by Melinda Gallo

Celebrating six years

Today I celebrate six years of living in Florence and writing my blog. For the last couple of months, I have thought about this day and what it means to me. Not just a marker for the time passed in Florence, but also a reminder of how my life in Florence and my blog have both been great experiences for me. Six years ago when I returned to Florence, I had no idea where my journey would lead me. I started out my new life in Florence the way I did my blog: I promised myself to keep my mind open, to have new experiences, to not fall back on stereotypes, and to not judge others.

I was excited and scared to start my blog. I had started writing in 1994 while I was living in Paris, and moved to Florence in 1997 because I wanted to focus on writing full-time. I worked on short stories mostly while I was in Florence until I went back to the US in 1999. A couple of years later, when my mother passed away, I stopped writing altogether. Any time I would start writing, memories of my mother--usually the more recent, and less pleasing ones--would come to me. The only way for me to ease the pain was to stop writing.

When I returned to Florence in 2004, my heart was shattered after losing my mother. I didn’t let myself grieve until I came to Florence. I felt like a child who held in her tears until she saw her mother, and only then would she unleash them. Something inside of me knew that I had to move back to Florence because it was where I felt safe and loved. It was where I could mend my broken heart.

What I learned in those first years back in Florence was that I had to open my heart more. And to do that, I had to grieve. I never wrote about all that I did: writing, meditation, spiritual healing, body work, massage, therapy, etc. Besides being quite private at heart, my blog doesn’t offer me the buffer of time. Sometimes I needed time to digest my experiences, and then once assimilated, the desire to write about them disappeared.

I am grateful not only to all of those people who helped me, but also to my blog and to my beloved city. Living here has taught me to express myself with more sincerity, to keep myself open to new experiences and people, to appreciate life, and to love with greater abandon. I have learned that no matter how bad a heart is broken, it still wants to love.

My love affair with Florence is certainly not superficial. I don’t need to see the monuments, churches, or artwork to remind me how much I love this city. I can stand anywhere, shut my eyes, and feel its love pulsing through my veins. A love that is not only consistent, but also omnipresent.

The weather today reminded me of my journey back to Florence. This morning, the skies were dark grey with rain coming down quite steadily. By noon, the clouds parted and made way for the sun to shine. My life here seems to have been the same: initially my happiness, like the sun, was just hidden behind the clouds. I finally learned that my happiness was always there and that sometimes sadness just stood in front of it, like a cloud in the sky. Sadness will never replace my happiness; it will just come and go.

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