No Mud, No Lotus

I recently had a great privilege to see Thich Nhat Hanh in person in NY – he and his “students” (monks and nuns from Blue Cliff Monastery and Plum Village) accompanied him – they were truly amazing, inspirational and the perfect (if there is such a thing) definition of “mindful”.

Some of my favorite images from Thich Nhat Hanh (his calligraphy):

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for more information visit : Plum Village or Blue Cliff Monastery 

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Not Your Common Love Story…

I was married way too young. Everyone warned me, kindly, but at 22 I was stubborn and  raring to go. Funny thing is though, looking back, I never was really “asked.”

As a student, I lived in Italy for a year. It was an amazing country with some of the most beautiful people, places and food I had ever imagined. “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat, Pray, Love” hadn’t been published just yet either. This was eighteen years ago.

I had met a man, after a few months, who was very kind and warm and charming. Well, I met a lot of Italian men who were kind, and warm and charming. Ok, ALL Italian men I had met there were kind and warm and charming.

My year as a student, and my visa, were up. I went back home to finish my degree and cried the whole way. My university gave me some great news and told me that with all of the classes I took I got more credits than they knew what to do with so they were giving me a double BA. Great. I was still crying. I felt a huge piece of me, missing.

The kind, warm, charming guy called and wrote me lots. His English wasn’t too good. My Italian grew REAL good in a year. So kind, warm, charming guy came for a visit to the US of A. He toured a lot of the Eastern seaboard with me we had a fun time together. Before he left, he gave me a gold cross encrusted with diamonds. This was big. Real big for Italians. So, with that I finished my double BA, packed my bags, bought a wedding dress and moved to Sicily.

Once I was there his family started to build us an apartment … yes, literally build one from cement, stone and plaster. My new “friends” helped find me some wedding invites that I could have done in English and  Italian. Tacky, but necessary.

My new family-in-law members got me signed  up with the local church (a must do!) and we were soon at jeweler’s choosing rings made of (well, yeah..) Italian gold.

Within a few months we were good to go. My family and friends flew over for the big day. The little town rang the church bells for us that morning. Everyone lined up on their balconies to watch me walk to the church. (Yes, we had a car, however, walking to your local 1000 + year-old church for your wedding is some sort of unwritten law there.)

It was a beautiful day in Sicily for a wedding. But even then, walking down the aisle in my highly-beaded wedding dress, I didn’t recall being asked to marry Mr. kind, warm, charming.

Soon we moved into our very new apartment, furnished with all things Italian. A shiny new stove, marble steps, a lemon tree-lined balcony. Not far was a view of Etna, the volcano that would let off a little steam every so often. There was a distant view of the ocean too. I was the talk of the town, the foreigner who moved in and settled down. The “Americana” that people there loved to talk about.

I found a job and taught English. Mr warm, kind charming was also working and things were good. But there wasn’t always a consistent pay check. There were lay-offs and some politician’s kid always needed a job, so someone had to leave theirs to make room. I wouldn’t say that I loved socialized medicine, but that’s the system.

It was a beautiful place to live, but like every country, it too had it’s problems and complications.

Within a few years we moved back to the US. Mr. warm, kind, charming found a job thanks to the help of some great friends. His English improved but he was like a fish out

of water. His family was heart-broken, but understanding, about our move. The drama of the weekly overseas phone calls was always high.

After just a few years in the US, we called it quits. He was still warm, kind and charming but he couldn’t adjust to our way of living. I couldn’t adjust to his.

We split our few possessions and he moved back to Italy. I stayed home, in NJ, and cried – again. I cried for a long time actually. I went to doctors and therapists for help. They liked the solutions that had to do with “extra sessions” and lots of pills. That worked for a while, but it didn’t solve the problem. I was still a teary-mess.

I moved to a new place, found a new job, actually, a few new jobs. I dated here and there, no one was all that interesting.

Finally, I let it all go. I didn’t want to deal with it any more. I was running out of tissues and the pills were making me fat. I started a new career, teaching Italian (who would have thought!) and viola’! I was a lot happier. I happened to meet a new guy who made me laugh ALL of the time. I found another new place to live, a LOT nicer. Life was good. I was happy. The crying stopped.

I got up for work on a spring morning, thinking about what had happened over the past few years. “Wow,” I thought, “I miss Italy.”

That was IT. I stopped everything and sat on the edge of my bed, crying, this time (we’re talking tears of joy-crying), because IT came to me. “I miss Italy. I was in LOVE with a country, not a person!,” I practically yelled it out my apartment window.

And so I dove back in to my old journals and photos from my years abroad. They made me smile and I understood what love is all about. It’s beauty, people, kindness, charm. It was a country that showed me what true love meant. Grazie, Italia.  (Thank you, Italy).

I married the guy who made me laugh – and he still does to this day. We had a wonderful little girl together. She’s four now and she laughs a lot too. (It’s genetic.) I love her and my husband with all of my heart.  I can’t wait to take them to the most wonderful places in Italy, one day. For now, teaching Italian and knowing the meaning of how I found love make me one very happy, and loving,  person.