Sometimes, even when you know that you’re doing what you want with your life, you need a little reassurance or inspiration – especially when making big changes.
I’ve been feeling that way lately and was looking around my circle of family and friends to see who could serve as an inspiration to me…or at least someone who has gone through something similar to my big life changes of buying land and building a house in Guatemala and then moving there part-time.
I couldn’t find anyone in my circle, but then the movie Under the Tuscan Sun popped into my mind. For those of you that are not familiar with the movie, it tells the story of a woman, Frances (played by Diane Lane) who rebuilds her life after a divorce by spontaneously buying a villa in Italy while there on vacation. I hadn’t watched the movie in years, but when I thought of it, I immediately knew that I wanted to watch it again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it in Guatemala.
When I mentioned to my friend Erin that I wanted to watch it but that it wasn’t available digitally, she send me the DVD via my friend Alex as my birthday gift. When I watched it, I was surprised at the number of similarities between my life and the life of Frances.
- We are both single woman who were living in San Francisco and had a major life event that caused us to re-assess our lives and ultimately have a home in a foreign country. For Frances, it was a divorce. For me, an accident.
- Neither of us is fond of scorpions. There is a scene in the movie where Frances is cleaning and she discovers a scorpion on the wall. It falls, possibly into her blouse, and she freaks out, understandably. I can relate. I had been in my house for only a week or so and was sitting on the floor, meditating. Something made me open my eyes and look to the left. And there was the biggest scorpion I had ever seen (and I saw quite a few last year). It was at least 4″ long and BIG. I had a small freak out moment, because 1) that sucker could have really hurt me, 2) I felt like my private spiritual space had been invaded, and 3) I couldn’t figure out how it could have gotten in the house, until I realized that the movers had left the doors open when they were bringing in my stuff.
- Neither of us likes snakes. At all. In fact, we are both afraid of them. In the movie, a large snake is in the trellis on the side of the house and decides to slither into the house. Frances and her friends rip the house apart but cannot find the snake. This is my idea of sheer hell – knowing that somewhere in the house is a snake that could just show up at any time. Thankfully there have not – and will not! – be any snakes in my house, but I saw a 5′ snake in my yard last week. The young man who was using a machete to clear the underbrush found it and killed it.
- We both jumped into having a house in a foreign country without really thinking about it rationally. For each of us, the decision was made by our hearts. It is a slightly bewildering feeling to suddenly be in a foreign country that you were only planning to spend a vacation it, and even more bewildering when you really start to live in a culture that you didn’t grow up in. In the movie, Frances is at the bank/real estate office and is doing the paperwork to buy the villa. They haven’t finished, but the bank gives her the key. She is stunned that they would give her the key when the sale hadn’t been completed. I can relate to that. When I was at the lawyer’s office buying my land, they gave me all the documents and the key, even though I hadn’t paid for it yet (that was done separately through PayPal). I can’t imagine this happening in San Francisco!
- We both became friends with a female ex-patriot who helped us navigate the culture. I have become friends with two women – one from Holland and one from Canada – who have been invaluable in their help and their friendship.
- We also both became friends with some of the locals and really became extended members of their families. I am continually surprised at how welcoming the people in Guatemala have been. Last weekend, my friend Pedro (remember him from the La Bestia post?) and his family came for a cookout. I didn’t have enough chairs or a big enough table, but Pedro said he would take care of it. They brought a bunch of plastic chairs and then fashioned a long table out of a couple of boards he had used for scaffolding when building the house. A new, clean tarp became our tablecloth and, just like that, we had a table. I had to laugh when I saw a scene in the movie where the guys doing Frances’ renovation work did the exact same thing.
- And we both questioned our decision. In one scene, Frances asked the real estate agent what she was doing and whether she would be able to build a life there that includes having someone to cook for, a family, a wedding. She wonders if she will be alone for the rest of her life.
This last one is what I have been wrestling with. It is an easy decision to second-guess. Will I be able to build a life in Guatemala, far away from my family and friends and far away from everything that I know and is comfortable? It is also easy to give into this type of thinking and these fears, something that I choose not to do. Like Frances, I am holding onto faith and trust that I am where I am meant to be. And I know that my life here will be what I make of it. As Frances says in the movie:
What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer.
Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.
Thank you, Diane, for reminding me that everything is possible!
Photo credit: Touchtone Pictures