands job; I’d need a purpose too. But volunteering sound like a good idea! I found that it was a good way of getting a connection in countries where I did not have a proper common language (countryside Greece and a village in Ghana). When you do something together, you learn to communicate anyway (so now I know what ‘plaster’ is in Tui😉 ). Let us know how it goes! And if you need a break you can always take a plane to the north and have a local show you around🙂

  6. Hang in there, like you said there will always be highs and lows! Is there something you could do at the boys’ school on a volunteer basis? I know the schools here always need help shelving books and running copies and such, and I would think you could manage those with limited Italian (and probably pick up some words doing it!). Or maybe find an English-speaking church and see if they could hook you up with some volunteer opportunities?

    • Thanks Amy, there is something therapeutic about writing it all down that helps and I feel positive about it all, as for the school I would live to help but I think I need more Italian!!?

  7. This is a VERY mature and thoughtful look at what is happening to you. And you already have ideas (remember when arwen was in Beijing an d not working she took up some study.) i understand so well re languages. i’m not good at them either.

    • Hi Pam, thank you. I don’t think I need anymore time alone so social work would be perfect I think. It’s a pity I can’t just cook my way through the language….I have plenty of food words lol, sorry I missed you this morning x

  8. Let me try and help. Firstly your home is where your heart is and your heart is with your lovely man and children. Secondly, living with the Italians is the best way to learn the language and believe me, after nine years I still make mistakes, which the lovely locals love to put right for me. You must go to your local cafe bar every morning for coffee, do not give it up, just do not make any at home. Watch the world go buy and get to know the locals and be friendly. It will take a little while, but they will soon accept you. Tell them you are a writer which they will love and treat you as a local celebrity! Ask the locals how to pronounce or say something, they love to help and to try out their English. I agree with Gilly, you are a very good writer. Get in touch with Australian magazines and offer to do a monthly column. Most of all, remember that being in Italy, particularly Tuscany, is a very priveleged thing and most people only get to have a short holiday here. As regards the kids, my two grandchildren have been here for seven years and both are fluent. The 13 year old boy plays rugby for Siena and the eight (nearly nine) year old girl is loving circus horse riding! Embrace this opportunity, you have years ahead of you to have lots more adventures – and you will!

    • Thank you for your lovely words, I really appreciate everything you said. You are right, I need to get out there and just talk! One of the mums at school doesn’t speak any English and she wants to do English/Italian lessons together so I will take her up on that. As for Aust. newspaper column that is something I have never thought of and yet something I would love to do. I have no doubt the boys will shine and I love hearing positive stories of others…..circus horse riding sounds like something I’d want to do! Thanks June

  9. Pingback: Volunteering in Greece, Ghana or in your community | Free But Fun!

  10. You are amazing, beyond belief. You are so brave and confident all at once to share your raw thoughts of your new life. A problem half seen is a problem half solved as they say. I love reading your other friends comments and agree with them all. You are fabulous and are much loved. I am rubbish at languages too, I have lived in the Middle East since 2007 and only manage a hello, thank you and good bye in Arabic! Sure English is spoken widely so it’s not essential, but still. Chin up gorgeous, you are living life to the fullest and are embracing every turn, brava bella! Xxx

    • Lyns thank you x I figure if I can’t be honest here then I am not being honest to myself and writing that actually helps me feel better because I don’t want to go there. I find you just as amazing, you have taken the expat life in your stride and have never looked back. I look forward to the day we are finally in the same county from a long awaited bottle of vino xx

  11. So much to look forward to, same country, vino, years of catching up, it all sounds bellessimo. One day………
    Enjoy your weekend, rain, how novel! Ciao x

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