Monday, October 19

I'm going to let you into a little secret...


...I wasn't a fan of Florence.

When I arrived in Florence it was full of people, and not full of people in a Milan way, but full of tourists...everywhere.  There didn't seem to be any daily-life people bumbling around, I saw only one 'supermarket' on my wanderings, but lots of tour groups, students and families of every nationality.  Now, don't get me wrong, the buildings were amazing but the crowds and constant movement really put me off.  Perhaps my four years doing day trips to remote hill top towns has meant I'm now spoilt.

I'm thankful that on my Sunday day-trip to Florence I did have good company.  If I hadn't, alas, I don't think I'd have lasted long wandering around.  My friends informed me what the buildings were infront of me (even though I have forgotten everything now).



I honestly haven't got a clue what the names of these things are...one of them is definitely the Duomo though!



And, of course, they took me to a great place to eat which was in a less populated square so I really enjoyed the lunch.  The antipasti was awesome, so flavoursome with some great liver pate amongst many other delicacies.  For my main I chose a simple dish of sausages and potato but it was amazing.  Of course this was after a visit to my friend's favourite gelateria at 11.30am.


 




Plus there was some awesome graffitti on most streets, one of my favourite things to spot.




 Also, the sunset was quite spectacular over the river.



Hmm...on second thoughts...perhaps I liked it after all.  I'll have to go back and give Florence a second chance. 

Saturday, October 10

Happiness

I did it. I've signed a contract for my own place. A small studio flat in an apartment block situated 20 minutes from work and 20 minutes from the city centre. I hope it'll mean the best of both worlds as I search for the epitome of living a balanced equilibrium between everything that life brings.

This morning I read Bob Gass' 'The Word for You Today', as I restarted doing so last week. I was struck by a passage in particular that to me just makes sense:
'What distinguishes consistently happy people from less happy people is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships. Social researcher Robert Putnam writes: “The single most common finding from a half century’s research on life satisfaction, not only in the U.S. but around the world, is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s social connections.” But you can know a lot of people without really being known by any of them, and end up lonely. Those folks in the New Testament church got it right: It’s in sharing with one another spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally that you achieve your highest level of joy.'
I would consider myself a person who is one of the 'consistently happy people'. Yes I have periods, days, weeks, even months of loneliness and darkness but through all this I strive for 'happiness', or perhaps more accurately to be 'content' (Philippians 4:11). As the quote above states, a lot of this comes from what and how I share with others.

It's only been 6 weeks since I moved to Milan but my priority right now is to work on my relationships. Relationships with the children I work with, with the parents of those children, with my colleagues, with my colleagues who are also becoming close friends, with my friends in Pescara who I'm not able to see as regularly as before, with my friends in England that I see as before but now have different things to talk about, and with, of course, my family. All of these relationships change me in some way and I have to invest time into those relationships, sometimes when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and listen to music. I listen, I talk, I listen, and think. I let people's comments settle in my thoughts, or sometimes, I reject comments, discarding them. Sometimes I can view a person's comments as negative, only to see a positive in it days, weeks, months even years later.

It is this breadth and depth of relationships that I find amazing. There are people with whom I have a 'shallow' relationship, gaining 'joy' from the relationship only in terms of a particular circumstance. Then there are people with whom I have a 'deep' relationship. With these relations they tend to be based on a history, short or long, of honestly sharing our faults and foundations, and as a result these relationships are the ones that have the highest impact on my day-to-day being.

Problem's come with relationships however: after all it's a two way commitment. The time I invest in a person, thinking about them, speaking to them, etc. does not always equate to the amount of time the other person is investing. This leads to an imbalance, which can ultimately lead to difficulties in the relationship. If the relationship is of the shallower kind, it will dwindle and inevitably disappear, but if the relationship is a deep one it will always always bounce back, and stronger.

Another factor I've found important in building a relationship is honesty. If we omit details in a recount of an event, if we skirt around an issue or if we say we'll do something and then don't etc, it doesn't matter if the relationship is personal or professional, things will go wrong. That's why honesty is something I strive to do.

So, honestly, this transition to Milan has been the hardest thing I've done to date. I may well be 'tough', 'brave', 'courageous' or someone that's 'sorted' which friends have been saying to me over the last few weeks but I still have doubts, I cry myself to sleep some nights, and I am scared. In my experience, a person's strengths are often their weaknesses, and the good is also the bad.

Recently I've been considering that my time in Milan is about learning to walk before I can run. Reflecting on the excerpt from Bob Gass today, I think I will be able to run only after walking through the breadth and depth of relationships. Therefore, I thank God for all those 'others' that I share my world. By sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly, we are able to maintain a consistent happiness.