At this point I am not sure what it was, but something in Italy triggered a tremendous amount of healing in my soul. After a year of anger, pain, depression, anxiety, paranoia, listlessness, etc. I traveled to Italy. While in Italy I was wonder-struck, free, happy, brimming with love, relaxed, I felt safe. A few things from home I did miss. But I adored being in Italy. And when I returned home, I discovered I was ready to forgive the person who had triggered all the horrific traps of tragedy in my heart.
It has been a few weeks since my return to the United States. For the most part, I still feel quite wonderful. The Italian atmosphere of relaxation and openness and love permeated my being enough that I was able to bring a lot of it home with me. But, it is so much harder here! Our culture is overflowing with worry and unquestioning reliance on the powers that be. We focus on gizmos and perfection instead of flavors and love.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that I am not anti-American. I can list a hand full of family members, friends, acquaintances, etc. who would be hugely offended by my pointing out flaws in our American lifestyle. Secondo me, in my opinion, it is not anti-American to realize what we need to work on as a society. If you disagree and believe we should hail the U.S. as the epitome of perfection, that is your right. But, just remember I am not trying to bash. I only strive to relate my experiences and observations. Moving on…
During the last few weeks I have been asking myself why it is so much harder to keep my hated companions of depression and anxiety at bay when I am at home. Shouldn’t it be easier? In my comfort zone? Surrounded by family and friends and Pyewackett and my giant bookcase?
I have concluded that for whatever reason, I am not equipped for the American lifestyle. I don’t like gadgets. I don’t like being sucked into the void that is the American assumption that our way is the best way. I automatically question anything sanctioned by the government or its affiliates (the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, big business, etc.). My greatest pleasures are the simple ones that cost little or no money. My business philosophy as concerns my future small business is that money is a necessary by-product, not the point. Cheap abundance seems like an obvious road to destruction an unhappiness. I just don’t fit. And that is basically okay. I have been on this earth for more than two decades and I have never fit anywhere. I am mostly used to it.
But, when I compare the way I feel here as opposed to the way I feel in Italy (or Peru for that matter) and chalk it up to lifestyle and culture, that is when I start having misgivings about being content in our current state.
For the most part, I have been an independent girl with high self-esteem. But I am not completely immune to the wish to be more of something, be it more beautiful, intelligent, witty, or whatever other thing we wish we could be.
Italy is home to some of the best fashion in the world. But regardless of my shoddy, inexpensive clothing, in Italy I felt beautiful everyday. It didn’t matter that I don’t care much about fashion or saving my pennies for $400.00 shoes. My old flip-flops, a scarf, jeans, and a t-shirt were enough. I could wear practically the same thing everyday (and often did) and still feel beautiful.
One could easily say that Italians are just as obsessed with beauty as Americans. From my experience and observations this is very true. True but with one major difference: Americans are obsessed with obtaining beauty; changing whatever is necessary to get it at whatever cost. Italians find and cherish the beauty that already exists.
Of course makeup exists in Italy. And plastic surgery, and crazy creams and oils and what have you. One of my professors even told me that lip enhancement is the most popular procedure in Italy. But, none of my teachers wore makeup. My landlady didn’t wear makeup. Women who do wear makeup don’t wear very much. They are happy with themselves for the most part.
In Italy, fashion is a big deal. Italians love fashion and are always dressed well. But it seems that despite the focus on fashion, telling yourself you’re not beautiful enough is not common. Just to add a bit of spice to my point, did you know that in order for models to be allowed to hit the runway during fashion week, they are required to have a healthy body mass index. This is not the case in the U.S.
Also in Italy, one never feels compelled to apologize for crying. Here, we are for some reason convinced that tears are bad. That any emotion besides happy is bad and that we need to apologize for being anything but content. Where did this come from? We’re human are we not? One of the greatest things about being human is our range of emotion. I don’t know of any other species that has the ability to feel so many different ways. And yet, in the United States at least, we are ashamed. We apologize. We feel guilty for feeling. No wonder we are so absolutely dependent on mood affecting pills. No wonder we are so attracted to the cold, never changing gadgets and gizmos we have adopted and put before almost everything else.
This is what I have concluded about why it is more difficult to remain healed from tragedy at home: to our society, my response to trauma was an overreaction because it was a reaction at all. By responding to trauma with perfectly reasonable (though not pleasant) depression, I am disturbing society’s happy belief that feeling anything is bad.
My opinion is that though my response was not fun or pleasant or great in any way, it was still a logical and very human response. But our society disagrees. What triggered my depression and anxiety was a momentous blow to me. It was as if I had been standing atop Mount Everest with a trusted friend when all of a sudden my supposed friend reached over and stole my oxygen tank and threw it off the mountain. It was huge. And many people’s reaction to my attempts to deal with it was to suggest I take pills. Because it is better to hide the problem with a lobotomized mind than to actually deal with it. I have long harbored a deep fear of robots and I vehemently refuse to become one.
To sum everything up…
In Italy I felt beautiful everyday. In Italy I felt loved everyday. In Italy my tears were nothing to be ashamed of. In Italy I am human. In Italy pleasure and beauty (real beauty) and life and family and flavors and textures and passion culminate as most important.
I feel it would be wise to take a few lessons from the Italians. Put value in quality of life instead of quantity of objects. Spend as many hours eating a meal as making it (assuming dinner takes more than a 2-minute round in the microwave). Never eat alone. Find the beauty that exists already instead of killing yourself for the ideal (remember that the ideal changes all the time anyway). Don’t be afraid to be human. Instead, be afraid of the robotic expectation that emotions are scary and shameful and should be buried.
I suppose I’ve had my say on this matter for now. Just a reminder: whenever I say or write anything describing a society I am reminded that certain individuals (usually by said individuals) that what I have said does not apply to them. I realize I don’t speak for every single American or Italian in this world. I am speaking of society as a whole. Even I have to be lumped into the category of society because I live in one. So, just remember that.