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

GREEN IS THE NEW PINK

Before puberty hit me hard like a brick thrown at my face, when someone tried to make me feel like a freak of nature I simply shrugged my shoulders thinking “whatever – who cares, you boring prick!”.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that being different and quirky didn’t have an impact on me;

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In case you wonder, I’m the one with the white shirt and hideus shorts on the right side.

it did, and still does to this day. However, being an only child taught me how to be perfectly fine alone: boredom was something unknown to me, I never felt the need of having someone to play with, therefore being rejected and isolated has never been a massive issue. It was just an ordinary day in my life. Of course, I liked having friends and being with other people, but it wasn’t something I necessarily missed when I didn’t have it. Later in life, being an outcast became a badge to wear with the upmost pride, but I’ll discuss about this in depth on another post.

The problem was that, even though I was kind of ok with the whole me-being-weird thing, my parents had to endure the pain of dealing with an environment which was pretty clear on the fact that I was not acceptable as I was. Since they weren’t forcing me to behave as society expected me to behave (aka: as a girl), and they were not remotely bothered to make me change, they were considered bad parents who got it wrong somehow along the way.

Hey, we are talking about Italy in the 80s: not exactly the land of the free. Ok, it wasn’t hell on Earth for sure, such as Iraq under Saddam Hussain, but with the Church having a massive influence on people and dictating what was ok and not ok, Italy wasn’t amongst the most progressive and liberal countries either. Italians’ mentality was quite conservative, especially in towns and villages.

Hand on heart, I couldn’t have wished for better parents (ok maybe wealthier – but I am digressing here). They fiercely encouraged me to be what it felt right to be, rather than what was expected; they have been on my side through thick and thin without questioning whether “it was appropriate for a girl” to say / behave / act like I was. Most importantly, they have never been ashamed of having this non-ordinary child.

In their eyes, I was their precious, much longed-for daughter, arrived after 7 years of trying, with all the heartbreak that a situation like this brings. My mum told me she saw every gynaecologist she could, tried every diet, exercise, ritual, you name it, she even when to see one of those “healers” who claim they can fix you with the power of magic (no joking, she was THAT desperate) because she was convinced she had some curse casted on her. When I finally made it into this big world of ours, alive and in my parents’ arms, in their eyes I was nothing short of a miracle. I think I could have been a three-headed grizzly bear that it wouldn’t have made any remote difference.

As said, I grew up in Italy in the 80s, and unfortunately, the rest of society was not as open minded as my parents, and society liked to point out to them what a weirdo I was. People constantly questioned my sanity, my sexuality, my clothes, my toys, my hair, their parenting skills, everything! Whether we were walking in the streets, queueing at the supermarkets (yes, sometimes Italians queue too), shopping for clothes or simply at the park having fun, more often than not someone had to pass their judgement about me.

Unlike today, where people are losing their minds about “the gender issue”, making everything neutral and gender-less, back in my day (gosh I sound like a dinosaur!) you had boys’ things or girls’ things. End of.

“Normal” girls had dolls, Barbie dolls, toy versions of household items so that they could play at being little housewives and so on. Everything in their world, from their bedrooms to their toys was pink, full of glitters and sparkling. They watched Disney movies and dreamed to be Disney princesses waiting to be saved by Prince Charming.

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Pretending to ride my auntie’s extremely old Piaggio Ciao (I think). I thought it was the coolest hting ever. Then I discovered Ducati motorbikes….!

I, on the other hand, had a vast collection of Formula 1 cars and well, cars in general, teddy bears, Lego blocks and WWE wrestlers action figures. My bedroom’s walls were plastered with AC Milan footballers and Ferrari’s cars. I dreamt of joining the A-Team and be best friend with Mr T / B.A. Baracus; I longed to marry Tom Selleck / Magnum P.I. and go and live happily ever after with his Ferrari in the Hawaii; I wanted to buy KITT from David Hasselhoff / Michael Knight; jet on wild adventures with the guys from Riptide (can you tell that Italian TV in the 80s was SO Americanised?!!); I would have rather chopped my hand than touch a doll. Or a skirt. Or anything pink. Or feminine. EWWWWWW!

If now it is considered outrageous, retrograde, and unacceptable to have “blue-for-boys / pink-for-girls” things, when I was a kid this was the absolute norm and you didn’t have a choice on the matter. I know, by today’s standards, that little me holding my mum’s hand whilst I point at the creepiest, ugliest, weirdest creature in the toy shop (in the boy’s aisle, of course) was nothing special, but back then? Trust me, you had to have a mum like mine to survive the looks, the nasty side comments, the (unsolicited) pity, the disgust that people threw at us, at me, the weirdo tomboy destined to be a crazy lesbian mad cat lady (like if there is anything wrong with being lesbian, or crazy, or a cat lady, or these things combined).

My mum. Well, she is one hell of a woman. She is not someone who can keep her mouth shut and just take it. She is feisty as hell and has an extremely short fuse; if you make her angry, you won’t forget it. If you say or do something stupid, she will embarrass you by yelling everything she can possibly yell at you: put it this way, no one should dare to be at the receiving end of her anger. When I think of it right now, I’m seriously impressed of how my mum managed not to end up in jail.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here is a little story for you.

One day my mum and I were in a little, family-run stationery shop. I was a 5 years old little girl. The trendiest thing to have at that point in time, bless us silly kids of the magnificent 80s, were tiny little soap bubbles bottles charms that you’d wear in a cord necklace and then brag about what amazing tiny soap bubbles you could make. It was a very cheap thing, and my mum decided to buy me one. So, in we were at the shop, and I was so excited I could barely breathe. We weren’t rich (we made it to the end of the month somehow), so buying a toy was a real treat. The shop attendant, a man in his 50s, asked me to pick a colour. I was too shy, too overwhelmed, too OMGMYMUMISREALLYBUINGMETHISSHIT! that what came out of my mouth ended up being a bold and loud “GREEN!”.

The shop assistant looked at me like I just cursed in the middle of a church.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“GREEN! (are you deaf ffs???)”

“…green… are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure! Green is my favourite colour!”

“But…. are you really, really sure?”

“Yes sir!”

Behind my back, my mum was reaching boiling point. In my 5 or so years old mind, she is just fed up of being in that shop. In reality, she was quickly calculating how many years of jail she would have gotten if she choked the guy on the spot. She was hating that nonsense.

After some more “are you sure – yes, I am”, the shop assistant said the thing that finally triggered my mum’s fury:

“But green is not a colour for girls!!!! And you are a girl! Look at AAAALL these pink ones! Wouldn’t you prefer one of these?”

Like the thunder that you hear rumbling in the distance before it explodes with a bang worth of 10 nuclear bombs, I could hear my mum’s going from 0 to “volcano eruption”. She slammed her hands on the table. Time suddenly stopped there and then.

She then started barking like a total mad dog.

“NO, SHE DOESN’T WANT IT PINK O-K? SHE DOESN’T LIKE ANY FUCKING SHADE OF PINK, OK? SHE TOLD YOU GREEN TWENTY TIMES NOW. IF YOU HAVE HEARING PROBLEMS GO AND GET CHECKED! SHE SAID GREEN OK? HOW HARD CAN IT BE? IS THERE A LAW AGAINST GIRLS WHO LIKES PINK? ARE YOU DUMB OR JUST ANNOYING US FOR FUN?

CAN – WE – HAVE – THAT SHIT.

IN GREEN.

NOW?

AND NOT JUST ANY KIND OF FUCKING GREEN! IT MUST BE BLOODY EMERALD GREEN. AND QUICK”.

The shop assistant went white as a ghost – he was so not expecting it. He probably though my mum was about to yell at me something like “for eff sake Silvia cut the crap you are not a boy get this pink-y shit and let’s go”.

He tried a timid “…but…” but my mum was now on full hysteria mode and she was not having it anymore “BUT WHAT? BUT WHAT?”. She grabbed my hand so hard I thought she was going to break all my bones (but I didn’t dare to make any sound or to look in pain) “CAN WE HAVE THAT FUCKING THING IN GREEN RIGHT NOW OR DO WE HAVE TO BUY IT IN THE SHOP NEXT DOOR, UH?”. The guy quickly gave me the green little bottle, my mum paid, she stormed out of the shop and that was the last time we ever shopped there. I was petrified. I was so embarrassed. I spent my youth avoiding walking in front of that shop in case the guy saw me and told me like “no wonder why you are so weird, with a mum like that what can you expect?”

Back at home, I stared at my object of great desire, this tiny little bottle in my tiny little hand. It was so cute, but it also reminded me of my utterly pissed off mum. I never worn it. I preferred to let my mum believe I didn’t want to lose it rather than admitting I was hiding it in my drawer because it was a constant reminder of what happened: me being not average girl who loves pink resulted in her having to lash out at the shop assistant to defend me.