Juliet’s balcony in Verona | Solo Interrail as a lone female traveller

This post gets quite gloomy.  After a short break from this series (because I lost my notebook with all my notes in it) I am going to continue with my solo Interrail journey.  The previous installment can be found here.

Juliet's balcony, Casa di Giulietta, Verona, Italy.

I awoke in the Novotel Hotel Rossi in fair Verona (of “Romeo and Juliet” fame) and it was raining.  So apparently that happens in Italy from time to time, despite their best intentions.  I was quite surprised because I’d never expected it to rain south of the Alps for some reason despite the fact that I know how ecosystems and desertification work.  I guess I was having a blonde moment, which was odd because I was auburn at the time and I tend to be blonde when my hair is blonde.

So the day hadn’t started well, but I didn’t want to stay indoors because I wanted to get a better impression of Verona, given that at the time all I had seen was a) copious discarded syringes around my hotel, b) everywhere (except that one Japanese place) seemed to be closed on a Saturday night.

After deliberating about whether to go out over fresh coffee surprisingly tasty cheap wine in juice boxes that would fit in a child’s lunchbox (seriously), I wandered out into Verona.  I was glad I did.

The Roman Arena in the town centre (amphitheatre) was stunning – smaller, but more complete than the one in Rome, much more manageable to walk around and a really nice thing to find in the city centre.

After that, I went to the thing I’d wanted to see the most in all of Verona – the Casa Di Giulietta.  It’s in a little square and the house is a museum to Romeo and Juliet.  After making my way through the exhibition (which was really professional despite being in a small-ish 16th century house), I got to the piece de resistance – Juliet’s balcony.  Now I will be the first to say (as they do say at the Casa Di Giulietta) that it is highly unlikely that this is the actual house that Juliet lived in.  For starters, as far as anyone knows she was a fictional character in a play made by a man who lived 800 miles away.  Regardless of that, it was nice, just for a little moment, to forget the reality and just imagine that it *was* real, that Romeo somehow scaled the sheer walls and got up to this balcony… after all, isn’t the whole point of fictional and theatrical narrative that we get to imagine realities other than the one we occupy??

Afterwards, I found coffee at McDonalds because it was lunchtime and all the restaurants wanted meal-buying customers not coffee drinkers.  The girl behind the counter who served me was so skinny that she looked consumptive.  She will always haunt me.  I have never seen anyone that thin before for their skeleton size (if you see what I mean).  I still have nightmares about her.  There was literally no muscle mass on her arms just an unnatural and mesmerizing consumptiveness.  I wanted to know why.  Did she have an illness such as AIDS or TB that she was fighting through?  Was she not making enough money to afford to buy food?  I have obviously seen underweight people before, myself being one of them (chronically) but I have never seen anyone as malnourished as this woman.  She looked like she was in her mid twenties, and at death’s door with her gaunt, grey face and her neck silhouetting the rings of her windpipe and the hollows either side of it.  If I’m a size US 2-4, she was like a size -2, and she was taller than me and I’m 5’6. When I returned the next day, she was on the counter again.

I think about her from time to time, even all these years later, and I always wondered what became of her, whether she got the medical treatment she so obviously needed or if she faded away.  Healthcare is not free in Italy – and it shows in so many places.

She was extremely rude to me, but I just got my coffee and moved on, resisting the urge to wrap her up in a blanket, bring her home and feed her soup until she looked alive again.

It made me feel morose – then I got mad at myself because there I was, on an incredible once in a lifetime trip to Verona on Interrail, and I still wasn’t happy.  And I realized it went deeper than my day-to-day mood, there was a cavernous, all-encompassing melancholy that had ensconced my soul so thickly that I had no idea what would make me happy.  I should have been reveling in how wonderful everything was.  Instead I felt like there was something missing, and I didn’t know what it was.

I think this was the first time I asked the question (to myself, in bed where nobody could hear me); ‘am I depressed?’  I quickly stifled it with a boatload of excuses.

The gloom gave way to a cracking migraine, so instead of going onwards to Venice as I’d planned, I extended my stay in Verona to 2 more nights and I went back to the hotel, where I sat in the dark wearing earplugs and downed a few co-codamol (Vicodin) with some wine to try and get the pain to stop.

I passed out, and when I awoke it was a bright new day.

10 Pictures of Pretty Clouds

Today I wanted to share some pictures of clouds, all taken in York, UK, where I live.  I feel Invoke Delight has been a sombre place of late and I want to make sure it stays a place to inspire delight in the world around me, which was its original remit (inspire delight was already taken when I registered the URL, so I went with invoke, instead).  Click to enlarge, I haven’t watermarked the pictures so you can do what you want with them if you want to use them for things:




clouds4 clouds5 clouds06 clouds07 clouds08 clouds09 clouds10

I hope these pictures of the sky on an English summer’s day will brighten your day.  I will continue to talk about serious stuff on my second blog.

Forgiveness is Beautiful

source: wikipedia
source: wikipedia

We’ve talked about letting go of items, this time I wanted to look at letting go of negative energy.

Sometimes, people wrong you in ways you didn’t think were possible. Sometimes the hurt goes so deep, you don’t think you will ever be ok again, you’ll never be able to move on.

That all encompassing feeling every time you think about what they did… all the ways you could get payback, running through your mind… you know exactly what you’d say and do if you had the chance (but IRL, you would probably just stand there stuttering at them, amirite).  Sometimes it can keep you awake at night.

Breathe. Be at one with the air. Feel it entering your body, filling your lungs, nourishing your heart. Feel the freshly-oxygenated blood course through your veins. Cooling. Soothing.

You are better than this.

It takes a lot of soul searching, a lot of introspection, but you can move on. You can free yourself from them.  You can be at peace inside yourself.

All you need to do is forgive them.

Forgiveness doesn’t happen by itself. It’s a choice. Just like it’s a choice to go to work every day or to eat a particular way. As an independent adult, you can control these things. Remember when you got your first job? Were you used to the demands of it? Were you surprised by things that are now second nature? Did you feel nervous answering the phone, confused about why they take tax off your pay? Forgiveness is a complex habit to get into, but once you do, it can be a useful skill and applied to a range of situations.

I am not recommending that you pretend the incident (or incidents) never happened, or that you need to let that person back into your life. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you need to continue to have any kind of relationship with them – in fact, by forgiving them, you are making a decision to stop pumping your life energy into hating them, being mad at them, being upset, let down or all the other negative feelings that you get when you think about what they did. You can forgive someone AND cut them out of your life. It’s making that decision to stop letting them get any of your energy that is the main reason you should forgive people.

While you are hurt by what they did, you are putting energy into maintaining a link with that person – you are giving them your energy for free. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to share my energy with someone who wronged me.

At the heart of it, forgiveness is about letting go. Not repressing or compressing your feelings. Just letting them float away gently. Once you make the conscious decision to forgive someone, you will feel light and free.

Living a drama-free life centres around conscious forgiveness. Think of all those TV soaps that people love to watch – the characters constantly antagonize one another then have huge confrontations about it then they get “revenge” and confront again then “payback” then confront again. Do you want to live your life like that, constantly being dragged into a downwards spiral of misery? Why don’t those characters ever model better behaviour by forgiving people and letting go of the weight of their negative interactions? Because they are there for the drama! If you want your life to play out like a soap, forgiveness is probably not for you. If you want a quiet, ordered life where everyone has stopped bitching for long enough for you to get on with what you actually want to do, it all starts with forgiving other people.

The results of forgiveness are all around us… so why do people hold onto anger at all?

We are all “hardwired” with certain emotions which dictate how we feel about situations. Memory and fear helped us survive in the distant past, such as if we got burned by a fire or pushed away by other members of the tribe, it would be important to remember the negative feelings that those events caused. In this day and age, when we are no longer dependent on a hierarchy to keep us in our place, there is no need for holding onto those negative emotions. It’s time for us to overcome our hardwired response and start forgiving each other.

Could you imagine if everyone in Israel forgave each other? How about if all the different religions in the Middle East stopped trying to convert each other and kill each other and forgave and moved on with their lives? What if we took it further and forgave everyone? In the whole world? How uncomfortable does that make you feel? Now ask yourself why? How would it affect you? Remember what I said before about how it’s not about being nice to people who wronged you, just making your peace with the fact that it happened. Everyone would be simply making their peace with each other and moving on, freeing up valuable energy and brain-space for us all to do something more productive.  Like we could all spend that time watching more Youtube.

So think about whether you can find it in your heart to forgive someone today. You could maybe start small – the guy that pulled out on you on the road, the girl who pushed past you; work your way up to bigger things like clients who didn’t email when they said they would, dates who let you down… I can’t say I’m the sort of person who holds onto everything ever, so I don’t know if this would help anyone like that, but even so, since I’ve started consciously reminding myself to do this (usually on the second or third negative thought about the same experience), I’ve felt about half as stressed as I did before because entire brain subroutines running around my thoughts trying to make me remember silly things that people did have just gone away.