Category Archives: Italian Language

Just Try!

Here I am on the last day of my 366 Somedays and what have I learned?

I have learned not all “Somedays” are meant to be.  Once attention was finally given to some, they just didn’t fulfill the expectations.  The activity was not as fun as anticipated or the amount of work to accomplish the “Someday” was beyond what I was willing to expend.  Speaking Italian fell into this category.  I’ll still dream of living in Italy and conversing fluently with my neighbors, but the reality is I’ll never live in Italy and I’ll never speak Italian – fluently or otherwise.

I have learned goals can be achieved with steady and persistent effort.  My “Someday” to complete the physical challenge of walking or running 1200 miles in a year required me to focus on getting in miles almost daily.  There were times I would have preferred to sit out a workout due to rain, snow, heat, or just plain laziness, but I didn’t – I kept at it for twelve months and I achieved my goal.

I have learned that tackling some “Somedays” leads to the accomplishment of other “mini-Somedays”.  This month, as I’ve been working on restoring my carousel horse (no pictures yet – it isn’t done), I’ve also been painting (with the same paint) a decorative mirror which I’d planned on putting in a specific spot in our home, but which has been sitting in a garage closet for the last two years waiting to be painted and antiqued.

I have learned most “Somedays” cannot be completed within a month.  My very first “Someday” of writing a book in a month was way too ambitious!  The book still isn’t done and the reality is, that may not be the book I end up finishing.  I’ll still write and, eventually, a book will be completed, but it would be disheartening to chastise myself for not finishing in one month.  This has been the hardest lesson to accept.  So many of my “Somedays” aren’t finished and, at first, that bothered me, but all of the “Somedays” I tackled are started and that, in my opinion, is a win.

I have learned some “Somedays” resonate more than others and that is joyous.  Yoga, a “Someday” not chosen, but which I probably would not have attempted if I weren’t going through this journey, has quickly become part of my daily routine and I wonder why I didn’t open myself to it years ago.  Knitting also brings me joy and, while I don’t sit for hours and knit, when I do pick up my needles, I feel a calm wash over me.

So, with successes (1200 mile challenge), failures (speaking Italian), postponements (gardening – the space is finally ready and I’ll try planting this spring), and continuations (writing a book, restoring my carousel horse), perhaps the biggest lesson of this year has been that it’s okay to fail, to not enjoy, to set aside, but it isn’t okay to not even try.

Wish vs. Do

Think deeply and separate what you wish from what you’re prepared to do.

–Percy Cerutty
A view from my afternoon walk

Yesterday I walked – twice.  I also made cards.  I ended the day feeling relaxed and peaceful (even with the political storm swirling around).  I walk or run in the morning almost everyday, but yesterday I went longer than normal and, later, when the beautiful November afternoon beckoned, I didn’t look at my extensive To-Do list; I went outside.  Before my afternoon walk, I spent a few hours working on greeting cards I wanted to send out.  A couple of hours slipped by as I experimented with my cutting machine, selected papers, found quotes, glued and taped, but they were restorative hours that were thoroughly enjoyable.

During the twelve months of this 366 Somedays, I will have tried twelve activities I’ve always thought I wanted in my life.  I’ve discovered some of these activities simply don’t call to my heart as I thought they would – speaking Italian, for example.  Sure, I’d love to speak Italian, but not enough to put in the time to learn it.  Unfortunately, the same may be true for learning to play drums.  I’m not ready to cross that one off my list, but I’m getting close.

Yesterday, as I practiced a little self-care, I realized I really love walking and running, especially when I do them outdoors.  I also really love making cards and playing with paper.  It dawned on me that a benefit of this 366 Somedays process is I’m homing in on activities I truly love and am prepared to pursue as well as discovering which activities are simply wishful and probably need to fall by the wayside.  I want to spend my time pursuing those activities that leave me with the relaxed, peaceful feeling I experienced last night.  That feeling shouldn’t be reserved for days when I have made a concerted effort at self-care.  That feeling should be the norm and getting there requires letting some activities go in order to focus on others.

“Someday” Report Card

Today is the last day of my first trimester of “somedays”.  I’ve finished four months and it’s time to grade my progress.

Month 1 – Write and publish a non-fiction book in 30 days.  Grade:  Incomplete

Even though I didn’t finish this project in the time allotted, I’m not going to give myself a failing grade.  I am still working on the project and it will get done, so “incomplete” seems a more fitting grade than “fail”.

Month 2 – Begin a meditation practice.  Grade:  B

I’m meditating almost daily, but most of my meditation practice is now walking meditation.  I like walking meditation, but I also think sitting meditation has its benefits.  In order to receive an “A” grade I need to work more sitting meditation into my practice.

Month 3 – Begin 1200-mile Club challenge.  Grade:  A+

The goal is to walk or run 1200 miles this calendar year.  I worked that out to 4 miles per day, 6 days per week.  As of yesterday I have walked and run 227 miles putting me 27 miles ahead of my goal pace.

Month 4 – Learn Italian.  Grade: F

I’m beginning to think there are some “somedays” which should remain a goal for some other day.  Or, perhaps, they should be set aside with the realization that it just ain’t gonna happen.  Italian may be that type of “someday” for me.  I struggled all month and I cannot even count to ten or carry on the simple get-to-know-you conversation I had set as my goal.  I’m not going to get rid of the Italian language books and tools I purchased, but I’m not going to say this will be an on-going project, like writing a book.  I may pick the books up again at some future date, but I will no longer say, “I’m going to learn Italian someday.”

My Loosey Goosey Goal

There’s a theory about setting and reaching goals that says to not only set your goal, but make it quantifiable and also chart out the path you’ll need to take to reach the goal.  As I lay in bed this morning thinking about the day ahead, I realized I have not charted a path for this month’s “someday” of learning Italian and I’m struggling to make any progress.

In November my “someday” was to write and publish a short non-fiction book.  I didn’t reach my goal, but it’s still in progress and, now that I think of it, I realize I didn’t have a charted plan for how to reach it – not even so much as “write for an hour a day”.  December my “someday” was to establish a meditation practice.  That in itself is a plan.  To establish the practice, you have to meditate – and I did (and still do).  On January 1st I began a 1200-mile walking/running challenge.  I calculated I would need to run/walk four miles per day, six days per week in order to reach 1200 miles by the end of the year.  I set up a spreadsheet to input my miles and to calculate how far ahead or behind I am (right now I’m 20 miles ahead of plan).  That’s a completely quantifiable plan.  Then I came to February and my “someday” is to “learn Italian”.  Really?  Learn Italian?  Obviously I’m not going to become fluent in a month, so what is my real goal for the month?  I didn’t set one!  I didn’t set a quantifiable goal and I didn’t set out a plan for how I would achieve my loosey goosey goal.

I had hoped I could “learn Italian” by listening to audiobooks during my many hours in the car.  That didn’t work, so I bought a book and some grammar aids, but I still didn’t set a plan of when and how I would use them (they’ve been sitting on the counter, untouched, for a week).  Now, here I am, right about halfway through the month and I realize I messed this up.  I need an actual goal and a plan.

So, here we go.  My goal for learning Italian will be to be able to count to ten and carry on a simple “get to know you” conversation.  My plan to get there will be to set a time period for studying Italian.  I’m a morning person, so I do my other practices first thing in the morning:  writing, meditating, walking/running.  Once I’m up and taking care of business during the day, it’s hard to stop.  However, just before I go to bed, I spend time browsing social media and playing Sudoku.  I can give up that routine and allocate the time to studying Italian and, research shows, sleep helps cement what you’ve learned right before bedtime.  I’m going to get my Italian book off the counter and put it on my nightstand right now.  I will now study Italian for at least a half-hour every weeknight.  And, who knows, not using an iPad before bed might help me sleep better.  Retain Italian and sleep better – this could be a double win.

Hit Me Over the Head!

This morning I hit the internet looking for quotes on how hard it is for some people to learn languages.  I learned some people’s brains communicate in a way that better facilitates learning languages.  I learned (or was reminded) Italian is one of the Romance languages.  That’s because it’s of Latin (Roman) origin, not having anything to do with love, though I still thinks it’s fun I chose learning a Romance language for my February “someday”.  I also learned about growth and fixed mindsets (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, PhD).  I didn’t read the book; I just read a synopsis.  Here is an even briefer synopsis: people who have a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed; people who have a fixed mindset believe they have a certain amount of abilities and nothing more.  The example given in the article, Why Some People Find Language Learning Harder Than Others was:

For example, telling yourself that “you’re not talented at languages” and essentially doing no effort whatsoever to improve your foreign language abilities is a classic example of a fixed mindset, and it can have devastating consequences.

Hit me over the head!  Was the writer talking directly to me?  I don’t want to think about how many times this month I’ve said, “I’m smart, but my brain just doesn’t learn languages well.”  I’ve saddled myself with a fixed mindset – so utterly not my normal modus operandi!  Sure, it may be true my brain doesn’t have the language facilitating way of communicating, but that ability is just an indicator of the ease of learning a language.  If your brain doesn’t communicate that way, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn the language.  However, having a fixed mindset, as I’ve had – lots of negative self-talk – can be a real hindrance.  So, starting today, I’m going to do what I do in other situations.  I’m going to fake it till I feel it.  I’m going to stop saying my ability to learn Italian is cattivo (bad); I’m going to start saying my Italian is buona (good).  And, I’ll get out my new Italian for Dummies book and really start putting in some effort.  Too bad the book isn’t titled, Italian for Those Who Are Willing to Work Hard – that’s a much more growth mindset title.

New Month, New “Someday”

The calendar has flipped over to a new month which means it’s time to add a new “someday” to my journey.  This month I’m going to begin learning Italian in earnest.  I’ve piddled around with language in the past, but it’s not something that comes easily to my brain.  I’ve tried for a week or so (much like dieting), but I’ve always given up.  I love Italy.  I love the pace and the beauty of Italy.  I love traveling in Italy.  I would love to speak Italian so I can communicate better when I am there and also to keep a piece of Italy with me.

Reviewing the last three months, writing, for my blogs and in my journal, is moving along smoothly; writing my book (November’s “someday”) is lagging.  However, I have been giving the book’s content a lot of thought and my writing is usually done in my brain before I even begin to put words to screen.  I am meditating regularly (December’s “someday”) and feel the practice has taken hold as part of my daily routine.  I am walking and/or running daily and I am ahead of plan on the 1200-mile annual challenge I started last month (118.76 miles to date).  Now, it’s time to add language lessons and practice.

To begin this month’s “someday”, I’ve downloaded an Italian language program to listen to in my car.  I’m in my car a lot, so that seems the most reasonable way to get started.  I also joined an online language program I’ll use to supplement the audio program.

I’ll keep you posted.  For now, ciao!