I have sometimes wondered what it would take to make me want to move back to the United States. Is there something that could ever change my mind about living in Italy? Would I one day overdose from Italian living? Would I ever come to think that this was all just a childish fantasy? Would I find the system too beaurocratic to deal with? Would I be unable to overcome the language barrier? Would I find the technology to be impossibly ancient? Would I get sick and tired of hanging my clothes out to dry on a clothesline? Would I find the healthcare system to be inefficient? Would I one day discover that this was only meant to be a pause, an adventure? Would I one day miss America so much that I would yearn to go back? Would I find out that I've made a destiny mistake?
This question has been a fleeting thought that comes and goes every now and then. But I never pay much attention to it, because I am so distracted by living every moment and appreciating every day to its fullest. It's a question that doesn't need to be answered at all.
But recently the question has, perhaps by chance, perhaps by fate....been answered. The experience of being sick here has been just another, if not, the ultimate test. Maybe my illness was perfectly timed by destiny.... to give me even more clarity....to answer that question that didn't need to be answered. If I could get through this, and still feel so happy and enchanted with my life here, then there would be no other reason to turn back.
In the past 2 months, I've been very sick twice. All in all, I have actually been "down"for 24 days. First with a common 10 day influenza in September, and then I was diagnosed with the H1N1 Swine Flu accompanied by acute bronchitis. For 2 weeks I was wiped out. I fought to recover, I fought to understand and navigate the Italian healtcare system, and I spent endless days alone, isolated, sick, feverish and unable to breathe, wondering if this was going to be the end of my life in Italy.
Now that I am well again, I am delighting once more in the beautiful life that I have found in Florence. When I walked out of my apartment for the first time in 2 weeks, everything looked like a dream. My piazza, little Giovanni selling flowers, wondering where I had gone....walking the city again and feeling the vibe, observing the precious little slices of Italian life that pass me with every step. I walked to the outdoor market and bought some beautiful zucchini, some chestnuts for roasting, some rapini, and a handful of basil. I stood on line at the pescheria and bought a whole orata. I walked down to Piazza Signoria just to stare in awe and connect once again with my town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio. I felt overcome with passion and happiness. After 2 weeks of missing all these special places in Florence, I rejoiced in being back. I was so happy to be out there again. I appreciated it again like it was all new.
Now that I know how to deal with being sick in Italy, and what to do if I am, I have come to realize that there isn't anything that could tear me loose from Italy. I've gotten through the worse of it. There are challenges to come, but I've survived the most difficult stages and feel happy to be here, for better or worse, in sickness or health, till death do us part.