Rolling out pasta with a wine bottle

Cortona, Italy maybe 2015

Sitting on the veranda, opposite this huge open expanse of olive groves stretching out towards Tuscany, the pool in the foreground, a glass of chianti beside me on the coffee table, I’m aware that I’m incredibly lucky.

Right now, I don’t wish to be anywhere else. The sun is setting. It looks bigger than normal, glowing warmly as it sinks into the dip where the green trees of the nearby hill intersect with those masked in a dark grey haze on the mountain further back. The sky is pink and purple, streaked yellow where the sunlight reflects off the dainty wisps of cloud.

In the house, the Father is preparing tagliatelle – rolling it out with a wine bottle and slicing it into strips. Food here makes me wonder if my taste buds have been in hibernation. Each time I bite into a peach, slice of watermelon, plum, pear, apricot… I have to wash the juice from my chin. Prickly cucumbers, heavy tomatoes and twisted peppers grow outside my bedroom window. It’s delightful.

Yet, this is all a tremendous privilege. The ability to write these words is a privilege. I work hard, but I don’t work harder than many who are not as lucky as me. I also play. I’m trying to be kind and compassionate. I’m trying to read widely, understand humanity with all its flaws. I’m trying to catch myself before I judge people for their failings, for their looks, their weight, their passive lives or blind judgments. It’s difficult, but, as the Dalai Lama says, everyone seeks happiness and tries to avoid suffering. It’s nested in my mind, but it’s still the second thought – it’s a privilege I can think this way when so many others are trapped.

Even comparative to many of the people I wander past in the street at home, I feel lucky. I’ve watched my parents demonstrate a life of loving interdependence. A wonderful man cherishes me dearly. Friends openly love me, chastise me when I push boundaries and laugh with me over things that don’t matter, but really do. If I want to be alone, I’m alone. If I want company there are many people I can turn to who will reciprocate my incessant babble, and show appreciation for the connection. I neither worry about loneliness nor a lack of space. My only challenge is finding a balance.

Very little of my luck is caused by me. I’m a product of my family’s efforts and a society that priorities people who look and behave like I was instructed to look and behave. Genetics help too. I was born in the right place at the right time.

So does my luck imply a responsibility to do something with it? I’ve been set up for success. I’m educated and intelligent. I consider reading (fiction and non-fiction) and learning as not only valuable, but normal. I believe that my emotions are my responsibility, as is my mental and physical health and I act on that knowledge. I detest ‘supposed to’s and ‘shoulds’ but I can’t help feeling that this unfair privilege I behold is an opportunity of which it would be negligent of me to ignore.

Sure, there are people who are financially better off than I am, people who are more intelligent, people who are better writers, better artists, people who are more beautiful. That’s beside the point. I’ve already got more ability than I know what to do with. Similarly, I have many of my own battles to fight. If I want a house of my own, if I want to become a good writer, a good painter, I must dedicate my time to practice. Yet.

Sitting here on the veranda, I can’t help but think that it’s still rare, and a privilege, to have so much opportunity as to find it overwhelming.

Note on the image: I took the picture very quickly as I was walking down a street in the beautiful Tuscan town of Cortona. As a place to visit, Cortona is lovely, however it’s the abundance of art shops, with workbenches set out and in use, is what made it a really fascinating place for me. These little people were just there in the street, looking at me.

  • clarepooley33
    Wednesday 29 July 2015

    Beautifully written, Kate. It is good to have the time to assess our lives – who we are, what we’ve done what we hope for. Even better for us to have that time in a beautiful place with good company.

    • Kate Happenence
      Sunday 2 August 2015

      Yes, sometimes it really helps just to get out of your routine. I loved seeing your lake district photos. The lakes are another of those places I’ve found really help you ponder your perspective on the world.

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