The story of leggerezza begins … well, I don’t really know where it begins, exactly. All I know is that it ends in a tattoo on my upper arm, about t-shirt sleeve length and width, inked on my the weekend of my 35th birthday in Amsterdam by easily the world’s best tattoo artist EVER (Marco Serio I heart you, yes I do!) and designed by the world’s best friend and best artist EVER (Ele my dear you are the one for me!).
Folks, what can I say? In June I will mark eleven years since I first came to Rome. That’s a lot of time in my world.
Ten years with the man I met on the first day in the city, a fairly smooth divorce—if that’s not too much of an oxymoron—and a now on-really-good-terms parenting relationship, as we are in fact parents to three, yep count ’em!, three, kids. A four year old and TWIN two year olds. Many of you who know me already know all that.
As in all compelling informercials, as well as in life: there’s more!
An almost-completed MSW back in the States, a string of really interesting jobs including youngest director ever of one my former organization’s study abroad centers (the one here in Rome), stints in kundalini yoga, Buddhist zen meditation, and courses in astrology, Spanish, and “natural” childbirth.
A love for Yogi Tea, not enough time to continue zazen (but to be continued…), a fairly good grasp of what it means to have Sun in Taurus conjunct Mercury in the 11th house forming a T-square with Saturn and Uranus (in short, it’s not easy), the ability to politely say “oiga!” in Spain to get someone’s attention, and two C-sections resulting in three children. So, as with all great expectations, some turn out, some don’t. I figure I’m par for the course.
Successfully starting, managing, and then closing my own business due to a move back to the States, and having to start all over again, for the nth time, at just 30 years old.
Enjoying a rooftop garden house for years in the heart of old Trastevere, living in a
shoebox shared student apartment without enough water pressure to even rinse my hair, a hellish hospital stay post-birth here in Rome, getting a second driver’s license at 26 and learning how to drive in a way that purposely ignores most of the rules of the road.
Learning to loosen up, accept life as it comes, and above all, realizing that very little of that which makes up this life is actually under my direct control. And that being, all things considered, not such a bad thing. And that life, all things considered, shouldn’t be taken quite as seriously as I often take it.
Someone who played a very pivotal role in my life here in Rome was once telling me about all of his woes. Since I tend to be silly and sarcastic with the people I enjoy, I started making light of it. He looked kind of upset. I said, “Hey, lighten up. I’m just trying to bring a bit of leggerezza into your life.”
He said that leggerezza is one of the most beautiful words in Italian, both for its meaning (“lightness” — it always makes me think about taking things lightly and less seriously, the epitome of our “lighten up” phrase in English) as for the fact that physically, when you pronounce it, since it has a double “Z” you are practically forced to smile when you say it.
I found all of that quite poetic, and even if it was contrived, I didn’t care. I knew that was going to be my new key word for the forseeable future. Leggerezza. Yes, I like that.
And so, there you have it. My word, my artists, and lest we forget, my beloved swallow:
In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles, swallows are also associated with the idea of return. This “return” symbolism is rooted in two ideas. The first was the swallow’s famous migration pattern, always returning home to San Juan Capistrano. Second, it was believed that if a sailor dies at sea, birds carry his soul home to heaven.
(Thank you Sailor Jerry!)
So, to mark my return trip, my logging of 5000 miles and then some, and my overall journey in general, I got inked. In Italian, in Amsterdam, by a New Yorker, who also is Portuguese, and did a stint in a tattoo shop just around the bend from the illustrious correctional facilty at Rikers Island. It’s like six degrees of tattoo geography. And all without one shred of regret.
And no, it did not hurt. (You try raising three kids ages 4, 2, and 2, and then come back and tell me if you think a tattoo hurts. No? I didn’t think so.)
Don’t let tattoo-haters try to talk you out of your first tattoo by being all “OHMYGAWD it’s going to be so painful and so red and irritated and blah blah frickin blah blah.” Um, hi. I have like the world’s most sensitive skin and this was about as gory as it got. This is literally like moments after it was finished. Yeah, there’s like a couple drops of blood. Deal.