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Push/Pull Limbo

It’s an odd position to be in this limbo of not knowing how long I’ll stay in Italy. My original plan was to be here for a year, but as my Seattle departure date approached last June, I thought, and all my friends concurred, that one year might not be long enough.

I arrived in Milano. I got my apartment “comfortable enough for a year”, and I’ve settled in “just enough”. As it turns out, I’m more than a tourist, but not quite a real resident. I’ve got “short timer’s complex”. Uncomfortably, I am neither here nor there. Most friendships I make will likely be short term. Any household goods I buy will likely be the most minimal and least expensive “because I’m leaving sometime”. The emotional investment is greater than that of a tourist, but is still restricted. This is an odd phenomenon to have put myself in the middle of.

I arrived here June 18; it is now January 17, 7 months later. I know that I have a trip planned to Seattle in late Spring, and then again at the beginning of August. Will the flight in August be simply for a visit, or a return home “for good”?

There are more than 6 months in front of me during which I intend to be living here. Six months is many times more than most people can ever dream of being here in Italy, yet I’m feeling “the crunch” of departure. The other day an almost-panic set in and I started to think of all the things I haven’t seen or done yet in the last 7 months! Huh. So I started making my list of “Must-See, Must-Do”. Weird. I plan to be here AT LEAST for another 6-months-plus, yet my sights are already on departure in August. Ooo. Not good. Granted, that panic might fuel a frenzied string of weekend train trips to all-parts-Italy, plus a few flights to places more distant, but the MINDSET is what I’m concerned about. Focussing on departure means I’m not here, I’m already leaving. That doesn’t create a rootedness… But how does one root when she knows her time is limited?

Starting out with an imagined end-date has contributed to this limbo. But how does one have the boldness to say “I’m moving to Italy”, instead of “I’m moving to Italy for one year.” Whoa!!! Those two are ENTIRELY different in feel! Those two statements are worlds apart. I made the second choice, adding “…for one year”, and that colors my whole experience.

I constantly monitor personal and professional considerations when discerning the best time to return to Seattle – when my few belongings will be packed and shipped, my Milanese apartment will be vacated, and goodbyes will be said. The other day I recognized the push/pull of it. There are things here in Italy that pull me in to stay; there are things here that push me back. And Seattle – and the U.S. – have their own push/pull. All of it swirls and mixes and tumbles and stirs me deeply.

So, not having any solid answers, I’m making plans for Bergamo, Firenze, Savona, San Remo, Torino, Roma, Venezia, Sicilia and as much of Italy as I can lay my eyes on. And I intend to set foot in Germany, Spain, Greece, England, the Netherlands… and places I haven’t even conjured for myself yet. Hmm. Sounds like either a LOT of travel, or more than 6 months… or both.

  1. lynnJanuary 18,10

    Hi Maureen

    This certainly is a dilemma, and one without an easy answer.

    Part of the answer has got to be simply living in the moment – drinking in every new experience with passion and presence. So the question of the future is put a little out of your mind.

    Part of the answer must be thinking about/looking at what is missing in the present, and trying to fill that. Your network was not supporting you, so you took language classes, and joined several groups. I have been so happy to see the photos and stories about your new friends, and to know that there are interesting and caring people around you.

    I love the idea of you traveling even more. That so clearly satisfies a craving for adventure. Yeah!

    I’d say, put off this decision as long as you can, and live in the moment. Its surprising how many things become clear given enough time.

    Love, Lynn

  2. lynnJanuary 18,10

    [note: Lynn posting for Katherine]

    Hi, M. I don’t know if this applies to your current experience, but it’s what comes up for me as I read about how you are feeling. My thought is regarding your strong work ethic and how that may be at odds with the internal impulse for exploration and adventure that called you to Italy in the first place. To be ‘positioned’ for the exploration and adventure opportunity of a lifetime juxtaposed with feeling the responsibility of making a living – which requires staying indoors and on the computer…sems like it could be a set-up for an internal conflict…

    Love you lots and wish I was there with you,

  3. lynnJanuary 18,10

    An additional thought – you said “Most friendships I make will likely be short term.”

    Wittingly or not, you have changed your life for good and ever. Even if/when you come back to Seattle, you will not be the same Maureen, living the same life in the same house.

    The friends you are making now, you could certainly be writing and talking with for the rest of your life. I love to picture old-lady Maureen making her yearly pilgrimage to Italy, to travel and stay with friends. She’s a slightly eccentric old bird, but greatly loved and respected. Her visits are anticipated by her friends, and their kids and grand kids.

    So even if you ditch your cheap furniture and return to Seattle, there is no reason to think your affair with Italy will be over.

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