Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Me, My Heart, and I :: Intense and beautiful transformations

The moment I arrived at the top of Giardino Bardini, I was greeted by a butterfly. She encircled me twice before joining a few other butterflies and bees buzzing around a lavender bush. As I watched the butterfly drink nectar from the center of the lavender blossoms, I thought about her life. It's such an incredible transformation for one being to go through: from being born a caterpillar and to being reborn a butterfly.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Experiencing more beauty every day

Itís only recently that I understood how to deepen my experience of the beauty around me. I used to look at something and immediately judge it as beautiful or not. I either focused on it or looked away. When I sit in a garden, walk through Florenceís streets and piazzas, or stroll along the Arno, I try to consciously keep my heart open and breathe my surroundings into my heart. Itís a delight to to revel in the beauty of a single flower, a pathway, or even sunlight beaming through the trees. I am always amazed at how something that pleases my eye can fill me with so much joy that my heart bursts open.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Endings and beginnings

As 2019 is about to begin, I feel an excitement and a lightness that I havenít felt in quite a while. Itís not a feeling that comes and goes; itís a feeling that is solid within me. I experienced some upheaval these past few years, which initially I thought was a curse, but now have come to realize that it was a blessing. If someone would have told me that my entire life would be turned upside down, everything and everyone removed from it, and that I would rebuild a more solid life based in love, I wouldnít have believed them. But it happened.

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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 canít 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 :: 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 ďhome is where the heart is,Ē but rather because itís 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 ďThe Artistís WayĒ 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 ďmorning pagesĒ 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, itís 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 :: 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 thatís 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 :: Embracing diversity

One of the greatest lessons that my expat life has taught me is that "Tutto il mondo Ť paese.ď This Italian expression means that regardless of any differences that may exist between us, we are all the same. When you embark on a life overseas, you are invited to embrace diversity. Living in another country, you don't just accept the differences that may exist between you and the locals, but instead you open yourself up to the locals by speaking their language, adapting their customs and way of life, and basically living your daily life as they do. It doesnít mean that you will end up liking everything that they do in your new home country, but you should open yourself up to it all and hopefully try.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Reconnecting myself with Paris

I donít think about Florence when I am in Paris and I donít think about Paris when Iím in Florence. I try to always be as present as possible wherever I am. I feel more alive when I use my senses to embrace and enjoy my surroundings as well as the local culture and language. When I am having coffee with a friend, I like to be connected to her for the time we share together. I donít want to be thinking about someone else or about what Iíll be doing afterwards. I want to be fully present with her so that I can fully enjoy the moments we share. The same goes for wherever I am, whether it is Florence, Paris, or some other city. I want to create a connection and forge a bond between the city and me.

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