People's response when discovering that my husband and kids are in the States and that I am away from them when I am in Florence, is invariably, "Oh, that must be really hard."
Though I am tempted to misappropriate the sympathy, I have to remember what I always 'preach' to my children. 'You can't have it both ways. You can't complain about how bad life is, and at the same time be happy and fulfilled.' Given the choice, I'd rather be happy.
Granted, no one could say that I've chosen a conventional path in life, But, I never looked for one. I seem to still be going through 'phases'. In high school, I had my 'beatnik' phase characterised by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen. In college, I passed through the radical, SDS phase into a hippie and free love phase. I lived in a teepee in Vermont and then a commune in Berkeley. Then there was the 'pop' psychology phase, with trips to Esalen, primal scream therapy, est, and Gestalt which segued beautifully into the 'spiritual' phase of Tibetan Buddhism, Tai Chi, Zen, whatever. (I said my life was not conventional, I didn't say I was in any way an individual or unique.) In fact reading this, it's embarrassing to reveal this trail of 'cliches and I'll save the reader and myself from further boredom.
Florence is my 'Under the Tuscan Sun' phase of course. And like every phase before it, I am living it to its fullest. After one year in Italy, my husband was ready to move onto his next phase, and moved to LA. Fortunately, my 'I love my husband' phase continues to bloom (we celebrated our 25th anniversary this summer) so I have spent the last two summers in LA with him.
Never having lived in LA before, I am completely surprised and delighted how much I love it. We live at the beach, I have tons of friends from previous 'phases', there's so much to see, do, eat, learn, it's a great and fun life.
I am asked which do I prefer, LA or Florence? I can't choose. I don't want to choose. And you know what, I don't need to choose.
Most of my 'phases' lasted 10 years, and given that I'm not getting any younger, and I kind of like this living life in phases pattern that I have, I look at my current life as simultaneously living 2 parallel lives. So I'm getting '2 phases for the price of 1.'
'BE HERE NOW' (from my 'spiritual' phase) still rings true for me as being a key to life. When I am in LA, I don't compare it to Florence, and when in Florence, I don't complain that it's not like LA.
Of course, I have bad and sad days in both cities. But I even feel grateful for my sadness, that I have a husband that I miss and I can't wait to talk to every day, than a husband that I can't wait to get away from.
I don't know how long this 'phase of 2 lives' will last. Maybe when my response to the question, 'Isn't it hard?', is 'yes.'