I am writing my morning pages – one of two “core practices” in The Artist’s Way, my unofficial roadmap through the past two years of transition – the daily purging of random thoughts taking up real estate in my head. It is Saturday, the end of the week, and I realize I have not planned an Artist Date (The Artist’s Way other core practice) for myself.
A part of me rejoices in my loosening the vice grip I seem to have on everything. A part of me laments.
Am I entering the transition from passionate love to either compassionate love or break up? The six-month mark in a relationship when partners finally rouse themselves from bed and can think of something other than sex and one another.
If it is, I’ve had a hell of a run – 77 weeks of Artist Dates and only recently have I become somewhat bored, lazy with the idea of planning a solo excursion for myself.
Trouble is, I am the type that loves to be in love – the first six-months girl, as evidenced by my blogs. The Southern Svengali. Mr. 700 Miles. My Divorce Buddy. Ridiculously romantic stories with heartbreaking endings.
My lament is about wanting to hold on to my ridiculously romantic story with myself – with my Artist’s Dates.
Italy – quite possibly the sexiest, most romantic place on the planet – calls like a siren.
I Google “volunteer, Italy” and in minutes am poring over possibilities.
I have volunteered overseas twice before – in the South of France and in Rwanda (the trip that gave form to this blog). Traveling this way gives me a deeper sense of people, place and purpose. It is cost effective. And I meet other unaccompanied adventurers I might not otherwise know.
I find “my trip” through Volunteers for Peace – two weeks with the Milano Film Festival. Only seven volunteers are accepted, and a letter of motivation is required.
I get writing.
I send my short essay to my friend, Melinda for feedback. She likes most of it, and gently offers, “Is this an opportunity to introduce yourself as a creative, fun, movie-loving, gelato-eating event coordinator who is a world traveler and wants to visit Italy without referencing your divorce?”
Yes, it is. And so I do – removing the reference to my divorce from the essay before hitting “send.”
And so this morning, noodling over my morning pages, I settle on a trip to the library or bookstore, to pour over travel books. Artist Date 77.
I think about Powell’s and flash on a date I treated my ex to when he completed his first year of residency – a bike tour of Chicago, highlighting book stores, record stores and pastry shops.
Recalling what I have done for someone else but am not doing for myself lights a fire in my belly.
It is warm and stuffy in the library – a small, neighborhood branch. I am surprised how many people are inside, considering outside holds the promise of the spring we Chicagoans have been waiting on. Most of them appear to be studying – determined.
I find the Italy section in the stacks and am disappointed to not find a single travel book. No Fodors, Frommers, Lonely Planet.
I pull La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, Traveling in Italy with Henry James, and D.H. Lawrence and Italy from the stacks. I finger through the first, I am somewhat amused but it is not what I want to read. I am distracted by the underlining and highlighting that mars the second. I put them back, hold on to D.H. Lawrence and check out – unsatisfied.
At the Book Cellar I grab three titles and settle into a somewhat comfy chair wedged in the corner of the shop.
I am quickly overwhelmed. My plan is to travel on after the Film Festival (I am already assuming I am going.). But where? Venice? Rome? Florence?
The Amalfi Coast? Sicily?
Too many choices. Too much for a single trip. Too much to consider.
This was supposed to be fun. It isn’t.
I close the books and return them to the shelves – still unsatisfied.
Perhaps it is enough to know they are there when I am ready – tomorrow, next week, next month. When I know more, like if I am in fact going. (I will receive notice in three to five business days.) Or if I am going somewhere else. Like to Reykjavic for its film festival, or Portugal to help restore a traditional, community bread oven – other possibilities.
Perhaps all that really matters is I took action to rekindle this romance – the only one I have any control over. I recall our couple’s therapist, Robert insisting that even if only one of us is doing the work, the relationship will change.
Today I did the work…and wait for the change.