Monday, November 14, 2016

Life goes on...

The elections are over....thank the universe for that. What happens now will be important to everyone and while we fight the good fight (whichever side you may align yourself with) life still goes on. Stomachs must be filled, bills paid, decisions big and small made, etc. With that in mind (and the fact that I've neglected writing here for far too long) it's time to share the utterly mundane story of changing apartments here in Florence.

After five lease-less years in an apartment that was large at 75 sq meters and boasted an actual space to store things, we decided to move. This wasn't a decision taken lightly or quickly. We watched our former apartment disintegrate around us. A leak in the roof, unacknowledged and in fact denied by our landlord, caused the ceiling to begin to fall in the kitchen and hallway. The few electrical outlets that worked became tenuous in their connections. We flushed our toilet with a bucket because the inner workings had become so old that the water ran constantly so we just turned it off. The boiler for the radiator was declared too old at its last inspection and would have to be replaced. No window or door except for the door into the apartment latched properly certainly putting pressure on the already old boiler as it struggled to heat the constant flow of outside air. In fact, we had to pile everything heavy we owned in front of the terrace doors to keep them closed when the wind was strong because the latch was broken. Right before we left the water heater started dripping....I couldn't imagine a winter without heat or hot water.

So we started looking for a new place to live. Still in Florence because our work requires access to transportation and tourists but closer to the south side where most of our riding and working happens. I'd look around in English language sites for adverts, call or email and discover that as soon as the ad was placed it was rented. Argh! Finally I called early enough to get a chance to actually view an apartment. We were one of the first to see  it and because he had a week filled with appointments to see the apartment we decided to take it that same night. And because I'm certifiably insane at times we placed our move in date a week later.

We had to give notice at our old place (don't laugh and say why...we're built that way) so we had a month to move between the two places. A month while I was still working full time at the apprenticeship to decide what to throw and what to keep and how to move it all. The new place is smaller by 20 sq meters so everything couldn't come with us.

Our rather fabulous new landlord helped us with his van a couple of times to move the big stuff. Everything else we moved by bike. Every day during the month of May both Leif and I made multiple trips across town filling bags and banana boxes, the do-it-yourself-movers box of choice.

That's right. Several times each day we would ride across town to the old apartment to pack up the next load. I would fill my 33 liter back pack with more than 33 liters of probably breakable stuff as my body cushioned the potholes. Depending on what we were moving I'd strap a banana box down to the rear rack on my bike and toss something usually too big into my rapidly disintegrating front basket. Sometimes I'd use a giant blue IKEA bag instead of a banana box because I could get more clothes into it. Leif would fill both panniers and balance a banana box on top of those while carrying his backpack too. Then we would start, slowly, across town. Half the trip happened on city streets, the other half on a disconnected series of bike lanes dodging pedestrians and cross traffic to arrive home. We rode along the Arno and bounced past the Uffizzi and Ponte Vecchio (cobblestones, wow) before crossing the river into the San Frediano section of town. I went head to head with taxis, other cyclists, scooter drivers, horse-drawn carriages and tourists who refused to allow an obviously overloaded, precariously balanced middle-aged woman on a POS bike to pass.

Repeat until your butt hurts, your back hurts, your knees hurt and the bike starts rattling too loudly to ignore. Then do it some more. And Leif did this twice as much as I did because he had some full days off that all he did was ride between the two places loaded down with stuff. He's the true hero of this story.

If you're going to ask my why, and that is what I answer with this blog as much as possible, my answer is that we have made the conscious choice to live as much as possible without a car. While friends and family shook their heads and laughed at us for taking, in their opinions, the hard way to move, we were taking the only option available to us. And face it, if we moved like everyone else there'd be no story to tell, would there?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Taking my life back

A couple of days ago I quit my apprenticeship. It was hard; I had poured so much of myself into it in the last seven months. Too much, in fact. Instead of enhancing our lives by providing a steady income it obliterated every other facet of my life. No rides with Leif, no painting, no writing (you probably noticed that) and no contact with friends.

For the first months I accepted this as normal. Basically giving my life over to another person or corporation and accepting their value of my time and talents is the very bedrock of the “steady job” as I experienced it in Minnesota. In exchange for X amount of dollars I willingly chained myself to a desk, accepted someone else's evaluation of my skills and personality and took time off only when it was approved. I wasn't surprised by it or bothered so much because, as I understood it, this was just the way things worked. This apprenticeship started the same way, which six years ago wouldn't have made me blink.

The difference is that I'm not in Minnesota anymore. I moved 4755 miles to create and experience a different kind of lifestyle. It was happening: I was training to be a cycle tour guide and learning how to help Leif manage the business better so we could live life on our own terms. I was seduced by the money and didn't anticipate the total destruction of the life I'd worked so hard to create.

No. I'm not being dramatic. I ate, drank and slept cake. For a time my sense of self was centered around this job and the unfortunate part is that I did it for free. I bought into someone else's dream for potential income and security. And then I began to accept someone else's valuation of my skills and personality. (that's right, my personality apparently needed work too) I think you can guess how things went. We can never live up to the expectations of someone else and that ate at me so much that I started losing weight, losing my hair and losing sleep.

At first I thought it was my fault, which only made matters worse. Then one day I sat myself down and thought hard...not about how I could do the job better, be a different person, whatever....but if what the job was expecting was realistic. If it fit into the lifestyle I had been working towards pre-cake making. The answer was no, and the relief that I felt when I recognized that was physical.

I didn't move 4755 miles from everything I knew and everyone I loved to have the same life I had in Minnesota. I moved here not just to live differently, but to be different. I don't want to live my life at top speed desperately trying to fulfill some one else's expectations at rock bottom prices. If I must work for a dream then by all means it should be my own. And so I'll go back to my bike riding, painting, writing, nap taking (I did miss those...), spending time with Leif and friends kind of life.

And so next week I start working for myself again. It feels good.