The Auntie Mary Minute
When I was a moody teenager my Godmother, my mother’s sister Mary, saw I was stressed about everything: school, clothes, my weight, my skin, boys, etc. – everything!
Auntie told me she took one minute every day to step back and focus on one beautiful thing. It could be a flower, a painting, the sky, a phone call, a perfect piece of fruit. Anything that made her stop for that minute and focus on a thing that made her happy.
I have tried to do that every day since then. It helps when I’ve been happy or heartbroken, and everything in between. I call it The Auntie Mary Minute.
Because of my Godmother’s advice, Ithaka by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy has become one of my favorite poems. Cavafy wrote the poem to the Greek hero Odysseus. In the Greek classic The Odyssey, Odysseus spends 20 years trying to get back to his home in Ithaka after sailing to Troy to fight in the Trojan War.
In the poem Cavafy is advising Odysseus to “live in the moment” as we say now. Instead of idealizing Ithaka as a place, understand it is the meaning of life. Cavafy is saying as we set out to try and achieve our goal – getting home, in Odysseus’s case – pay attention to each step. Collect experiences and understanding along the way.
I don’t know many women our age whose lives turned out just as we expected, or hoped. But Cavafy is saying – and now, I understand – treasure what we’ve gained as we sought, and continue to seek, our own Ithakas.
How has your life matched your plan? How has it veered in other, and sometimes very unexpected, directions? What events and experiences have you had that wouldn’t have happened if all had gone as you wanted? Have they enriched your life in some ways? Let us know.
Ithaka, by Constantine Cavafy
When you set out for Ithaka
Ask that your way be long,
Full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Lastrygonians and the Cyclops,
Angry Poseidon – do not fear them;
Such as these you will never find
As long as your thought is lofty,
As long as a rare emotion
Touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
Angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
Unless you carry them in your soul,
Unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long,
At many a summer dawn to enter –
With what gratitude, what joy!
Ports seen for the first time;
To stop at Phoenician trading centers,
And to buy good merchandise.
Mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
And sensuous perfumes of every kind.
Buy as many sensuous perfumes as you can,
Visit many Egyptian cities
To learn and learn from those who have knowledge.
Always keep Ithaka fixed in your mind;
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But do not in the least hurry the journey.
Better that it last for years
So that when you reach the island you are old,
Rich with all that you have gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka has given you the splendid voyage.
Without her you would never have set out,
But she has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor,
Ithaka has not deceived you.
So wise have you become, of such experience,
That already you will have understood
What these Ithakas mean.