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The importance of trying

Or, how a movie helped me realize the importance of trying.

Here is how I got to decide that I want to have an impact. And even if it turns out that I cannot have an impact (on anyone or anything), I should definitely at least try.

Yesterday, hubby and I watched “The Laundromat” on Netflix. First consideration: big praise and virtual high five for hubby, who offered me Netflix. Best Mother’s Day Gift EVER!

Second consideration: if I really wanted to be super accurate, I would say that yesterday we finished watching “The Laundromat”. We had started three days ago, but on day one hubby fell asleep 10 minutes into the movie. On day two, the kids decided they were not tired and wanted to play, so it took us 15 back and forth from their room before they finally fell asleep at 10pm (and so did we, which means no movie at all).

Important note: one of the back and forth was me running to the toilet after hearing the flush going for the 5th time in a row, only to find my 2 yo spilling water out of the toilet with his gun toy. No wonder you are exhausted and fall asleep in front of a movie after this!

Back to the film

Besides being a masterpiece with an incredible cast, the story is super sad and very real, which makes it even sadder. I am not going to spoiler anything so you can go and watch it for yourself. However, this movie kind of helped me understanding the importance of trying.

We clearly live in a world where the powerful and rich rule over the humble. Where the rich only care about getting richer. At any cost. As the movie illustrates, the humble are always screwed. The whole system is corrupted, given that even the laws are changed to suit the richest and to support the interests of the powerful ones. To help them become even richer and more powerful.

From deception to hope

At first, I felt so disarmed and useless and started wondering why bother, given that everything seems impossible when you are not part of that privileged crowd.

Then I realized that this was probably what that crowd would want me to feel. In order to not to fall in the trap, I had to focus on hope and the thought that things can be different.

If you think about it, hope is the only thing that keeps us strong in a world that seems to constantly drag us down. And that’s when I understood the importance of trying. If I want to keep the head out of the water and survive in a world of sharks, trying is the most important thing to do. In the end, if you want to change something the first thing to do is try, right?

Therefore, I have decided I want to make a difference. I want to have an impact, on someone’s life maybe, or by working on something that can help someone live better. Or at least, I want to try. Because in the end, if you know you have tried and you have done everything in your power to be the best you can possibly be, then you won’t have any regrets and you will definitely feel accomplished. Even if you do not get to the results you had planned or wished. It doesn’t matter. The most important is to try.

This is definitely what I want my kids to learn. Once you understand the importance of trying you become fearless and self-confident, which is the key to a healthy life. But first, I totally need to teach them how not to play with gun toys in the toilet.

A successful marriage in ten moves. True or False?

Here are my ten most important moves for a successful marriage. I have had some fun collecting thoughts and confessions from friends throughout the years and surprisingly, some of the false you will find down here once used to be my biggest truths…

Number one: you can’t change your partner, so stop trying. TRUE

It is probably thanks to your differences that you ended up together, only with time (and kids maybe?) you will naturally develop a very dark desire to change who your partner truly is. It usually starts with a series of blaming exercises like “why can’t you be more like me?”. This thing here is called Utopia and in order not to fall in the trap, you need to stay away from the temptation to focus on the differences.

Try to keep your eyes on the positives: if you keep reminding yourself the things that made you fall in love with your partner, you will be fine, even at challenging times.

Number two: just be yourself. FALSE

Hey hubbies and wifies out there! It is absolutely NOT because you can’t change who you are that you should just chill and not make any effort whatsoever to make your other half happy. Being yourself is not enough. Everyone knows that concessions and compromise are the keys to a long, healthy and successful marriage. Therefore, you can continue to be yourself, yes, as long as you also start making efforts to become an even better version of yourself.

Number three: love is all you need. FALSE

Unfortunately, love is not enough, no. We’d be taking another wild journey into the magic world of Utopia if we’d tell ourselves otherwise. Sometimes you need compassion, understanding, a good chat, a break, a funny night out. And sometimes, your friends (who have a life too in case you hadn’t noticed) cannot give you that. I think we can all agree that it’s fair to expect all of the above from your partner too.

Number four: happy self, happy couple. TRUE

For years, I have been lying to myself thinking I could only be happy in my relationship. Worse, I was so deeply convinced about my interpretation of happiness that I used to blame my husband who’s always been very real about putting his self happiness first.

It’s okay if your husband has a hobby (as long as that hobby is not a 20-year-old SHE), and you should have one too! If you want a successful marriage you should focus on nurturing your inner self and maintain a certain individual space, hobbies and friends, without necessarily sharing everything. As long as both of you are aligned on this one, you are safe and you will see that you can be even happier when you are together.

Number five: don’t say it, just prove it. FALSE

Honestly you guys! You think that just because you stick around that’s going to be enough? OK, that’s kind of THE thing to do, I give you that. But what about saying it out loud too?

For some people here, the spoken part is as important as the lived one. Do not underestimate the importance of the words you say (or do not say), and this applies to both the good things as well as the bad. Try for instance not to go to bed angry with your other half (which – I agree – can be a hell of a challenge when your hubby is already asleep ten straight seconds after he has touched the pillow). But you’ve got to try! And if there is anything you really wish to discuss, note it down and bring it up the next morning. Do not keep things in for too long, or they will start to beat you up from the in inside.

Number six: never forget you are a team. TRUE

In the good and the bad times, know what team you are on and play for that team, and that team only. Strategy can be discussed, argued and changed, but when you play out of home you can’t play solo! This is even more powerful when you have kids. Those little humans can smell fear from kilometers, so stay united team parents!

And you, husbands out there: when you get home after we’ve been having the kids all afternoon (and by all afternoon I mean two very long hours between after-school and dinner time, which feel way longer than the whole Star Wars saga), do not criticize our educational choices the moment you get back home, cause you were not there!

Number seven: share the pain, share the gain. TRUE

Apparently, the ideal job is made by 70% of tasks representing your talents. Therefore, at home, if you are more talented for taking care of the kids cause you have patience – and your other half can barely handle two series of “and why is that mommy? why??” before feeling like burning the whole place down -, then you handle the kids. But each has to find a talent and lead with it (everyone has a talent, do not dare to say you don’t!).

Number eight: no secret garden. FALSE

I cannot believe there are still couples out there that think it’s good not to have any secrets. Come on, let’s be serious for a second here. Do you truly believe your loved one tells you EVERYTHING? I think that keeping small secrets from each other (and I cannot stress enough on the “small” here) is totally fine and helps keeping that little bit of mystery spark alive. It is fine not to share everything, with the exception of the important things of course.

Let’s say you should behave as you do in the workplace: take your liberties, pretend like you were in a very important meeting while you were actually on social all afternoon, but never sell your employer’s secrets to the competition.  

Number nine: don’t judge, be judged. TRUE

If you want a solid, successful marriage, you must have a sounding board throughout the journey. A fine selection of bad ass judges, who can review and criticize your couple inside out and without any filter, decency nor restraint whatsoever. Just like you were on The Voice. The secret here is to choose them right (so ensure you pick a devil’s advocate too, those can be of help every now and then).

Number ten: know your list and not his/hers. TRUE

Everyone has a list, even those who say they don’t. I’d say that up to five years into marriage, your partner will probably tell you there is only you on his/her list. However, with time you will get used to the fact that his list will be more and more crowded. And I think that’s fine, cause you have your list too, right? The golden rule for a long-lasting, successful marriage here is to only allow people like Jessica Alba and Leonardo DiCaprio. It is forbidden to fantasize on your partner’s best friends. And now, if you do not have a list (liar!), please go start one up.

A farewell to gluten

How you can stop eating what you love most in 5 (not easy) steps.

Step 1: accept the change

The first and most important thing to do in order to stop eating what you love most is to accept change. When change knocks at your door, most of the time it is unwanted and unexpected. Your animal instinct will immediately tell you to fight what is happening. And if you think of it, that’s the most logical reaction.

This is exactly what happened to me a couple of months ago, when the doctor told me I had to stop eating what I love most: gluten. Basically, anything that I love (pasta, pizza, pastries of any kind, bread, cakes, biscuits…). I am not sure you can understand how painful this revelation is for someone like me. I am Italian, for God’s sake! All my daily meals have featured white flour for 34 beautiful and unforgettable years.

Come on, is it even physically possible to live without gluten? And if so, is a gluten-free life worth living? I wanted to die at first. It took me a whole 2 weeks of gluten overdose during holidays in Italy, to realize that maybe my body knew more than I do. And that, maybe, a journey into the gluten-free world could not do me wrong in the end.

So here is what I’ve been learning: when change gets at you, the best thing you can do is just roll with it. Fighting the change will bring you nowhere, plus you will need all the energy you can spare to stay strong through the process. So suck it up babe! You got this.

Step 2: keep your eyes on the prize

Changing a life-long habit is never easy. It can help to think that when these things need to happen it is usually for something even better to happen next. Therefore, if you want to stop eating what you love most, you need to stay focused!

The key is to remind yourself that it is worth it. Think about the positive effects that this change will have on your body and your mind. Set reminders on your phone. Schedule some time during the day to circle back to your “why’s”. Think back at what awaits at the end of the journey. For me, it’s the promise of feeling better, less tired and galvanized.

At the beginning, I thought I could also aspire to lose some weight but you will find out this ain’t going to happen due to step 4. Of course, an intimidating, kick-ass doctor who keeps regular track of your diet can help too.

Step 3: celebrate the little wins

The road to change will be so very long. You have to praise yourself every single day for having controlled your basic instincts and for resisting to temptation!

Believe me: when you have lived and loved all sorts of bread since birth, you realize that even spending just one day away from a baguette is a huge accomplishment. Which, in my case, needs celebrating with a big nice glass of red wine. Again, you will see in step 4 how I am not going to lose any weight here.

I have tried so many different diets in my life. I’ve always found it easier to stick to the change after a small time of exaggeration. Like I said before, if you know you have to stop eating white flour, I suggest you start after a full week of cakes and pastries of any kind. That will make you so sick you will almost be even happy to start your new diet!

(Note to self: look at you, thinking you can trick your mind so easily. Good for you!).

Step 4: find an enjoyable alternative

There is always an alternative. Even if not the most suitable (like the big glass of red wine I just spoke about). But that doesn’t matter at this stage. When you are asked to remove something you love from your diet, the only way through is to find something that is somehow equally enjoyable.

Therefore, when you are told to stop eating white flour like me, sadly, you need to find something that will replace your afternoon cookies. I stuff myself with chocolate for instance. After all, no one said this new diet was supposed to make me lose weight.

This is your safe anchor, the one little thing that you will hang on to during difficult times, and the little treat that will keep you from falling into depression, so it has to be something that is enjoyable enough to keep you away from trouble and temptations.

Step 5: listen to your body

This is probably the most serious and eye-opening tip you can grab from this list. Believe me, your body knows better than you do. It does know what is good for you and if you take the time to listen to it, it will even tell you what is bad and has to be stopped.

When my body started not to function as expected anymore, I went to see a specialist. She told me that those little pains here and there were signals my body was throwing at me, to tell me that something was wrong and had to be changed.

Again, for someone who loves any kind of pizza (and when I say “any kind” that also includes “cheesy crust” from Pizza Hut, which normally sounds like an insult to most Italians) it takes a lot to digest an information like this. Your body does not tolerate the things you love the most. I almost fainted in front of the doctor.

At first, I thought my body did not love me at all, given it was basically sending me directly through a living hell. With time, and after spending a couple of weeks into step 1, I started to realize that actually my body did love me. And that is exactly the reason why it was telling me to stop gluten.

Now if you’ll excuse me: it’s breakfast time and I have a warm double chocolate croissant waiting in front of me (hey, nobody is perfect, and maybe I am still struggling with acceptance here…)


Accept who you are: the art of not letting go

I am sick and tired of people telling me to “just let go”. When you accept who you are, acknowledging that we are not all the same, you can perfectly live without letting go.

How many times have you had someone say that to you?

“Just let go!”. As if it was the easiest thing. Oh, you are hurting because you had a rough phone conversation with your boss? Just let go! Oh, your to do list is growing instead of getting shorter and that gives you anxiety because you are afraid you won’t be able to achieve all of that at your best? Come on, don’t worry, just let go, it will be fine!

Well well. What if we were not all the same? Why can we not accept who we are and live with the fact that there are people (like me) who simply cannot let go?

I wish I was a robot

Sometimes, I wish I was a robot and could simply switch the “care button” off and just turn the page and move on. I remember that episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Penny tries to teach Sheldon to let go. She tells him to think of his problem as if it was a pen, then simply take the pen and drop it on the table, letting go of that pen. And he just can’t, because even if his problem turned into a pen, he would still care about that pen (he’s been having that pen for so long and he cannot simply drop it on the table!). I love that episode.

There just are people (like me – and Sheldon) who are way more sensitive than average. The problem is that our society constantly criticizes and tells people like me off. We are either too kind or we care too much. Why can’t we just accept who we are? Embracing our differences and accepting how we are not, too. And how difficult it is for us to move away from certain situations.

Screw you, Elsa!

The truth is, the more you are connected and invested, the harder it will be to let something (or someone) go. If you care about others, if you show some compassion and humanity, super hard. When you lead your life by listening to your heart instead of your mind, you are basically screwed. Unfortunately, we live in a world where being sensitive is perceived as a weakness. Being kind is turned into being naive, or stupid.

So screw you, Elsa! Stop telling me I have to let it go. Maybe it is so easy for you given you are a beautiful queen living in the mountains with no bills to pay. Have I watched Frozen too many times? Yeah, I think mommy definitely needs some adult time.


Epiphanies and resolutions

The beauty of having epiphanies is all in the making resolutions afterwards. But it is never easy, because most of the time, resolutions translate into change and God knows how much human beings do not like change!

Epiphanies are funny, because they hit you all of a sudden and when you least expect them. It’s like when you have to make a decision. Should I go right or left? Should I eat this cookie or not? And then you turn, or eat the damn cookie, and all of a sudden BAM! The correct answer is crystal clear and right in front of you. Yes, you turned the right corner or, no, you shouldn’t have had that cookie.

A moment of bliss

What triggers that “click” in our minds that allows us to see things we hadn’t been able to see before? Why is it that obvious answers are sometimes so difficult to get to?

Well, I think that we’ve probably been looking for the answers to those obvious questions in the wrong places. Sometimes, we might have been asking the wrong questions all along, or maybe, we hadn’t even started questioning ourselves at all. But what’s good with epiphanies is that they come with resolutions. You cannot just have a revelation and then sit on it as if it never happened. Or probably you can, but then I am not sure you’d be happy. When having epiphanies you also have to make resolutions and this is for sure the hardest part.

A no-brainer

My latest epiphany consisted in realizing that the only one to blame for putting so much pressure on myself (as a woman, a mum, a wife, a friend and a worker) is actually me. A no-brainer, as a matter of fact, but somehow I always thought that I was doing a bunch of stuff “because it had to be done”. So what kind of resolutions could I make, in order to move on from this epiphany?

I’ve decided to stop running all the time, especially when it’s not even clear where I’m running to (or from). As my mum used to say, you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because someone told you to – let alone if that someone is you and you’re not even sure why you should jump in the first place.

I decided that it was time to stop listening to that little voice in my head pushing me to always do more, reach higher, run faster. Mostly because my voice can’t answer two simple questions: why? And what for?

Refocus on the really important things in life

Not long ago, I was working really hard towards getting a promotion which, to my big surprise, I was refused. After the initial disappointment, though, I realized that what I regretted the most was focusing so many hours each day on what a thought was a priority (a step up in my career), to the detriment of my other aspects of my life, that I wasn’t looking at as important. Until then, I had felt that my family-related tasks were taking away focus from my “precious” work time, when in reality it should have been the other way around. And when that epiphany hit me, I took my refused promotion for what it really was: a great opportunity to re-prioritize. 

I have been blessed many times in my life already. I have two beautiful kids and I have found the love of my life. There is a roof over my head and a family to return back to. And friends, a lot of friends who care about me. But somehow, it’s like I had to go for what I did not have. Or perhaps worse – wanting it so badly made me overlook and underestimate what I should have cherished.

Looking back now, am not even sure I really wanted that job. I think I was just going with the flow. I was just doing what everyone else around me thought was the right thing to do, because aren’t we all pushed to want more and aim higher? Enough, right?

What if we were just happy with what we already have?

What if, instead on focusing on what we do not have, we started to focus on what we do have, and be more grateful? Or better: why not try to aim higher, but only as long as the focus of the quest is the right one – as an individual, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, a friend – or even to make it simpler – a human being?

Back to my epiphanies and resolutions now. I have decided to turn things around work-wise: they are not ready to promote me now? Fine, I will ask my employer to work 4 days a week and take it from there. I want more “me time”, but I don’t want this need to take away from other things that really matter. Like my kids, my husband and my friends.

So I’ve decided: my career will take a small step back for my life to jump forward.

And you? What is your epiphany? Tell us your story and we will publish it on here! getintouch@thereallifeblog.com