Why Worry? Be Present

The Dilemma: WORRY

Good Lord I am a worrier. I worry about work. I worry about my aging parents. I worry that no one will like this sentence! It’s never ending. During a particularly “not fun” period (okay_it was flat-out dark but that’s another blog for another day) a few years ago, I shared these anxious thoughts with my dad when grocery shopping.

He picked up a plump, red tomato, looked at me and said, “How about this tomato, you worried about it?” I laughed, sighed, then responded with relief definitively , “Um-no Dad, I am not worried about the tomato.” He has a brilliant way of making you laugh when you least feel like it, putting things in perspective and jolting you into the here and now.

I knew in that instant that everything would be okay. It was a peaceful feeling at the core of my soul that I was alright and all was well.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

-Leo Buscaglia

The Dichotomy: We’re Going Back in Time to Learn to Be in the Present

During the summer of 1994, I experienced another time of true, deep gratitude for the present moment. I was an undergraduate art student in a studies abroad program in the medieval, walled town of Cortona, Italy. Cortona is nestled just south of Arrezzo on a hillside peppered with cypress and olive trees, winding pebble roads, rustic architecture and colorful flower boxes. Upon arrival, I knew it was extraordinary. Whether it is the light, the drinking water, or the air, Tuscany is one of those places where magic happens.

At the top of the steep hill there was a beautiful, simple stone convent (which also served as a hostel for travelers). Along with five close friends, we opted to bunk there instead the typical dorm down on Via Antonio where the open-eyed professors lived with our classmates. Every morning I woke to the Chapel church bells and the faint spirit voices of the sisters chanting next door. Peeking out the window at the rolling countryside you would see sheep, milling about the twisted dirt trails below, and hear the call of roosters greeting the day.

The dry, warm days were filled with photography and visiting the local sites. At the Vatican, I wept at the sight of La Pieta sculpted by Michelangelo. In the Sistine Chapel, I rebelliously laid down on my back to properly view his work and was quickly escorted out by the Polizia (that’s for sure another blog!). I devoured mozzarella, pomodoro, pesto sandwiches with my classmates and friends while sitting on the steps of the Duomo in the piazza of our little town.

I felt so ALIVE every day!

We overdosed on Nutella and busted out of our pants. We took siestas in the afternoon at which time a tranquil lull would envelop the entire city. It was a pause in the day to write to our friends and family, journal, study, listen to music or nap…it was understood in our room, the convent and the entire community that this was quiet time_no cars, no shopping (stores would close), only calm.

Watch out…you gain weight just looking at this picture!

The Moment

After our evening Art History class we would gather on the patio outside of Ristorante Tonino for apericena (pre-dinner drinks and snacks). Between our close knit group of gals and the landscape architecture boys, we had a fun circle and spent a lot of time together. We talked about everything: art, dreams, our “utopic” surroundings. Mostly we discussed who was in “amore” with whom and how they ended up in the park fountain at 3 am.

On one of these evenings, my astute friend Kerry said,

“We are so fortunate to be here. It will never be like this ever again.”

What powerful words. Up until that time, I knew we were having fun but the weight of the experience and our fortune had not occurred to me. We were sipping red wine, while the pink sun set over the coral rocky hill tops with Lake Trasimeno in the background. SHE WAS ON TO SOMETHING! We need to appreciate the Here and Now. Eckert Tolle says,

“Being One with Life is Being One with Now.”

Staying present alleviates fear, clearing your mind of distractions. It connects you with solid ground while opening you up to clarity and joy. Best-selling author and O Magazine contributor Martha Beck calls this “anchoring.”

It takes discipline to be in the now (especially with our phones as practically an appendage), but the only way to get better at something is to practice it. Practice being in the moment.

What I know for certain is that instead of giving my power to thoughts of the future (or the past) why not make the most of the present? Turn up the volume of your awareness. NOW is all we have_whether your scene is the Italian countryside, a dirt yard, or the depth of your fathers’ green-blue eyes as he ardently questions you about the possible perceived threat of pulpy red fruits. Live fully right this minute.

Let your troubles float away like a cloud. Grab a glass of Montepulciano, savor the sweet wine on your lips, appreciate the peaceful rose sun as it dips into the horizon. Breathe in, exhale deeply. Laugh. Every second counts. We will never be here again_stop and “smell the tomatoes.”

Dad Cortona.jpg

My folks came to visit_this is me and Dad