Can dancing an impromptu tarantella change your mood? Can beautiful Italian music make you feel more serene? Can feasting your eyes on a Renaissance painting speed up emotional healing after loss? The answer to all of these, according to Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D., author of Lemons Into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (HCI Books — $14.95) is “assolutamente, si.”
Life is about change, transition—and in many cases, devastating loss, says self-help expert Dr. Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner. Our ability to recover from hardship and reassemble the pieces of our lives in a way that enriches our continued journey is the real key to everyday happiness. According to Mautner, tapping into the vast wisdom inherent in the Italian culture is one way to go about this.
Mautner experienced the healing powers of her cultural roots firsthand following the sudden death of her husband of 32 years. “In just one minute,” she states, “our lives can change forever.” Whether it is loss of a loved one, a home that has gone into foreclosure, a job layoff that disrupts your financial security, or a health diagnosis that leaves you scared and confused—how you react to adversity will determine if you become a victims or become victorious.
“What got me through the long haul of sleepless nights and overwhelming grief was the comfort, solace, and fortitude rooted in my cultural heritage,” Mautner explains.
In her newest book, Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (HCI Books, May 2013), Dr. Mautner offers distinctly Italian tips and suggestions that involve faith, art, music, laughter, social camaraderie, and a deeper appreciation of the richness of semplicità, simple living, to soften the impact of loss.
Her message is clear: “I think of life as a Michelangelo non-finito: A beautiful masterpiece with endless possibility. Despite our hardships.”
Below is a Q/A with the author.
Where did the title for “Lemons into Limoncello” come from?
Italy to me is wrought with the most glorious of paradoxes. It is the only culture I know that is both spiritually reverent and sensuously indulgent. It is a land where even lemons, which we would expect to be bitter, are actually succulent and sweet. When I set out to write a book that would help people get through their challenges, I wanted to send a message that even though life right now seems bitter, by learning to go forward and savor each drop, you will find it can be sweeter than you ever would have imagined.
Why a book about loss?
As you know, I am a coach and speaker. I am also someone who is no stranger to loss. In the fall of 2008, my wonderful husband of 32 years collapsed and died on the kitchen floor while I was taking a shower. It was the most profound trauma I had ever had to face, and despite taking advantage of the support resources Tom’s company offered me, my real healing required the passage of time, during which I called upon the resources that lied in the wisdom of my Italian heritage.
Why an ethnic book on loss?
Lemons into Limoncello is far more than just a book about loss. It is about courage, resilience, and our inner capacity to make life good again and refine who we are. Any major life crisis—losing a loved one, a home, getting laid off from a job, going through a health challenge, or going off to war-requires that we leave some of our past lives behind, and step into a new and often unfamiliar new phase of living. There are several valuable approaches to dealing with life’s transitions, but I am deeply convinced that my Italian prescription for inner tranquility and everyday pleasures help to revive our body, mind, and soul to the point where one day we discover that not only did we make it through our trauma, but we are now thriving and relishing life like never before. Lemons into Limoncello gives my readers a roadmap out of sadness and into a happy productive life, where certain ordinary rituals lead to extraordinary results.
For the book I draw from the best elements of the classic Italian culture: From the insightful words of ancient roman sages to the healing properties of Renaissance music, art, and ancient dance. I also include some pearls of wisdom gleaned from my own family’s example, and include some original recipes that were part of an experience, never just a meal. In Lemons into Limoncello, I have tried to be just the instrument, through which the bel paese could communicate the life-affirming rituals that make you glad to be alive, no matter what you’ve been through. The suggestions I share with my readers in this book have helped me to heal my heart, mind and body; all of which had unraveled to pieces upon losing my Tom. That doesn’t mean I will ever forget him. Italians don’t forget their loved ones but they also don’t forget that they are still among the living, where savoring a smile, having, espresso with a friend, bringing a dish to the local sagra for a community get-together, are all important reminders that being alive is truly a gift.
You seem passionate about teaching people to overcome their crises, Italian style. What’s next?
Lots more, glad you asked. I will be launching a weekly Lemons into Limoncello meet up group, to coach small groups using the principles I write about. Also, coming in May after the release of the book, I will launch my Lemons into Limoncello Italy Retreats. I am so excited about facilitating an experience that will help people to unwind, gain clarity, and regain their courage to live a dolce vita, through immersion in the traditional Italian lifestyle. During the day I will conduct coaching and meditation groups. We will also explore firsthand, some of the classic customs that time has not messed with. We will also take small, local trips to places that will inspire and motivate you to want to life to the fullest once again. It will be an amazing experience, that will enrich your life long after you have returned back home. If readers want more information, I hope they will visit my website: http://raeleenmautner.com
Any plans for your next book?
I am blessed to have 70 relatives, many elderly but still very much alive, living in a little remote town outside of Naples. Whenever I go there I am immediately brought back to my grandmother’s kitchen, and even to her era. Mealtime there is always a social event as well as a bit of epicurean heaven. The mealtime experience gives us an opportunity to feel the solidarity of our loved ones and a sense of being alive. Think of how easy it is to create such an experience. Yet so many of us eat dinner alone in silence, while driving! My next book, then, will be a self-help cookbook, dedicated to my extended Italian family. I will translate their recipes and their rich, colorful stories. A few of these recipes are included in Lemons but I know readers will want more, and they will want the tidbits I give in my characteristic self-help teaching style. The mealtime Italian mealtime experience, can truly teach us how to live.
Looking forward to that one, too!
Well I’m not quite done yet! When I was growing up, my Italian family always emphasized the importance of the “bella figura”, putting your best foot forward every time we left the house. My Sicilian grandmother and my mother were fashion enthusiasts—from custom-made hats to high-heeled shoes. “Ciao Bella: How to Bring Out the Italian Enchantress in You”, will be a book just for us Sophia-wannabe’s that compiles makeover advice from Italian experts in areas of fashion, hair, skin and makeup, fitness, and experts in the area of inner beauty, too. A head to toe makeover can dramatically change how you feel about yourself and how the world feels about you.