Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Me, My Heart, and I :: Embracing people and places

The more I discover other parts of the world, the more I consider each place to be like a person. Each place has its own unique mix of history, culture, and energy. When I visit a place, I look at it like having a conversation with it. I might get an impression about a place based on my interaction with it, but I can’t know it very well. Not only does it take time, but it takes a wide variety of experiences for me to understand a place. I have lived in Florence for the last fourteen years and I am certainly no expert. And, honestly, I don't want to be. If I believe I know a place, it restricts me from discovering more and from seeing it evolve. Every place and every person is constantly evolving. If we classify someone or some place, it makes it more difficult to notice the changes.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: My journey of writing a novel

This morning when I woke up, the last thing I thought I would be writing about was the third draft of my novel. I tend to be quite reserved when it comes to discussing my current writing projects. For some reason, however, I felt a push inside of me today that said that things must change. I must change. It’s scary to talk about something that is still in progress. It’s like digging up a seed to see if it’s sprouting. What if the seed has died? What if the seed only has a tiny sprout and needs more time? Those are the questions I ask myself, which keep me quiet about my writing projects. I couldn’t get the first few sentences of this blog post out of my head until I wrote them down, so I decided to do so.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: A break leads to a breakthrough

I have kept relatively quiet on my blogs for the past six months. I didn’t consciously choose not to write, but I wasn’t as clear as before about what I wanted to write in my blogs. I have worked on many posts, but didn’t feel like publishing them. I set aside my writing projects because I felt a little lost. It was a bit scary for me to stop focusing on my projects because I wondered if maybe I wouldn’t pick them back up again. I felt that I had to take the risk even though it frightened me. I told myself that if I’m meant to complete my projects, I will. And if not, I will discover what I should be writing.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Photography as a way to savor the moment

Anaďs Nin is quoted with saying, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” I feel quite similarly about photography. The first time I experience beauty, the moment is intense and rich with the stimulation of all of my senses. The second time it is more like an echo of that first experience, but all my senses are not stimulated to the same extent as they were originally.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Home is where my heart expands

My sense of home has shifted since I first became an expat. I used to consider home to be the location where I was brought up and where my family lived. However, now I believe that home is no longer that static place from my past, but rather the place that nurtures and supports me. I'm not at home in Florence because I live here and “home is where the heart is,” but rather because it’s where my heart expands.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: My artist trip to Berlin

The one book that changed my life as a writer is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Ever since I read it, I have been writing my morning pages and going on weekly artist dates. Every morning, I write the three pages, called “morning pages” to clear out the chatter in my head and drop down into my heart to where my writing wants to come from. Since I live in Florence, it’s relatively easy to go on at least one artist date a week. After going on my artist dates for many years, I realized that every time I was alone I was on an artist date. I could hop on a bus, take a train, or wait in line and suddenly I found myself opening up to my surroundings and letting beauty be unveiled to me.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Crafting my own rhythm and honoring each writing project

The day after my job as a technical writer in Paris ended a year ago, I turned my focus onto my writing projects. I thought the switch would be easy. Writing was no longer something I fit into my life, but rather became my main focus. Working as a freelancer for so many years, I have always been able to focus on my tasks, manage my time, and realize my goals with relative ease. I thought I’d be able to have the exact same approach with my writing. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. I wasn’t able to focus on my writing for eight hours a day, like I would with my day job. I got distracted by fears bubbling up inside of me and doubts tapping me on the shoulder when I least expected it.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Expats are immigrants with options

Every now and again the debate about whether expats are immigrants comes up. While I am not fond of labels, I do recognize their usefulness at times and am also aware however that they can be quite limiting. The difference between an immigrant and an expatriate is that the former lives permanently overseas while the latter does not. In my mind, expats are immigrants with options: they have the option not only to decide where they live and how long they stay, but also if they want to return to their native lands. Immigrants, on the other hand, rarely return to their native countries. My great-grandfather arrived in the US from China while my Italian grandparents arrived as children. None of my ancestors returned to their homelands and considered the US their home. That is what immigrants do: they make their new country their home and that’s exactly what expats should do as well. Even if you are in a location only temporarily, you have to treat it as if it is your home.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Appreciation is the key to happiness

For over a year, I have dedicated time to watch the sunset wherever I was. I initially took photos of sunsets only if I happened to be out at the right time. Eventually, I began to go for a walk outside to watch the sunset. I began to feel a great sense of joy bubbling up inside of me each time. I realized that there was something incredibly healing and empowering about watching the sunset. I wasn’t feeling joy only from the beauty I was experiencing, but instead from the appreciation I was giving. As I watched the sky changing colors, the birds flying overhead, the boats passing along the river, the people walking around me, the wind blowing in my hair, and the church bells chiming, I began to feel a great sense of appreciation for the moment I was experiencing as well as the life I was living.

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