On another note, right before I took off for Italy, I was interviewed for a radio documentary/article for Loyola University’s Mosaic Magazine by a reporter I’d met in the audience for Falling Petals. Her reasoning for interviewing me and asking me to summarize my story was to shed light on potential stressors/triggers for depression.
A quick sidenote: I cannot with much authority describe depression as an aftereffect of what happened in my life, as I never truly suffered from it, but her documentary is based on scientific research as well as incorporation of personal stories. I suppose the idea is to shed more light on the subject, the link between disability acquisition and cultural stigmas which can cloud our understanding of what an experience like this can be like, personally. While I do fully appreciate this objective, I don’t want any of my audience to be confused as to whether I suffer from mental illness (the focus of Erasing the Distance and incidentally also the Loyola article) or if that is something I know much about. To be sure, we’ve all been exposed to varying degrees of the spectrum that mental illness spans, which as I hear more on the subject I’ve learned is a lot more widespread than most of us would be comfortable admitting or observing in our own lives, but although I have experienced a significant trauma in my own life, I have been fortunate in my resilience to have never fallen victim to my higher risk of delayed-onset depression (a possible result of the injury that a psychologist at the hospital did project into my prognosis). This is not to say I don’t have my ups and downs; I am after all a human being above all, but my focus remains on focusing on bouncing back and warding off a majority of the downs, so to speak. I hope to empower you all to take healing into your own hands and believe with every last cell within you that it is possible, as long as you work with it.
Anyway, I bring up this interview because I remember the reporter, Theresa, asking me a question that was really interesting. She asked about my fixation for Italy and asked whether it had been some kind of spiritual experience, why I kept returning there.
It’s true: I’ve been in and out of Italy at least once a year every year since 2004. I was an Italian major as an undergrad, and I still live a predominantly very Italian lifestyle even while at home. It’s unexpected, considering my ethnic background has absolutely nothing to do with Italy, but it is how it is. And yes, I would certainly not deny that my finding such solace and beauty in Italy and its subsequent lifestyle and philosophies was a spiritual experience for me. She wondered whether my going there more or less straight after my injury was a way to cope and if the experience alleviated some of the pain of my stroke, if it was a much-needed escape, and maybe it was.
I think it’s really important to find something you really resonate with, whether it be a place, a relationship, a goal, or a hobby. This kind of passion is rare but only comes from the heart. Let’s not be too passive in our lives; finding something to embrace is indeed nourishment for the mind and soul.
If you love animals, for example, it would be a great idea to go for walks with a small dog. Play your favorite games with an affected hand or limb, whatever it is.
Italy taught me to value the beauty of life as an entity — that things are not just about doing, doing, doing, but also in just being. (That is, after all, what we are, human beings, not human doings.) Do I get criticism from people who haven’t learned it for themselves yet? Of course I do. But that’s a small price to pay for gratitude and the rare ability (at least where I’m from) to be present.
Now is all we have, so make the best of it and work with it rather than against it. Take your passions and turn them into something good — and enjoyable. Your healing will be more thorough that way, and yes, in the end, more productive.
To our healing,