Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Growing up Italian or Not Fitting in.

I'm Italian.  And from the city.  Philadelphia, that is.  I grew up in an Italian neighborhood.  If you're from New York, you understand.

When I meet someone from Brooklyn or someone brought up in an Italian household, it's understood.  How we grew up, our experiences, how we operate in the world.  No explanations needed.

When you grow up in the city, you have an edge.  You learn to be a little tough.  It helps with survival.

When you grow up Italian, you learn to talk over each other and listen to three different conversations at the same time.  I wouldn't say it's a gentle culture.  Passionate, loving, but not necessarily gentle.   Kind, giving, ferociously protective of our families.  Lots of wonderful qualities, not the least of which is good food and fabulous family gatherings.  But not placid, not meek.

Move to Maryland suburbs.  The land of vanilla people.  I don't mean to insult anyone. It's really more about me and my journey to fit into Maryland culture. This is a very educated area, a melting pot of cultures.  And I have found, as a whole, it is more cultivated that the city.

So I tried changing my speech patterns, removing the long "a" sounds.  I've tried rephrasing sentences in a more pleasing way, more tactful, more benign.  In the beginning I WANTED to leave behind my gritty city-ness.  I was determined to throw out my edge and become cultivated!

In the end, I've assimilated some of this.  I still have to think about being tactful, still have to swallow my first reaction and wait for a calmer version.  Because I'm really a bottom line person.  I like to tell it like it is.  It saves time.  My friends think this is hysterical.  They wait for it.  A few of them want to be more like me.  Just put it out there.  And I want to be more like them, gentle, genteel.  

When I turned 50, became independent (i.e., divorced) and let my hair go natural (i.e.grey), I found myself just wanting to be me.  It has become so much work to try to fit in.  To try to be something that goes completely against my grain.  To explain myself to people who don't understand me.  More than that, because they don't understand my background, they judge me.  I am expected to behave a certain way in this culture.  And I feel gauche.

That's why I love hanging around with my Italian friends.  And when I go back to Philly, I slip back into my beginnings.  I'm remarried now and my husband is on a learning curve.  He asks me why I'm yelling at him.  I tell him, "I'm not yelling.  I'm Italian!"

I've come home, to me.

Angela DiCicco
Angela's Artistic Designs

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Working" through grief - 7 tips

Recently a dear friend of mine passed away.  It has thrown me for a loop because it was unexpected and she was so young.  So how to I process the grief?

Many people throw themselves into their work. This only helps to keep the grief at bay.  It does not help to feel the grief and move through it.  I found that I could focus on my orders because it required no emotion. But I didn't have the energy to do some of the other aspects of my business right away.  I was careful to do the work I had to but leave space for my grief.

Others fill their schedules up with busyness, avoiding the necessity of facing their feelings.  Becoming a social butterfly or quickly remarrying may feel good at the time, but the grief remains underlying it all and will come back to be dealt with.

Still others isolate, keeping to themselves and avoiding facing the outside world.

For me, living life normally helps.  When my father passed away several years ago, I was amazed that the world continued to spin.  At the grocery store, people were acting as if nothing had changed.  My world had changed forever, but to the outside world, everything remained the same.

I realize now that doing normal things, watering the plants, taking care of the children, showering helps to bring some equilibrium back.  When your world is rocked, the ground underneath your feet shakes.  Doing everyday activities, including noticing the weather, the sun, the dust on your tables, creates a normal environment helping to balance the emotions.

When my father died it was April.  I was teaching preschool and everyday we would be outside.  I looked around and saw the trees budding, the green grass growing, the flowers blooming.  Children were playing and it reminded me that life goes on.  It just does.  With or without us, it goes on.

So 7 tips for dealing with grief:

1.  Do the next right thing.  Have a cup of tea.  Call a friend.  Water the plants. 

2.  Take time to grieve.  Find the balance between avoiding and feeling the pain. Whether it's death or divorce, it calls for grieving.  One friend grieving when her husband left her allowed herself to cry in the shower and then moved on through her day. 

3.  Feel free to talk about your loved one.  When my friend died, we gathered around and laughed and shared stories.  We were people who had only one connection-  our mutual friend.  But we stood together in our grief over losing our friend.

4.  Take time to get back into life without rushing ahead.  The husband of my friend invited several of us for brunch at a place they frequented.  It helped to visit this place and have conversation around the table that may or may not be about the loved one.  

5.  Take a walk in the park.  Visit nature.  Notice that the evolution of life continues.  It is a cycle.  Death is a part of the life cycle. 

6.  Take care of you - eat, sleep, exercise.  You're in pain and you need caring for.  Be gentle with yourself.

7.  Know that there is no time table for grief.  No right or wrong way to grieve.  The important thing is to feel the grief and move through it.  And expect that at unexpected times, memories will surface, sometimes as acutely as if it were a fresh pain.

If you have a way of dealing with grief that has worked for you, please feel free to share it. 

Here's to you, my friend.  I cannot believe you are gone and I will miss you forever.


Etsy mini

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