Rediscover Your Joy and Reinvent Yourself in Tuscany
Travel to a foreign land, full of love, acceptance and beauty. Rediscover your joy by reconnecting with that free-spirited 5-year-old girl, who so long ago was full of playful hope and wonder. Make new lifetime friends that feel like sisters. And begin the process of reinventing yourself.
Can one woman really accomplish all of these things by taking a Retreat to Tuscany? Sissy did.
Retreat to Tuscany was designed to support women who desire a unique adventure as they focus on self-care, wellness and personal growth in a stress-free environment where they can reflect, reconnect with themselves and gain renewed clarity on what is most important to them at this pivotal time in their lives. When I first launched this program, I had no idea I would be serving such diverse, magnificent women, spanning in ages ranging from 20 to 75. Through our coaching and the retreat experience, I feel so privileged to be on this journey with them.
What I’ve learned through the design and facilitation of this remarkable program is that we all are constantly seeking new beginnings, no matter what our age or stage of life. We all desire happiness and joy in our lives, in our relationships, in our work. Yet somehow, in the business of life, juggling multiple priorities, wearing so many “hats” and trying to be so many things to so many people, we lose ourselves. Not our physical selves, of course, but our mindful, heart-centered purpose-driven souls. Just “being” gets kicked to the curb most days because of the whirlwind of life and daily demands that we are faced with. And when those frantic days turn into weeks, and those weeks become years of caring for everyone but ourselves, we break down. Many of us even get sick. In fact, 3 of the 18 women who traveled with me to Tuscany in 2018 are cancer survivors, and they all have their own unique
courageous stories about how the neglect of their self-care caught up with them physically. They are all so inspiring.
But this article is about Sissy, better known as Carole to those who know her, and the epilogue she wrote about her Journey to Tuscany. She is brave and bold and courageous, and it has been my absolute honor getting to know her. This is her story.
A Journey in Tuscany
-by Carole Thompson, aka Sissy
Before the journey started, Theresa wanted us to examine our expectations and motives for saying “yes” to a Retreat in Tuscany. My motive was travel in Italy and being with a group of American women. It was a vacation. But to be responsive, I remember saying that one of my needs was making new friends. During the previous year I had retired from a job, lost my best friend who moved to Florida and lost a pet. I needed to reinvent myself. I’ve always had trouble making new friends. It takes me a long time to develop friendships. I recently turned 75 years old, so I asked myself: faced with the situation and my natural ineptitude, what am I to do at my age to regain my community. Do I have time left for such an arduous task? Everyone, including me, needs the feeling of being held, a spiritual “arms around the body.” Actual hugging is almost unheard of for me. We have to be dying before I hug anybody. It’s a German thing.
Theresa asked us to identify an inner ally. I didn’t quite know what to make of that. Do I have an inner ally? Que, que, que? I have a great collection of old family photographs from the 1940s. The pictures of me from infancy to about age five are different from later pictures.
This picture has always intrigued me: This little girl was a free spirit and had an elfin quality…
Time let me play and be golden in the mercy of his means.” – “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas
I still have that inside, but it seldom shows itself. My family called me Sissy. When I was about 5, my mother decided it was time for me to be a big girl. They started calling me Carole and I was told to stand up straight, don’t get dirty, comb your hair, etc. You have to be carefully taught to be a young lady. What happened to Sissy? For the exercise, I named Sissy as my inner ally. I really didn’t give it any deep thought; I just didn’t know what else to say. When I arrived at the villa, the ladies were calling me Sissy. I’m still not sure I like it, but they do.
Theresa has done outstanding work in finding Villa Maddalena and preparing the resources. Montisi was lovely, charming and generously accommodating. When we arrived everyone was welcomed with warmth and love. This is her special talent and creation. Juxtaposed against our busy American lives, Montisi was at once a reversal of time, mindset and custom, a return to simplicity. The place has things we have forgotten. Here, there are no short-cuts; life takes its time. The place casts a spell; Theresa had nothing to do with that, except she chose it.
Everyday: lots of activity, lots of walking, talking, eating. The beautiful villages, the shadow-play of light on the hills, the Italian places and culture created a transitional moment and we stepped into it unintentionally. It took us unaware.
Maybe it was pure luck (and I think it was) but we were a very happy group. A week is not a long time, but we were like ships in the night that opened our sails and the winds were light and favorable. Everything seemed easy and happy. Theresa worked very hard to make everything easy and spontaneous. What a gift!
On one of our trips, when I couldn’t quite keep up with the ladies, I sat in a café sipping espresso while they shopped – they were never very far away. I burst into tears and have no idea why. The emotion overtook me. I think everyone had a moment like that.
There is no way Theresa could have planned to make something happen with a group of women half a world away from home, and yet something did happen. It is partly that place working on our 21st century American sensibilities, back in time made simple by being there. Can you remember something you thought was lost? But how can that be? Nothing is ever truly lost. We never seem to lose the bad stuff: the old resentments and misgivings. I thought Sissy was lost, the little brat who could play with everyone not caring if she was uncombed, unclean or uncouth. Ha!
I’m still not sure that anything lasting happened in Tuscany or if any of my old ways can be changed, but I do need to have new friends right here in my home town of Bennington and there are people here who can be my friends. I spent twenty years creating The Friends of Robert Frost (I’m a master of diversionary tactics). Time to work on my own friends and maybe Sissy, who has already proved it is possible, will help. She’s really pretty good when unleashed – watch out!
Theresa set a generous stage in a beautiful place and something happened. How and why? I don’t know.
Carole Thompson, aka Sissy
Still not sure of anything.
What do we learn from Sissy?
That no matter how old you are, or what stage of life you are in, you are never done. Reinventing oneself can mean so many things; new friendships, a new career, a new relationship, a new lifestyle, a new home in a new location, new beginnings.
Tuscany has opened it’s loving arms to me over and over, and the relationships that I am building with the people who live there come with pure joy and mutual appreciation for the simple act of being and living a good life. I am able to access a part of myself that has not been accessible anywhere else that I have ever traveled or lived. I believe there is something magic in these rolling, beautiful hills of Tuscany that awaken you and break you open in the most vulnerable and unforgiving way. This is why we retreat to Tuscany, and why we take a pause in our lives to receive the love that it provides.
I have been changed through this process, and I call you forward to seek this opportunity for change and reconnection with yourself, with me. Are you ready to recalibrate and find your amazing reset button for the rest of your one precious life? Sissy did. And the value she got is priceless.
Will you say “YES!”? Please reach out to me for a private conversation Here.
I promise it will be a life changing experience that will set you back on course for the joyful life you have always dreamed of.