Hard Days

6 June 2020. Maybe it’s the full moon. Maybe it’s the wind. The wind is relentless today, followed by yesterday’s rain. Maybe I’ve been too happy and, like all things, this too will end. (Tomorrow I leave these friends and this cottage. And soon… eventually… I must leave Sicily…) Or maybe it’s Covid. I don’t know. But today is a hard day.

Today is Saturday. And the stores are all closed. Ok, not all. But most of them. I am so weary of seeing closed doors. The long metal shutters that close to the ground. Empty streets. Only one smile directed at me, from the old man pushing a young child in a stroller. His smile was full and sweet as his eyes met mine. That was a blessing. I sat in a park with swings and such for children but this space, too, was largely empty. Even the flowers in their pots seemed lonely today. A few people about, but they only looked at me. When I smiled, they nodded. A few mumbled greetings. Nothing warm. Nothing to sustain me. My spirit is sinking.

Existential angst. What am I doing? What’s the purpose of all this? What is the meaning of this journey? Of my life? Is it enough to simply exist? Many do. Many others are not even given this privilege.

All will be better after a shower and a nap. Tonight, dinner with my friends. Local wine. Homemade gnocchi. And of course, my cheese.

Still, today is not soft. Yes, there are birds singing. The sun has emerged. Yet, I feel compelled to share: such journeys are not all holiday and joy.

Perhaps it is the full moon. Or the wind. Or Covid. Today I am sad. Today is hard.

8 June 2020.  I am struggling and it seems ridiculous to even share any of this. Yet somehow I think you want to know. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic and international protests to end police brutality and address systemic racism (the issues go far deeper than these words), all is not right with me. How can it be?

15 June 2020. It’s been at least ten days now. Ten days since I started writing, determined to be honest, even at the risk of no one wanting to hear. But the words wouldn’t come. My words seemed too pretty.

I’m still in Sicily. “Living the dream,” as some say. How lucky I am to be here and not back in the States, many tell me, living vicariously through my photos and stories. So I’ve tried to keep them coming. I haven’t posted everything I’m writing. Falling back instead on the good things: images of beauty, moments of joy. And I don’t want anyone to worry about me. In the great scheme of things, my life is pretty inconsequential. I am no more, and no less, than anyone else. Yet I exist. And with this great privilege, I feel compelled to be my best. Not for me (for “I” truly don’t exist, “I” is an illusion) but for others, for the whole, for all that we are together.

It was easy to write my last post about a wonderful dinner shared with new friends. Food is concrete, so to speak. And I knew it would make others happy. And yes, I, too, was happy in that moment. The memories are good. But even as I was writing, those feelings were fading. The shadow of other feelings pushing their way in. These deeper feelings are more difficult to express. I doubt even now that I can write adequately, but I will do my best, at least my best in this moment, before I return to bed.

Alas… I went back to bed …

My head has been hurting for days. Last night it was a full-on migraine. Today I still feel queasy. I’m not sick. I don’t have Covid19. (at least, so I believe. I have no symptoms, I’ve been cautious, and Sicily’s transmission rate is extremely low) But I am exhausted. I’m worried about not having enough energy to finish this trip.

I reached out to a few female friends. Maybe this is menopause. (Male friends, you will never understand.) One responded quickly. Reading her words, even thinking of them now, brings me to tears.

Collective grief. The pain of the world. The atrocities that keep happening. I am white and I AM privileged. I’ve known this since I was 18. People didn’t care if I was educated or skilled, only that I was pretty. So I cut my hair short. Even shaved my head twice. I went to interviews with hairy legs and without nylons (in those days, women always wore nylons). I marched for LGB rights before there was LGBTQ+. I read about Apartheid while Nelson Mandela was still in prison. I wore black to the law office where I worked for a week after the Tianenmen Square massacre. I protested corporate greed after the Exxon Valdez crashed. I was arrested, and the subsequent required community service effectively began my career in nonprofits. I’m not new to any of what is happening in the States. I worked in HIV/AIDS and volunteered for homeless shelters and soup kitchens and a Mexican orphanage. I was recycling before it was required, much to the chagrin of my family. I have tried for decades to do what I could. None of it has been enough. My efforts pale in comparison to other friends. The pain and the injustice and inequities continue. I am not exhausted from my efforts, not in the least. Respectively, I have done nothing. I have not done enough. I continue to benefit from being a pretty white woman. My gratitude is immense – I have always been grateful – but it is inadequate. My fatigue is collective. My grief is deep.

Staying in Italy during quarantine was relatively easy. Again, such a privilege that I could. And with DT’s horrible response to the pandemic, it seemed safer and smarter to not return home. But now… now there is marching in the streets. It is a time of reckoning. Now I need to be home. Even with Covid19 still raging, I need to be there in solidarity.

I’m sure I’ll be better in the morning. If for no other reason than I must be. The luxury of sleeping in a peaceful “Sicilian Mountain Oasis” will be over. I will rest again in Balestrate before leaving Sicily. A few days in Florence, a few nights in the Umbrian countryside, and then I fly home. My adventure in Italy during this unprecedented time in history will end. Meanwhile, in the States, I hope, and I pray, it is only beginning. And that is not my story to tell. It is the story of all of us.

“I am you and you are me and we are all together.” (I Am the Walrus)

These are hard days. We may not agree, we may not see things the same way, but I do believe we are all hurting. May we each find rest and the strength to persevere. Not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all.

8 Comments on “Hard Days

  1. Wow Jan. Your words. A song of the cosmos. So beautifully said and written. Thank you for that. You are feeling the shift; the collective grief; the not knowing; a metamorphosis of some sort; a transformation unfolding. And you bear witness to events far beyond any of our control. Alone. In Italy. But not alone. Because you are us, and we, you. Know that collectively, there are so many people, most of whom I don’t know, whose metaphorical wings are there to hold, support, nourish, encourage, embrace, and hug you. As does the earth, and the stars, and the far-flung galaxies, for they are you too, and you, they. And all of us, as one, as the no-thing that is everything, is witness to to its own creative unfolding. 🙏❤️🕉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Jan for getting real. Yes these are hard day. No one ever promised that they would be good. Some won’t admit what you just did, some can’t because it takes humility and courage. I’m grated you did💜

    Liked by 1 person

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