The Still Sea By Night

Stormy Seas

“Stormy Seas” by Kelsie DiPerna via Flickr.

The Still Sea By Night 
By Melissa Randall

She was lost in the sea. 

For what seemed like a decade,
but perhaps, was only just mere minutes,
she tossed and rolled in the waves.
Struggling to surface, she gasped for air.
Determined to swim,  she refused to sink.

Her desperation matched her anguish,
The longing for a raft, a buoy or just a board.
Anything that allowed her to rest her weary body
and regain her strength.

With fleeting hope, she shed the last of herself to stay afloat.
With every brassy chain unclasped, every layer discarded
and every scream, wail and plea that exploded from her lungs,
she was lighter, but still not free.

He watched the waves wear her down.
By the time she reached the shore,
she was chipped, cracked, and bleeding.
Her throat raw from thirst, her eyes dry from salt.
She collapsed, and trembling, exhausted, she wept.

Her voice raspy and sore but determined, angry, crass.
The surliness of a sailor, the fire of a siren, and the viciousness of a storm.
She stripped away the last of her ruined armor and cried -
“Why do you have me suffer?”
Her glassy eyes filled to the brim with salty, cloudy tears.
“I nearly drowned.”

He carefully picked up her broken body,
her tarnished soul,
and he wiped the last of her tears away.
He admired the somber, ashy grey horizon
that matched the turmoil and conflict in her eyes.

He said:

“If I could show you the golden world
the extravagant plans and love I have in store,
the treasure that will be your time on this Earth,
you will not learn the lessons I need you to.

You would not feel the pain in the waves.
You will lack empathy, your modesty would abandon you.
The lack of fear and doubt, will make you hard and jagged.
It’s the trials of this world, the waves, the sea, and
the hope for the shore that mold and transform you.
And that is why you suffer.”

He cradled her like a child, long enough for her to stand,
then set her back on her feet.
“This will not be the first time you will flail, but the first
time you will learn how to float, even in the roughest of
waters.”

And then he vanished into the sudden night,
the sea suddenly peaceful and still, quiet and calm,
the stars shimmering and bright,
and for the first time, she felt hope despite her wear
and strength despite her fear.

My Tendentious View of 8 1/2

It’s no secret that this film major harbors a deep rooted affection for Fellini masterpiece 8 1/2.

So much, in fact, I decided to do a blog post about it.

For starters, for anyone who has struggled creatively, 8 1/2 is a revelation. Centered around director Guido (the stunning Marcello Mastroianni), the film studies the process of writer’s block – calling on Guido’s various female muses for inspiration. His most recent film – his 8 1/2 film of his career, his halted when he fails to find inspiration whilst distracted by women. The production of his film is interrupted by flashbacks and fantasies with the most inspirational women of his life.

Reflecting on Guido’s experiences with his wife, mistress, ideal woman, a prostitute from his childhood, his mother, and his assistant, 8 1/2 explores the raw, sensual relationship between creative men and the women who inspire them. In a truly expressive scene, Guido finds himself on the beach as a child – reflecting on the first time he felt sexually charged by a female – the temptress prostitute Saraghina, who teases the young Guido and his friends. It’s an experience, a moment, that lays foundation to Guido’s fascination with intoxicating, unavailable women.

And there’s the tenacious, infallible  Luisa, Guido’s wife. Exhausted with the convenient excuses of her husband, in one particularly poignant scene, Luisa snaps – “Just spare me the shame of hearing you swear to a mess of lies.” Her boldness, resolve, yet – wide-eyed nature in that moment – is so incredibly heartbreaking, yet, sincere and honest.

I’ve always been so incredibly inspired by 8 1/2. From the moment I laid eyes on Marcello Mastroianni, I felt significantly changed by the this film – influenced by it’s message. That artists, writers – should draw from their most personal, introspective experiences. I’ve definitely done it before – but this film continues to motivate me to do so.

Besides the incredible mise-en-scene in 8 1/2, Guido in particular, is what draws me to the film. He embodies many qualities I find attractive in a man (besides the infidelity) – intelligence, ingenuity and ok -handsome.  His character just has an incredible vision, creative process, that inspires me as a writer (and a hopeless romantic).

Case and point:

“Everything’s confused again, but that confusion is me; how I am, not how I’d like to be. And I’m not afraid to tell the truth now, what I don’t know, what I’m seeking. Only like that do I feel alive and I can look into your loyal eyes without shame. Life is a party, let’s live it together. I can’t say anything else, to you or others. Take me as I am, if you can… it’s the only way we can try to find each other.”

What’s your favorite part of 8 1/2?

naked in snow

 

Photo by mhaithaca via flickr.

Photo by mhaithaca via flickr.

 

scorching words and searing eyes
blackened stares after our goodbyes
layered under our burns
there’s more than we know
there’s layers and layers
of white, beautiful snow.
a place where my bones tremble
under my porcelain skin
where your gaze is softer
then it’s ever been.
your words don’t have edges,
my thoughts don’t have walls
after moments of silence,
we’re barely moved at all.
there’s warmth in those seconds
we’re surrounded by flakes
but we’re still too afraid
of making mistakes.
i look for an answer
anywhere in your face
but all i can feel
is insurmountable space.
then there’s a flicker,
of cunning or guile.
a twitch, then a flutter
that turns into a smile.
That’s all it takes, for me to unfold
Too eager, too hungry,
all my poetry told.
The hot, feverish words,
crack, fracture, and so,
shortly, I’m naked,
exposed, in the snow.

The Time I Got Naked

Around this time last year, I went to the Philly Naked Bike Ride. It was for the Empire Covers blog, an article about the race, why people do it, why they continue to do it and the controversy that surrounds it. I stood amongst completely naked bikers, taking pictures, and interviewing them about the experience.

I’ll never forget how carefree and brave these people were. Shameless. Serendipitously, I ran into an old friend who of course, was almost completely naked. I remember maintaining eye contact, reminding myself that he was in his underwear, so I shouldn’t look down.

It seems silly now – a guy in his boxer shorts isn’t that big of a deal. However, in this country, we’re conditioned to believe that nudity is off limits. Taboo. On television and in books, nudity is always either sexual, silly, or inappropriate. I mean, it’s against the law to be naked in public.

I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s just how it is. Like I said, we’ve all been taught that nudity is indecent which is why perhaps, nudity tends to embarrass people. We’re raised to think that – nudity is embarrassing.

We’ve all had the ‘I’m naked and embarrassed’ dream. You’re at your high school, your church, your workplace and bam -you’re suddenly naked. You’re completely exposed. Every freckle, every oddly shaped birthmark, every spot you forgot to shave – it’s all out there, and people just stare.

Last night, that was me…. and it wasn’t a dream. For three hours, I was willingly exposed. I was buck and bare assed naked in an entire room full of strangers. For a group of artists, I took off all my clothes and let them draw me.

It takes the dream a bit further. Not only was I completely naked, their main objective was to study me. To stare at me. To examine every curve and shadow of my body, in such a way that I don’t believe anyone ever has before.

I volunteered to model mostly out of curiosity, but also perhaps, to get a little rush (and to make a little cash). I’ll admit I’ve gone streaking before for some of the same reasons. Besides those very few times, I haven’t had too many experiences with public nudity.

Leading up to my session, people I shared the news with asked the obvious questions:

“Aren’t you nervous?”

“What does Mike think?”

My parents asked the parental questions:

“Is this about money?”

“What if the drawings end up on the internet?”

All the questions and concerns were valid. I was a little nervous. Mike was comfortable with it. It wasn’t about money. Any hey, maybe some of the drawings would end up on the internet (But hey, any Google image search can show you more interesting and disturbing things).

I was kind of surprised that in those three hours, I didn’t really feel insecure. Besides a few butterflies when I took off my robe, I was relaxed. I wasn’t having very deep or insightful thoughts or ideas. I thought about my trip, thought about how cold the room was, and wondered if Mike had eaten the leftover slice of pizza I had left in the fridge.

I quickly realized, as I was posing like Rose in Titanic, it was because this wasn’t about how I saw myself. It was about how these artists were seeing me. To them, I wasn’t a writer, a blogger, a daughter, a sister, or someone’s girlfriend.

I was a naked girl. That was it. I was a subject.

draw3

 

painting

As the class went on, the artists let me look at their drawings and paintings. In some, my legs were rail thin. In others, curvy. My eyes were doe-like in one sketch, but narrowed in another. I was kind of amazed that despite the differences, in every form, I could still see myself.

sketch

They were all so incredible, but one oil painting really stood out to me. It was mostly of my back, as I leaned against a cushion. A contrast of warm and cool colors, it created a quiet, somewhat solemn tone. When I saw it, I actually gasped, and immediately asked the artist if I could buy it from her.

draw5

The practical side of me kept thinking about how I’m leaving for Iceland in a week. The last thing I needed was more stuff. However, my tortured artist side recognized the personal value in owning this one of a kind reminder, this tribute, to an exposed, vulnerable part of  myself. So I took the drawing home.

Besides fulfilling my curiousity, after this experience, I truly felt seen. For the first time, I felt as if I could see myself through another person’s eyes. Not as an object of desire, but just as a subject, a thing with shapes, colors, shadows and lines. The artists didn’t care that I have a cafe au lait birthmark on my right side, or that I’ve got elfishly small feet. I may as well have been a bowl of fruit.

Maybe it’s because of my upcoming travels overseas, but the experience left me feeling rather European about being naked. Maybe I won’t feel this way when I’m in a sea of schlongs at a nude beach, but I’m really looking forward to experiencing the various cultural differences the world has to offer.

nakedvn

*The images shared are cropped to you don’t see any of my bits. If you’re a close friend and you’re interested in seeing some of the art, let me know! 

 

 

The Safety of Routine

Last week, I had a strange, yet  kind encounter with a co-worker. It’s been rewinding over and over in my head since. I don’t want to go too much into his personal details, I’ve worked with him on a project here and there, but other than that, we don’t talk much.

I was at my desk, working on who remembers what, with my infamous giant white headphones on. He stopped over, and I smiled, genuinely happy to catch up with him, and removed my earphones, greeting him with an enthusiastic “Hi!”.

He looked at me and said, “That is the first time I have seen you smile in weeks. i just wanted to stop over and see if you were OK.”

I was stunned. His words bit me a little. I scrambled, trying to think of why I would look so unhappy. I’ve been pretty stressed, true, I was recovering from a kidney infection, and also, a little stale creatively.

I got a bit choked up. I told him about my sickness, we talked a little about work, and that was it. But I’ve thought about it ever since, how perceptive near strangers can be.

I have been down. I’ve been writing a bit, trying to get back into art, but nothing seems to flow as easily as it once did. Call it writer’s block, call it changing of the seasons… but it’s frustrating for someone who depends so much on creativity.

The past few years have been a roller coaster for me. I’ve described it to others as an enormous room with hundreds of lightbulbs, that little by little, blew out. Some of course, were by my own doing, but it didn’t change the impact it had on me. My heart has grown weary and tired, mostly, of being disappointed, disheartened.

After some soul searching, I couldn’t help but recall my old days over at Melissa’s 100. That was a time in my life, personally and professionally, I was truly enlightened. I broke out of a shell of normalcy, into a world of opportunity. It was the best I’ve ever been.

When Melissa’s 100 was coming to an end, I remember feeling really depressed. Perhaps I had just overdosed on the adventure, you know, the potential of that project, and I was finally breaking back into a normal routine. I’m not sure. I just really didn’t want to end it, and although I tried to keep it going, I knew that chapter was over. Done.

Which brings me to now.

I’m in a very different place in my life now, than I was when I started working on my 100 list. I’ve since started this blog, taken on freelance projects, moved from Philadelphia, etc. I’m not the same person, but I still have the same hunger, the same thirst for adventure and enlightenment.

It wasn’t all the exposure and glitz of it. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t exciting, but honestly, my favorite part of it was feeling as if I was pursuing a dream. Really challenging myself. Opening myself up to the world.

So my thought is… maybe, just maybe, I need a little of the magic Melissa’s 100 had. I’m older, wiser, with much more ambition and if possible, confidence. Could I do it again? Could I do it better, and this time around, for me?

Of course I could. Last time, people thought I was absolutely insane, but I didn’t lose faith. I knew I was a little different, heck, even a little weird or overly idealistic, but I’ve long since gotten used to the idea that I, as an individual, do not enjoy the safety of routine. Being what some people consider as self-serving or hey, yeah, selfish, can be a bit lonely sometimes – my own mother does not understand it.

It all comes down to faith. I know, I just know, that the Universe, God, has a plan for me. I know this for sure. So as you can imagine, just the idea of resurrecting a form of Melissa’s 100 sends me into a girly fit of excitement.

I have a current project that I’m working on that I’m seriously considering implementing my 100 strategy into. I won’t say too much about it, just that it’s big and exciting, and kind of wonderful. I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of incredibly supportive friends here in Wilmington, who actually seem to love the idea. Very early stages, but still, exciting stages.

So, just hang tight, more news on that coming soon. In the meantime, if you’re feeling down, try to find your best self, even if you haven’t seen them in awhile. You might be surprised what comes out of it.

-M

Flushy Pale Face: Lessons from the Dove Beauty Campaign

A few weeks ago, someone shared the Dove Real Beauty Sketch video with me. Most of you have probably seen it. If not, take a few minutes to watch.

If you don’t have a few minutes, here’s the TV Guide version. Dove brought women into seeing a sketch artist and asked to describe their looks. The man could not see their faces. He then in turn, produced a sketch.

As you can imagine, the photos were not flattering. The women described themselves as old, exaggerating their slight flaws, describing themselves in such a way that couldn’t possibly be seen as beautiful.

Here’s the twist- they also brought in people who met the women prior to the sketch. These individuals then described the women’s looks, then relayed it to the sketch artist. These pictures portrayed very different women, very different people. Gorgeous, confident, glowing women.

I recently observed a woman, probably 20 or 30 years my senior. I won’t say where. She was thin, beautiful, and graceful but she had this hollowness about her. I could see years of sadness on her face. But behind the frown lines, the lonely gaze, I saw an incredibly beautiful woman with a ton to offer.

It was incredible to see someone of such… stature… in such a vulnerable state. It made me sad, and of course, made me think about how I see myself.

Cute, I suppose, if I was being completely honest. My skin gets flushed and red easily. I desperately need my ends trimmed. One of my front teeth are chipped. I have a huge birthmark on my side that shows up when I wear a bikini.

Maybe those don’t seem like a lot to get hung up on, but if you had asked me years ago, my list would have been much, much longer. When it comes to women thinking that they’re beautiful, Dove throws out a statistic of 4%.

4%?!

The number is unfortunate, but not surprising. When I think about the things my girlfriends have told me they dislike about themselves, things I’ve told myself, that number makes sense. But how do you fix it?

One thing I’ve been very self-conscious about is my pale skin. I have a fair complexion. Friends and family have teased, called me Casper, laughed at how “I glow” in a bikini.

Over the years, I’ve gone tanning. I’ve sat out in the sun, I’ve endured sunburns and dry skin – all in the effort of changing something natural about myself. Something that didn’t really bother me until it was pointed out to me.

A month or so back, my dermatologist removed five of my birthmarks. They were tested, and one came back with abnormal, near cancerous cells. I won’t lie, I was scared. I thought of the tanning beds, the days spent laying out in my bikini. I was ashamed for not protecting my skin better.

My fair complexion, complete with bandage from my derm. visit.

My fair complexion, complete with bandage from my derm. visit.

So how do we start changing how we think about our friends, family, and heck, ourselves?

We stop with the flaws. We focus on the good. Not just in ourselves, but in others. We stop from measuring ourselves in ways that diminish what we are, what’s truly great and important about who we are.

Sure, I’m pale, but hey, so was Audrey Hepburn. My skin gets flushed easily, but I don’t need to wear any makeup. I have a chip in my front tooth, but I never needed braces.

There’s a lot of things I like about myself, about how I look. But it’s not because I’m vain – it’s because when I look in the mirror, I see more than just my own face. I see the happiness in my face, the mischievous twinkle in my eyes. That sounds cheesy, but I’d rather focus on the best parts of myself. And you know, that includes the porcelain skin.

Tell Me About It, Stud

Before I proceed with today’s awesome post, I wanted to share some thoughts I had about my previous blog posts.

I’ve tried a few different approaches when it comes to writing content. I’ve been funny, I’ve been serious. I’ve focused on vintage goods, specifically, but I’ve found that my best posts are when I combine all of those aspects – and just tell stories about my life. So I’m gonna run with that.

I have the perfect post to start off…

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I discovered leather pants, 1950′s swag, and the T-Birds. Yes, I discovered Grease. For years, I watched and rewatched the movie, sang along to the sidetrack, memorized my favorite scenes. 

The Grease fascination never went away. I held a torch for Danny Zuko for much longer than I’m willing to admit. I curled my hair to look like Olivia Newton-John and sometimes, when I was alone, I belted out favorites such as Hopelessly Devoted to You, Beauty School Dropout, and Summer Nights. 

One of my favorite scenes of Grease, of course, was the scene where innocent, naive Sandy becomes “Sand-ay!”. The heels, the leather pants, and of course, the leather jacket – the cigarette she takes a drag from, right before she says the memorable line, “Tell me about it, stud!”

That scene has always been so meaningful to me, especially as a kid. I was extremely shy, at times, painfully shy, up through high school. It wasn’t until I reached college that I really came out of my shell. Once a Sandra Dee, I increasingly became more and more confident and outspoken.

Still, as I described in a past post about red turtlenecks, I still get a little nervous. I can be confident, almost to a fault, but like anyone else, I get self conscious. Lately, I’ve felt like all of my choices have been under a microscope, good and bad. It’s a lot of pressure, hence, the wavering confidence.

So after this past week, having a few moments of red turtleneck, I decided to do something about it. I walked into The Wonder Shop downtown, a little unsure of what to look for. I’d know it when I saw it.

The two extremely trendy employees, maybe out of boredom, curiousity or obligation, asked me what I was looking for. Without missing a beat, I replied, “You know that scene in Grease where Olivia Newton-John turns all badass? Something like that.”

They looked a bit perplexed, and answered, “Oh… um, let me Google that.”

Sad.

Anyway, they pulled a few wild and crazy things, a few merely meh dresses, until one of them mentioned, “Oh, well we have this great leather jacket. It’s cute.”

I tried it on. As soon as I slipped my arms through those sleeves, I knew that this was what I was looking for. Tight, studded, and hot. That was it.

photo-11

I wore it out last night, just to test the waters. The studded shoulders were a conversation starter for sure. I got a lot of great compliments about it, felt pretty hot, but still, something wasn’t sitting well with me.

I realized it earlier today, after grabbing brunch at The Basics with my old friend Heather. I was wearing the jacket again, and maybe some of the novelty was gone, or maybe because I was spending a lot of time talking about my future plans with her, it wasn’t the jacket making me feel cool or confident.

It was me.

That rush of self confidence, that return of my inner leather clad Olivia Newton-John, was the jump start I’ve desperately needed. The truth is, at least for me, when you push beyond your fears and hesitations, you always get a fantastic return. For lack of a better word,  you get your swag back.

So while I’ll still rock the jacket, I also need to check in with myself now and then, scratch my own back a bit. I’m badass. I get shit done. I know what I want in life, and I actively pursue it. No matter how long it takes, or what it takes, I will have my own kick ass Carnival moment, well I truly feel like I’ve come into my own, personally and professionally.

Good thing I already have the jacket.

 

Dear Melissa

It’s no secret that I love to write letters. Anyone close to me has likely received one, whether it be for a birthday, graduation or heck, just because.

But perhaps what I haven’t shared is that I frequently write letters to myself.

Sometimes it’s to remind myself of how fortunate I am. Other times, I’m sad or distraught, and I’m looking to make peace with myself. Regardless of the reason, I’m so glad that I’ve done that in the past, and that I’ve continued to do so.

One letter sticks out, one that I wrote over five years ago, after a long talk with one of my best friends. I was in Rochester, where my parents live, driving back to their house from a girl’s night with my best friend, Melissa. We had been in deep conversation about my latest heartbreak, one that had been difficult for me to move on from.

I don’t recall how late it was, but the roads were empty, and my headlights were the only things illuminating the trees and fields out in the rural area where my parents live. My beloved Frank Sinatra CD was on, and as always, I was lost in the sound of his voice.

“Taller than the tallest tree is, that’s how it’s got to feel, deeper than the deep blue sea is, that’s how deep it goes if it’s real…”

His words captured me. In that moment, I felt free, self-fulfilled, and confident. The first thing I did when I got home was write a letter, this time, in my journal. I remember passionately writing the words as they came, a short, but direct letter that would likely remind me of the certainty I felt in that particular moment.

I was just 20 then, unaware of what the next five years of my life would bring. After college came love, chaos, and a lot of moving around. Now, I’m here, living in Wilmington, N.C., almost divorced, with my dog Russell.

If you had asked my 20 year old self if she would have predicted the path my life has taken, she’d probably say no. In fact, she’d probably be floored at how the past five years have went. While some things wouldn’t have been a surprise, (still friends with Melissa, still love the Phillies, still writing), some things, definitely, have been a shock.

Honestly, she probably wouldn’t even recognize me now, and maybe wouldn’t like some of the choices I’ve made. But if I know anything about that girl, I know that she was a big believer in the good that can come out of even the harshest of truths. As said, even if she didn’t like it, she would have respected making bold choices in the effort of being happy, as difficult as some of those choices have been.

Which brings me to today. Lately, I’ve felt a pull back towards a feeling I thought I had long since abandoned – that fear of the unknown, that uncertainty of the future. For those of you who know me well, know that I’m cocky- probably too cocky for my own good, which makes these particular feelings even more unsettling.

So after work, and a brief stop at Harris Teeter, I came home and for some reason, that drive under the stars came to mind. I remembered the clarity, the certainty I had in that moment, and it all came rushing back to me. I scrambled to my bookcase to fetch yes, that old journal. I flipped open the first few pages, and there it was – the letter I had written all those years ago.

“Dear Melissa,

Today you realized something very important. You need to respect yourself more. You need to follow your own rules. It is very important that you remember how you feel right now. You need to own up to who you are, choose to be happy, and do whatever it takes to accomplish those things. 5 Things You Learned Today:

1. You only want some things because you cannot have them.

2. People need to earn trust, respect and love.

3. Just because you want something does not make it that way.

4. Reality is all around you… don’t look away.

5. You continue to be scared of who you are – own up already!!”

I flipped through the next few pages to a variety of heartwarming things. A song my Aunt Me used to sing me at bedtime, lists of things I loved “good stuff” versus things I hated, “not so much”, people I admired, and finally, something that really choked me up, a quote I had scribbled down from one of my dearest friends, Lane.

After a heated discussion about love and relationships (this was sometime during college), I was talking about how things weren’t working with a guy I was dating. Without even thinking, I said exactly how I was feeling, something to the nature of- “I’ll have better luck in relationships when it’s for real.”

Lane almost bit my head off.

“Stop,” he said. “Don’t say, ‘when it’s for real’. This is real. Right now. This is your life.”

I wish I could pick up the phone and remind him of that quote, but he’s currently being awesome in Sweden. Doesn’t matter, I know that even if he couldn’t remember the quote, he would stand by his words. I know he would tell me, as he always has, that this is my life, my happiness, and my future.

Maybe five years from now, I’ll read this post, and feel the same way. I’ll repeat again to myself, “Melissa, it is very important to remember how you feel right now.”

I’ll come back to this moment. I’ll remember sitting on my living room floor, updating my blog with a personal post for the first time in months, trying to soak up as much clarity as possible, from words I wrote so confidently, just five years ago.

Maybe then, I won’t be so surprised at how enlightened those words have once again made me, because hopefully, in the next five years, I will have lived my life with those words in mind.

For now, I’ll continue to live “for real” and write in that old journal. And yes of course, I’ll crank up the Sinatra.

Some things never change.

 

 

 

Life Lessons & Balance: A Guest Post from One of My Oldest Friends

Months and months ago, I asked my good friend Joe to write a guest post. Time passed. A few weeks ago, we spoke on the phone, and he reminded me of the post.

It was finished, he said. He apologized for making me wait. After reading it, I realized that his insights wouldn’t have been as meaningful as they are now, if he had written it immediately after I asked.

Life’s funny sometimes, huh?

Anyway, Joe and I have been friends for almost ten years. (Wow. That’s a long time.) He’s an incredible person and he’s always been in my corner. One of my favorite things about him is that he knows the worst parts of who I am, who I’ve been, and he’s still an extremely supportive friend.

He’s a bit Ghandi-esque…. full of forgiveness and positivity. I greatly admire him for it. I’m thrilled to share what he wrote with you, about his search for balance and purpose.

 ————-

“I’ve been friends with Melissa for nine years now.  I am constantly inspired by her and I hope her opinions in high regard.  I was honored and thrilled (both are understatements) when she asked me if I would do a guest post for her blog.  I quickly said yes and inquired what it should be about.  Her request for something positive and/or about lessons learned seemed more than feasible, as I had already convinced myself I was well-experienced in such subjects.

This is Joe.

This is Joe.

I began brainstorming immediately – jotting down ideas, writing paragraphs and tidbits of information, etc.  I was full of creative energy!  Suddenly, second guessing swooped in.  “What if Melissa doesn’t like what I wrote?”  “What if her readers are thrown off because it doesn’t live up to the level of excellence they expect while reading her blog?”  More ‘what if’ questions.  Putting more pressure on myself.  I’d usually write for my own benefit, but now I was focused on what others might think.  I scratched out everything I wrote (don’t worry, it was pen and paper – no screens were harmed in the creation of this post) and sent a message to Melissa, asking if there was a deadline.  Thankfully, there wasn’t.

The pressure and expectations were all self-imposed.  Melissa would still be my friend.  Her readers could easily scroll past my post.  No harm done.  I was being silly.

LESSON #137:  I am my own worst critic.

(Even now as I write that, I’m debating whether it should be worded differently).

This is something I’ve realized on multiple occasions.  Sure, there were actual expectations from parents, teachers, bosses, and friends.  However, I often put pressure on myself to meet expectations that weren’t actually there.  I like to think I’m not the only one who does this, but it’s alright if I am.  I accept this trait.

Wait – Joe, did you say you came to this realization multiple times?  Why yes, yes I did.

LESSON #42:  Sometimes I’ll make the same mistake more than once and have to relearn a lesson.

And that’s ok!  I can recall situations in which I said “wow, that was the last time I’ll ever make THAT mistake” and then later it happens again.  I believe it’s important to reevaluate/reflect and ask “why did I make this mistake a second time? Is it any different than last time?  What can I change so it doesn’t happen again?  If it DOES occur again, what are some healthy ways I can react so I don’t beat myself up over it?  What caused this?

LESSON #8:  Finding the source of the mistake may help in moving forward.

I was told a story about my nephew, in which he accidently bumped his head on a table and cried out in pain, then purposely bumped his head again.  He knew something hurt him and it was unpleasant, but it was as if he needed to go back to find out what caused this pain.  Maybe now he avoids that table completely.  Maybe he became more cautious.  Maybe he hit his head again.  I think we as adults (or young adults, teenagers, whoever is reading this) might need to revisit mistakes or painful experiences in order to move on.  I’m not suggesting you/me/anyone should dive back into traumatic or dark places.  I’m saying perhaps once in awhile we should reflect on what we’ve learned, how we learned it, and if we can still apply it to our lives today or continue to learn from it.

LESSON #0:  Lessons are learned at various speeds or points in time, depending on the individual.

As you probably guessed by now, the numbers I wrote next to the lessons are random and meaningless.  There isn’t a set order for life stages.  Things I have experienced and wrote about here might not apply to you, and that’s fine.  You most likely know things that I don’t.  There’s a possibility I never will.

I continue to learn something new about myself, others, and the world around me every day.  It’s overwhelming at times, but also beautiful.  I enjoy the search for balance.”

———-

Author’s Note: I haven’t posted in awhile. The blog has been down, life has been complicated, that’s really all that needs to be said. But here I am, back to my bread and butter, living, and writing about it. 

Romantic Movies for Valentine’s Day (Even if you hate it)

I’ve always been a big fan of chick flicks. Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I love lists, I decided to celebrate my love for chick flicks…. with a list!

 

Romantic Movies for Valentine’s Day:

 

#1. City of Angels

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: City of Angels

Prepare for an endless list of movies with Meg Ryan. One of my favorite favorite movies ever is City of Angels, the curious story of Seth, an angel that falls in love with a human doctor, Maggie, after she tries to save the life of a patient. Seth, captivated by Maggie’s carefree, yet compassionate nature, allows himself to be “seen” by her- both physically and emotionally (tear!). Finally, Seth faces a choice- give up eternity to be with the woman he loves or (you guessed it) lose her to another man!

 ”I wait all day, just hoping for one more minute with you, and I don’t even know you.”

#2. When Harry Met Sally

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: When Harry Met Sally

Another Meg Ryan flick. Don’t hate, Meg Ryan is amazing and everybody knows it. The story of boy meets girl, boy and girl hate each other, boy and girl meet again, again and again, decide to be best friends, then fall in love. Billy Crystal in the only role I’ve ever taken him seriously in (besides Mike from Monsters Inc, obviously), with an always superb Meg Ryan. Crystal plays a narcissist womanizer with Ryan as her bubbly, quirky self- both tragically unlucky in love.

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

#3. You’ve Got Mail

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: You’ve Got Mail

MEG RYAN! Books! Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and Books!

#4. Heartbreaker

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: Heartbreaker

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of Dirty Dancing. I know, take away my girl card.But I AM a fan of this foreign film Heartbreaker.Some skinny actor with a lot of hair plays a man who professionally breaks up bad relationships.He’s hired to break up Vanessa Paradis (amazing) and Rick from The Walking Dead– who are seemingly, the perfect couple. With some clever digging, Alex (that’s the hairy guy) finds out her likes, and a couple of fancy dance moves later (Dirty Dancing style), Paradis falls for him. But will she find out his secret? (She obviously does).

Forget quotes, watch this amazing clip of Alex dancing.
It’s probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

#5. Top Gun

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: Top Gun

The perfect date movie. Why?
Combines three awesome things- planes, aviator sunglasses and a love story.  (Also, there’s a great drinking game to go along with it)

Oh wait another thing-

MEG RYAN IS IN IT!

She’s Goose’s wife!

 

#6. Bridget Jones Diary (1&2)

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: Bridget Jones……Adorbs!

I count these movies as one. Renee Zellweger plays the hilarious, yet clueless Bridget Jones torn between two men- Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.
Grant is the charming bad boy, Firth is the adorable underdog…
Besides Zelleweger’s charming antics, the Hugh Grant one liners can’t be missed.

#7. Love Actually

 

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: Love Actually

Love Actually is a very cliche addition to the list, but it’s the cutest movie ever. It’s the story of multiple relationships — old love, new love, unrequited.
A little of everything.
Sheriff Rick makes an appearance in this one too…. another YouTube clip, so grab your tissues! (Unrealistic, but sweet)

#8. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

A classic, and definitely one of my favorite movies. Holly Golightly, a New York socialite looking for a life of luxury who becomes close with her neighbor, writer Paul Varjak.
Golightly is looking for a rich suitor, while Varjak is having an affair with a married woman with horrible teeth. Audrey Hepburn is wonderful and delightful, as usual.
The best part of the movie is when she sings Moon River.

And, if you hate movies about love!

#9. PS. I Love You

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: P.S. I Love You

I didn’t expect to love this movie, but it was soooo good. I’m not a huge Hilary Swank fan, but she really owned this role.
Holly is devastated after she loses the love of her life to a brain tumor, but on her 30th birthday, she starts to receive letters and gifts from her late husband, encouraging her to move on with her life.
Ireland. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Karaoke. I’m sold.

#10. 500 Days of Summer

Romantic Movies

Romantic Movies: 500 Days of Summer

If you’re looking for a movie about devastating breakups, this is it. Aspiring architect Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falls hard for Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who doesn’t believe in love. Really. After a whirlwind relationship, Summer suddenly (or so he thinks) breaks up with him with no explanation. He relives the moments of their relationship, desperately trying to figure out where he went wrong- only to discover that maybe, they just weren’t meant to be.

 What’s your favorite romantic movie?