It doesn’t seem that long ago that I thought, “One month left before we leave our home!” and I was nervous and scared. Now today, here we are, a month into our new life. Thirty one days, to be exact. And none of us feel that it “feels” that long that we’ve been away. We’ve come to grow very comfortable with our simple life. There’s been no rushing around, no pressure to get things done, and no errands to continuously run. You know that feeling you have when you are on vacation? The one that provides you with a sense of contentment and relaxation? The one that allows you to not feel guilty for reading a book in the middle of the day or let’s you indulge in an ice cream cone every night? The calm you feel when you wake up when you are rested and aren’t roused by the shrill of an alarm, and you know you have no where to be but the beach? That’s what it is has felt like every day for the past month. And that’s what we will feel every day for the next month. And from what I have learned, that’s what it will feel like every day for the next year.
There have been side effects of this lifestyle. Some that I love and some that I have to learn to embrace. One of my favorites has been watching my youngest, Zach, rediscover his imagination and creativity. Back at home we have always not encouraged “screen time”–television, computer, Wii, DS, etc. Despite that fact, Zach has always gravitated towards them. Maybe its because he’s the youngest and when I was busy with the other two, those devices easily kept him occupied and out of trouble. His obsession for the six months prior to leaving was Minecraft–a computer game. Since we’ve been here, he’s be detoxing! No Minecraft means that he doesn’t ask me twenty times a day if he can use the computer. I’m not saying he doesn’t miss it. I’m saying he’s doing just fine without it.
Instead of playing on the computer, he has been doing other things and is loving it! The first few weeks we were here, he played with his cousin, Antoni, day in and day out. One day they found a hole in the rocks and decided to make it into a fort. But before they could, they had to clean out all of the trash that had blown in from the sea winds. Once they started picking up trash, they wouldn’t stop! They were amazed and what they found and what treasures those things could become! A broken kite became the flag for their fort, an old fishing rod lead to a new passion, and rocks became valuable gems and crystal. For days, when we would head to the beach, Zach would grab work gloves and plastic bags so they could clean up the trash and see what they could find.
The “fishing rod” find lead to an interest in fish– both fishing and watching! He and Chris fixed the rod, and he’s taken it every where we’ve gone. When we go to a beach and he can’t fish, he snorkels. He’s has seen star fish, sea cucumbers, rock fish, and dozens of other types. He imagines that some day he’ll catch a fish that’s as big as he is! And he smiles from ear to ear when he talks about either one. Somedays we sit on the rocky beach and he collects rocks that he stacks and builds into houses and furniture. He picks up drift wood and reeds and wields them like weapons or musical instruments. And he’s becoming an expert rock skipper. Watching him in this environment has been reassurance that we are doing something right for our kids.
Something I still need reassurance with is wearing a two piece bathing suit. Antoni’s mom, Sophia, and I, are about the only two people on the island who I saw wearing a bathing suit that covers our bellies and our rumps! Body image in Europe is completely different than in America. It doesn’t matter what size you are here, or what age you are–girls, teens, women, and yiayias all wear two piece bikinis. Right. No little skirt to cover the cellulite, and no tankini to cover the love handles. And the bikini bottoms are made with half the fabric of the ones back home. But the most interesting part for me is to watch how comfortable and confident they all are in their suits.
I had Dianna bring me over two bikini tops to wear with my skirts because I felt so uncomfortable having my whole body covered. I felt like no one noticed the women in their bikinis, but everyone noticed me in my suit. ( Well, let me clarify–all the men noticed the curvy, fit, and tan women in their barely there bikinis. But no one noticed those who probably should have been wearing more–according to our standards in America.). I’ve worn the two-piece a few times, but I just don’t like it. I wish it didn’t matter to me that my love handles hang over my skirt or that my rock hard abs are hidden by a layer of bread, beer, cheese, and ice cream. I want to sit and laugh with my friends for hours and not be constantly tugging at my suit or shifting my body to hide my “soft” parts. I’m forty-one years old, and have given birth to four children. I am who I am, and my physical appearance is a piece of who I am. I hope that by the time we leave I can take that part of the European lifestyle with me. Maybe not the three triangle bikini, but the confidence to feel great in whatever I’m wearing.