“Can I have a name for your order?”
“Sicily,” I say. I’m returned with a blank stare or, if I’m lucky that day, a confused squint. “Like the place.”
I imagine that they, whoever I’m interacting with, briefly recall the one day in high school English or European History, when their teacher happened to mention the tiny little piece of land being kicked by the boot of Italy, Sicily. This is where my family is originally from, and my namesake. They nod and spell it the best they can. Cecily, Cecilia, Sisaly. No biggie, I take my cup once the name called vaguely sounds like it could be mine and/or has cappuccino in it.
I have always proudly identified as Sicilian, and I have always loved my name. I love that my name says where my family is from, because you can’t often tell by looking (at anyone, but I find this is especially true for me). My mama picked a good one, and it never bothers me when I’m met with a perplexed customer service worker or front desk attendant who doesn’t want to get it wrong and makes me slowly spell it out. It makes me feel unique, and connected to the Sicilian-American culture of my mom’s side of my family. Sicily is a beautiful island that I plan to experience someday. So, “Sicily, like the place,” became my coffee-ordering phrase.
Now, its my mantra.
Over four years ago, when I was nervous and self-conscious about auditioning for colleges to study opera and musical theater, my dad unknowingly gifted me a phrase that stuck. He had been using it in his own life, helping to ground him and keep him aware of the present moment: “Where are my feet?” I laughed when he first said it, then noticed he was being serious. And I seriously needed something to ease my mind, so I listened. I’m not sure where it came from, but the phrase worked. When I walked into those audition rooms, I asked myself, “Where are my feet?”
His mantra reminded me that there is no use in being worried about what has or has not occurred in the past, nor contemplating the uncertain future. The only thing to focus on is what I’m doing this moment, with these people. My feet are here, and so is the rest of me. I’d say it to myself several times before I walked into the audition room, my racing mind would be calmed, and I’d sing my song.
Now, I have grown a few years older, taken many more auditions, ordered many more coffees, and discovered my own mantra: “Sicily, like the place.” It has a double meaning, one of which is obvious. The other is regarding my personal desire to stay positive and to lead a life full of gratitude for everything that happens to me. How can I not only be mindful in this moment, present in this place, know where my feet are… but like this place, too? How might I frame my view of this circumstance I have found myself in, however challenging, upsetting, or irritating, and enjoy it? I can like the place.
It’s the mantra that I use as a guide when I feel myself overly anxious about what may happen next, or embarrassed about something I said or did previously. I use it when I am uncomfortable or discontented about both the big and little things that happen, things I previously would have allowed to stand in my way. I get to say it aloud every time I order my coffee or am asked my name, but I also say it silently whenever I need it. It’s my own little prayer, asking for the strength and tranquility required to stay living in the present moment.