I have noticed lately that many of my friends have mentioned either feeling blue or depressed. I don’t know if it’s the weather? It has been an unusual year…hot when it should be cold and cold and rainy when it should be warm and sunny. I think part of it might be the political situation in Minnesota. For those who don’t know, the elected government of Minnesota is throwing a very public hissy fit instead of doing their jobs. All non-essential state workers are laid off until the legislature can agree on a budget. Of course, these officials continue to get paid. I know that if you live in Minnesota you are either directly affected by the lay-offs or are close to someone who is. No one is untouched by this. Anger, frustration, apathy and depression are natural reactions to this event.
I've been feeling strange here too. I’m not gonna call it blue, because that’s too strong a color for what I’m feeling. I think I’m feeling beige. The inoffensive and bland color of the mother of the groom at weddings, the ultimate neutral in a fashionable wardrobe. No marketing expert says “we need more beige in that ad if we want to sell, sell, sell!” Beige is a color without direction. A color, oddly enough, filled with tension, just waiting for a stronger color to pull it along for the ride.
That’s kind of how I feel. I don’t feel bad, necessarily. I just know that I could feel better. I have been here for four months now. Four months is a long time to tread water, waiting to figure out what direction I want to go. My life in Minnesota was filled with purpose. I worked, I went to school, I had friends and family to do things with. When there was no actual purpose I created it by starting one of my famous “to-do lists.” It may have been filled with completely bogus things but it made me feel like I was accomplishing something and that was important to me at the time.
I moved to Florence to experience a different kind of life. Merely transporting the life I had in Minnesota to Italy wouldn’t be a different life, it would be life in a different place. It should be more than eating different food and taking naps and new holidays to celebrate. It should reflect the person I have become and the hopes I have for the future.
And so the infamous “to-do list” is a thing of the past and is only resurrected in times of need like when I have to pack for a trip. And I don’t really miss it, mainly because when the pace of your life is set on “turtle” instead of “rabbit” you don’t need a list to remember things. The turtle pace reminds me that nothing is so important that I need to obsess over it, which is what my lists were. Obsessing over details to the point that I never enjoyed the extra time it was supposed to create for me. Those extra minutes were spent refining the next edition of “the list.” If the list included “find cure for cancer” and “abolish poverty” I could forgive the intensity I focused on the lists. But truly, take out the garbage on Monday, buy a birthday card (with another note lower on the list to mail it) and find big bowl for church dinner next week are not world changing events, not even in my own little world. But when I’m feeling beige, that list seems like a beacon in the darkness. A red line of purpose to follow.
I struggle daily with the feeling that because I don’t have a job, I don’t have a purpose. In the past, my worth to my ex-husband was measured in dollars. It didn’t matter what I was doing or how much I worked, what mattered was the money I brought home to contribute to the lifestyle he/we wanted. I want something different here. I need to be willing to let go of the security of a weekly paycheck in order to find a kind of work that fulfills me and keeps me interested and challenged in a positive way. Oh, and let’s me eat. I am working hard to let go of the idea that my worth to myself and to my partner is measured only in cash. I know it isn’t true. But nineteen years of listening to my contributions and debts to our marriage reduced to dollars and cents (oh yes, cents, which he graciously rounded down) is hard to let go of. Earning money, when I feel beige, is an alluring green that’s hard to resist.
I was talking to Leif about this recently during dinner. I told him that I was worried that I wasn't contributing enough because I wasn't working regularly. He looked at me closely and said that the changes I am going through won’t happen quickly. He told me that anyone moving to another country, learning a language and redefining themselves should allow themselves a year to figure things out. “Think of it as a sabbatical,” he said, “there is a reason there is a name for taking a year off to think.” Hearing him say that it was OK to take a year to figure things out unclenched something inside me. Because, unfairly, I think I was expecting him to eventually see me as a dollar (well euro) sign too. Totally wrong of me. And for all you feminists out there, I don’t need his permission, but since he is supporting me during this year, his willing cooperation makes it possible for me to do this.
So I will embrace my beige-ness. Beige is a quiet place to rest while I figure things out. Beige won’t over stimulate or influence me into a decision I’m not ready for or that is completely wrong for me. Beige goes with everything, so I have a rainbow of choices for my life. I’m feeling better already.