I lost my heart to Italy. I’m completely smitten.

Finally I’ve found a place where it’s ok to have a raised voice in normal conversation. Where I found a market and bought the best pesto I ever had, plus real ciabatta and vine-ripened tomatoes and the lemons and oranges still had their leaves attached. Where the espresso and cappuccino is first-rate and the gelato is beyond words.

Thursday night I went to Rome with a friend and her son, with plans to spend four days there. Yesterday was a fantastic day of getting our bearings and relaxing and being charmed by the way the Italians enjoy life. We did a bus tour then sat at the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain and soaked up the sun and atmosphere. The crowds–I never saw so many people– were happy and not too obnoxious.

All I could think to say was “It’s really real.” The ruins, the faded walls of the houses, with geraniums and greenery on the balconies. They’re real. The cafes where four men at a table all talk at one time. I saw/heard them. It’s not just in stories and pictures. It’s real. The smiling clerks who never hurry. The lack of a personal bubble of any size. It’s how they live. The crazy driving and the crazier pedestrians and the parking that’s so tight you can’t walk between the cars. It’s a mad, happy chaos that could become addictive.

All the pomp of the pope and his attachments are pretty much lost on me. It made me sad to hear that the Vatican is considered the heart of Christianity because I know what Jesus would say about the wealth and power it wields. But I had my heart set on seeing the Sistine Chapel, and paid a deposit yesterday to join a tour this morn.

Then in the evening my sister called while we were meandering toward a park. It’s my grandpa. A brain hemorrhage. He’s got only several hours.  Later the text: he died during the night.

Today I spent all day alone, travelling back from Rome to Warsaw. The map worked and I could walk to the right street for the bus. (You have no idea how huge this is to me.) I had an espresso in a simple cafe and read Psalm 90 in a piazza while waiting for the airport bus. I cried and read by turns during the hours but I cried when Wizz Air said they’d charge 10 euro for the cabin baggage, but the agent said it no, they charge 20. And then no, it’s 30 because the airport gets a commission. It felt like extortion and deceit to me, and my tolerance was in short supply.

But finally I’m home and  doing laundry and packing to leave for Indiana with my sister in the morning. I’m glad and sad to go. The week will have tears and laughter. There will be grandma and parents and aunts and uncles in grief, babies to cuddle, stories to re-tell and reasons to laugh. I want to celebrate my grandpa whose itchy feet I inherited. Whose solidity and faithfulness gave us a legacy that I don’t even realize fully.

I guess it figures that tonight I feel completely scattered.

What You Say is What You Are

Two days ago, I was driving an unfamiliar car out of an unfamiliar car park. It was snowy and the windscreen was foggy, but I was being as careful as I knew to be. I saw pedestrians around me but I wasn’t close to knocking anyone down, and didn’t skid.

As I waited for a break in traffic to pull out onto the main road (the one that reaches from Moscow to Paris!), a woman knocked on my window and harshly told me to pay attention when I drive out of there. Through the window, I said I’m sorry. She started walking away, then turned around again and pointed her finger at her head: “Stupid nun!”

I nodded dumbly because I can’t defend myself in Polish, beyond saying “You’re right. I’m sorry.” Her words shook me because I’m not the brightest light on the street, but I’m not used to being called stupid.  Which says more about the people around me than about me. But I wasn’t crushed or devastated by her rudeness.

It’s something I’ve heard all my life, but only recently the penny dropped for me, and I see that what someone says about me or does to me reveals more about them than about me. The rude lady on the street. The hurtful words or actions directed at me. Neglect or carelessness that hurt me. None of that means that I deserve those words and actions, that I’m stupid or unworthy of care. It only reveals the perspective and the life experience of the one whose words and actions I receive.

Not that I’m perfect and never fail, and never need to be called to higher things. But no one ever deserves rudeness or abuse or harshness, no matter how imperfect they are.

But it cuts both ways. When I judge/criticize/make a statement about someone else, I’m revealing my own heart more than I am giving an accurate picture of that person. When I call someone unfeeling or impossible or thoughtless, chances are that I’m saying words that describe me.