The negotiations began at 6am. The alarm was set to ring at the lowest volume but somehow the tone still seemed far too jarring. I gotta get to sleep earlier, her mind grumbled. Just five more minutes. 6:05am. The alarm pierced the silence. She buried her head deeper under the covers. 6:10am. If I get up by 6:15am I can brush my hair in the car, she thought, turning on her side. 6:15am. Ugh. She struggled to get her warm, heavy body out of bed, her eyes half open. She reasoned with herself. Any later and you won’t be able to make your morning stop before getting to the office. And now is the time when you need it the most. She sighed. Fine, she thought.
6:45am and she was out the door, zipping up her jacket as the chilly morning air hit her chest. Keys. Wallet. Phones. Planner. Brush. Lunch. She rummaged through her bag with one hand, checking to make sure everything was there while she wrapped her scarf closely around her neck with the other. I gotta be more on top of my mornings, she said to herself out of breath.
She always struggled in the mornings. Moving to Italy hadn’t changed the fact that she wasn’t a morning person, unfortunately, no matter how badly she wanted to be. She had a long commute by Italian standards, driving well over an hour from Florence out into the Chianti countryside where she worked. She had really missed driving but for a while now the length of her commute began to overshadow the beauty of the transitioning scenery. The Renaissance skyline fading away in the distance. The vineyards and rolling hills opening up before her as if in an embrace. You have the best of both worlds, people would say. Maybe it wasn’t the long commute in and of itself that was weighing on her but instead what she had been going through for some time now. The commute did nothing more than provide a stage for her thoughts and incessant ruminations to play out. Here the restlessness emerged. The self-doubt and uncertainty bubbled up. Moving to Italy hadn’t changed that either, although it quelled the chatter for a bit. Introducing this morning ritual was an attempt to lift the dullness, to reawaken and reconnect to that part of her that had fallen silent amongst the chaos – something that she had tried to do, albeit half-heartedly and inconsistently, in the past.
The car zipped along the serpentine country road as she drove deeper into Chianti. Five more minutes and she would be at her spot. 7:30am. She passed the tiny church and adjacent restaurant as she had every morning, and smiled as she remembered the time her friend had jumped out of the car to pick ripe, low-hanging figs from the bountiful tree. So many memories here she thought, pulling the car over right after the bend. She turned to look out the window across the road beyond the clearing and sighed. The morning sun seemed to be more luminous than usual. She felt embarrassed for feeling such heaviness with a view like that. She looked back over at the journal sticking out from her bag in the passenger seat. She had carried it with her – unopened, yet to be used – every morning in hopes that she would be moved to write.
Crossing the road, she eyed a dry patch in the clearing and settled there, putting her things beside her. She closed her eyes and took a few deep, belly breaths. She felt her body relax, the sun warming her from the inside out. She sat there for some time being mindful of all the sensations in and around her. The slight breeze and rustling leaves soothed her. She opened her eyes. The view was inspiring.
She reflected on how so many spots, in particular this spot and another in the city, had become not only her personal space for contemplation, but also admiration and appreciation. She wondered how in that moment, amidst all the fears churning within, she could be witnessing so much joy passing through her eyes and exploding in her heart center. Why couldn’t this be what life always felt like? Joyful. Freedom, expansiveness, creativity, light-heartedness, love, joy – this is what she wanted more of in her life. This is what she had come to Italy seeking all those years ago. But somehow all that had faded away. And here she was, questioning her decisions, her path, and who she was at the very core. Instead of meeting herself with gentleness and compassion, she found criticism and judgment. As she took in the immensity and boundlessness of nature, she realized she had been living small. Over time she had stopped seeing the magnificence of all that surrounded her, and perhaps had even stopped seeing the brilliance within herself.
As she overlooked the countryside, she laid upon it the last few years of her life, almost as if she were delicately rolling out a timeworn map of her experiences. She spread out her accomplishments, joys, heartaches, setbacks, friendships, missed chances, failures, fears, loves and longings. All her experiences laid out before her, following the sinuous lines of the idyllic countryside. Gentle hills and abrupt crests. Soft slopes and rocky descents. Meticulous vineyards and dense, untamed woods. A landscape as contrasting in its individual aspects as it was harmonious in its entirety. And as she found solace in this scene, something rose to the surface. A knowing seemed to whisper, “Give yourself permission to let all these things be as they are. Give yourself permission to be as you are. That is enough.” The feeling was subtle, fleeting and almost unrecognizable but gave rise to a greater, unexplainable awareness that all was perfect as it was in that moment. She breathed deeply as if letting go of something far too heavy that she had been carrying for far too long.
She lifted the pen from the paper and reality came rushing back in. She quickly checked the time on her phone. 8:15am. She would make it to the office by 8:45am. She gazed out again towards the horizon, in awe of the vastness and beauty of what was, her heart full. I can rest here for just a bit longer, she thought – without negotiation, without judgment.