How to do it when it’s difficult

Persistence is not one of my strengths. When I go up against a brick wall the wall wins. I give up. Cut and run. Tell myself I never really wanted it anyway.

However, that is not to say that powering through an immovable object is the only way to approach it. I am adept at seeing new perspectives– ways over or around the wall.

But sometimes the wall is in a labyrinth– for example take the combined bureaucracies of the Italian and United States governments.

As some of you know, I live part-time in Italy and I’ve been working on getting a visa that allows me to stay longer than three months at a time.

We started this process about three years ago. It’s pretty complicated unless you’re rich and retired, or a student. It involves following convoluted rules, and coaxing decisions out of people who would prefer not to commit to anything definite.

Now, when faced with straightforward tasks, I have no problems. I’m efficient and productive. By straightforward I mean it’s clear what’s needed, and once done they stay done.

But international agencies don’t work that way. And I lose my mind when the way forward is unnecessarily difficult. Here’s what I mean.

After failing twice to receive a residenza elletiva, I decided to apply for a business visa and hired a commercialista to help me navigate the process on the Italian side. Worth every centesimo.

But that application only applied to me. In order for my husband to stay with me we had to go through another process. Once I get approved we must go to the local questura and get him permission to stay as my spouse.

(“Mamma mia” I hear you say)

To do this we have to present a copy of our marriage certificate with an apostille. I’d never heard of such a thing. Apparently it is certification by the State Department that the document is official and valid.

I have to tell you that running around to various offices — getting this, sending that, requesting signatures– there are few things I hate more. I find this kind of errand-running exhausting. It really pushes my buttons. But I went to the town clerk’s office, got the certificate, had it signed, went to the post office, arranged to send it with return postage and tracking numbers, sent the package to the State Department and waited.

After several days I saw that it had arrived in D.C. Then nothing. No word. Then a couple of weeks later I was notified that it was in my PO box. Hooray! I’ve got it!

But no. That’s not how government offices work. When I opened up the envelope there was a form letter telling me that I had to send it to my local Secretary of State’s office. Also the town clerk’s signature with the raised seal was not adequate. I needed to have her signature notarized.

I lost it. All I could do was scream obscenities. I felt as though they were out to get me personally and make my life hell. The idea of jumping through all those hoops AGAIN seemed like more than I could bear.

In hindsight I see that my expectations had been too high. I should know by now that things don’t work out the first time in this visa process. So I spent a day being miserable and then found my wits and the resolve to try again.

How did I do that? I realized that they were not out to get me. I thought through a way to get to the NH Secretary of State’s office (an hour away) that could be a pleasant drive on a sunny day. I had an enjoyable laugh with the town clerk about the fact that her embossed seal wasn’t enough and we had the other person in the office to notarize it for us. Instead of mailing self-addressed stamped envelopes, my husband and I drove to the State House where the friendly clerk gave us the apostille then and there.

So here’s what I’ve learned about brick walls.

This quest was only daunting in my imagination. I was able to bring lightness and energy to the task because I really want the freedom to stay in Italy long-term. That’s what I mean by love what you do — bringing the power of your full commitment to your actions. Remember your purpose and let that energy move you forward.

There are times when banging your head against a brick wall is a signal to stop. And then there are other ways to use your head. I want to know the difference.