Daniele and I met when we were 19, we lived in different countries and the internet was not commercially spread, we wrote letters for a while but then lost contact. When we got back in touch I was ending a bad relationship where I was not loved but which gave me a beautiful son, and I was just starting to get myself back together. Daniele managed to find work in the Netherlands and we started to build a life together. The experience made us understand that we are soulmates and we have been together since.
The most important thing of all he is my best friend, we can talk for hours connecting on a deep level. We always had this and I really believe this level of communication is what made it clear to me when something was amiss.
Change happens slowly, sometimes almost unnoticed until it is too late. This is most certainly the case with stress. Stress builds up slowly, then starts to poison the mind with fears, and depression starts.
Because it happens so slowly, it is hard to figure out there and then what is going on. Looking back on your life afterwards makes the patterns appear and shows the lessons you have learned from it.
So when we moved to Italy we decided I would stop working and take care of the kids, house, etc. due to the practical fact that part time jobs are not readily available in Italy and daycare would cost more then what I would be able to earn. This gave me time to learn to live in a new country, learn the language and evolve myself. The downside of this was that it created more pressure on Daniele. I tried to relieve that pressure by taking full responsibility for everything concerning the house and kids, trying to give him some downtime when he was home and give him time to connect with our kids.
When the Italian economy went downhill and a lot of people started to lose their jobs, Daniele felt that as a pressure to work even harder. The last years in Italy he had to travel every other week and when he was home he would often work till 2 at night to work with his coworkers in America to fix problems for customers he had run into while traveling. Or when we were out on the weekends and there was an internet connection he would be checking email on his cell phone instead of spending time with us. I could see that in his head he felt he needed to work so hard to be able to keep his work to provide for us, so I was letting him, although I saw it was not doing him very good.
In this period I started having tummy problems, but I did not really want to bother Daniele as he was working so hard, so I tried to figure out what was wrong with me, doctors where not of much help, they had no clear answers, so I started to change what we ate and create more food from scratch at home.
When the opportunity came along to move to America, we thought it would mean he would not have to travel, work during the day time with his coworkers, and could just come home for dinner everyday. So we took that, hoping it would give us more time together and if in a worst case scenario he would loose his job their would be more possibilities for other jobs in the IT sector.
We started to settle in a new life in a new country where neither of us had lived but before we had properly settled in a series of reorganizations happened in the company therefore things had to find a new balance – a few times.
With every reorg the workload of Daniele was increasing and with random layoffs a fear of losing his job became a monthly recurrence. On top of this, the speed of which IT companies started to re-innovate products and Daniele’s perfectionist qualities to deliver a good product, made him work even harder then requested and he started to slowly burn himself out.
The guy who played the guitar for me when I was 19 and that I found dancing trance music with our sons one day when I came home from work when the youngest was 4 months old, cooking dinner and sharing in the joys of children, was starting to lose all the joy of life by working more then 70 hours a week and slipping slowly in a world of fear. He was home a lot more, but when he was home he was often lost in his cellphone or computer, there was always something that just had to be finished before going to bed. We still talked a lot but slowly the conversation changed from talking about emotions and feelings to mostly work related situations. He was slowly shutting down his emotions.
It was really hard, to see the person I love so deeply go through so much pain and fear, and in the meantime have him push you away, even though you have done nothing wrong. I started to wonder did he stop loving me, or was he pushing me away trying to protect me of the person he was becoming: always working and going in a panic when there was no internet connection? There were moments where we still connected, usually late at night for short periods, he never stopped warming up my cold feet in bed. He was allowing himself very little space to digest all the things that happened during the day, there was always just one more email that needed to be handled.
For me growing up in a creative, nature-loving family, and having attended a Waldorf school, I knew that working with my hands or to be in nature, and to allow myself the space to create things or to enjoy the beauty of nature gave me the mental space to review my thoughts and emotions and balance my ego with my heart. I knew Daniele was not doing enough of that, but I had no idea how to make him see that.
When in this period my youngest son wanted to do a piano course in school, I let him, knowing that Daniele used to play really good maybe our son would like it as well, and our son absolutely loved it! He started playing the songs he had learned on a crappy keyboard over and over again.
I really believe this made Daniele get back in touch with his creative part. Soon Daniele was setting up his music equipment so our son could play on something better then the crappy keyboard. My son started to take real piano lessons and we went to the music store to buy him a better electronic piano. Walking around the music store seeing all new and shiny guitars Daniele wanted to buy one, but he did not allow himself to spend the money on himself, as he was not really playing anymore anyway, because he felt he had to work harder and did not have time for that.
As the universe works in mysterious ways, in one of our favorite thrift stores I saw an old beat up guitar. Daniele had told me that when he was a teenager he wanted to build a guitar, but did not know how to. So when I spotted the beaten up thing, I asked him if it was any good. He was not sure, but thought he could fix it up, so when he was in doubt of buying it afraid to spend money on himself this time I stimulated him to buying it.
The transformation slowly started as he was stripping away the old layers of paint of that guitar he seemed to be stripping away layers of himself and reconnect with parts of himself long forgotten. A spark came back on in his eyes…
Then because his music equipment was setup anyway , my husband started to play this restored guitar and slowly started to express emotions and also his love for me through the words of his songs. The words that he had been keeping locked inside of him for to long.
You can read about the guitar project on his blog
Did some of the things he said to me in this period hurt me? Yes, very deeply, but it also made my think of why did they hurt. Maybe they were hurting because they confronted me with my own insecurities and my own fears?
I started to question myself if these fears and insecurities were even true, or were they forced on me by the media and society? After having lived in three different cultures it was easier to see which fears were related to society and which ones were my own.
I took the time to analyze these fears, my past, the decisions I made, the different places I lived in and the different lives each of these places provided. Both the good and the bad, look at them objectively and came to the conclusion that I was actually pretty cool and the reasons why I felt so insecure did not even matter anymore, just the fact that I have no reason to be afraid or insecure.
I also started to work on myself, I searched for the right doctors to help me understand what was going on with my body (I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis). I started to work on both my physical and mental healing. I had already used Reiki most of my adult life to help heal myself, and in that period I received my second attunment and started using it daily on myself combined with natural medicine and oracle cards and I slowly started to heal. I refused to be a victim, instead I regrouped myself and I fought for what I felt was important: the love and all the fantastic stories we shared. And that, despite all the outside forces, life is good.
This process made me slowly see my own disease just as that: a disease, a state my body is temporarily in and a state that I believed I could fix, if I took the time to listen to it. So if my disease did not define me, why would any of the other labels society puts on us define us? I am just me, and Daniele is just Daniele, he was just struggling with things that can be fixed.
So I started to see the depression separate from Daniele – simply as a disease. Daniele did not say hurtful things to me while ranting – the disease did. Just like I had separated my own disease from me and just see it as a signal that something is not working. To me, so became his depression, a signal that something is not working, and we started to take the time to really listen to what it was trying to tell us. Maybe depression is a sign that in a part of our lives we are living against our values and the depression is just like any disease a chance to analyze where our values are. What serves us and what pulls us down? Where to focus our energy?
Slowly with a lot of late night talking and with a few road trips (it’s impossible to check email while driving, and we talked some more while on the road). We started to separated his fears from reality. We started to look at them objectively, and then together we turned the big elephants of fear back into the mosquitos they once where, before depression blew them out of proportions.
We talked about all the things that are more important to us, what we want to teach our children. What are the things that make us happy. How we would like the rest of our life together to be, the story of how we met (unplanned vacations are the best) and all the stories we shared, the cool things we had done so far. We laughed, we cried and we made love a lot in that period.
We came slowly to the conclusion that the only thing that really counts is love. Because above all we love each other. We slowly managed to separated the needs and fears society makes us feel we have to fulfill, to the needs and wants we actually had for ourselves, our lives, and re-evaluate our values as a family.
We decided that America, although we loved the nature, has a society based on fear, fed by the media and the big corporations, that we could not live in and we did not want our children to grow up in. We are blessed that we had lived in other countries where this society of fear is not the norm yet, so we could actually see this.
We started to see through the myth that with buying more and bigger things you can fill the need that we humans have to create and to connect. If we don’t connect and create it will make us sick. So we took action, we started to change our lives, we down-scaled, we moved back to my birth country, and we started to heal together.
In the end this process has brought us closer together, we already talked a lot but can do so now more deeply. We started to see life as an adventure filed with love and endless opportunities, instead of a prison filled with fears and pain. We believe it is important to show our children that you don’t have to accept bad situations and become victims; you can re-evaluate your views of the world and not be afraid of making changes.
PS – Daniele has also a series of posts on this topic on his blog, starting here