Unromantic Interlude

So, it’s been a pretty stressful week. (Couldn’t you tell from my heightened irritation with politics and Facebook?) Today being Saturday, Tony was home, and stayed with the children while I took a much-needed walk alone in the beautiful rainbow autumn of Piemonte. I had been out walking perhaps five minutes when I saw a man on a bicycle up ahead, and instinctively avoided eye contact. There was something just a little creepy about him. He said good morning, and I repeated the greeting tonelessly, still without looking at him. “Hey,” he said (in Italian, obviously), “Aren’t you even going to say hello? Don’t you remember me?” That, of course, is my weak spot. Was I being an inexcusably rude American? Had I actually met him sometime two years ago at some town event? Or was he a relative of someone I knew? Oh, dear. I turned around to where he had stopped his bicycle and tried to think where I knew him from as I was mechanically shaking hands. Only he never let go of my hand. In fact, I had to almost wrench it away as he was about to use it to pull me into the cheek kiss greeting. Nice. Of course I didn’t know him. How naive could I be? It’s just that I’m not used to being out alone without small children in tow. He immediately began a string of rapid compliments, all the time staring me up and down, and ending in asking if I was married. I informed him coldly that I was, and added as I walked quickly away that I also had two children, just in case he was thinking about following me on the bicycle. Which luckily, he didn’t.

Have I mentioned that I want a dog? The biggest dog in the world? So, that man was more rude and repulsive than scary (although I would not have liked to meet him on a lonely forest path, which coincidentally was just where I was headed). But still. It was the last straw for my fragile self-possession. I made it only just under the eaves of the above mentioned lonely forest before bursting into passionate sobs. It is an immense relief to cry as loudly as one wishes because there is nobody around to hear. And I needed a cry. Not over a silly incident with an overly presumptuous Italian man. Over everything that is too overwhelming. Because it’s not just this week that’s been hard. The entire past year and a half have been more or less a nightmare. I’m not exaggerating, although it’s possible I just have bad coping skills.
My fantasy about getting a really big dog first surfaced right after our business failed a year and a half ago, cutting short our dreamy move to Italy. We moved from downtown San Diego out into the country, and all of a sudden we didn’t have an impermeable double-locked door and a tall automatic gate between our cosy second-floor apartment and the outside world. We had a lonely acre yard with a tumbledown fence around a house that felt terrifyingly exposed to me. Even though the children loved the outdoor space, I worried about everything from burglars to coyotes. I just didn’t feel safe. That’s when I decided I wanted a big dog to protect me. Our life was filled with uncertainty, and my confidence in shaping my own destiny had been shattered. I look at the pictures of myself at my brothers’ weddings the month before it all happened, and I see a different person from the one I felt myself become afterward. I was sick and depressed for months. I still grind my teeth every night, to the point that I wake up with a sore jaw and throbbing gums and have to grind my food up in the blender. I’ve been to the dentist for a mouth guard and acupuncturists in two different countries, but the real problem is what’s been happening in my life. And no, I don’t like moving all the time. I’m heartily sick of it, whatever story to the contrary you might have read on my “About Me” page. It just always seems like the only thing to do when things go wrong.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I usually try to be positive and upbeat in my blog, or at least talk about nothing worse than my endless bureaucratic frustrations. After all, I’m constructing a reality for myself here too, not just for you. But here in Italy, when people ask how you are, they don’t just expect you to say “fine.” They really want to know. I pretend too much sometimes, even to myself. Mostly, I guess I’m afraid to believe that things might really be getting better, but at the same time, I can’t help myself. After all, here we are, finally back in Italy.

6 thoughts on “Unromantic Interlude

  • November 8, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Sarah, I am so sorry for the things you have been going through. I hope Italy helps to fill your heart for you along with the truths you hold dear. Also, I highly recommend dogs if you feel you can commit to taking care of one. It is wonderful to be loved so unconditionally by something who never really expects anything in return. My dog helped me to smile in some of my loneliest moments while Ben was gone. Either way, you’re an example of strength to so many. Thank you for sharing =)

  • November 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Sarah, you have been such an example to me of strength and grace through all of this.

  • November 7, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I'm so sorry that you are having a rough week. At the same time, I appreciate your candidness. Your life seems so fantastically exciting, I sometimes feel so boring in comparison. One needs to remember that the grass isn't greener on the other side. When I was about your age, we moved a lot also, just not internationally. I did get heartily sick of it, though we still have wanderlust and are looking to move to a new house soon, but in the same city. I also started grinding my teeth and continue to do so. In fact, it eroded the bones in my jaw so much, I've had to have three surgeries to graft more gum tissue. I had a really tough couple of years during that time. Things do get easier as the kids get older. At the same time, I realized that living where we did, where I had pushed for us to move to, was not working for me. Though in the U.S., the culture where we lived was so different, I never was going to fit in without changing the very essence of who I was. We ended up moving back to Seattle and have been back for 9 years and it was the right thing to do for me. Italy may be the right place for you, only you know, but just remember that you don't have to stay there if you're not happy there. You've seen so much of the world and exposed your kids to so many wonderful things, you all will be forever richer for the experience even if you decide it is not where you belong.

  • November 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    You have had many challenges, disappointments and sadnesses these last couple of years, which you have handled with grace, humor and spiritual strength. Remember that the Saviour's atonement is for grief and sorrow as well as sin. And I'm convinced that crying is therapeutic emotionally and physiologically. It's part of the process of coping. I love you (with a mother's love.) BTW, Aunt Debra suggests a chiropractor for your jaw. She swears it helped her.

  • November 7, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Moving around can be so hard, even with all the adventure. Thank you for this post.

  • November 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Dearest Sarah,
    You do so well being positive. I admire your ability to keep going and to enjoy all of your experiences. Just cry, try to keep experiences separate, and know that you're doing really well. You really are. You've had more experiences that most people because you're willing to step outside your comfort zone. That was a scary experience. BIBO. Breath in, breath out. Thanks for sharing yourself in your blog.

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