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Living in the Moment

March 11th, 2008

I can’t remember the name of the book now, it might have been Full of Grace, but this book really stuck with me. It was mainly because of how one of the characters, Isabel, was so graceful in the way she handled a recurrence of her breast cancer, but was so afraid to love again after a messy divorce. After she decides to take the plunge and opens her heart to the man in love with her, she wakes the next morning and realizes that something is missing in her life: the constant feeling of dread.


I think one of the keys to creating a la bella figura and living la dolce vita is to attempt to appreciate every moment of every day. I know this is impossible to do EVERY MINUTE, but it is something to strive toward. I think Italians have learned to savor the beautiful moments in life and that all of us should try to emulate that.

One way the Italians do this is to take time in their day to stop and enjoy a cup of coffee and good conversation. To them it is an important part of their life — these moments where they slow down — where they engage all their senses. Today I am going to try to do this more.

My book club is reading an old book, The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney, and I was inspired by a passage toward the end.


This is what the character says about her revelation:

“Ultimately, in the very grand scheme of things, it’s irrelevant whether my life lasts fifty more years, or five. Or two. The point is to live it, not wait through it. And I’m alive now — I can pick flowers, pet the dog, eat cinnamon toast. How foolish I would be to let my mortality, which has been there all along, since the second of my birth, spoil my love of these things. So I won’t. I’ll have to remind myself constant, but starting now, I intend to live until I die.”

So, today, I will take a minute to fully be in the moment and appreciate the warmth of the sun on my daughter’s silky hair as I snuggle with her and read her a book on the couch. I will savor every bite of the cookie I dip into my hot coffee. I will smile as I listen to the sweet sound of the birds chirping in my backyard. I will hug more and love more. Today.

Please do the same.

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.