RESPECT, WALK

Whad did you say? RE-SPECT! WALK! Are you talking to me? ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?!? Aaaah Pantera. They way they said it has always been spot on! If you fancy hearing where these lyrics come from, here is the link (headbanging will be required)

Don’t ask me why it is happening.
It’s been a while now since I’ve been on this path of personal changes, growth, and improvement. I’m seeing incredible things happening both physically and mentally: my abs are finally shaping up nicely; my body is getting sculped muscle by muscle by my beloved (and sadistic!) personal trainer; I’m moving to a happier, more confident, stronger place. Yes, I still crave love from a man, but I am loving myself an awful lot more and I am also more appreciative of the love I’m receiving from everyone around me.

Yet, there is something that, right now, seems beyond my control: I have no filters and I’m having a proper “HELL NO!” attitude: at work, at home, with myself.
Mind you, I’m famous for losing the plot quite easily (after all, I’m my mum’s daughter, the apple and the tree etc…), however I have also been quite famous for being able to pretend to calm down, leave the situation that’s making me furious, tell myself “yeah, I’m fine, besides, what can I do?”, go home and then hold on to resentment for days (or months, or more).

I feel like my brain is in a “dude, we just ran out of f*cks to give” mode and, since I jumped the fence to go from “I hate myself so you should too” to “if you don’t respect me, you’ll regret it”, I am in no mood to be the diplomatic looser anymore and to re-fill my f*cks-to-give bucket.

The way this all started can be compared to a tap that started to break up, slowly but steady. At first, it was leaking a drop or two here and there. Then, it became few drops per minute. Before I realised, the valve on my brain snapped for good and water camehoses1 out non-stop. However, unlike for a real tap, where I would have closed the mains, rang my good friend & Chelsea FC fan plumber to get it fixed, here I’m just…. Going with the flow. I cannot hold back, and if I do, it gets only worse. Have you ever tried to stop the water flow coming out of your tap in full force? Yep, that’s exactly what happens to me.

Beyond my control, I began voicing aloud the fact that I was not having any of the shit that I was gladly suffering not long ago anymore. Once I mastered talking the talk, I began walking the walk and I started to proactively stop the crap before it reached me. The first times, it was quite a surreal experience: I could feel the “old me” pulling her hair and begging the “new me” to reconsider, stop, please, at least be kinder, and the “new me” going “fuck no!” An example? A colleague tried to make me do something he could have easily done by himself (namely: calling facilities to fix the printer). He came towards my desk with the attitude of someone who believes he is owed everything in the world and demanded that I’d do it. Before I could come up with my old ways (“of course, let me look into it, I’m busy but I suppose I’ll do it”), the new me gave him a taste of his own medicine:
“Sorry – Why should I do it? Can’t you see that I’m busy?”
“Well, I don’t have the number so you do it”
(sent the number via email)
“Now you have it”
“I don’t have time”
“Neither have I”
“How about you do it it?”
“What? First week with new fingers and still getting used to them that you can’t dial a phone number? Ask Siri to dial it for you, that is why is there for”

walk-on-home-boy

Confidence started growing exponentially. Whenever someone tried “to put my back in my place”, making me feel worthless, instead of lowering my head and say sorry, I stood for myself. People started getting the message: this woman is not a doormat anymore. The training course that someone was thinking of forcing down my throat because someone else messed up and these people had to cover their mistakes up by making us all pay for it? “nope, I don’t I need to spend an hour of my time to learn how to click on an icon on my screen, besides, since the mistake has been done on the other side of the world and by the IT people, maybe you should train them? How about that?”; the ex-employee chasing me for things he should have been responsible for? “Nothing I can do, leave me out of it, deal with HR, you knew when you were leaving, if you didn’t take care of it, it’s no one else’s fault but yours”; the UPS guy trying to make me pay for their mistake? His ears are still ringing.

If something is not right, I’ll call bullshit as I see it, without being able to stop it and Capturemaybe be less brutal. If I get challenged, instead of stepping back, surrender and maybe apologising for something I didn’t do, I’m jumping in the fight tooth and nail, and boy, I will make sure that shit will go down. If someone tries to bully me into doing stuff I don’t want to do, I will stand for myself and will make sure that they won’t try to do it again. If someone is being a twat with me, I will return the favour and I won’t even feel remotely guilty about it. If there is something that I want, or deserve, or that I don’t want, I will say it as it is, without trying to make it sound pretty. I ran out of patience, excuses, and fear.

Even worse: when the situation for lashing out gets taken away from me, I go ballistic because I feel like I lost a chance to test myself and get my anger out. Last Friday, for example: something happened at the office and a colleague ended up being very offended. She was storming around the office, yelling at everyone she could have yelled at. I was out, doing something for my manager, but colleagues warned me about what was happening (otherwise I would have been none the wiser) and told me to brace myself for my turn. I came back to my desk and I waited, smiling like a psychopath. Just like when you order your favourite dessert at the restaurant and you see the waiter coming with it towards you, I saw the moment coming. I was ready.

I was in a “calm before the storm” mood. She arrived, she (angrily) asked few things to establish the facts that made her angry, then, just as the momentum was building and my brain was gearing up for a fight…. She left me there and then to go and yell at someone else.

I felt so disappointed.

I rehearsed the fight that never happened in my head all weekend. I just couldn’t shake off that feeling of “I just missed out on one of my finest moments of the year”. How silly is that? I am trying to come up with explanations on why I am acting this way: what is it that is making me “unleash the beast” inside? Where are these feelings coming from? Why I am so… like this, when I used to be the opposite? So far, I came up with two explanations:

Explanation number 1: I have to “blame” the fact that in this new, more confident, good self-esteem person, I am like a “reborn Silvia” (thank Marge for that definition) and, just like babies learning and growing, I’m trying to learn who is this new self and how it feels to be in this new personality. I am therefore subconsciously pushing the boundaries of what I can or can’t do, what I can get away with it, how far can I go before being told to do one.

Explanation number 2: up till recently, I have always allowed people to treat me like crap, because ultimately, I thought I was crap and therefore I deserved to be treated as such. Now that I realised that “hold on a second here, I’m actually amazing, how dare you!”, I am not only subconsciously (and a little less subconsciously) imposing myself to demand respect at all times, but I suppose I am also extremely angry that I let people (and, ultimately, myself) to get away with murder all my life. I have these feelings inside me that are desperately trying to get out, but since, somehow, they can’t do it on their own, my brain is using every chance that life throws at me to just release the pressure.

I am going to be completely honest with you: I don’t feel, at the moment, that I want to “fix it” because I don’t think I have anything to fix. I don’t want to “tone it down”. I am not interested in going back at being a frightened sheep. I don’t want to be accommodating anymore. I have spent all my life being “the people pleaser” and guess what? Nobody gave me a medal for it. I guess I would like to find a way to let the anger out, yes, because that has to leave this body asap (any anger exorcism please?); I don’t want that the confident-me ends up becoming the asshole-me. But standing with my head held high and not giving in without a very good reason? Oh yeah, this is going to stay, because I am loving it. After all, if I don’t love, respect, and protect myself, how can I pretend that others will?

Let me know what you think!

TOMBOY IS AS TOMBOY DOES

As I said in a previous post, it has always been pretty clear that I never was your average, typical girlie-girl, all pink and dolls.
My dad couldn’t have cared the less, since he got the best deal ever with me: he had the daughter he so desperately wanted who was a total daddy’s girl, but his little girl behaved like a boy and, most importantly, liked boy-ish stuff. Not to brag, but I was the one who took my dad at San Siro Stadium for the first time ever in his life to see AC Milan playing (and then we ended up buying season tickets), just sayin’….

My mum, on the other hand…. Well…

baby
My mum and I. WTF was I wearing?

She has always been fine with me being who I was, don’t get me wrong, and whoever dared to say anything against my tomboy nature ended up regretting it big time. Having said that, she would have loved a slightly less tomboy daughter, and she has always tried to make me appreciate more feminine things. I think she hoped that, by forcing me into wearing girlie clothes, somehow, I’d become more of a girl by osmosis.
The problem is, my mum sense of style has always

dress
You can see it on my face that I was NOT happy

been quite… ehm…. Interesting. Ok, it was the 80s and we were quite flamboyant, ok, but… mum, what the hell! Oh, my goodness gracious me, she made me wear some hideous stuff when I was a little girl! For the record, she still stands by her choices and she still think I was sooooooo prettyyyyyyyyy (no mum, NO).

Unfortunately for her, I have always been a rebel at heart, so I’d (repeatedly) crush her hopes of appreciating less boy-ish stuff at any given occasion. I have been so ruthlessly destroying all her attempts, so much that when I now buy some very nice, female clothes (and some very daring ones too), or stiletto heels, or makeup (I have an addiction for lipsticks that I can’t or won’t fight) she asks me first if it is for some dress up party, then when I say “no mum (eyes rolling) it is to go to work / out / to this dinner (etc.)”, I can see in her eyes that she is about to shed a tear or two. To give you an example:

me
Wimbledon princess

A month ago I bought a white dress and a Panama Hat to go to Wimbledon. I took a very lady-like selfie. I looked really pretty. I sent it to my mum, hoping to fish some compliments AND to impress her. She texted me back asking me if I photoshopped myself in that dress.
Thank you very much mum!
In the end, I had to FaceTime her, whilst wearing that dress, to convince her that I actually owned it and that it was really me who was wearing it. I know….!
Back to my childhood though, It was not just the dresses and the toys that I didn’t like, it was… everything, really.

Oh my, I still remember my first (and last) Nativity play at school.
My mum bribed my teachers to allow me for once to play the role of the Holy Mary. My mum was (and still is) very catholic so it was a big deal for her. More so, it was one of the main characters, so I would have been a girl, in the role of the most important woman in Catholicism, and all the school would have seen me like this. Dreamland!
My mum had a cunning plan: she knew that, to make it appealing to me, my teachers had to make me think it was not something already decided: I would have had the chance at having a go at that role, but I would have had to fight tooth and nail for it; if I suspected my mum was behind the idea I would have refused for sure (I guess I have always been a bit of a looney).
I fought tooth and nail, yes, just not for what she hoped for. During the day teachers were assigning roles, my mum got a call. They informed her that her lovely, precious daughter ended up having a tantrum of biblical proportion (pardon my pun!) because at first, I was refusing to take part in the play. Like, over my dead body I am doing this shit and stand in front of my whole school. No way, Jose. The teachers then hoped to sweet talk me into giving me THE role every girl dreamed of, and apparently I said:
“Holy Mary? I don’t want to wear a light blue sheet and I want nothing to do with that creepy baby Jesus doll”.
They tried to find alternatives for me, but I stubbornly refused every single possible female role they came up with. When they were ready to give up, they simply asked me what the hell did I want to be. About time! I kindly and happily replied them that if I were to take part, the only role for me was being one of the Three Kings, either Melchior or Balthazar because they had the coolest names ever. They called to beg my mum to make me change my mind.
Aaaand this is the story of how I ended up being the first ever female Melchior in a nativity play in that school. Ohhhh I was so proud, carrying my frankincense! Oh, when I kneeled in front of baby Jesus, damn! I made quite the impression. Holy Mary may have had baby Jesus doll and the “central” role in the play, but I was the king and I was wearing a massive CROWN. In your face bitch! (I asked my parents to look for those pictures. If they find them, I’ll post them I swear!).

There was one time though where my mum didn’t try to make me do female things. I still laugh about it when I think of it.

add
The original add featured on a magazine back in those days

I think it was the end of the 80s or early 90s. My mum and I were having lunch and we were watching tv. The ads came on and BAM! To promote their jams, this Italian company made a contest for children to participate: in order to win one of the toys they had as a prize, children had to draw a picture of their favourite fruit (or fruits); it could have been a funny picture, a cool one, or simply a very nicely drawn one; they had to include a lovely letter saying, in case they were selected amongst “the lucky winners”, which toy they would have liked to win. They had to send everything in a letter by mail (those were the days) and then hope for the best.

Whatever, I thought. I rarely ate jam anyway, and definitely not of that brand.

Not long after that, I saw the very same add on a magazine I was reading. I had a look at the toys (the boys’ ones, of course). My heart stopped. One of the prizes was a massive Ninja Turtle action figure, and not just any Ninja Turtle, but MY FAVOURITE Ninja Turtle: Michelangelo (hey, come on, in the cartoons he ate pizza all the time, he was a bit goofy like me and was the funniest, sweetest turtle of the lot).
I wanted it.
Oh my god I wanted that toy so badly I would have done anything to get it.
I had a friend at school who I always played with (our mums were very good friends) who had Leonardo, and I asked my parents to buy me Michelangelo so that we could have played together, but my parents told me that it was too expensive and they could have not afforded it so… no.
This was my chance.
I knew that bloody turtle was meant to be mine.
I went to my mum yelling and screaming, all excited. My mum said, “ok sure let’s do this, let me read the rules so that we do everything right, we can do this!”.

I stared at her reading the terms and conditions of that contest in awe.
At some point, she stopped reading and said “oh… oh no”
“what mummy?”
“well, it looks like girls can only pick girls’ toys and boys can only pick boys’ toys”

Hey, this was 30 something years ago ok? Now there would be Twitter storms full of hashtags and pure rage, Facebook would be plastered with boycott campaigns, there would be articles on every newspaper and magazines, debates on tv, you name it. Back then? Nobody really cared.
Apart from yours truly, who wanted that bloody Michelangelo turtle and was having none of it.

The lawyer in me started arguing my case (in a slightly hysterical way): oh my gosh this is so unfair that I have to choose a girls toy that I don’t even like, and why is that, why can’t I have a Ninja Turtle, I don’t even like jam anyway unless it’s apricot jam, it is not my fault if all girls’ toys are rubbish, look mummy, look, they are disgusting, this is outrageous, mummy, we need to do something, we need to do something about it because I want it so badly”.

My mum was not even listening.
She was reading and re-reading the add, trying to come up with a solution.

“ok, I have a plan”

I froze. Silence fell. My eyes became as big and shiny as two lightbulbs.

“you want that turtle? Ok. Listen. We are going to draw the best picture ever, and when we’ll write the letter, you’ll sign it as SILVIO. We’ll pretend that you are a boy, they’ll never check anyway, and if they do, we’ll say that your handwriting is shit – after all, an a is an o with a little tail, right?”

Hell yeah, lying has never tasted so great like that day.
My mum and I draw something like 10 drawings, they were funny as hell, we made fruits say something very silly: I still remember what we made the cherries say because it was in rhyme and I almost peed myself from laughing hard (“noi siamo ciliegine e siamo un po’ cretine”, which means “we are little cherries and we are a bit silly”). Anyway, she helped me writing the super lovely letter in which this poor boy Silvio desperately wanted the Ninja Turtle of his dreams that his parents could not afford and off we popped to the post office to ship that precious envelope full of hopes.

I think we waited a month or so for an answer, I don’t remember, but it had to be quite a while because my mum and I convinced ourselves that we didn’t win.
One day the postman knocked on the door.
My mum went to open as usual, and I followed her because I was nosey as fuck.
The postman was holding a parcel.
My mum looked surprised as she was not expecting anything.
Then the postman said “It’s not for you madam, I think this is for your daughter, though funnily enough they misspelled her name (start laughing) see? they wrote SILVIO”.

We both had a heart attack there and then.

My mum quickly dismissed the postman and slammed the door behind her back. We both quickly run in the living room and, with incredible fury, we ripped that parcel to pieces.
There is was: my incredible, amazing, fantastic, beautiful Ninja Turtle.

I have never, ever been so happy in my life.

I gave my mum the biggest hug ever. Silvio fuckin’ won this shit!

ABOUT PAIN

I am going to state something that it is so incredibly obvious when you think about it, and yet it is so unbelievably hard to believe in it, especially when the person who is going through it is you.

Ready? Steady? GO:

IT IS OK TO NOT BE (MENTALLY) OK

Aaaaand breathe.

If you are going through something that it is currently making you feel low, sad, depressed, or even worse, suicidal, let me tell you something: as upsetting as it is, it is ok to not be ok.
I swear, it is absolutely, 100% ok to feel the way you feel.
I’m not a happy guru trying to feed you some positive garbage for the sake of looking good: I have been thinking about ending my own life for three good years in recent times. It is fair to say I know a thing or two about not being ok, alright?

I don’t know why there is a stigma linked to mental problems, I really don’t. Surely the brain is just like any other organ of our bodies, albeit a very special one? Why our kidneys, our stomachs, our eyes, our lungs are allowed to have issues, but not our beloved brains? Yes, yes, I get it, when you end up being coo-coo in your head, it is not the same as if you get gastroenteritis. Ok. But still.

You know what drives me mad with anger? When mental problems, which are not “as severe as” dementia or Alzheimer, gets brushed off not only by friends and family, but also by doctors: it feels like nobody has, or want to have, the time to just listen to what is going on in your head. The common “suggestion” you’ll get is “don’t be a pussy and put up with it” as “there are worst things in life”.

You know what?
F*CK THIS SHIT

I have suffered with anxiety all my life. At intervals, I had spells of depression, and panic attacks here and there. To be honest, I can consider myself lucky I “only” had that to deal with: in my family from my mum’s side, we cover the whole spectrum of mental illnesses, from “depressed”, via “multiple mental breakdowns” to “in and out of mental unit with no hopes to lead a normal life ever again”.

Things have been ok-ish, up until I gave birth, and then things went very, very, very bad. VERY bad. Calling what I had “post-natal depression” doesn’t really describe it. I wasn’t necessarily depressed. I constantly had panic attacks. I am not exaggerating.
I was scared of going out, because “what if I drop dead in the middle of the street? What will happen to my baby?”; but at the same time, I was also scared of staying in, because I was alone, and what if something happens to me? What will happen to my baby?

I tried to speak with my (at the time) husband about it, and it didn’t go down well. When you have to deal with someone who likes to always be “the one worse off” (“my foot hurts” “HA! Not only my food hurts as well, but I also got pain in my leg AND my arm, plus, I think I may have the flu”), telling this person that you are not quite ok is a recipe for disaster.

One day I was in the middle of an excruciating panic attack. I was running around the house, I was mental, I was scared, I was crying, it was horrendous. My son started crying for an unrelated reason. My ex-husband started chasing me around the house, with the baby in his arms, yelling me to stop behaving like a lunatic, my son needed me, WTF are you doing, get a grip, you are not the only one with issues, I am VERY depressed too and I don’t sleep and I go to work, you should consider yourself lucky, now stop this hit and be a mum, and so on.

In hindsight, I can tell you that my marriage finished there and then.
I ended up feeling even worse than before, because now, on top of my issues, I had the “I’m not a good mum”. I decided that, every time he was around, I was going to hide whatever I was going through.

What a dumb idiot I was!

But that’s not it! I wanted to prove that I could handle shit.
Even if I couldn’t spend 3 seconds without my brain spinning, I cut my maternity leave short and I went back to work after 4 months.

graduation
me on my graduation ceremony. I had a panick attack right before it was my turn to get on stage

Before I got pregnant, I was studying Law at university. Even though I was in a total state, I kept studying. Not only that: I doubled the courses. I Increased the challenges. I managed to graduate!!! I made my life a living hell, on top of what I was already going through. I pushed my problems deep down inside my bran, as far as I could. I hid my panic attacks at work by suddenly rushing to the toilets or having a very long walk to the printer 3 floors down. Nobody saw my pain, partly because I was very good at hiding it, and partly because they simply thought I was just quirky. I lied, I lied like a pro, everything was FINE, OK, YEAH, ALL GOOD, COOL.

If you are about to ask: “but what about your doctor?” well…
When I felt that something wasn’t right, the doctor I saw brushed it off with “it’s just baby blues, you gave birth, it’s fine, it happens, it will go away”. But it never did.
So I went back. This time I got told “well, you could take antidepressant, or you can just put up with it, I’m sure you’ll be fine”.
At my worst, I finally managed to dial some sort of mental support. I had to wait for 2 weeks to get a triage call, and once the call finished, I got told “ok, now, the waiting list to see someone is three months long (!!!)”.
I sat on my bed, phone in my hand, completely shocked.
“THREE months? I… I cannot live like this for three months, this is not life, I…. I rather die!”
“well, if you are suicidal we may need to call social serv…”
“no no no don’t worry it was just me exaggerating, I’m fine, yeah, don’t you worry”

Now I was also scared that, if my secret got out, social services would have come knocking on my door to take my son away from me. Thank you very much, that was exactly what I needed.

I not only survived in my mental hell for those three months, but for two long years afterwards. Then it started to get better, but it took another year before I could feel “ok”. Which was not good, but at least it was something.
I spent an awful lot of those three years hoping to die, and when the hope was not enough, I thought about actively doing something to end it. I never attempted to kill myself because… I didn’t want to leave my son alone, motherless.

At the ned of those three years, something incredible happened to me. A friend of mine read a book that Randy Blythe, singer and frontman of a heavy metal band called Lamb of God (that I absolutely LOVE), wrote to share his experience of when he got wrongly accused of murder and ended up locked in prison. In Prague. For a month. Scary stuff. Since I was (and still am) a fan of the band, he told me to buy and read it (if you are interested, the book is called “Dark Days“)

I started reading this book a bit unconvinced – generally speaking, very few of these autobiographies are good, some are barely ok and the rest it’s pure tripe printed on what could have been an amazing, beautiful tree. What I wasn’t prepared for is that Randy not only wrote about his jail time, but also about his demons. How he suffered with anxiety and depression for years. Like me. How he turned to drugs and alcohol in his youth to cope. Like me in my youth (in my case, it was cigarettes and alcohol)! He described his pain, his mental state, his suffering in such a raw, uncensored way… It was beautiful, but so, so painful to read.
randyI started crying. I couldn’t stop. I cried all the tears that I didn’t allow myself to cry for 3 years. Seeing my feelings, my demons, my pain, so…. In front of my eyes… has been a revelation. The more I kept reading, the more I kept crying, and when I finished that book, I spent a week completely empty. I then had the (lucky!) chance to meet Randy at a gig. I thanked him for the book, and I shared a little bit of my hell with him. We both got emotional and he gave me the biggest hug ever. For the first time, in those three long years, I felt loved, understood, not alone.

A tiny, little thought started creeping in my brain.
The thought was “if he had the balls to be so open about these things, to share them with THE WHOLE WORLD…. Why are you hiding yours?

I slowly started to open myself up.
I wanted my pain out of my head and into my reality.
I wanted that dreadful weight to be lifted from my shoulders.
I wanted freedom of not having to lie anymore.
I started talking about it, and some more, and more, till it became “yes, this is my story”. And here I am talking about it again. I’m not scared of it. It is part of who I am. It is what made me the person I am now. You can either accept it or not, I don’t really care. I lost people along the way, whether because they chose so or because I pushed them away (including my now ex husband). I took an oath with myself: no matter what happens, I’ll never hide again. EVER.

Seems like life decided to test my oath and three years after that, this breakup arrived.
It hit me hard. Oh gosh it did. Ok, nothing compared to THOSE three years, I grant you that. But still, it is an awful time and it deserve respect. And I am not hiding it.

I am in pain. I am suffering. I am crying like a baby. I am grieving the man I loved to bits. I am desperate to have that love again in my life. I am not strong in this moment, and I DO NOT CARE IF IT UPSETS THOSE AROUND ME. I asked for help. I am seeing a therapist to just get things out of my chest. I took a break from some friends because I couldn’t handle their happiness when inside me I was (I am) so broken. I am doing everything that I feel beneficial for ME and no one else, including writing this blog. Selfish? You bet. Ashamed? Not at all.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, no matter what you are going through, please, listen to me: don’t hide your pain. Don’t put a brave face and tell everyone (and yourself) that you are fine if you are not. Don’t pretend, with others and / or with yourself. Don’t keep everything inside you.
You are NOT alone in this.
Don’t be scared of what other people may or may not think. Fuck that! Those who love you will do their best to help, even though you may need to guide them a bit. Those who don’t, well, good riddance. Think you’ll end up alone? You’ll find new, better friends.

Speak up! Tell those around you how you want to be helped, even if it is “sorry I need a break from this because I just cannot cope”. Own your “not ok-ness” because there is nothing to be ashamed about it. Is it your fault that you are that way? No, it is not. Would it be your fault if you were to get the flu? Of course not. It happens, unfortunately. Also, there is NO FAILURE if you don’t bounce back in a matter of a second. These things take a lot of time and a lot of effort. There are ok days, good days, extraordinary days, shit days, I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed days. If someone tries to push a deadline on you, including your very own self, well, tell them to do one.

I can assure you, there is strength inside you. Maybe you cannot see it now, especially if you are too deep into the painful stage of what you are experiencing. And it is OK! But believe me, it is there. Hold on to it. Cherish it. Grow it. Little by little. Find a therapist that will listen to you. Try and try and try some more until you find the things you feel ok with. Use Google to find the help you need, or the people to talk to. Buy yourself flowers, a slice of cake, a nice dinner. Cuddle yourself and love yourself through the pain. And if you end up going back to square one? Guess what? It is not a problem. It happens!

The light outside your dark, horrendous tunnel is there. Believe in it, even if you don’t see it.

My heart is with you.

“NO” IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE

Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?

Learning to be more selfish.

Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.

I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.

I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.

The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.

The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.

Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!

work
an unhappy me, working extra hours doing stuff nobody asked me to do…

How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.

I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.

In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue
Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….

… selfish?

There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person
Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”

Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”

It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked
Jen Sincero, You are a Badass

I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.

Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.

You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”

“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”

You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.

hello
Embrace your new “you”

“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.

Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.

What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.

There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.

In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.

41CVAwRkafL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.

Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k

Keep it next to your bed as a visual reminder of the person you don’t want to be anymore and the one you are aiming to become. You’ll thank me for it, and let me know what you think about it ok?

FORMULA FERRARI

I have always been, and I will always be, 100% daddy’s girl. I am not sure if this is the root cause of me being a total, unapologetic tomboy, but I can’t deny that my undisputed love for my dad had certainly an impact on who I am.

Hands up, no lies, my dad in my eyes was this mystical creature descended from heaven, the saviour and bringer of anything good and amazing, the legendary super powerful dude who-drives-the-car and who-goes-to-work and who-spends-time-in-office and who-owns-a-computer and omg he is such a hero fuck you stupid princes my dad is the real shit. I never quite got why the entire planet Earth didn’t consider itself honoured and blessed to be The Planet were my dad was born – I certainly considered myself being so lucky to be his daughter.

As you can imagine, anything my dad did or said was pure gold out of a fountain of diamonds and rainbows; anything he liked was to be religiously and devotedly liked, and anything he owned or hoped to own were the official Most Precious Things Ever Existed.

Much for my mum’s dismay, it became quite obvious that I had more things in common with my dad than with her.

He loved (and still loves) to travel, he had amazing stories to tell, he took beautiful papapictures, he used to have a dark room kit to develop photos from film, he did some pretty cool stuff when he was “young and wild” (and hippie!)… excitement all around. But most importantly, my dad has always been into sports. When he was at home, the TV was constantly showing some sport programme: NBA basketball, wrestling, football, motorbikes, athletics, skiing, you name it.

For the average Italian catholic family, Sundays were the days dedicated to God: you had a shower, you wore your Sunday best clothes (aka: the prettiest dresses to make all other church-goers green with envy), you went to church to attend mass, you spent mass doing some proper fashion police and gossiping about people you saw, you repented from your sins (or pretended to), and if you survived long enough to see the end of it, then you went to the nearest patisserie to buy dessert to take home for the Sunday lunch.

Well… in my house, only my mum was (is) religious. My dad is as atheist as it comes. My mum made sure I did all the sacraments and Catholics bits and bobs, hoping for me to develop some sort of faith. I did, just not for the God she was hoping for. For my dad and I, the Only Religion Worth of Worship was Formula 1. Still is! (yes, and to a much worse lever of hysteria, for the record). Trust me, when people talk about “religious integralists”, they could have easily portrayed my dad and I on a race Sunday. Infidels-hating people? HA! No match for my dad and I’s rage against whoever dared to step in the way of Ferrari and its racing glory. Oh, and we A L W A Y S watched it live (and still do). Even if it meant waking up at 4am and be barely able to keep our eyes open.

The ritual was always the same every single racing Sunday: silence fell at exactly hqdefault12:00pm with the first few notes of Grand Prix’s theme tune (an Italian programme about Formula 1 and motorsports in general). The presenter, Mr Andrea De Adamich (a former racing driver), was our Pope. My dad and I stared at the TV without even blinking our eyes. If we were eating, we didn’t chew, or swallow, or anything, to not miss any single breath coming out of the presenter’s mouth. No guests were allowed, unless they loved Formula 1 AND only if they brought luck to Ferrari. I remember I had a friend, during those glorious Schumacher years, who supported Mika Hakkinen and McLaren. For four Sundays in a row, he came over to watch the race at my house, and in each race, Michael Schumacher didn’t even make it to the first corner. I unplugged the 526x297-u6llandline and went into hiding, or faked sicknesses, or other things to avoid him like the plague on the following Sundays (vengeance tasted so sweet when Michael won in Monza and Hakkinen was found crying somewhere around the track)

Of course, my dad and I spent Sundays praying. Oh yes, we did! We prayed non-stop, deeply, and intensely, we prayed hard and till tears run down our faces… only we prayed whoever the Ferrari drivers were at the time to not let us spend another depressing Sunday afternoon witnessing Ferrari doing the usual shitty race and mourning the driver’s championship that surely, we’ll win – just not this year (again. FFS).

Put it this way, I learned the hard way that prayers don’t work. Period.

Whenever Ferrari won, our household exploded: we got the cakes and the wine out, we’d shout, and jump, and scream, then I’d run to grab my enormous Ferrari flags and I would hang them in every window or terrace of the house. My mum was not allowed toschumacher_1980206c touch our display of Ferrari love up until the following Sunday. YES SIR. Oh, when Michael Schumacher made the Miracle with capital M to win the Constructor’s championship and then, finally, the DRIVER championship. My dad and I cried for a week solid, and then we enjoyed 7 blissful years of:
– turning the tv on to watch the race;
– sit on the sofa (bed in my case, as I had the tv in my bedroom);
– watch the race start;
– ensure Michael was leading the race;
– fall asleep;
– wake up when Michael was on the podium;
– repeat the next race.

s-l300On Monday, my dad would buy Austosprint, the most famous motorport magazines, and when he finished reading it, he’d pass it on to me so I could cut Ferrari’s pictures and stick them to my bedroom’s wall. If it was summertime, then he’d also buy “La Gazzetta dello Sport” every day. I am proud to say that those two things helped me perfecting my reading skills at a very young age, because my dad was kind and prima schumi-kVkE-U901001961194ISG-350x467@Gazzetta-Web_articolosweet, yes, but after the fourth time I made him re-read the same old article, he’d tell me “learn to read and read it yourself!”. And rightly so! Oh, that day I read that Ferrari was about to sell Jean Alesi and Gehrard Berger to hire Michael Schumacher… I was FURIOUS! I hated that German prick with a passion. That hate didn’t last long though!

My dad’s and my love for Formula 1 has been often borderline insane; I bet that my mum has secretly wondered more than once whether she should have had us locked up in a mental facility. The stuff we did…. like waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning to queue at Monza and get the best seats to watch the private practice’s sessions, lying to my mum “we are just having a little gathering with some Ferrari fans….” and ending up in Monaco for the Thursday practice session (my mum was not pleased….). There is one lovely episode that I feel like sharing though:

My dad knew I was madly in love with Nigel Mansell. He is still today one of my all-time Ferrari heroes (my son’s second name is Nigel… just sayin’…). One of the Italian petrol companies came up with a Formula 1 sticker album, with all the drivers and cars: every

nigel
of course I bought his authobiography!

10 Mila Lire of fuel (no Euros when I was a little girl!) you got a bag of sticker, so the more you filled your car, the more stickers you got. The thing was though that fuel of that brand was more expensive, and my dad didn’t really want to spend more for some stickers, since my bedroom was plastered with Ferrari stuff top to bottom anyway. I begged, I begged, and I begged some more, till he gave in and said, “ok but JUST THIS TIME”. He filled the car, got the stickers, gave them to me.
We both held our breaths whilst I opened the first little bag.
And I saw it.
One shot, one kill, here it was, Nigel’s sticker in my hand.
We had a moment of silence.
My hands were shaking.
My dad and I screamed the car down of happiness (I bet he was also very happy that he didn’t have to put up with a very disappointed daughter and, potentially, more fuel purchases to find that fucking sticker!).

The price to pay for loving an extreme sport is that, unfortunately, sooner or later, you’ll learn that those daredevils you hail as heroes are just as mortal as you are. My dad used to tell me all about those legendary accidents that he witnessed over the years of his Formula 1 love, such as when Niki Lauda almost got burned alive in 1976, or when Wolfgang von Trips collided with Jim Clarke’s car and his car went flying, killing him and 15 spectators at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961. I remember how emotional it was for both of us, walking around Monza’s circuit, and stand in the sport where it happened. Yes, if you are wondering, my dad also talked an awful lot about his personal legend: Gilles Villeneuve.
When you are a kid, and you hear all these stories, you don’t really get that these are real things. Most importantly, you don’t think that, one day, you’d be the one witnessing it happening in front of your eyes.
My rose-tinted, legendary portrait of the Formula 1 world ended dramatically on the 1st of May 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix. Even though 24 years have passed since that fatal day, I still had to pause for a moment before keeping writing about it.
That race was just… NO. That weekend was doomed from the start.  Rubens Barrichello almost died on the Friday practice session. On the Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger was killed by crashing his car at 310kmh on a wall. It was not looking good. But, life goes on, and to quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. I can still see it happening in front of my eyes as we speak. It felt so surreal. I didn’t want to believe it. Nobody wanted to believe it. My dad was shocked and he wanted to just shut the television for good. He knew. I didn’t. I held on to all the hope I could with all my heart; I prayed, yes, for the first time I summoned any god or anything above to do something and… please don’t take him, please don’t. I spent my day glued at the TV in search for news, any news. In the evening, Ayrton was declared dead. I cried like a baby in my dad’s arms. My dad just kept hugging me in silence. Ayrton was gone and with him, the fairy tale died as well.

Ok, before I burst into tears, let’s bring the mood of this post to a fun one, shall we?

As I said, my passion for Formula 1 is still alive and strong. Even though we don’t have our Sunday ritual anymore, my dad and I are still as crazy as ever. Even though he is in Italy and I’m in the UK, we make it work but furiouslyferrari2 texting each other constantly during qualifying session and, most importantly, during the race. We don’t have filters, and most our conversation is made by an endless list of swearing words, curses thrown at random drivers, F-bombs (or, V words, as we go VAFFANCULO in Italy) and so on. Yeah, we would make sailors blush.
However, I missed sharing this crazy passion of mine on a daily basis with someone, and guess who is now at the receiving end of my Formula 1 love? My dear colleague Shary!
I know you are reading this my friend, and I want to use this space to personally thank you for being an awesome friend and Ferrari fan. You are da best in da world!

shary
bad Monday….

Shary and I are on a constant stream of Formula 1 talks and updates. We live and breathe BBC Sport Formula 1 Gossip. On a Monday, depending on how the race went, we don’t even have to talk: we just look at each other and we instantly know what the other one is thinking… and then we start debating like two Formula 1 pundits, much for the “pleasure” of the other colleagues surrounding us!
Over the last 2 years I’ve worked hard to get the rest of my office not only into the racing spirit, but also into supporting Ferrari, and to do so, I have used the most powerful resource after “money bribery”: FOOD. Everyone knows that, if Ferrari

ferrari
caught in the act of delivering the cake

wins, I will bake a cake and bring it over to celebrate. They may not watch the race and be truly Ferrari fanatics like Shary and I, but they WILL check the race results and they will text me “so…. How about Lemon Drizzle?” “is it going to be Red Velvet tomorrow?” “can we have cake even though Vettel arrived second?”
I’m telling you, should Sebastian Vettel win the Driver’s championship, I’ll bake a cake so big I’ll need to come to the office in a truck to carry it!!!!!

BREATHE IN STRENGTH, BREATHE OUT BULLSHIT

I must admit, I have never truly appreciated the power of meditation till after my ex broke up with me. Before that, it was just an exercise I used to do (when I was arsed enough to do it). I used to sit, spend 5 minutes or so trying to clear my head, get bored to death, decide I was done for the day, tick the box of “I did it”, the end.

One day, the shitstorm happened. Meditating quickly became the only resource I had to preserve my sanity. My brain was in overdrive with all the negative emotions, my heart was bleeding, my body was in pain, I was in the eye of the storm and hell was breaking lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted. I needed a mental break. I clinged to this practice like my life depended on it and I never abandoned it since.

Let me set the record straight: meditating is HARD. It is one of those things that everyone brags about doing, it is so hipster it hurts. Everyone will try and shove it down your throath:
Be more mindful!
Mindfulness is the secret of success!
Meditate or die!
And so on. So, you think “yeah, why not, lemme give it a go”. You google “how do I start meditating” and you find a mammoth amount of all these coaches and teachers that explains what to do, making it look so damn easy: sit there, breathe, clear your mind, see your thoughts as clouds passing by, imagine this, imagine that, visualise stuff, add a mantra or two and job done!

YEAH RIGHT.

Believe me, it is so fucking hard. Do not believe who says it is a piece of cake. REAL meditation requires training, dedication, and an unbelievable level of discipline. You must practice it over and over and over again, every day, and you won’t get the benefits of this practice till you master the art of it. Proper meditation means that you have total power and control over your body and your brain. If you have an overactive mind like mine, where you just cannot stop thinking and overthinking, meditation won’t come naturally to you.

It will be a struggle.

Couple of minutes after you sit down and get into it, you’ll realise that everything is actively conspiring against you to make you fail. The more you’ll try to clear your mind, the worse your chain of thoughts will become. If your brain will not succeed into making you give up, your body will work against you and you will start becoming restless. You’ll feel the urge to scratch a sudden itch on your foot or your head, a song will pop up on your mind and you won’t be able to make it stop, then you’ll be thirsty, or your throat will feel dry, you’ll feel too cold, or too hot, your clothes will be too tight, or too loose, then you’ll need to scratch yourself again; if you are in the lotus pose (I beg you, from the bottom of my hearth, do not attempt to do it or meditate in that pose unless you have few months of yoga under your belt), pain will drive you to the brink of madness and then you’ll think “mmmm maybe I should move a bit so I can feel comfier…that’s it… so… what was I thinking about anyway?” and you will give up shortly afterwards. Oh, did I mention that you’ll feel like it was a very stupid idea and a waste of time? Yeah, that will happen too.

However.

Don’t surrender. Please, don’t. If you stick to your guns and impose yourself to keep going, I promise you, meditating will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It took me a while, but now I consider it a pampering session for the brain. My days are less stressful, less emotional, less chaotic and I am much more relaxed that what I used to be. I try to do it first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.

namaste
Namaste! Ole’!

My morning meditation gets me all geared up for the day: I go through a list of my tasks, I visualise them in front of me and I’ll prepare myself mentally to face them. It really helps if you struggle with anxiety like me. Then I add few positive affirmations: these acts like an injection of power and strength. I know, it seems totally dumb telling yourself stuff like:
“you are strong”
“you are fierce”
“you are beautiful”
“you are full of love, and energy, and power, and you can accomplish everything”
“there is nothing that you won’t be able to face”
I swear though, it works. BUT! You really must BELIEVE that those affirmations are true for them to work. Just saying them for the sake of “there, I said them, ok?” with a “this is just bullshit” attitude it’s a no-no.

STOP IT: I know what you are thinking right now. It is something along the lines of “yeah right, because I’m going to sit there, telling all this shit to myself, right? How embarrassing is that? Only losers would do it.” How do I know it? Because I thought exactly like that too. I was “better than this bunch of crap”. Until I ended up with my arse on the floor, desperate to try anything to feel better.

I gave it an honest, humble go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I chose to believe. I chose to re-wire my brain with positive messages. It is SO.DAMN.HARD. But. It works wonders. The more you do it, the more it gets easier, and at some point, you’ll realise that you won’t need to force yourself into believing those affirmations: you will own them, and saying them will become a “reminder” game to keep you in the positive loop.

To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearances
Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich

My bedtime meditation is my decluttering, release-all-the-stress session. This is the moment where I let go of everything that happened during the day. If there are lessons to be learned, I will acknowledge them. If something pissed me off, I will analyse it, I will take any positive thing (if any) and then I will let it go. If something made me happy, I will cling on the beautiful feeling I experienced. I will say another round of affirmations, then it’s sleep time, goodbye world, see you tomorrow.

I am, by no means, an expert on meditation, so what you just read is nothing more than my ritual; of course, I invite you to try it and do the same, but you may find out that you’ll need to tweak a thing or two (or everything!) to make it work for you. And that’s the beauty of meditation: once you learn “the basics” and you get the hang of how it works, you’ll make it work for you, there is no right or wrong, good or bad: whichever way you’ll do it, so long as you’ll do it and you’ll do it seriously, you’ll experience the benefits of the practice.
If you are a total beginner, I suggest to start with some guided meditation. Having someone talking you through the process it’s incredibly helpful: it takes away the stress and anxiety of “I don’t know how this shit works, what do I do now. Am I doing good? Am I doing anything meaningful?”. Plus, it makes it easy to learn how to focus and how to deal with all the thoughts that will run around your head, since you basically have to follow the lead and do as told. I still use guided meditation, especially when I’m tired, or sick, and I need to be dragged into my subconscious because I don’t have the strength to do it by myself.

For your meditation resources, Google is your friend, and in Amazon (or any other shop, virtual or physical) you can find books, CDs etc… and then, you got YouTube. Speaking of that, I want to close this post with a bang and share with you the BEST meditation ever. Marge, my close friend and partner in crime, found it and shared it with me. Disclaimer: it is rude, so if you get easily shocked by swearing, maybe don’t click on the following link…

An Honest Meditation

We listened to it so many times that now we know the words by heart, and to thank her I bought her (and myself) the book version. We love it! I even got the app! The best bit? If one of us is feeling a bit low, or is having quite the day at the office, the other one will start reciting this meditation… and we’ll be laughing our assess off till tears.

“..and as you slowly open your eyes, greet the world and everything in it with a new, beautiful breath… of fuck that!”
Jason Headley, F*ck That, An Honest Meditation

LET’S GET PHYSICAL! PHYSICAL!

I wanna get physicaaaal let’s get into physical (hey I’m a child of the 80s, I can’t help it. Here is the link if you fancy blasting this song out loud  Let’s get physical).

I have a weird relationship with the gym.

Sitting here, in the comfort of my sofa, I love it like crazy. I love sweating like a pig whilst I row on the rowing machine or run on the treadmill; I adore exercising till everything hurts like I just got run over by a truck on full speed; oh, that feeling of finally dumping myself under the shower, closing my eyes and… aaaaah, peace at last. I end up so tired I can’t even think. Oh, and the best bit? Checking myself in the mirror, see the results of my hard work and bask in my own glory for a minute or two (“fuck yeah! Check these abs bitch! Uuuuh look at that ass! Your arms – wow!” and so on).

When I actually have to go to the gym, well, it is a total different story: I HATE IT.

I hate it with a passion. Gosh I hate going to the gym. I hate the smell; I hate exercising; I hate gym clothes; I hate all the machines, none excluded; I hate weights; I hate barbells and don’t make me start on dumbbells and kettlebells; I hate classes; I hate personal trainers and I hate myself for going there even though I absolutely hate it. I’m a lazy arse who just wants to eat lasagne and be left alone ok?

In the building where my office is located there is a little gym. Most of my colleagues are fitness fanatics, and when you don’t see them killing themselves in the gym during lunch break, it’s because they are running 5k outside “to get some fresh air and train for running a marathon”.

For the record, I hate running. I can barely tolerate it on a treadmill. I tried to run 5k twice in my life and believe me, I don’t think I will put myself through that again unless I get paid a lot of money. The first time I did it I was working at the BBC. I surrendered to the pleas of my good friend James, who’s leader of the running club. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say I made those 5k a nightmare for him and his mates. I moaned and moaned and moaned some more for at least 3k; when my legs told me to do one, I found a bench, I sat down and I kept moaning to myself; when James and the other runners finished their run, I moaned non-stop all the way back to the office.

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Things you do for free food

Put it this way: if he is still my friend after that, it is only because he is amazing and has a very big heart. The second time happened two years ago, at a charity event organised by JP Morgan. I knew that enrolling into this race was a horrible mistake, but my colleagues convinced me by saying that, at the end of the race, I could have enjoyed free barbecue and drinks. I can’t say no to free food, I just can’t! I’m not proud to admit that I ended up running less than 1k, then I got bored and I just played PokemonGo for the remaining 4k. I arrived at the finish line an hour and too much time later. The barbecue was over. I wasn’t happy. At all. Damn!

I have never had a good relationship with my physical appearance. I started hating my body at a very young age, when I became aware of what I looked like, and I compared it with what everyone else looked like. Hating yourself is a slow and deadly poison. It creeps into your brain, one negative comment at a time, and before you know it you can’t think of anything else but “I’m fucking shit”. Constantly. Worse, it spreads in every aspect of your life: everything you do, everything you experience and everything that comes into your life gets filtered through this dark cloud of negativity. It becomes your everything. It permeates your reality in such a wicked way that you succumb without a fight.

The ideal Italian woman has always been sexy and curvaceous. I have always been the exact opposite: skin and bones. Not even a remote idea of boobs or bum. Everyone, from my friends to my parents, told me I looked like a stick with clothes on. I knew that if I were to cut my hair short, I would have easily passed for a boy. Now, imagine being in a locker room, full of girls who-look-like-girls, who behave like girls-should-behave: I started comparing myself to them. I started asking myself why I was like me and not like them. WTF was happening (or not happening) that I got stuck in this joke of a stupid body, on top of having a stupid brain? It didn’t take a lot of effort to convince myself that I was not only different, but also U G L Y.

I Just could not accept who I was, even less than before. I looked at the mirror and everything was a no: my hair? Barely average. My face? Please…. With these horrible, messy teeth? Hardly worth of looking at. My body? Or should I say, my skeleton? Only appealing at Halloween, maybe (though in Italy we didn’t have Halloween, of course, catholic!). I spiralled into a self-esteem crisis, where I felt (and convinced myself) that there was nothing I was good at: I was a failure as a girl in every possible aspect.

You can imagine how “glad” I could have been to go to the gym with a background like the one I just described. My mantra has always been “don’t bother because nothing will change”, even if deep down inside I wanted to look good and feel good about myself. I am embarrassed thinking of all the gym memberships that I paid in the heat of the “this time I’m going to train like I’m on fire!”, only to end up not going there. EVER. Not even for the induction session. I know. Don’t make me start on the very few times where I did go, but instead of exercising I just roamed around, not even pretending to try and put some effort. I even had a personal trainer once: I thought that this way, I couldn’t cheat and I had to force myself to go. If only I’d have been less stupid and used the same energies and efforts to do what he said, rather than to trick him into believing I was training, I’d have had the body of a bodybuilder.

Over the years, I have avoided any form of exercise like the plague. I didn’t want to even think of the remote possibility to do anything at all. Even walking for more than 2 minutes was something I could not contemplate. Life had other plans for me, however, and when I moved to London, I found myself surrounded with healthy fanatics & sport addicts who kept trying to drag me into whatever they were into. I dumbly resisted any temptation because I thought I knew best and, whilst everyone was shaping their beach bodies, I was sitting at my desk pretending I didn’t care (but I was secretly envying them hard).

When I started reading all those motivational books, I realised how stupid I have always been for wanting things and never actually work hard toget them. My “ideal body” included. I got fed up of looking at the mirror thinking “if only”. Enough! Do I really, really want it? How about I do something about it? My brain, used to my negative ways, was having none of it.

“Yes, ok, but you don’t have a great track record with gym attendance, you know that”

“well, how about I challenge myself?”

“how about you don’t fool yourself into thinking you can, when you know you will fail?”

“well, how about for once I don’t try to talk myself out of something and I simply give it a go?”

And so I did. I went to buy a pair of trainers, some yoga pants, I dug up a shirt from my (extremely old) gym clothes and I asked one of my gym fanatics colleagues, my beloved Elena, to take me to the gym no matter what. I imposed myself to stop overthinking and to start doing. And I enjoyed it. And I haven’t stopped going since. And when I want to stop, which is like every time I have to go, I know I just have to wait for Elena to hover around my desk; she will start by kindly asking me to grab my things and go, and when I start “mmmm I don’t feel like it today…. I’m mmmmm not ok…” she will cut my crap there and then and force me to overcome my laziness. She will put up with my moaning like a pro, so long as my legs are moving towards the gym. And then, she will endure a class with me huffing and puffing and ranting “what the fuck have I done?” “why did you make me do it” “this is the last time I swear” “fuck this shit I’m out of here” “I’m dying and I’m not inviting you to my funeral” etc… I know, I’m so bad!

britney
You better work bitch!

Oh my, the time I had the brilliant idea to ask the personal trainer of our office gym to give me a lesson. I was so geared up. I spent all morning shouting positive affirmations, blasting heavy metal out loud, I was on fire. I went to the gym all motivated and ready to slay it.

“Farrah, I got dumped and I want a revenge body: I want amazing abs and a bum hard as a rock! I want to be a goddess”

“how hard are you prepared to work?”

“BRING.IT.ON”.

She did bring it on. Oh God, she did.

She gave me an hour of total hell. She pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me some more, till I begged her crying that I just couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t give in and pushed me even more. My body hurt for 2 weeks solid afterwards. I felt paralytic. I put my heartbreak into perspective: yes, it hurts, a lot, but I take that anytime compared to wishing to chop off half of my body.

I am proud to say that I didn’t surrender. If anything, it made me want to do it again. And

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gym time!

I kept training hard. Because I hate it, yes, but I love it too. I really do. It is helping not only my physical health, but my mental health as well. For once I not only feel great, but I also look great. On the path of my personal greatness, I have embraced this torture and, for the first time ever, I’m really putting an effort into it: I changed my diet, I changed my attitude, I stopped telling myself “Silvia you can’t” and swapped it with “Silvia, how about you try?”. I even ended up lifting weights! I’m proud of my body and I’m proud of myself.

… what’s today class, by the way? Total Core? Oh no. I’m too tired. I can’t be arsed. I’m just staying here today, I think I can give it a miss…. Elenaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa help!!!!!!!!