Can ordinary life be like a vacation? What do we do differently that makes a vacation enjoyable and a return to home less than wonderful? I’ve been thinking about this because we just came home from living in Rome for most of December. The return has been difficult, not just because of jet lag and a bad cold, but because my consciousness has switched to home mode when it could very well be in Rome mode. How, you may ask?
There are two ways that define my general manner when I’m at home. One is that I tend to hurry. I am in the habit of being quite busy so I rush to get things done. I even rush to brush my teeth in the morning; rush to make breakfast; rush to read through the paper and even hurry to finish the crossword puzzle.
The other is that I am often thinking about something else when I move about, including when I’m outside going somewhere. What should I cook tonight? When is the next meeting at my house? Have I sent the email to remind people? I allow so much mind banter that I don’t see anything around me. I find myself on my way to a class without having seen anything from house to bus to train to other bus, even though there is so much to see!!
What are the two ways that defined our stay in Rome?
First, we moved slowly. When we were in Rome I didn’t feel rushed in the morning. I slowly put the coffee in the Italian coffee maker, put the contraption on the stove under medium heat and waited for the characteristic hiss and bubbling that let me know the coffee was ready. I didn’t look at the clock – time to go to the gym for Tai Chi . . .time to go singing . . .no, just sat back and waited for the appropriate sounds from the coffee maker.
Second, I always noticed the beauty all around me, from the sky to the old ruins and colorful buildings; the old churches, a few with their Caravaggios or spectacular mosaics; the piazzas, the restaurants, the pizza places; the fountains, the trees, the birds, the people – everything. I was alert and saw what was around me. I wasn’t in my head thinking about what I needed to do next.
Now, San Francisco is not Rome. Rome has more to see than almost anywhere I’ve ever been, but, the sky is the sky, trees are trees, birds are birds, people are people, vistas are vistas. There is beauty everywhere if you allow yourself the time and attention to see it.
My New Years resolution this year is to slow down and experience my surroundings without being distracted by busy thought. Thank you, Rome!