welcome to the most peaceful place on earth, Valdirose, on the outskirts of florence, italy. i stayed here on (what i thought would be) my last night in the country. it was my first taste of reality after my three week mountainside retreat at casalino. i was internet/phone/usually electricity free for long enough to forget what it’s like to not count on the sun for a hot shower. i knew the utopian lifestyle would have to end, but returning reluctantly back to wifi and nightly news was an easy transition with the help of hosts irene & paolo. Valdirose is one of those picturesque places you’d follow on instagram, but can’t imagine people actually living in so beautifully. the pair and their sweet family truly do, while being gracious friends and amazing cooks.
this hospitality was exactly what i needed to be reminded that even though my life was in constant transition, sweet people would always help me feel like i belonged somewhere. i was feeling completely grateful and humbled that this is where life let me be. as irene and i chatted about future projects, we agreed how many things in life are simply ‘meant to be.’
i can almost find the humor in the fact that less than 24 hours later, i would be crying alone in an immigration holding center, completely unsure of where in the world i would be in the next 24. this is a story in itself for another post, but i feel like it’s worth beginning now for a sense of contrast. for reasons i didn’t understand, i was being held at england’s border, waiting for hours in complete anxiety. the only thing i was allowed to bring in the holding room with me was a book. the classic and cliche traveler in me had the alchemist stuffed in my backpack, so for some sort of distraction i started it again. if you’re dealing with any stress or feeling like you have no idea which direction is up, like i still do now, the passage below (long but worth it) broke me apart and filled me with painful hope that being completely lost was meant to be, too.
There are four obstacles. First: we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there. If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love.
We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey. Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path.
We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh, well, I didn’t really want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. I ask myself: are defeats necessary? Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.
So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people? Because, once we have overcome the defeats—and we always do—we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: “Each man kills the thing he loves.”And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal—when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.
(kidding linda, i missed lester)