My vows

I have always been excited before a trip. It seems the butterflies in my tummy are indifferent as to whether I’m going to a place or heading back home. This normally drives my husband crazy – I start packing too early, toss and turn the night before, reach for my phone at odd hours on the side table to make a note of the charger I must remember, set two alarms (just in case) – and inevitably wake up 3 hours ahead of the alarm cos I can’t sleep anyways. Well 20 years on – I’m still that 😊

When we just got married and could barely afford the road trip from Johannesburg to Durban – on an intern and article clerk salary. I remember we would put our old grey Honda Ballad in neutral rolling down the hills on the last stretch from Pietermaritzburg to Durban -Just to save a couple of liters of fuel.

My husband used to believe these pre travel jitters To go to Durban (just like the night before the first day of school each year) was due to me being really excited to go back ‘home’ – and would take it personally.

So I find myself sitting here in Casa del Neri at 4am – eyes wide shut – surrounded by packed bags, 3 hours ahead of my first alarm. I think it quite fitting that I arrived at Campersevoli ahead of the other residents and greeted it alone and with some fear and dread – and now after two life changing weeks, I get to say bueno Noto – alone and filled with fear and dread.

My flight departs today at 3pm and brings to a close my sacred, Italian pilgrimage. I look back at my first post when I was departing – i was open to whatever the journey would bring. And as I sit here I can safely say it has brought me more than I could have ever imagined. I am altered. Renovated. Parts of me have been demolished and yet others more finely polished. Just yesterday I noticed that my posture has improved, my heart space is more open and my smile more easy. I was afraid and excited at the thought of four weeks alone and faced my fears. So glad I was courageous as I find myself now, so in tune with my spirit – feeling lighter and younger. So comfortable and amazed by who I am, prepared to slay dragons (my own negative thoughts about myself included), for me.

So similarly, I will trust and leap today. I will take flight and head home to face my fears. Fear of leaving this utopia and all my discoveries with it. Fears of integrating all that I have become into my daily life. I will fight the dread that I’m going to resort to old limiting beliefs and habits that no longer serve me. I will honour who I am and cull toxic relationships and build better boundaries. I will spend my day doing mostly that which I love and feeds my soul. I can! And I will!

I will build in timelessness, be awed by the beauty of this planet, eat well and spend lots of time with my favorite person – ME! (Starting to sound narcissistic yet?) I will be sure to turn inwards and take moments to feel touched. I will live lightly!

Most of all I will remember – I am an immortal soul – taking this interlude in a body. And I vow to love, honour, protect and serve this mind, body and soul till death do US part – cos I finally know how….

So blessed and grateful.

Touched

The end of my quest and my voyage is in sight. Started rounding up my things this evening and came across a purchase from the clocks guy in the antique market in Florence. Can’t believe that was just 3 weeks ago. Feels like a time warp. As though that happened aeons ago. I look back and realize I was a different person.

So in keeping with my newly acquainted, amazing Yoga teacher from Hawaii Jennie Lee’s advice – I thought of one word that would intuitively express how I’m feeling today.

And the word that came up for me was ‘touched’.

I’m touched by the beautiful souls from all walks of life that I have met at Lemon Tree House. I’m touched by how I hear in their work, and see in their eyes – the same human spirit – that resides in me. I’m touched by the loving generous support these creatives have offered me. The kind I often find so lacking in people. I’m touched!

After a beautiful Tuscan Electric storm this morning I headed down the hill to Piazze – a little town that offers a weekly Thursday fresh produce market. I was on my way to do my shopping, grab an Italian cappuccino and a much amassage.

I was touched by the sight I have now come to take for granted – of the pines and vineyards rolling around me as far as my eye can see. Of the olive trees with their familiar grey green foliage. And the green buzzing bugs that look like little leaves taking flight.

After my much deserved cappuccino and pastry, I made my way to the massage parlor.

Anticipating the relief from getting the tightness in my shoulders released, I lay face down listening to the ambient sounds of tibetan bowls singing in the background. And then … I was touched. I was Physically touched! My massage was so beautifully flowing and gentle and I forgot how amazing it felt to be touched by another human being. To feel the contact and warmth of skin on skin. After almost 4 weeks of traveling alone I welcomed and received Fredricas healing touch with gratitude.

Relaxed and at peace I knew – even though Italy has seen me, heard me, and even touched me in ways no words can begin to share I’m ready to go home. Ready to hold and be held by my 3 beautiful kids, amazing husband and 2 cats.

Living on love and fresh air

Growing up I would often hear this phrase from adults around me attempting to bring the ‘youngsters’ heads out of the clouds. “You cannot live on love and fresh air” they would say passionately. “You need a means of earning – you need food and clothing and a roof over your head” they would argue with the young lovers, in support of their case.

After my last week at Camporsevoli in Cetono I would challenge this. Surrounded by amazing creative minds who give themselves permission to listen to their hearts and challenge the status quo. In the midst of the pine woods with chatter of squirrels, hooting of owls and the calming buzz of bees and wasps. Housed in stone walls that have tales to tell from the 1200’s. I tell you – I could live on love and fresh air.

At the best of times I have always had a very tricky relationship with food. I ate when I was sad, when I celebrated and when even when i was anxious. I promise you – with all the words whirring in my head, the smell of wine, the sound of sweet poetry and freedom of laughter – I forget to eat. I Just don’t feel hungry! And even when I do eat -it’s sun-drenched ripe peaches, or the rosiest tomatoes and freshest basil – off the plant outside, drizzled with balsamic and Italian olive oil that call me.

So I AM living on love – love for all that is in this world! for the beautiful universe! Love for The amazing tribe I have met, that I feel a part of. Love for my courageous self and my beautiful supportive family. Love for the warm sun and the diving birds and the productive bees. Love for the light butterflies and the delicious joy that fills me.

Yeah! Living on love and fresh air is definitely possible. Sorry to say Old Folk “Quite addictive Too!”

Mirror mirror on the wall….

I have been cocooning the last few days. Loving my Siena hillside escape.

And in this deep space of connection, introspection, writing and and love for all that is – I am seeing people I love and things I do from a different perspective. Maybe it’s the distance or the intoxication of these Tuscan winelands. who knows?

So a school mum, shared with me telephonically how hurt she was by something her dad did to her, how it made her feel alone and abandoned. And I heard her out and empathized and encouraged her to see it from his point of view and forgive and let it go.

The interesting about this scenario is, this same mum did to her 18 year old kid- about 2 years ago -exactly what she just shared, her dad had done to her. What amazed me – was how she couldn’t see it.? How when I brought it to her attention she denied that it was the same thing and truly couldn’t see it. It was really as if she had reframed what she had done to her own daughter and the memory of the event is now forever stored in this ‘easier to believe’ rewritten script.

Shortly after this incident I heard my best friend reflect on how supportive and accepting she had been to me during my difficult personal processing times. Now this is no new friend – a friend of decades: and again I was stunned. Cos from my point of view the way she ‘supported’ me was to dissociate from me and not address the areas I was dealing with nor the means by which I was trying to clarify. And I really used to feel quite alone and neglected, but assumed this was the way she could cope.

So what I took from this was-:

1) An understanding that we recreate stories about our own shadow parts – that we find difficult to integrate – and then believe these fictional stories about events. To help us cope? Maybe..

2) And when we deal with others, we do for them what we think they need without communicating to ask if thats what they needed in the first place. Why? Are we afraid they might ask more of us – and we will have to admit to ourselves that the ‘more’ is out of our comfort zone and accept that we can’t give them what they need? Or is it cos we assume we know what’s best for them? Or better yet – do we prefer being oblivious to their needs and play the whole thing out so we can tell ourselves we are a good friend?

These human anomalies, memory glitches even downright untruths we tell ourselves -have got me looking into myself and shining the light on my shadow aspects and the stories I tell myself to be able to better face myself in the mirror.

It’s been an exercise of looking at who I have been from someone else’s perspective – and then asking myself whether I could have done it any better? If not, I forgive myself for any pain I might have caused and I own it. I own that I’m not ‘supportive’ or ‘the best parent ever’ – not all of the time and not to everyone. I own that I can be inadequate in that area and flag it (if I think it necessary) as an area of improvement.

This mirror I tell you it lies. It’s about looking deeper than the illusion we first see. Deeper than the perception we create about ourselves. It is work for the brave – time to call out the inner lion or lioness!

Creative genius

So this morning I woke up to the sunshine after a couple of days of rain in the Certona Valley of Siena.

It’s been 2 very emotional days here – I have watched my limiting beliefs creep into my thoughts and leave me quite paralyzed at times. My inner critic has been having a feast – surrounded by phenomenal, successfully published authors with Masters in Fine Arts and multiples genres on their belts – it’s no wonder why holding my own has been challenging. This physical body with its physical identity of separating one from another needed to be managed.

As I sat at the orientation brunch of this two week writers residency programme and heard everyone share their projects and their challenges and the messages they are attempting to share with the world – I felt myself connect to this safety circle and re-member ‘I am a soul’ – I am as they are, as we are! All divine- all one!

And once I let that go – the magic has unfolded. It’s been Christmas morning every morning. The day reveals little hidden gifts – I just have to re-member who I am and I receive.

I thank my generous spouse and truly awesome kids for all their coaching, love and support that allows me to build my tribe. My tribe of creative genius …, very blessed!

Breaking free

Through all these liberties God has afforded me and I have had the courage to gift to myself … I look back on the last week and I know already – I am forever changed.

What sticks out for me most right now is my sense of freedom. Don’t get me wrong – I’m hardly an enslaved women in my home. But, I hardly allow myself limitlessness.

I allow time, responsibilities that truly aren’t really do or die – schedules and expectations to keep me shackled. Being here in Tuscany in the rolling hills and valleys I have planned nothing in advance, went with what I felt worked for the day and approached this trip trusting that however much or little I see will be perfectly right for me. Letting go of the kids and their health and well-being, my spouse and how to help him cope has all aided this process towards limitlessness. It’s been abundant … abundant smiles, abundant ease, uncomfortably beautiful experiences and abundant time with me and my divinity.

Never again will I let myself feel caged.

Today I fully comprehend the meaning of this enigmatic Rumi quote. We don’t even know we’re trapped. And when we do – we blame others … when all it takes is turning the key and letting ourselves out. But to be fair the true courage lies in walking away from the cage… leaving it behind and taking the leap of faith!

Healing food

I had to pinch myself today … if someone had to tell me that I would be transported into the depths of the forest in Tuscany, pass deer and wild boars towards a cooking school in the woods, I would have never believed it.

Feeling so blessed to have come across this experience by chance yesterday – tried for a booking and there was space today. Wow! I was in an Italian kitchen literally making dough for my own ravioli and proofing my pizza dough while tiramisu was underway.

I never realized how calming and therapeutic good food, amazing music and cooking together with warm and loving souls could be. The hosts and I chopped and sliced and kneaded and rolled. And the more I seemed to work the dough and sift the flour the more I felt myself open up and release. We laughed and played and danced. Literally ate, drank and was merry.

I feel truly satiated with my intoxicating soul food experience. Even got to bring padkos for tomorrow – wrapped in plastic ware and foil. Warmed my blessed heart.

Food for the soul … Hey! Soul food😊

Into myself

I have peppered this trip with moments to play, sense and inspire my creativity, and others to reflect, connect and feel being with me.

Today’s that perfect pyjama day. Montepulciano – a small town about an hour from Siena is where I’ve chosen to nestle myself – an airbnb apartment in the historic city centre. From my window this morning I hear the Italian store owners greeting each other as they open the Bottegas (small corner shops) and the early bird American tourists excitedly make their way up the street to the site where the Twilight Saga- New Moon Volterra scenes were filmed.

After my normal morning routine, i sit at my window, sip my coffee and reflect on how much more i have learned about myself. The framework i use to do this I use with my Life Coaching clients. I thought I’d share these today as i find them so useful and worth tracking at least annually on our journey to firstly get to know ourselves – towards falling in love with ourselves. Hard to fall in love with someone you don’t know right? Doing this exercise today helped me respect how much i have changed in the last few months. For the worse or the better – i really don’t know? And in the greater scheme of life, who am i to judge me?

Try it out – give yourself an hour today. Have a soak in an epsom salt bath, play your favorite music and check your VITALS:

Values – what are the important values that describe you?

Interests – what do you give your attention to and what piques your curiosity

Temperament – how do you recalibrate? Alone? Are you happier being spontaneous or having plans? Do you prefer details or big ideas?

Around the clock – are you a morning person? Do you prefer exercising in the evenings? What time of the day are you most energetic?

Life Mission – what’s your purpose in life? It doesn’t have to be a physical goal. Get people to smile? Promote peace? What motivates you to wake up every morning?

Strengths – In ability? Skill? And Character?

You may only get through a few of these at each sitting – that’s all good! When you are complete – read it over. Be amused. Be impressed. Be forgiving and make at least one change in your life to Honour who you are!

One step closer to the Divine YOU!

Falling in love

I fell in love again today…. forgot how great that feels.

I was sitting at the balcony of a pub eating crispy bruschetta with truffle oil and porcini mushroom overlooking Il Campo in Siena. The midday sun was beating down on the oval shaped square and tourists were vying the northern edges of the building line looking for strips of shade.

At eyeline was all the first floors of these century old maize yellow buildings with fading plaster, scabbed and chipped brickwork and rusty wrought iron railings. Having just been in the center of the square enovalled by these beautiful old buildings and towering palazzo and fountains of Gaia running beneath me – I looked into the tourists capturing different angles and tried to place this feeling in my heart.

Sweet relief from the Tuscan sun came in the form of a light cool breeze as I gazed upon the palazzo. I felt such peace in this square unlike I have felt anywhere else in this trip. And I placed it, the oval sunken palazzo with curved palazzo and buildings felt like a huge hug! I felt sun-kissed and hugged at Il Campo today….

….. I fell in love!

Last day nostalgia

So I woke up with a low grade panic as I realized that my time in this magical bustling city is nearing an end. I was so caught up in the nostalgia and time travel in Florence that I hadn’t walked into a single store or bought any gifts.

So I started my day gifting – I don’t know why but buying a gift for a loved one really fills my heart – I carefully selected scarves and hats that I knew would suit my family members and got to bargain at the mercato centrale over olive oil.

Shopping in hand I headed to the experience that I’ve been looking forward to all week – an outdoor watercolour painting class. In Firenze! Out of a movie right? And I was living it … woohoooooo!

What a surreal moment – I met the art teacher near Duomo and we strolled down towards the Arno river with our supplies in hand and within 10 minutes I was sitting in a park and sketching out the skyline of the Italian palaces. Soon everything faded …. the tired tourists resting on the benches … the young lovers kissing under the giant trees all the city sounds…. It was me … the palaces and the cool afternoon breeze from the flowing Arno.

The sketching took me into myself as drawing and painting does. I usually paint in oils and this was my attempt to extend myself. Let’s just say as picturesque and therapeutic as my creative afternoon was – my watercolor requires a lot more practice than my 4 hour class. I hadn’t realized how mentally exhausted I was until I reached my hotel room – take away pizza and shopping in hand.

Drifting off to sleep I thought ‘ magical Firenze …. I will be back’ Who knows? Maybe to study art …