Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

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 :: Reaching for love

For a long time now, I have tried to not write about grief. I thought if I wrote about other things, this need to write about grief would just go away. However, for the last few weeks thatís all that has been wanting to come out. A few nights in a row, I have woken up in the middle of the night with words streaming into my mind that wanted to be written. I would have to open up my iPad and dictate into my Notes App. Yesterday, while I was in the Giardino Bardini I decided to bring a notebook with me. For a while, I hadnít wanted to have a notebook on me because I didnít really want to write about grief outside of my home. Often I am inspired to write when I am in one of Florenceís gardens soaking up her energy. I initially didnít want to pull out my notebook after I sat down on a wooden bench under the warm afternoon sun facing east, but I did.

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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 :: Photography as a way to savor the moment

AnaÔs Nin is quoted with saying, ďWe write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.Ē 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 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 :: 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 Iíd be able to have the exact same approach with my writing. Unfortunately, it didnít happen that way. I wasnít 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 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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