From the desk of Lauren Palmer
“Signorina, you are arriv-ed,” the tassista stated in heavily accented English and I peered out of my window. I was in central Florence, sitting in the backseat of the dusty, navy Mercedes that had ferried me from the airport (the kind that serves as a common taxicab in Europe, but a luxury car in the States). Our destination, an ancient building made of giant stone blocks, was situated on Via San Antonino across from the Mercato Centrale. It held the apartment I would call “home” for the next 6 months while I participated in an exchange student program for college students studying fashion.
My jet-lagged eyes adjusted to the soft, Tuscan light when I emerged from the car, and I absentmindedly noted my heightened senses due to the shallow, tingly pit of anticipation in my stomach. And though the first impressions of my new country (graffiti, pollution, cigarette smoke) weren’t filled with the preconceived charm people often hold when imagining Italy (sunflower fields, red wine on tap, square-cut pizza), I was immediately enamored with the new world that lay before me. In fact, the extreme change in my surroundings raised the level of expectation I had of life from that point on.
Allow me to explain.
Over the next six months I witnessed culture. I saw it. As I watched the Italians prioritize quality elements and intentional rituals into their everyday lives, I was inspired to follow suit. I immersed myself in a culture that included lingering meals served on scarred wooden tables, a distinct fashion sense which communicated strength and savvy, and even the tradition of deep roots in the local community. I observed branches from overgrown flowerpots draped organically over tiny balconies and determined this was not a sign of neglect, but of abundance. Time, I noticed, was valued and unhurried. Preferences were distinct and purposeful. Like the carefully curated charcuterie boards of Italy, I strove to create a life full of flavor, color, and high-quality ingredients – haphazardly stacked, but none the less enriching. It was the first renaissance of my life.
The Italian taxi driver’s broken English had been unintentionally prophetic. You are arrived communicated a present, ongoing journey toward a destination, toward a destiny. You are arrived prompted me to design a Personal Culture that – for many years to come – would continue to re-infuse my daily world with this new way of experiencing life. My time in Florence had broken the exposure barrier and coupled my wide-eyed whimsy with a newfound desire for a change in energy that a new place brings. It was wanderlust, and it prompted my depth of field to become 3-dimensional, textured, substantial, and alive. Had I been living in a world of white noise since 1982?
BACK IN THE STATES
I kept all these Italian treasures in my proverbial chest as I returned to life in the States, and I did my best to keep them alive by continuing many of the daily rituals I started in Italy. I hand washed my dishes instead of relying on a dishwasher and hung clothes out to dry instead of tossing them in the dryer; I was careful not to worry about the extra time these tasks took, but to enjoy the organic, rustic rituals of an unhurried world. I cooked meals in the middle of the day to feed myself instead of grabbing fast food. I drank Chianti. I invited friends over for home-cooked dinners. I built relationships with local shop keepers because I wanted to know them and for them to know me. I bought a tomato plant. I sat alone on the back stoop of my apartment, feeling comfortable in the solitude. The Personal Culture I intentionally cultivated was designed to bring me joy, feed my soul and, hopefully, made others feel enriched while in my presence.
Fast forward to 2014 – I was a stay-at-home mom, raising my boys who were ages 4 and 2. They were funny, precious, rambunctious, loving, healthy…and it was super-duper difficult. Everything, even getting into the car, took forever. The labor-intensive daily tasks drained me of time or energy to focus on anything else. Little by little, my Personal Culture faded away and “life as the mom of James and Caleb” was all that remained; I hadn’t even noticed what was happening.
After a routine day of chauffeuring and cooking and packing and playing and changing and singing and seatbelts and whatever else there was, I climbed into bed, looked over at Brian and mused, “It’s strange. Literally the only thoughts that entered my brain today were about the boys.” It was a statement that was both very true and very eye-opening because I don’t believe it’s healthy for anyone to devote every waking minute to the well-being of another. There MUST be time to acknowledge the relevance of your personal existence, otherwise you’re no longer human, just a robot. This troubled me greatly, because humans are made for more than robot status. We are made for You Are Arrived status.
The next morning, I awoke to find the words THE ART OF LIVING BEAUTIFULLY stamped across my brain. Blinking didn’t cause the words to fade. Nor did coffee, or a trip to the dry cleaners, or turning my attention to locate a lost ninja turtle. The words remained with me that day and those that followed. I eventually and prayerfully discerned it was my destiny to discover The Art of Living Beautifully and to share it with others…with you. I didn’t know it yet, but these five words would unlock a second renaissance in my life, one that brought joy, strength, and a renewed sense of self and purpose.
Sharing The Art of Living Beautifully began with building a website where I published content relevant to the elements of life I had long-since abandoned in favor of taking care of my boys: fashion, cooking, entertaining, gardening, and faith – all the beautiful parts of my time in Florence. The simple, heartfelt words provided by TAOLB, both then and now, are for anyone who feels lost in their circumstances: newly divorced, newly retired, an exhausted mom, single mom, fresh out of college and confused about which direction to take, or even someone just looking for inspiration and a change of energy.
Today The Art of Living Beautifully has grown into a multifaceted media company. In addition to continuing to publish the original blog, TAOLB has added a digital magazine component, offers a printed magazine subscription, produces film, hosts events, and enjoys an online presence. Every aspect of TAOLB is created with the same intention of helping others build a personal culture, provoking enriched lives rather than mere existences.
How do you live? What feeds your soul? What colors make up your everyday? Are you living your life in a curated culture, or existing in white noise on autopilot? At TAOLB, our mission is to inspire Personal Culture building – a significant part of emotional health and spiritual wellness! Your life deserves quality and intentionality. If you haven’t already subscribed to TAOLB, I invite you to join our crew and benefit from all the inspiration we offer.
As you work to develop your personal culture, practice being aware of yourself. Observe the energy you are cultivating and giving to those around you. Notice what drains you and what motivates you. Begin incorporating quality elements into your life that feel good, bring you comfort, and brighten your day. Most importantly, these rituals should invite you to slow down. Instead of caffeine to-go from a Keurig, enjoy coffee made in a French press carefully poured into an artisan mug. Instead of wolfing down something from the drive-through, savor a long, flavorful meal consisting of hand-cut pasta and a bowl of fresh fruit. Get off-line and have an actual conversation with a local shop owner regarding your shopping list. It takes time to cultivate quality in your personal culture, but it’s worth it. Be patient. Find your renaissance. And then, create your culture.
Friend, You are Arrived!
Listen to TAOLB's Manifesto
To learn more about Lauren and The Art of Living Beautifully, please visit our ‘about’ page.