My Conversation Heart

Everywhere I turn, I’m constantly looking for inspiration, even in the smallest forms and yesterday, while innocently reading, I stumbled across a potential source of inspiration I hope to experience soon:

As someone with a deep connection to magazines, yesterday while reading the April 2018 issue of Glamour Magazine, I stumbled across a short article with book suggestions specific to “Self-Help.” The concept of self-help books has always been of interest to me, so I paid close attention to their words.

Glamour April

Released during the February/March timeframe, “Heart Talk,” by poet/writer, Cleo Wade, is one that stands out to me and is now on my “to-read” list. In the article detailing her book, Glamour specifically mentions a poignant quote closely resonating with me:

YOU are the only person who truly decides who YOU are. If you want to be a singer… think like a singer, say you ARE a singer, and of course, sing your song. We spend so much of our lives waiting for others to qualify us. Authorize YOURSELF. Step into your power right now; give yourself your own credentials, and you be the one who qualifies who YOU are.”

Cleo Wade

This quote rings true to me in more ways than way. More times than I care to admit or acknowledge, I’ve waited for others to qualify me – former bosses, friends, guys I’ve dated, even family, believing I needed them to TELL me who I was. As I grow older, I realize more and more this is the furthest from the truth. Nobody can tell us who we are – unless we allow them to. Even if someone attempts to tell us who we are, or how they believe we are, we don’t have to believe them. We don’t have to accept their supposed “definition” of us. For me, it takes effort to reclaim power over myself, though over the past ten years, it’s been a work in progress; most important things in life require some amount of effort and I recognize that. There have been many times where I’ve been told, I wasn’t worth what I was being paid in a job, or that I’d “be prettier if I wore my hair up,” or that I lacked the ability to navigate the concept of mathematics in school and was ridiculed for my struggles in the middle of the hallway. During this occasions, sometimes I’d crumble into a ball, crying myself to sleep in my room, punishing and isolating myself for being what I felt was a “misfit”. Though, as I grow older, my perspective shifts and I realize their thoughts only have power over me if I allow it; they are not facts, they are opinions.

Who am I? I’m Melissa, a woman on the brink of entering her 30’s in a couple weeks, a writer who yes, sometimes is too wordy or uses too many adjectives (what can I say, I love words), who wears her hair down because she likes to, wears heels and wedges because they boost my confidence and make me happy, and loves to help others because everybody can use a helping hand or listening ear; all of this – this is who I AM.

Therefore, my hope is that during the times when others attempt to tell you, whomever may be reading this who you are, or who they think you are, ask yourself, Who am I? Only you know that truth.

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Pages in Memory

For as long as I can remember, books have always been a constant presence and staple in my life. As a young toddler, I can even recall wandering through the house with my little, square “Golden Books,” in hand, desperate for someone to read to me, often leafing through the pages myself and scribbling new words and ideas into them. Reading for me, was always a comfort and escape, providing me solace, room for imagination and an adventure to call my own. As I grew older, I ravenously read through each Babysitters Club book and Sweet Valley High series books, in addition to countless others. Many times, I can recall visiting the library for their various events and visits throughout the week, leaving with a stack of books heavier than I could manage to hold in my small hands.

Reading quote

When I was a teenager, I befriended a classmate who would become one of my closest friends through the years of high school. She and I spent much time together, sharing a lot of similar interests; reading and writing, in particular. One day, in 9th grade, she mentioned she had a book she’d recently finished reading and felt I would enjoy it, informing me of the “unexpected twist” towards the end, aware of how I always sought to find intellectually-stimulating stories/plots. A day or so later, she placed the book in my hands, “The Last Time They Met,” by Anita Shreve. The title alone was alluring and I was eager to begin reading. That same day, upon arriving home from school, I began reading and within several hours or a day, the book was completed. What an adventure it was, weaving through the intricate verbiage and plot twists, leaving me desperate for more. After completing the book, Anita Shreve, an author I’d never heard of before, became one of my favorites. Eager to read more of her books, I asked my friend if she knew of any of her other books and she happily informed me she had yet another one of her books she could lend me by the name of, “The Pilot’s Wife.” Similar in its composition to her preceding book, it left me intrigued and shocked as I worked my way through the pages.

Anita Shreve

To be able to write in the way Anita did is a true indicator of talent in itself. Her unique and careful way of weaving a story without faltering, leading the reader to believe one way, only to completely dismantle those beliefs midway through the novel, is enticing and suspenseful. The only other author I can recall sending chills down by spine beyond Shreve is Paula Hawkins, the author of “The Girl on the Train.”

The Last Time They Met

With all of this being said, yesterday in the midst of readying myself for the day, I briefly paused to check my Twitter feed, only to see a shocking tweet by one of my other favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, which read: “Mourning the loss of #AnitaShreve – a remarkable storyteller who brought me hours of reading joy.” Upon reading her words, a lump gathered in my thought as I quickly closed out of Twitter and tapped by Google app, feverishly typing Anita Shreve into the search bar. What appeared was a vast listing of death notices, articles stating her cancer diagnosis and passing in recent days. Immediately, nostalgia overwhelmed me and I was transported into my 9th grade social studies class, sitting with my friend as she handed me my first Anita Shreve novel.

The Pilots Wife

Sometimes I think it was Anita Shreve who inspired me to want to write even more than I already did. Her talent and writing ability was immeasurable, one I always hoped to emulate someday. The emotions were often palpable through the pages as I leafed through them. Like author, Jodi Picoult, I do am truly blessed and honored to have been able to read her stories and am so grateful for her sharing these talents with the world. How lucky am I to have been able to read her stories and be able to enjoy them time and time again. It is my hope Anita will rest in peace knowing how much she positively impacted lives – especially mine.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”

Scenes from a 17th September

Lately, it seems I’ve been more nostalgic than usual. Most of my nostalgia, I feel, probably stems my desire to make some imperative, much-needed changes within my life. I’ve always been a firm believer in the notion: if you’re unhappy with your present life and feel as though it isn’t “you,” then it is worth it to pursue change. Of course, while I’ve been a believer in this sentiment, it isn’t always the easiest to actually implement or attempt this change. Often times, when attempting change, or trying something different, I’ve become sidetracked, discouraged, or traveled down the path to procrastination. The more I age, the more I realize how important it is to take chances, no matter how frightful they may seem. These fears though, as I’ve come to know, are often fears we’ve created in our minds, building up these changes to unrealistic levels, creating negative outcomes in our minds that would probably never happen. There is so much I aspire to in life, so many ideas, creations and concepts I’d love to work on, so many people and families I’d love to help and yet, my fears have always prevented me from doing it. My own preconceived notions about my abilities, or lack thereof, and chastising myself for not being in the place or in the life I thought I would be as I approach my 28th year has led me to where I am today.

That being said, last night as I watched the latest Hallmark Channel movie on TV (yes, I’ll admit to it, but this movie actually proved to be one of the better ones of the bunch!), it prompted a prolonged nostalgia within me for reasons I can’t really understand, myself. So allow me to reflect a bit, without delving too much into the meanings between the words:

It was September 20, 2005, I was 17, and I still remember what I wore that day, a navy, fitted t-shirt, with white lace adorning the collar, fitted jeans and heeled sandals; my unofficial “beginning of senior year of high school uniform,” for the preceding weeks. I can still remember the way the clothes felt on my body as I slid them over my shrinking body, feeling the fabric skimming over my hip bones and the way the tag on my t-shirt rested on bones of my neck. When I look back, I can still feel myself slamming the backseat car door in the parking garage, angry and afraid, unsure if I wanted to scream or cry, wanting both all the same. The scene is still as clear as day; not a cloud lined the sky, the air was pristine, a temperate breeze filled the town of Princeton, NJ. When the parking lot’s elevator door opened, I marched my way into the building in front of me, unaware it would be home for the time being. Both my parents trailed in the background, as I desperately ran from them. They hurried to catch up, but my feet continued to carry me faster.

The next several hours were a hazy blur; papers being signed, questions asked, numbers recorded, heads nodding, tears shed, and my anger mounting. The numbness lingered through my body that first day and night. Words escaped me and my thoughts were scattered that first afternoon, outside on the lawn with the others, all of our respective blankets adorning the first floor lawn. As I lay on my blanket, I closed my eyes and hoped that when they opened, my life would be my own again.”

“Sometimes, it takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”

Half the Truth

The other day, a rough, emotionally-driven, raw afternoon, I sat in my car with the windows drawn and tears streaming down my face as I mindlessly scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed on my phone. Like clockwork, I scrolled through the countless photos of people’s children, engagement and pregnancy announcements, party photos and simply happy moments. Sure, mixed in here and there were trivial complaints or motivational quotes, but nothing capturing my undivided attention, until…

A favorite author of mine, Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer behind the popular non-fiction novel, Eat Pray Love, posted a short piece of writing entitled, “Not this.” Words filled my newsfeed, words that seemed to spill from me, capturing each thought, worry and sentiment I’ve felt through the years. Realizing others and more specifically, Gilbert herself and the others she speaks of have experienced similar feelings was all the comfort and reassurance I needed at that moment. Reading this piece summoned a certain confidence and courage within me, words I needed to hear at moment, thoughts I needed to propel me forward. After reading it, I pushed open the door to my car and felt as though a window had suddenly been opened.

So here I am today, on a beautiful Spring afternoon in April, hoping that by posting her piece, maybe somewhere a window will be opening for someone else or at least will be a reminder that we’re never truly alone in our thoughts and fears:

“Not this” by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Dear Ones –

Most of us, at some point in our lives (unless we have done everything perfectly…which is: nobody) will have to face a terrible moment in which we realize that we have somehow ended up in the wrong place — or at least, in a very bad place.

Maybe we will have to admit that we are in the wrong job. Or the wrong relationship. With the wrong people around us. Living in the wrong neighborhood. Acting out on the wrong behaviors. Using the wrong substances. Pretending to believe things that we no longer believe. Pretending to be something we were never meant to be.

This moment of realization is seldom fun. In fact, it’s usually terrifying.

I call this moment of realization: NOT THIS.

Because sometimes that’s all you know, at such a moment.

All you know is: NOT THIS.

Sometimes that’s all you CAN know.

All you know is that some deep life force within you is saying, NOT THIS, and it won’t be silenced.

Your body is saying: NOT THIS.

Your heart is saying: NOT THIS.

Your soul is saying: NOT THIS.

But your brain can’t bring itself to say “NOT THIS”, because that would cause a serious problem. The problem is: You don’t have a Plan B in place. This is the only life you have. This is the only job you have. This is the only spouse you have. This is the only house you have. Your brain says, “It may not be great, but we have to put up with it, because there are no other options.” You’re not sure how you got here — to this place of THIS — but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out…

So your brain says: “WE NEED TO KEEP PUTTING UP WITH THIS, BECAUSE THIS IS ALL WE HAVE.”

But still, beating like a quiet drum, your body and your heart and your soul keep saying: NOT THIS…NOT THIS…NOT THIS.

I think some of the bravest people I have ever met were people who had the courage to say the words, “NOT THIS” outloud — even before they had an alternative plan.

People who walked out of bad situations without knowing if there was a better situation on the horizon.

People who looked at the life they were in, and they said, “I don’t know what my life is supposed to be…but it’s NOT THIS.” And then they just…left.

I think my friend who walked out of a marriage after less than a year, and had to move back in with her mother (back into her childhood bedroom), and face the condemnation of the entire community while she slowly created a new life for herself. Everyone said, “If he’s not good enough for you, who will be?” She didn’t know. She didn’t know anything about what her life would look like now. But it started with her saying: NOT THIS.

I think of my friend who took her three young children away from a toxic marriage, despite that fact that her husband supported her and the kids financially…and the four of them (this woman and her three children) all slept in one bed together in a tiny studio apartment for a few years, while she struggled to build a new life. She was poor, she was scared, she was alone. But she had to listen to the voices within her that said, NOT THIS.

I think of friends who walked out of jobs — with no job waiting for them. Because they said NOT THIS.

I think of friends who quit school, rather than keep pretending that they cared about this field of study anymore. And yes, they lost the scholarship. And yes, they ended up working at a fast food restaurant, while everyone else was getting degrees. And yes, it took them a while to figure out where to go next. But there was a relief at last in just surrendering to the holy, non-negotiable truth of NOT THIS.

I think of friends who bravely walked into AA meetings and just fell apart in front of a room full of total strangers, and said, NOT THIS.

I think of a friend who pulled her children out of Sunday School in the middle of church one Sunday because she’d had it with the judgment and self-righteousness of this particular church. Yes, it was her community. Yes, it was her tribe. But she physically couldn’t be in that building anymore without feeling that she would explode. She didn’t know where she was going, spiritually or within her community, but she said, NOT THIS. And walked out.

Rationally, it’s crazy to abandon a perfectly good life (or at least a familiar life) in order to jump into a mystery. No sane person would advise you to make such a leap, with no Plan B in place. We are supposed to be careful. We are supposed to be prudent.

And yet….

And yet.

If you keep ignoring the voices within you that say NOT THIS, just because you don’t know what to do, instead…you may end up stuck in NOT THIS forever.

You don’t need to know where you are going to admit that where you are standing right now is wrong.

The bravest thing to say can be these two words.

What comes next?

I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. It might be worse. It might be better. But whatever it is…? It’s NOT THIS.

ONWARD,
LG

– Thank you to Elizabeth Gilbert for bravely sharing this inspiring kaleidoscope of words, they are many words I’ve thought, but never written.

Everything We Don’t See

It’s been a rough couple weeks for me, to say the least. It’s hard to place into words how it’s made me feel and where I am, emotionally right now, but nonetheless, I am trying my utmost best to pull through and keep my head up. I know that life can change at any instant, in both a positive and negative light, so I keep looking towards the future with the hope that life gets better. What I can control, I try to do so with good intentions. Like I’ve said before, intent is one of the most important aspects of life, or at least, to me it is anyway. It was something I learned at one of my old jobs. They used to stress the importance of intent in everything we did. I worked in a customer service department of a health insurance related company and the entire day consisted of me assisting individuals over the phone with their health insurance issues and questions. I didn’t always feel the most confident in my abilities, but the main thing the company wanted us to focus on was our intent. If our intent is always to help, then the other steps of correctly answering the customers’ questions or resolving their issues comes second. We can always find another co-worker, supervisor or employee to help us in answering the customer’s question, but if our good intent is missing, then all is downhill from there. When I first heard this perspective, it was a new concept to me. For most of my life, I had always focused on how well I could answer questions and resolve issues. For instance, throughout school, in math class, the goal is mainly to answer the questions correctly, and so I never really considered the steps I took in getting there. I later realized that we can take many of the correct steps and still come up with the wrong answer, but as long as initial instinct and intent was on the right path, then that is really what is most important.

What I more or less mean, is that we don’t always see what successes we’ve made, or how much we’ve accomplished through life if we don’t have something tangible to show for it. In other words, just because we don’t have an abundance of wealth, a large amount of “friends,” the largest house or a closet full of designer clothing, does not mean we haven’t been successful or made good choices in our lives. It doesn’t mean we haven’t helped someone by offering a helping hand or listening ear. It doesn’t mean we haven’t inspired a child by fully listening to them and encouraging them. It also doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful just because our faces aren’t blemish free, or our hair isn’t poker straight, sans free of frizz and split ends. It just means we are beautiful in a different way, a way that is unique to what is thought to be conventionally “beautiful.” The meaning and connotation of beautiful is so very different to each and every person.

My aforementioned thoughts were more or less inspired by a quote shared by my cousin on Facebook. A couple days ago, I was innocently trolling through Facebook posts, when I stumbled across my cousin’s, which spoke to and resonated with me in more ways than I can truly verbalize. Perhaps you’ve seen it before or maybe not, but all the same, I thought it was best for me to share it in hopes that maybe someone else who could be reading this, might be as inspired or intrigued as I was:

“It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves ugly, because we don’t really see ourselves. We don’t watch ourselves sleeping in bed, curled up silent with our chests rising & falling with our own rhythm. We don’t see ourselves reading a book, eyes fluttering and glowing. You don’t see yourself looking at someone with love and care in your heart. There’s no mirror in your way when you’re laughing and smiling and pure happiness is leaking out of you. You would know exactly how bright and beautiful you are if you saw yourself in the moments where you are truly your authentic self.

Reading this lead me to question, when am I my most authentic self? I’m my most authentic self when I am laughing with those I love most, forgetting about all the insecurities, failures, missed opportunities and chances. I’m most my authentic self when the disappointments and sadness I feel are pushed aside because I’m having too much fun and joy seeing my niece smiling and waving and experiencing all the goodness of life for the first time. I’m most my most authentic self when I look outside at the leaves beginning to fall and see not a missed opportunity at a changing season, but a chance for a pleasant and fulfilling future filled with love, happiness and success.

Season Quote

A Quotable Thursday

Good morning! I realize the title of my post is not a very creative one, but if anything, I feel it does accurately describe what the contents of this post will end up becoming. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog, is aware that quotes are one of my favorite things to read, share and post. They offer me not only perspective, but the utmost source of contemplation, inspiration and often serve as a muse for writing. Lately, I’ve seen a large outpouring of quotes I really have taken to on Twitter. Therefore, I thought I might share some of them, thinking they might be of interest to others, or at least provide some introspect as we begin to ease into the end of a long week. Before I do that, I’d just like to mention that if you haven’t already heard, today just so happens to be National Cheesecake Day!

Memory Quote   Cherry Cheesecake

I’ll be first to admit, cheesecake is a definite favorite of mine. I’ve never considered myself to be all that fond of chocolate cake, though of course, it has its moments, but for me, cheesecake is the ultimate dessert and one I’ve highly-regarded since childhood, though I don’t eat it all that often. That said, some of my fondest memories are of sharing a slice of cheesecake with my dad at a local diner and also, at the famed NYC spot, Lindy’s. My dad and I shared a similar fondness for cheesecake, anything cherry flavored (sodas, Twizzlers, etc), so looking back on this helps bring back a bit of childhood happiness (how appropriate, since today is a Throwback Thursday, anyway, right?!)

Memories Quote

Without further adieu, here are some quotes currently on my radar; I hope you enjoy them as much as I have:

  • “Be yourself, because and original is worth more than a copy.”
  • “It is better to learn late, than never.”
  • “Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness.”
  • “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because greatest secrets are often hidden in the most unlikely places.”
  • “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”
  • “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.”
  • “Nothing can be loved or hated until it is understood.”
  • “By having something to look forward to, you bring happiness into your life well before the event takes place.”
  • “Never regret something that once made you smile.”
  • “To send a letter is to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
  • “The first step in healing is realizing there’s a wound.”
  • “Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin and inspiration will find you.”
  • “When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”
  • “Certain things capture your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.”
  • “Sometimes, it’s not the people who change, it’s the mask that falls off.”

Always believe

Is it or Isn’t it?

Good Morning! I hope your weekend was a pleasant one. This past weekend was a fairly routine one for me, though on Saturday morning, my mind and emotions were churning as I perused Facebook and spotted an article, now widely popular and circulating nationwide. The article I speak of, I originally spotted via my local ABC News affiliate’s Facebook page (6abc Philadelphia) and detailed/shared 11th grade Brooklyn, NY High School student, Chanie Gorkin‘s poem. If you read it top to bottom, yes, the poem is a poignant and eloquently-written one, but it is when you read it from the bottom to the top, when you (or at least, I did) suddenly realize how truly creative, unique, and inspiring it is. If you’re unfamiliar with this specific poem I’m referring to, here is a link to the article and the actual poem, itself:

http://6abc.com/875990/

“Worst Day Ever?” By Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
Because
True happiness can be obtained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
The reality
Creates
My attitude
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say that
Today was a good day

**Now read from the bottom to top.

Wow, truly, wow, is nearly all I can really begin to say about this poem. I was taken by such surprise and awe. As a person who used to write a lot of poems myself (see my Poems and Literary page on this blog, if you’re curious), I was truly speechless. The poem is so beyond the point of creativity, that I can’t even imagine how she would have thought of something like this. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen and while yes, I may very well be overly enthusiastic about it, since I am a person who has an affinity for words, I always look to those who can write with such creativity and tact with the utmost admiration. Though the writer of this poem may be a decade younger than me, it truly shows that writing ability knows no age. It doesn’t matter one’s age, education, employment status, or anything they’ve been through or encountered, anyone and everyone has the ability to be able to write something inspiring and of the utmost meaning.

Words Quote

Not only though, was the way in which this poem was constructed unique, but the words themselves almost reach out and take hold of the feelings I often harbor within. It can be true that in weathering through life, one day can feel like the worst day, ever, and then the next day, or a couple days/weeks later, all can seem content and promising. Sometimes, I feel like this poem is a way of confirming the thought: “Life is a paradox.” In any case, this poem grabbed hold of me and given the number of shares, comments, likes, and how it is appearing all over social media and TV, apparently, it has struck a cord with others, too.

Writing quote