Portagioie, the Italian word for jewelry box, is a compound of two polyvalent words. Gioia (pl. gioie) means both "joy" and "jewel." Porta, meanwhile, derives from the Latin verb portare, and belongs to a constellation of words pertaining to acts of bearing, bringing, carrying, and transporting, which in turn give rise to terms for "door," "gate," and "port." Portagioie, therefore, could also be interpreted, in Italian, not only as a box of jewels, but a container of joy, a doorway or gateway to joy, something that brings joy.~Jhumpa Lahiri (From Whereabouts)
Almost every week my husband provides me an Italian lesson. Italian is his mother tongue. He is also multi-lingual. He speaks English and Spanish too. Some French. He is amazing, really, how he can move from one language to another. It's perhaps like watching a person who's good at tennis. You can't believe how smoothly they move across the court, hardly ever missing a ball, their serves reliable, powerful, sailing over the net. Each week I struggle with my pronunciation when I practice reading out loud. I forget verb conjugations over and over again. My brief essays are filled with errors. I feel anxious before every lesson knowing that my slow learning is evident. Yet my husband is patient with me. He doesn't shame me when I "miss the ball." The tenderness he sets aside for me each week is enough for me to keep trying.
I'll be traveling to Italy again soon. As many times as I've been, I get tongue-tied with the language. I think of the word, and then it's gone in my head. I make mistakes that paralyze me with embarrassment. I create unrealistic expectations for myself regarding speaking the language, then give up. Stay frozen. I tell myself it's too difficult to speak to others. I miss English.
This time, though, I've decided to crumple up my old script and remove some new keys from my portagioie that will open the door for me to write a new play for this trip. For instance, I can use the words I have. I can rid myself of unrealistic expectations and outcomes. I can be the American learning Italian that I am. My mistakes can be learning tools. I can write down any small success I encounter with the language (in Italian) instead of recording all the mishaps. And even if the paper of my new script rattles in my trembling fingers as I speak, it will be okay. All will be okay.
BLESSING FOR LEARNING NEW THINGS
It's easy to sit on the sidelines and watch. "How does that person do that? They're so good. I could never do that."
And so you don't. You stay in your head with all the negativity, solid in your belief that something's too hard.
I know. I do it too.
Yet there's this little glimmer, this inkling in your spirit that says, "I really think I could do that." "It'll be hard, but I really think it's possible."
"No," you argue, "I don't have time. What difference does it make anyway?"
There's a part of you that knows it does make a difference. There's a piece of you that really wants to learn that something whatever it is.
I wonder why we find putting aside these aspirations so alluring, why we cling to the old script.
What if we opened the containers of who we are and found joy? Found jewels we didn't know existed?
May you be brave enough to try a rewrite.
May you not look in other's windows and be jealous of the light.
May you look within and discover your own light.
May God bless that light, that joy, those jewels that you excavate.