• Ragazze Per Vita

    On a recent Skype call with my sister (blood and soul) she told me about a study on why women tend to live up to five years longer than men.  In a nutshell, the findings supported the argument that women live longer due to the difference in the amount of meaningful social activity they have in their lives.

    Scientists found women are much more social in the way they cope with stressful occurrences in their lives; friendship offers comfort that mitigates the ill effects of stress.  Men, on the other hand, tend to deal with difficult situations with their “fight or flight” response – aggression or withdrawal –, which have negative effects on the body and mind.

    Friendships have a profound affect on the health of both men and women.  Lonely people die earlier, are more prone to sickness and have more difficulty overcoming stressful situations than their counterparts with a strong support network.  It’s interesting to note married men live longer than their single compadres; that’s because they rely heavily on their wives to stave off the negative health effects of loneliness.  How do married women fair?  Only slightly better than their unmarried or widowed counterparts… the difference is those strong friendships outside of the marriage.  Men, too, have strong friendship connections; they just tend not to use them when the going gets tough.

    Over the past fifteen months, by design, I have spent a great deal of time alone.  Part of the exercise of leaving the grind and drifting to another continent was to connect with myself on a spiritual level. Wading through the silence and discovering my inner thoughts, needs and desires was number one on my priority list.  It’s difficult and not for the faint of heart, but the results are staggering.  Complete clarity is powerful.

    Another important aspect of my journey was making connections with people of varying cultures, backgrounds and beliefs.  I wanted to grow and expand beyond the limits of American thinking, which is much easier to do when you’re outside of its borders.  Before coming to Italy I rarely met new people where I put in the effort to really connect with them.  I didn’t need to.  I have a shit ton of friends back home.  I think that’s a pretty common feeling amongst people in their comfort zones.  I’ve even heard multiple friends say before, “Who is that new person?  We don’t need any new friends.”

    At 36, being in a foreign country on my own, I was in dire need of making new friends.  Loneliness was creeping up on me.

    I’ve always known I was a people person, but have since discovered I absolutely adore meeting new people and making connections.  It’s become one of my very favorite things and I’m great at it.  In a short year, I have created a home for myself in Bologna, complete with an amazing network of friends from all walks of life.  Every connection, every friendship, every experience makes the world a little smaller and the journey a little richer.

    As I begin packing up my life in Italy, I ponder over the bonds I’ve made here and how this experience has changed us all.  I’m having farewell dinners, final walks, last late morning coffee chats and goodbye aperitivi.  The parting is bittersweet, but the connections are beautiful and lifelong.

    Until we meet again, and y’all know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my Texas-sized heart.  If that study is accurate, I’m sure you added a few years to my life.  Regardless, you made this year unforgettable.

    Ti voglio bene.  Mi mancherai.

    Here’s a little photo shout-out to some of my besties:

    I asked the Universe for an American girlfriend who could understand what I was going through... the next day I met Joya at the Bologna airport.

    I asked the Universe for an American girlfriend who could understand what I was going through… the next day I met Joya at the Bologna airport. Super connection. Fantastic friend.

    Consuelo is a beautiful friend, teacher and she shares her friends and family with me. Love.

    Consuelo is a beautiful friend, teacher and she shares her friends and family with me. Love.

    Kristi has such a giving heart.  She has been my lifeline.

    Kristi has such a giving heart. She has been my lifeline.

    L'aura shares my belief that friends are family. We have enjoyed beautiful meals and adventures together.

    L’aura shares my belief that friends are family. We have enjoyed amazing meals and adventures together.

    Dr. V is an inspiring woman. We share the "Work hard. Play hard." philosophy.

    Dr. V is an inspiring woman. We share the “Work hard. Play hard.” philosophy.

    Jessica and I are kindred spirits.  She dropped it all and moved to Italy three years ago. She made it permanent and has shown me the ropes if I choose to return.

    Jessica and I are kindred spirits. She dropped it all and moved to Italy three years ago. She made it permanent and has shown me the ropes if I choose to return.

    Monica and I share both a birthday and a sense of humor. I always wake up hungover after a night out with this woman!

    Monica and I share both a birthday and a sense of humor. I always wake up hungover after a night out with this woman!

     

    There are also a few men in my life that deserve some love in the JoJo-blogosphere:

    Hassan, you are a chef extraordinaire and inspired me in the kitchen. You cater one helluva dinner party!

    Hassan is a chef extraordinaire and inspired me in the kitchen. He caters one helluva dinner party!

    Zouheir always makes me feel beautiful. He gives me the most amazing haircuts and throws delicious dinner parties.

    Zouheir always makes me feel beautiful and special. He gives me the most amazing haircuts and throws delicious dinner parties. He also gives the best hugs.

    Pippo is the brother I always wanted. We are family forever.

    Pippo is the brother I always wanted. We are family forever. I love this man.

    Corte di Bacco was my Cheers because of Signor Monte...kind, generous and a heart of gold.

    Corte di Bacco was my “Cheers” bar because of Signor Monti…kind, generous and a heart of gold.

    Michael is a constant... always here and ever supportive. I will miss him dearly.

    Michael is my constant… always willing to help, always available for a coffee break, never too serious, and ever supportive. He’s also a maniac and provides the rest of us with many opportunities to laugh (at his expense, of course). I will miss him dearly.

     

     

9 Responsesso far.

  1. I love you so much, Sister! Words can’t express how happy I am for you and how proud I am of you. I see you.
    My absolute love and appreciation for each and every person you’ve listed above. I know how you love them and what support they provided to you. Sending them peace, ease and flow today and every day. Grazie mille.
    I cannot wait to hug you so tight. See you in 11 days!
    XOXOXOXOXO

  2. Joya says:

    So happy and grateful to have met you! I know we will be life long friends and can’t wait for more long talks over good food and wine (oregon pinot) about the exciting things ahead! Cheers to Italy and the US! Love you and see you tonight! Baci

  3. Rox says:

    I love that you mentioned in detail your feelings about each person. What you achieved in this journey has forever changed your life and you will be able to enrich my life and all your friends and family with what you have learned. I cant wait for our walks on Lady Bird Lake….

  4. Nicole says:

    Love the friend photos and profiles, Johanna:) I got a tear in my eye, reading them. You lead such a full life:)

  5. Alana says:

    My sweet girl,
    As your Mom I’m so grateful you have had this incredible adventure. I am so very proud of you. Can’t wait to see you and to cook with you.

  6. Lyn says:

    I am so proud of you too. I love your insights and the friends you have made and how they have touched you. I can’t express what your journey has meant to me – just know how happy I am for you and can’t wait to see you. Love you