Following the Tuscan Sun

I have a few films I watch that are oh so helpful when I need to quieten down my worries and figure out what my next move is. Often I see life as this big, buzzing swirling whirlwind that is constantly looping—endlessly and frantically—around the crown of my head. I’ve always had quite a strong and calm core but still, I get caught up in this storm of #winning, what I’m losing, or what I’m trying to get just right.

When I get pulled into that buzzing tide, one of my go-to movies is Under The Tuscan Sun. The protagonist, Frances, follows her intuition during a holiday in Tuscany and buys a villa while on a ‘Gay and Away’ travel tour. It’s no big surprise that an Editor-In-Chief of a cross-cultural magazine is smitten over a film where a writer drops everything ‘back home’ to rediscover herself in a beautiful, foreign country. Beyond the delicious dripping gelato, glistening olive oil and fields of ruby Tuscan poppies, this film helps me center myself by reminding me of a few important personal beliefs, which I tend to forget when things get hectic.

Build train tracks. After a violent storm, where the electricity in her new house fails and a monstrous bolt of lightning decimates her washing machine, Frances is shaken about buying this new house. The real estate agent pops by to see if she is okay after the turbulent evening, and she tearfully tells him that as a single woman, she has made the terrible mistake of buying a huge home for a family and a life that she doesn’t have.

Signore Martini: Between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew someday, the train would come.

This was her real-estate agent’s gentle reply. Whenever I’m frazzled with short-term goals that aren’t going right, and big picture plans that just don’t seem to be falling into place, this story always helps.

You can only do what you can with what you have. If you keep moving forward and doing your best, what you want will eventually come to fruition. Instead of trying to build the tracks yourself, sometimes it's okay to take a step back and have faith that they will be built.

Terrible ideas. One of the biggest secrets of the universe that I was lucky to stumble on early in life is this: living a ‘normal’ life won’t make you happy. Early on I stopped worrying about my age, what my CV looked like and what my relationship status was. This paved the way for a lot of true happiness. Once I stopped holding myself accountable to the status quo, I uncovered incredible niches that were a perfect fit for me.

My best terrible idea was moving to Tokyo right after I had been offered a promotion in Melbourne. This was easily one of the best fork-in-the-road choices I have ever made in my life, when everyone else was telling me it just didn’t make sense. They didn’t know (and neither did I, at first) that Tokyo would be where I truly uncovered my TCK identity and began what I’m sure will be a life-long passion for culture and the promotion of diversity. I also made wonderful friends there, who I will love forever.

I think it’s important to look at the foundation of ‘smart’ decisions. Are they being made because of fear? Maybe of being alone, of being hurt, of failing or being judged? Fear is important to acknowledge, but I find that while I’m trying to keep these ‘bad things out’ I’m not really letting good things in.

As soon as you accept that you don’t need everyone else’s version of a ‘normal’ life, you can start to tailor your decisions (and your life) to ones that will make you happy.

Katherine: It's a nice little villa. Rather run down, but redeemable. Are you going to buy it?

Frances: No, no, no. I'm, I'm just a tourist. Here for the day.

Katherine: So?

Frances: Well, I mean who wouldn't want to buy a villa in Tuscany. But, uh, the way my life's been going, that would be a terrible idea.

Katherine: Terrible idea. Mm... Don't you just love those?

Ladybirds: Sometimes I find I am trying really hard to orchestrate something that invariably isn’t supposed to happen yet (or at all). I forget that really, my best-laid plans and even better intentions won’t necessarily guarantee what I’m aiming for in the future.

Occasionally, I place an unfairly high value on my goals and forget that wanting something badly doesn’t mean I’ll be happy when I finally get it! How can I possibly know that getting a job at the world’s best advertising agency, finding the perfect apartment or losing my target 5KGs will take me to better things? (Having charged blindly towards all three, I can tell you that none made me very happy once I had achieved them).

It’s important to let go of the illusion of control and recognise that I don’t have any. I’ve found this has allowed me to spot amazing opportunities and meet wonderful people, when I could otherwise have had blinkers on trying to achieve a five year plan instead.

Katherine: When I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I'd just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.

Go with the flow. Have goals, dreams and ideas, sure, but if you work too hard to catch them, you might miss out on what’s happening right in front of you. Sit still and be in tune with the present so you can reach out and grab the really good stuff before it passes you by!

If you don’t relate to my mantras, I still think you should watch this film! The script is gorgeous, Sandra Oh playing Frances’s best erfriend owns some hilariously golden moments in the film and there is a food montage in the middle that will make you swoon.


First published 28 April 2018