The Sicilian gift of presence
I recently took a solo trip for the first time in a decade. Having an entire 5 ½ hour flight all to my lone, to drift off into sleep, sit in silence, or just read was the golden ticket in and of itself.
I was lucky enough to have a lot of these moments during this trip- alone travel time. My favorite was taking a train from Oceanside to Ventura, where I got to hang with some of my cousins and spend some time with my 99 year-old Sicilian Grandma- she still drives. (This is her official title)
Being a lover of silence and a seeker of alone time, I reveled in my 4 ½ hour train ride. I got all up in it like a pig in slop.
But it was hard work to be there- in the slop, having some “me time”, and I often danced between being in the moment, loving the sweet life I was living, to feeling guilty that I was enjoying myself while my husband was at home, being Mr Mom, (“South to drop off, moron!”) , and my kids were sans Mommy. Ecstatic geek dance meets the sad prom shuffle.
I thought about how earlier this year, on their very first train ride, we all traveled from Oceanside to Anaheim to go to Disneyland, (another first). As most kids do, they loved the train. My son, a few weeks shy of 3 at the time, barely spoke during the 1 ½ hour trip. (Which is a BIG deal if you have ever spent 1 ½ hours with a three year-old) . He just sat there, entranced by the entire experience, feeling the movements of the train as it shook and shimmied on the tracks, listening to the hum and beeps, glued to the sights and sounds of the outside world as we zoomed from town to town. Fully present.
In between snapping pictures and recording video, my daughter, (5 ½ years-old at the time), would stare out the window, presumably deep in thought about her life, wondering where all the people in the cars were going as we drifted by...what was their story? Also fully present.
It reminded me of all the road trips I took as a child, and how beautiful the world always looked from the car window, and how I always seemed so small in comparison. Present perspective.
I began to look and listen, forcing myself to be present- Future Islands seducing my eardrums, looking out the window, somewhere near San Juan Capistrano now, letting the sunlight bounce off my closed eyelids, casting rainbow shadows across my face and the screen of my mind. Noticing the guy next to me, dancing in his seat a bit as he chooses his next song, another smiling at me as he watches me write, all living our own little lives. Watching sandpipers now pick out bugs from the water in the LA canals, thinking of the movie Grease and my Pops simultaneously.
Why is it that the most simple things are often times the hardest to grasp?
Do you ever look at the world around you, with tears in your eyes, full of gratitude for all that you have in life?
I do, perhaps not often enough, but I did several times over the course of this week.
Sometimes, you don't really know you've experienced moments like these until they are gone.
It's like when you meditate. I often wondered when I first started out- how will I know when I am really meditating? When you are able to truly melt into kumbhaka, the natural space in-between breaths, after the exhale, before the inhale begins. And the answer is simple- you know you were there when you no longer are.
The same goes for being present.
While good ole Grams refused to allow me to interview her for this piece, (little does she know, I have solid gold- a good 45 minutes of voice recording with her stories about my Great Grandfather's alcohol making skills during the prohibition era, the Mafia, a fire- due to the alcohol being made in their basement, Sicily-Cleveland-Rochester-Los Angeles, war and death), I do believe, at the ripe age of 90-frickin'-9, she holds the secret to life, longevity, and living in the present:
- Drink a little beer every night. Her personal fav is MGD light. She drinks it out of a frosted glass from the freezer. All class, this one.
- Swear in a foreign language on the daily, preferably at someone you don't like as they leave the room, just loud enough for you to know it happened, but not loud enough for them to hear it. Vaffanculo puttana.
- Keep a solid routine- coffee, crossword puzzles, light brunch, read, bathroom, prepare delish Sicilian food, snack on said delish food for a late lunch, (she eats like a bird), more reading, some light gardening, dinner time, watch extremely loud, previously taped TV shows, read, bed, repeat.
- Still drive yourself around and be all independent like a Sicilian boss.
- Enjoy, revel in, and soak up the silence. Even during the so called "uncomfortable silences". Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega say it best.
- Say, "To hell with it, kid" a lot.
- Hold onto grudges. No one knows how to hold onto a grudge quite like my Grams. Hell, perhaps that's part of the reason she's hung around so long. However, being that this goes against the sentiment in #6 and I am no grudge holding advocate, let's just say, hold on to something- your passions, creativity, love, or your butt. Yes. Hold onto your butts.
- Tell stories about your life while looking the other person in the eye instead of multi-tasking or looking at a screen.
THIS. THIS is the most important part. Engage your senses. Be in the moment with your whole body- eyes, ears, nosehairs. It really is all about connection. Connection to yourself and connection to your life.
My Grandma's got it.
I'm working on it.