Life is Grand
Many people have asked me why we sold the B&B, and why, oh why did we move back to Germany, when it's pretty clear that we love Italy so much.
When I moved from Italy back to Germany, I really did not know how the future would shape itself. I had, in fact, committed to giving up worry - a habit that had cost me peace of mind for many of my twenty plus years in Europe. When faced with uncertainty, I charged straight into anxiety-driven action, allowing my adrenaline level to determine my output. Until I could not do it anymore. At some point, avoidance through adrenaline burns a person out and reality must be faced, whatever reality is.
That's called an edge.
I faced a huge edge when we sold our B&B and decided to leave Italy. The edge was to begin again - something I had done before - but to start from complete depletion and what had become cronic depression, which is where I was in January 2014. Upon arriving at our rental in Serralunga after selling the B&B, I couldn't go on anymore as I had in the past. Something dramatic had to happen.
That was hard.
I questioned why I had to go through all that, when the project we did was actually beautiful, well recieved, and successful. Why did I need to move on so desperately from what we had created there? I really didn't know how to go on.
What was surreal about being in that space was the fact that from the outside, it all looked relatively flawless. I struggled to make the best out of all that I knew and all that we had. And there was a real beauty in what we created. But reality was that I needed less arduous physical work and more security. I did not listen to - or honor - either of those needs for over a decade. And that had consequences.
By security I mean that my nature required a certain sense of stability that you cannot have when your work is dependent upon world events that effect tourism, the dollar falling apart, or terrorism. Making our place feel like a haven for people was easy; turning on the news and realizing that the next construction phase to which we were already committed would cost 30% more because of the exchange rate wasn't. One season could be flush with reservations, and the next completely dry up until the last minute. And doing it in a country which found itself in perpetual recession with little or no hope of recovery took its toll on us mentally.
Even though it all looked, and was, so beautiful.
The last couple of seasons at the B&B, we also were well aware that the industry was changing right before our very eyes. The advent of online travel agents (OTAs) like Booking and new web companies like Air BnB were crucifying small, specialized projects like ours. Trip Advisor was a double edged sword - we'd have to pay them substantial money to show up there, even though we only had 5 star ratings - over 50 of them. The days of guerilla internet marketing were over, and everyone would now want a piece of the pie. Small places like ours simply couldn't afford it and also stay in business. The writing was on the wall. Our concept wasn't as sustainable as it had been in the early part of the decade.
By arduous physical work I mean that I did yoga five times in ten years - each time represented the only self care I did during those years in Italy. The rest of our time was spent lugging concrete block, painting facades, grouting tile, shoveling snow, gardening, stacking wood, lugging pellets, power blasting mold and grime from exterior walls after the winter, and trying to keep nature from destroying whatever we had managed to create. I'm not a robust person, and I knew that going into the project. But I did not honor that aspect of myself. Instead, I agreed to a 10 acre property because it provided the perfect setting for what we wanted to do. But having such a huge place sent me into a blind panic every February thinking about what it would take to get the place in shape for another season.
I didn't stop to think that by slightly altering the dream and making some practical compromises like one building, no land and no pool, I might have been able to have a more sustainable project in the long run.
These things played directly into my habit of working frantically when I am scared - until I was so scared that no amount of work could cover it up anymore. That's where I was when Grace stepped in and the property got sold.
And because Grace did step in I realized that I had been given another opportunity to recreate myself. And this time, I would honor my needs for security and self care. I realize that during all the years we were in Italy, my objective was to survive the challenge. I thought a lot about thriving, but I could never seem to reach it.
Now, with that project behind me, I could see the potential of thriving being a realistic possibility. Not because of what we had walked away from - but because of the lifetime's worth of education we had gotten by putting every limit we had to the test those ten years and living through it!
None of this had to do with not loving Italy. It had to do with not being able to make Italy work for us in a way that was sustainable.
When we looked at it objectively, this is what we saw:
We had amassed a great deal of knowledge about Piedmont and Piedmont wines. Micha had a background as a successful business executive at the highest level, and I was good at putting creative projects together. Germany also has a very solid system for starting new businesses that is stable and easy to understand and without all of the anxiety-inducing uncertainty that Italian business is loaded with.
From those roots, the idea for Babarolo was born. We could support small Italian businesses, that we knew, from very personal experience, struggled to stay above water. We could spend time in Italy, and we could, if we planned it right, support ourselves while having fun.
That's where we are now - on the crux of launching a new business that was literally born out of what we left behind.
This time, though, I am not doing yoga once every two years - but rather twice a week. I hired a personal trainer to work with me for six months to get me reconnected with myself physically. Now I have enough confidence to do yoga and pilates in a group, and am actually meeting women there that I can socialize with.
The sale of the property in Italy gave us the freedom to buy a house in Germany. At first I thought I wanted a small apartment that had none of the trappings that the hill in Italy had. But we are who we are, and as a result we fell in love with a historic house here in Southern Germany. The good thing is that it was completely livable when we bought it. We're taking our time, and making small changes to make our lives easier, but not overwhelming ourselves.
When I left the hill, I was very depressed and as a result gave everything in my pottery studio away - everything except my small kiln, which I kept. I gave my big front loader kiln to the art school in Acqui Terme, and I gave the wheel and all the chemicals to a wonderful couple - two teachers - who are putting everything to good use.
I couldn't see a future for myself and it was necessary, in my depressed state, for me to start divesting myself of my treasured possessions.
But a few months after selling the property, I found the house in Germany, and this house had a beautifully restored space perfect for a pottery studio. I took it as a sign.
A year after giving everything away, I bought a small wheel and some basic chemicals and started again.
It turns out that life after the B&B is very fulfilling - new projects, a beautiful home that we love. We lost Max, our amazing B&B dog, only months after selling the property -a blow that broke our hearts, and threatened my unraveling once more. But as Grace would have it, another dog was put in our path six months ago. Rocky is the most wonderful creature and we just adore him. He gets us out and walking every day, is always ready for a cuddle, and seems to understand that the three of us belong together. Instead of good morning, I whisper thank you in his ear every day.
I am very, very grateful that we did what we did in Italy. I made friends I will have for the rest of my life through that experience. I met so many wonderful, good-hearted people - guests, neighbors, restaurant and shop owners - that my faith in humanity was restored - over and over and over again. I learned how to do things I would never have known how to do. I grew roses, I had a garden, I cooked and I sewed and I plastered walls. I learned Italian, the language of my ancestors. The fact that it wasn't forever actually makes the memories even more precious for me, as they dominate a period of time in my life - a time that was set aside for learning who I really am.
Having gone through what I went through showed me how grand life really is.
And to be safe, we kept the little apartment we rented in Italy after we sold the B&B - we use it for our wine business and to be able to enjoy Italy in the way we never could in those years of the B&B; we go there and just immerse ourselves in the magic of the place.
We're now getting ready to undertake a small renovation project that will give us a new art studio, wine storage area, packaging area, and a painting atelier that will double as a workshop space. Our goal is to have a Ceramic / Art / Italian Wine event here in spring of 2017. I think, when I am showing my pieces and sharing wine with whoever chooses to come and be with us that day, I will know I have come full circle, once again, in creating a new incarnation from all I have learned.
Stay healthy, my friends, and trust in your own ability to create and grow and change. It's as true for you as it ever was for me. I promise you that.