Today (at the time of this writing) marks the day that we landed in Italy. Not for vacation or an extended stay, but to live our lives for the unforeseen future. I have learned enough over the past few years that life is never certain and so to say that we have moved here to spend the rest of our lives is a fallacy because, in reality, I don’t know what life has in store for us. But we are here now, and it is a good thing, a dream come to life.
What does “Settling in” mean?
Looking back on the past month, the thing that sticks out for me the most is this concept of “settling in”. Lots of people ask me if we are “settled” or how we are “settling in”. It always makes me stop and think and each time it is asked, I wonder how it can be answered. There is this existential question that hangs in the air and whispers back to me “can we ever really, truly be settled”?
Today my aunt commented on my Facebook status where I mentioned that it has been a month since we landed in Italy and she said: “looks like you are settled in” and my response to her was: “We are getting there. I have learned that “settled in” means something very different than what it used to. But this adventure is all about growth and new directions and life lessons.”
The words “settle down” according to the dictionary mean to become quiet calm and orderly (as in “Settle down, children!”) or to begin to live a quiet and orderly life, or to put oneself in a comfortable position or finally, to be quiet and give one’s attention to something.
In my current life, the only one that applies a little is the last. I am giving my attention to acclimating to this new life, while at the same time trying and often failing to get into a regular routine. Routines are important for family life, especially so for children under 5, of which we have two, who need reassurance during this extremely transient time.
There is so much that is new when you move to a new country: a new language, new foods, a new landscape. There are also the things people rarely think about like, where do I shop for the things I need? How do I get from point A to point B? Will I be understood? Then there is the loss of hearing people speak your home language, or seeing it written on signs or heard on TV, as is the ease and comfort of going about your life not having to think how to express yourself.
Changing your mindset
One of the daily rituals in my new country, which I love, is the afternoon siesta. That means that between the hours of 2-5 businesses literally close to re-open for a few hours in the evening. I love that this means a long lunch break – time in the middle of the day to connect with family and have a good meal, and often a nap. But it also means later dinner and bedtimes. Also if you happen to be in a different place (not home) between those hours, you are literally shut out and that can be frustrating. So it means adjusting your life around this new norm. It takes time and patience and re-arranging. It means changing your mindset. This has been an important concept needed to help me to feel more “settled” even in unsettling circumstances.
For the first time in my life, I am without a permanent home. This is exciting and terrifying. We currently reside in an off-season vacation rental while we look for a more permanent place – something we could live in for a year at least. However, finding a long-term rental in Italy is not as easy as it is in the US. Most available places can be found only through word of mouth, which makes knowing someone local a vital part of Italian life. Luckily, we do. It also means being patient because everything takes forever in Italy and you need all the right documents, which also take a long time to get in order.
In Italy, everyone talks about “documenti” all the time, in normal conversation. Documenti are as much a part of the lexicon as pasta. Everyone here that I know has a suitcase full of “documenti” under their bed. That is a lot of space to devote to paperwork when you consider how small Italian homes are. But here, you always have to have documents that back up documents to state that you are who you say you are and where you reside. “Residenza “is tied to the healthcare and school systems, so being “settled in” and having a home is also vital to Italian life. It is also why many Italians don’t move if they can avoid it. Moving requires making changes to your residenza. Right now only a few of us have our residenza, and that makes the feeling of being “settled” even more ambiguous.
Living for too long without a sense of being settled is not sustainable and I believe might lead to insanity. So here is what I have done to create a feeling of being “settled” even though we are technically homeless vagabonds. Maybe these suggestions are useful to others who feel unsettled in their lives:
5 Ways Settle into Your Current Situation
1) Stick To Familiar Routines– For me, I get up early before everyone is awake and do yoga. This is something I used to do when we had a place to call home, and yoga is an important tool in my toolbox of sanity. I have also gotten back to a daily routine of writing – this blog will help me with that, too.
2) Cook Meals At “Home” – a home cooked meal is very comforting and grounding, For me in this moment in time it helps to remind me that we are not on vacation.
3) Do Something Productive – make a list of things that need doing and start scratching them off.
4) Get Enough Rest – make sure to get enough sleep, without rest “monkey mind” tends to invade otherwise peaceful thoughts
5) Stay Present – know that this is just a moment in time and that everything changes, even your breath and the rhythm of your heartbeat as you move throughout your day – and so will your circumstances. Enjoy your present circumstances; even in the toughest times, there are always small joys to cling to.