Embracing a Path of Personal Choice

personal choice

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu

In the back of my old barn in Northern Italy, there’s a field.

During the summer, it fills up with bristly weeds of a seemingly infinite variety and color, with flowers and thistles and thorns. I have to beg my husband not to grab the weed-whacker and take the whole thing down. An ancient rosemary plant has attached itself to the 200 year old stone wall of the barn; next to it a sage bush has grown to the size of a small car.

There’s shade on this side of the barn in the early morning, as it has a northwestern exposure. I go out there just before giving the bread dough a final knead and putting it in the oven. The guests at our inn, thankfully, are all still asleep. I treasure that moment at daybreak. The birds’ songs are pitched and varied, and a light wind carries in the first zebra colored butterfly, who lands on a buttercup plant, as anxious as I to take in the morning’s final dew.

And I think, how can this be, all of this beauty and serenity? It’s made all the more poignant because of the frenetic path it took to get here. Thirteen moves through three countries, corporate contracts and sales quotas, deadlines and stress headaches, endless renovations and cash outlays. New languages and taxation systems and diets and friends.

All of this beauty is mine because one day, a decade ago, we said enough. Enough packing up and moving for the company, enough not seeing each other except while comatose on weekends, enough working for a future that just looked a whole lot like the past.

We pulled the cord on the ejection seat and flew into a new life by buying the farm, quite literally, and letting destiny have its way with us.

We thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t. We thought we were ready, but we weren’t. We thought we’d know how it would go, but we didn’t.

It’s been far different, far more far-reaching, and far more life changing than we ever could have calculated from our business-as-usual perspective.

Because there’s nothing business as usual about life altering change.

But the important thing was – and this was really, really important – we did it. We took action. We stepped away from what we knew we didn’t want any more and marched, bravely and extremely naively, in what we believed to be the right direction for us.

Adjustments were made. Many of them.

We thought we’d build an eight room luxury inn, but made our peace with just three creative, elegant rooms.

We thought we’d maximize profits, but instead we live frugally, eschew consumerism, embrace gardening and respect nature.

We thought we’d have no trouble getting three old, decrepit ruins renovated in a couple of years. After a decade, we still have half a barn to do.

But for all the setbacks, tears, fears, shocks and surprises that came from buying an old farm on a hill in Italy, it’s been the most magical and amazing time of my life.

I knew I wanted to create art and ceramics, but I didn’t know I’d become a full-fledged ceramic artist, selling hand-crafted, soul-born pieces to people throughout the world.

I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know I’d become a published author.

I knew I might learn a thing or two, but I had no idea that my understanding of change would lead me to mentoring and coaching others.

No way I could have known all of that, because I had never taken off the emergency brake on my own soul before coming here. I had never let myself think about what could be if I didn’t limit my own possibilities.

It seemed inconceivable to me that courage has nothing to do with not being scared. Of course people get scared. All the time. But courage means fully embracing a path of personal choice, regardless of what fears and obstacles came up.

It’s about trusting things can happen – small moments of guidance and wonder – that will whisper the wind to our backs when we choose ourselves.

That an angel sings whenever we step into our truth.

I couldn’t have known any of that until we walked head first into massive change. Now I know. And no one can take away the feeling of knowing.

The first butterfly is soon joined by dozens of others, and the sun slowly wraps its way around the shadows of the massive stone facade. Morning has broken. The coffee’s brewing, an azure breeze is rustling through the weeds.

I take the bread out of the oven, cut small slabs of goat cheese and spoon yogurt into small, homemade bowls. The guests wind their way to the kitchen and come out the back door of the barn.

“Isn’t this just amazingly beautiful,” they say.

I agree, smile, and go to get the coffee pot.

Can I pour a cup for you?

Photo by Brian Tomlinson

30 thoughts on “Embracing a Path of Personal Choice”

  1. “It seemed inconceivable to me that courage has nothing to do with not being scared. Of course people get scared. All the time. But courage means fully embracing a path of personal choice, regardless of what fears and obstacles came up.”

    Beautiful. I call it a path with heart – a life of meaning.

    Dan @ Zen Presence – Ideas for Meaningful Living

  2. Great post Diana, thank you. It always brings me to tears when I hear stories of others finding their true happiness and leaving the corporate, consumerism lifestyle. Your home sounds beautiful and you really made me think about my own path.

    1. Thank you, Chris. Leaving the consumption-driven world behind is very challenging because of all the innate behaviors we have that we don’t even know we have that make us geared to consume. Adjusting to non-consumerism has meant being very conscious of every single thing we do – and it’s a very interesting process. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. I loved reading this. You created such beautiful and peaceful word pictures, I was almost there with you.

    I also agree with Dan, on the particular quote he mentions. I re-read it a few times as it was so well written.

    Thank you :)

  4. Diana,

    Many thanks for your story. It makes me think back on the changes I’ve made in the past thirteen years and I sort of feel like a poser compared to the changes you and your husband made.

    While I have made drastic changes I see that they may just me skating on the periphery of real change, in other words, they are changes just close enough to what is familiar and safe that they have not yet really pushed me.

    So I want to thank you again for sharing, really made me reflect. Who knows what I may do now?!


    BTW, I visited my wife’s uncle in Mannheim, Germany a few years back and his whole backyard was 2-3 foot weeds and flowers. The whole thing! He said that this was the way nature intended it so he leaves it be. Tell your hubby to ditch that weed-whacker!

    1. Darrell, it’s all quite relative, isn’t it? My brand of change might seem minimal to some and large to others. We each have our journey, you know? Comfort zones are of differing sizes and shapes. I am sure you know when you step outside of yours. I am happy you enjoyed the post.

  5. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”

    How true is that ..most of us in the rat race are in a hurry to get somewhere and forget to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Quite dumb arent we?

    Glad you had the courage to act differently and inspire us through this beautiful piece of writing. Kudos!

    1. Thank you Mansee, I think it’s all a learning path and we need quiet to hear the doors opening to new alternatives… blessings.

  6. Hi Diana, what a beautiful article. I was wrapped up in your description of that morning. I love the magic of personal choice and letting destiny have its way with you. To me its the life force moving you on, as if it just has to happen!
    That is trust.

    1. Yes, trust that everything will be ok and will happen as it should. Stepping into the risk is scary but magical and somehow very freeing. xo

  7. Diana…
    This is such an amazing text to read, my bf asked me to read your article. But now i know why, you’re words echoes in my future and i do want what yu have. I will live free one day, with this beautiful man at my side… I already have my sage near my door… Thank you so much for this article… Blessed be!
    Rodrigo Sam

  8. This was truly beautiful. I love your path, and I hope someday to be able to write about one just as amazing.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  9. I think one of the best sayings I use to approach life is “row gently down the stream”!
    When approaching new things I can assume I will be at a place of subtle resistance and the sooner I recognize these feelings, the sooner I can get back in to flow with the world.

    Thank you for your great post!

    1. Kael, thank you so much. You know, the song Row Row Row Your Boat is, for me, the song of Zen Mastery. I love your sense of meeting the resistance with openness to move past it. I’ll think about that for a while. Blessings.

  10. This is truly beautiful, Diana. I’ve found, over the years, that change becomes less frightening when we reflect on past experiences, and find gratitude in what we’ve learned. You have done some amazingly brave and gutsy things, but you never fail to be grateful.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece.

  11. This is wonderful Diana. Your comment about taking the emergency brake off your soul resonates with me as I follow a different path toward writing and speaking. I believe i hear the angels singing – thanks!

  12. Amazing story, That’s faith you don’t know what the outcome of the change, but you have enough confidence and trust in what you were doing. Faith is big thing. Matthew 17:20 it says, If we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to the mountain remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21- Howbeit this kind goeth not out, buy by prayer and fasting.

  13. Diana, thanks for posting, it was really nice.

    Being scared is very common for people. What we dont know is that stepping outside our familiar boundaries is the key to change the equation.

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