Monday, May 28, 2012

Goodbye. C'est tout!

I’ve always thought of life as a series of books- and within that series, a number of chapters. I began this blog at the beginning of a book… I began that book over four years ago, in another country, living another life. I had hopes and dreams…expectations and doubts. I did what I could with what I had and seeked to attain what it was I didn’t yet possess. All the while, documenting my journey wherever I could: in the margins of novels, on restaurant napkins, in my various journals and in a more orderly fashion- right here, on this blog.
I couldn’t have said, four years ago, where I would be today. I couldn’t have even imagined it.
And yet, if I didn’t have this blog…I probably would not remember now, where I was then…and all the many chapters that made up this incredibly marvelous book. Looking back, through the countless emotions, reflections and contemplations since I began “I Bet Elephants Taste Like Mushrooms,” I came to a number of conclusions. It’s enlightening to witness my own progression….my metamorphosis. I began writing this blog as one version of myself- and now I am another. The blog has given me the opportunity to observe my own evolution- and to, oftentimes a bit too candidly, let others into my world. To examine how I have grown, and how in some ways, how I have I have regressed.
I am reminded of the many individuals who have passed through my life – some leaving their mark, some leaving only a whisper of remembrance. I am reminded of the people I have loved and of those I have lost. The places I have been…the cities that will only ever be visited again through photographs- and those that remain in my heart. Reading through my blog…I have relived the memories that have formed me…the recollections of experiences that remain with me- leaving me full of conviction and fortitude.
Most significantly, I have reached the conclusion that these chapters are coming to a close; that this book is ending. And I say this with a bit of sadness, as oftentimes when one finishes the last page of a great book and has to say goodbye to the characters that have accompanied them on a noble voyage. But again, just like a book- it is possible to one day, go back and open the first page and begin again…recalling the emotions that lie dormant in the back of their minds as the tiny fragments of a memory that was once a reality.
Throughout this blog- I have loved and lost and loved again, I have felt fear and sadness, pride and contentment, I have learned an infinite amount about an infinite number of things, I travelled a sum of continents, discovered parts of the world- along with parts of myself, I never knew existed. I got an MBA. I began a new career- taking all that I knew and all that I know and all that I want to be- and found something that brings me so much joy, I only hope to continue to do it. I met the man I am going to marry. Which brings me to my next point:
In less than three weeks I am getting married. I wake everyday and feel like I am living a fantasy- with a man that has helped me find my path. In three weeks time, I will say “I do” to someone who has made so many of my dreams come true- to someone who may not completely understand me, but who fully accepts me. To someone who protects me but allows space for my dreams to grow…someone who waters the small seeds I plant everyday. A dreamer like me- but an individual who teaches me an immeasurable number of lessons about reality.
So here I am, displaying what I can bear to expose of my soul, as I have been for the past four years. From England to Spain to the US and finally Italy. Here I am again, but this time to say goodbye. Because this book is over. Because its time to close this final chapter with an appropriate farewell and begin a new one. Because as Semisonic once sang, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
This book has lived its beginning, its middle and now, its end. It has had its chapters….its small amusements in its plots, its crises and one common theme- the words that come directly from my heart…written through laughter and tears. Many characters have passed through the pages of this blog, people who have touched me in one way or another. And it has had its climax- or climaxes, I would like to think. There have been powerful moments of doubt and shame. Periods of sadness that I thought would never end. Moments of euphoria that I tried as hard as I could to hold on to.
And therefore, now, four years later…I write to you, yet again, from the bottom of my heart, the tips of my fingers and the inner depths of my spirit, with a few more wrinkles, a lot more wisdom, and an irrepressible excitement about the future.
I want to say goodbye to those of you who have accompanied me on my journey- who have shared your thoughts and ideas with me- who have silently read my blog, either praising my endeavors or criticizing my naiveté. I thank all of you- for sharing such a wonderful part of my life with me- such a wonderful book, with countless distinctive chapters. I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye to those of you I have lost…because through the passage of time and widening of distance, through unfortunate circumstances and simply growing out of each other, I was unable to hold on to some of you. And there is no one to blame but myself…because I made all the choices that lead to the consequences I live everyday. I left you – along with certain parts of myself behind. And then there are those of you who have continued with me on my path…who have remained constant companions on this journey. And I thank you. And ask you to stay with me- because it is you who bring life and color to every chapter.
As for the future, I have high hopes- because that is all we can do. Is hope. And do our very best to never lose our innocence, our curiosity and our enthusiasm. It is all we can do to stay true to ourselves, and to continue to be open to the lessons that each day brings.
I still have yet to decide what the equation is: how much of life is luck, how much is preparation and how much is destiny- if destiny exists. But maybe I can take this occasion to impart a bit of wisdom as well…a few lessons that I, myself, have learned on this journey:
I have learned that undoubtedly- positivity breeds positivity. There will be countless people who try to bring you down; it is up to you to not let them. Let the good ones in. Forget what your enemies have done to you, but always remember their names. Trust no one- because those we trust the most have the capacity to hurt us the deepest…at the same time, remain open to love and friendship- because they are the elements that make up the joys in life. Don’t be afraid to try- what’s the worst that can happen? You fail. But you pick yourself up and try again- integrating the lessons that you learned along the way. Living well is the best revenge. I truly believe that anything is possible- if we believe in ourselves and have the courage to risk. With great risk, comes great reward. Don’t let others define you- don’t define yourself by where you come from, how you dress, who you know- and never stop learning. Never regret… learn instead. Be selfless…sometimes. Be selfish others. Be open to hurt- because if we close ourselves off for fear of pain- we are closed off to pleasure as well. I learned that “the one” doesn’t exist. There are many individuals we can love in this life…and the love of one does not exclude the other. Trust your instincts….they rarely lead you wrong. Family is wonderful- but they can hurt you too. Money isn’t everything- it can’t buy happiness- but it does make daily life a bit easier. There are no such things as adults, just big children. No one is ever mature- we just pretend to be. Be honest, be open, be candid- many people will criticize you but there is no other way to be. Live your pain…because only through acceptance, can you reach delight. Sleep is fundamental. Listen to music. Take time for yourself…and your passions. Live for each day. It is oftentimes the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary. Don’t burn bridges- but if a bridge catches fire, walk away. Keep your head held high, even if you want to bury it under the covers forever. Take time to mourn the losses you will encounter- but let the people who love you help you recover. Dogs truly are man’s best friends- (especially Labradors). Change is the only constant thing in life. Create value. Time heals all wounds. Don’t always think before you speak- sometimes what comes out of your mouth will be the truest thing you've ever said. Everyone deserves a second chance- but not a third. You don’t ever have to do anything, you always have a choice. Take tons of pictures- you’ll be glad you did. First impressions are generally wrong- but never make a bad one. Let go of expectations…they are rarely met. Instead, enjoy the surprises. Never take anything for granted- you don’t know when it will be taken away. Giving is far better than receiving- in all cases. Sunshine and pizza cure most ailments. Laughter cures all of them. Life is exceedingly brief- so live each moment to the fullest- or at least wake up each morning with the intention to do so. Never diet- but live healthily. Give in to momentary pleasures- we aren’t saints….stop pretending to be. Apologize if you are sorry. Not when you aren’t. If you love someone, tell them. Constantly. Learn the rules, even the unspoken ones- then play better.
Never stop dreaming.
All my love,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sognando Italia- The End (of the Beginning)

The best experiences in life always seem to end too quickly. I’m not so sure what that says about previous ordeals that seemed to last a lifetime (i.e. corporate finance class or doing the dishes). However, what I do know is that the past two months have flown by. Alas, the filming of Sognando Italia has concluded and I find myself back in Italy- struggling with jet lag and attempting to reinstate myself into the life I knew when I left two months ago- as a slightly changed version of myself. And although in the whole scheme of things, two months is a finite period of time…the things we did, times we laughed and tears we shed- are countless. It all transpired in the blink of an eye yet at the same time, the sum of events is inestimable.
I have always been a firm believer in the fact that each person we meet in this life, each individual we spend time with- changes us in one way or another. The format of Sognando Italia- the fact that we toured through 10 different cities- meeting 10 different individuals and their friends and families, is just the basic idea. The truth is, these protagonists/subjects of ours- let us into their homes- into their hearts. And each individual had messages for us- wisdom to impart. The best bit was that it was all there for the taking- like an abundant feast of knowledge and truths.
So amidst the work, the early mornings and long hours- we had 10 wonderful chaperons- maneuvering through their cities, and their lives- displaying to us what they understand to be true…allowing us to partake in a bit of them-and take what we wanted….well, what they allowed us to have.
Therefore, in the past two months, I have a large file of encounters rich enough to fill up a short lifetime. Each of which, more remarkable than the next.
I have been in a stem-cell research lab watching as the future of medicine changes, driven a 1952 red Cadillac up the Vegas strip, jumped out of a plane with some of the global champions of extreme sports, been part of a TV set in Los Angeles, sung (albeit poorly) in the recording studio with one of the most notable Italian singers/songwriters in the US, played Anita Ekberg in a reproduction of the Trevi Fountain at a black-tie gala in Chicago, been backstage with the headliners of the largest show in Vegas, biked through times square on a Sunday morning, opened a New Orleans radio show, learned to Salsa dance in a basement dressed as a cat, met noted photographer Doug Kirkland at one of his own openings, played poker with professional players in Sin City (and lost even with two Aces in hand!), seen Elton John live, sat and chatted with legend Peter Bennett about the real reason The Beatles broke up, been first row in a Broadway show, attended (and took a little nap) at the opening night of Richard the 3rd starring Kevin Spacey in San Francisco, been to the Venice film festival as a guest of the production of the new Al Pacino film (thanks Giulia- you rock!). I flew in a wind tunnel, danced in the middle of Hilton’s ornate ballroom in Chicago, witnessed astronauts training in the biggest pool in Texas, touched a moonstone, learned Bocce Ball with the team at Tulane University, visited an authentic oil rig with a select group of MBA students, seen a jazz legend play on Bourbon street in New Orleans, learned to roll a cigar in Miami’s Little Havana, interviewed Italian Ambassador to America Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, chatted with Nancy Pelosi and the same day, met with Dr. Robert Gallo, the embodiment of AIDS research in America. I’ve seen innumerable sunsets, far too many sunrises to be considered healthy and dined in the best Italian eateries throughout the US. I sat in NASA’s ground control rooms, seen the Vegas strip from the seat of a helicopter, jetted around the gulf of Mexico in a speedboat, sat in front of the vastness of the desert in Death Valley thinking about nothing- thinking about life, chatted with the director of the Corcoran gallery at an art opening in DC, gotten caught in a hailstorm at Red Rock in the Nevada desert, ran up a $2800 minibar bill by just picking up the objects and putting them back down, danced the night away dressed as Wonder Woman in one of the most famous restaurants in DC, eaten meat after 27 years of being a vegetarian just for the love of the program, rode a horse on a Texas ranch, seen NYC from the back of a Vespa, toured the Miami Design district and been introduced to Wynwood by one of the most up and coming artists in Miami, held a baby albino alligator, hung off of a San Francisco tram in the middle of a sunny day, and the list goes on.
I got to know America again- after many years abroad. I got to know myself again- something I didn’t realize I had lost.
But above all this, I have come across and become acquainted with some of the most extraordinary people I could have ever encountered. And for this, I am eternally grateful. Cristiana Rastellini and her beautiful family taught me that boundaries don’t exist- that anything is possible…maybe with a bit of “flexibility.” She and Luca inspired me on a personal level and a professional level, to an extent that I thought I was incapable of. Roberta Mancino taught me to fly. And for that, I will be forever thankful- and to her friends, some of the most fearless people I have ever met- I thank them for letting me into their world and therefore, opening up mine. I learned from her that we find our own happiness…as she found hers- in the freedom of flight and exploring new frontiers. To Joelle for fighting everyday- for herself, her family, her son. For her strength and talent and strong spirit. For letting me know that its ok to cry- but when the lights go on and the curtains are drawn- to take all the love and passion for what you do- and let it take over your soul. To Giada whose positivity is addictive and smile is captivating- for redefining for me what it is to be successful- and for totally proving me wrong about my thoughts of being a diva. To Annah, for showing me that I should always “Love Today,” and reminding me that maybe I have found my “happy ending” to this new beginning. To Peter for showing me no matter how serious the subject, we can make it funny. To Checco, Robert, Giulia, Franco and Alex for opening up their homes, introducing me into their families and friends, and opening their hearts to the crew and me. Each one of Sognando Italia’s protagonisti, in their various cities and diverse industries, proved to me that there are no limits- that anything is possible. They taught me about bravery and persistence, belief in oneself and having the courage to keep believing…everyday.
To Nikki, Jeihson, Tree, Melissa, etc…for making me beautiful everyday, covering my pimples and dealing with me in the mornings- and Sandro’s “Madonna hair and EYELASHES” in the afternoons.
And to my beautiful team- my new family…whose talents are boundless and humor is unparalleled. Words don't suffice- they never will. We have shared in an experience that only we will ever understand and exchanged an untold amount of compassions, uncertainties, hardships and kindnesses. You made me laugh and cry and yell and smile everyday for the longest two months of my life. You have opened my heart and invaded my soul- and each one of you will remain there forever- along with your immeasurable time lapses and paglie giganti. Thank you.
It’s a happy ending…to the very beginning

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sognando Italia- The Middle

So this is what I think…really. I think that everything we do leads to something else- something more definitive. I now believe that positivity breeds positivity and that flexibility is one of the keys to a successful and predominantly agony free life- I say predominantly because I am quite sure that a life without any agony isn’t really lived at all. I’ve learned that I am so far from perfect- and that I need to accept other people’s imperfections as well as mine. In the middle of what will probably prove to be one of the most significant turning points in my life, I am wrought with preoccupations yet intrigued by the fact that as time rolls quickly by- the lessons I am learning are growing exponentially. My fixations are being exposed and life’s big lessons, previously disguised as little bumps in the road, are revealing themselves to be the most captivating parts of this whole process. It’s all right out there, barenaked…for me and my little crew- those of us with our eyes wide open enough to notice- to unearth and examine.

Mirroring life in general, each experience, or chapter- has its ups and downs. Therefore, the two month filming schedule throughout the US will naturally have its own crests and falls. The middle, I have found, is the hardest part: the newness of the situation has dissipated- and the finish line seems so distant that it’s impractical to try to imagine. Then again, a rapid tour of North America is hardly monotonous.

It happens to be the expectations that forsake me in the middle. At this point, we know what we have gotten ourselves into, but we are too far away from the culmination to allow ourselves to reflect- or become excited about what the result may be. The middle is the part where I tend to feel trapped- counting the days, dragging my feet and struggling not to let fear or distrust gain entry.

I have done a good amount of contemplating and dissecting. I have made a large number of assumptions- most of which naïve and utterly futile. Yet I feel, on the other hand, that I may have happened upon a few truths- the kind of truths I am in constant search of- in order to assign some sense to the larger scheme of things.

I trust that everything we do, every step we take in whichever direction, leads- undoubtedly- to something else.

Those of us courageous enough not only to try something new, but to stand up and try again when we fail (which we all undoubtedly do)…may one day begin again and change course. Those of us lucky enough to abandon the wrong paths before our minds and our hearts become completely distorted- may have a chance at happiness after all.

I think I may have found my path- or a version close to it.

There is no doubt that I’ve attempted things I never should have tried in the first place, and I pushed myself- oftentimes to my limits, only to find out that I had gone completely wrong at the start. But somehow I made it HERE. And everyday, for me, is exhilarating.

I think I’ve stumbled upon something I am truly meant to do. And honestly? It’s so good that I’m afraid it’s going to slip away- or that it isn’t real at all- or that I am going to do something so utterly wrong that it will all be taken away. But I’m trying to stay positive because although this wild ride is filled with nothing I have ever known, it sure feels like a result of everything I have done up until now. And I sense and hope that I am able to do it- and do it well.

The other day, in between scenes- sitting on the steps of a random building in another prominent US city, amongst my new family, my companions - I took a long sip of my oh-so-American Starbucks, a long drag of my oh-so-Italian cigarette…and it all just clicked. A voice in my head, peculiarly close to my own, stated: this is where I should be, doing what I should be doing. Of course, I have a long way to go- many, MANY lessons to be learned and a bumpy road ahead. But a seed has been planted…and I'm trying to work out the precise elements in order to allow me to grow.

Maybe that which I have been told all along, about life being like a puzzle: pieces fitting, square pegs, round holes and so on and so forth…is right. And for so long- I was searching for not only the incorrect pieces of the puzzles- but maybe I was looking in the wrong stores, in the wrong states- and possibly in the wrong time zones on the incorrect continents. Who knows. What I do know is that I am here now. And it feels good- it feels right. Like a new love- with all the excitement of the unfamiliar- but a strong instinctive feeling that you believe in enough to allow yourself to follow it into the dark- hoping to find the light around the edges.

At the end of the day, the anticipation is half the fun…then comes the discovery, the excitement and the exhilarating fear. The risk of disappointment, like the end, is so far off that one mustn’t worry about it yet.

I may be at the lull of the middle of the experience- the beginning is behind me and the end so far away that I haven’t yet begun to contemplate it- but I have this one major affirmation…that I have found something that fits, and I have embarked on a new path that seems to be like a round peg in a round hole- for once- and it’s something that will remain with me forever, something that can only get better from here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sognando Italia: The Beginning

Three weeks ago, nearly 1.5 years after the format was conceived and dutifully developed, after the hoping and toiling and wishing had all been hoped and toiled and wished- a group of eight individuals left Italy to embark on a journey- picking up friends and lessons along the way. Each day brings phenomenal amounts of novelty- and even now, at the very beginning- I can say that this will be one of those times of my life that leaves its mark on me, like a star shooting across a night sky…burning with the kind of flames that rarely fade.

And now here I am- in another somber hotel room, in another city- after three weeks of filming-physically exhausted, mentally satiated, with an alive spirit…and beyond any shadow of a doubt, steeped with excitement about what is to come.

Everyday I am fascinated- astonished by all I didn’t know and startled at myself- the good and the bad. Because in a situation like this one: living out of a suitcase, stuck in a 13 passenger van for hours on end with a group of people who were perfect strangers only a few weeks ago, working 16/17/18 hour days…and for me personally- doing something I have never done before- it’s easy to identify one’s flaws…and one’s strengths. But it’s the flaws that are more noticeable.

And I truly believe that, even in the early stages, before I have had a chance to live it all- and to look back and pick each fragment of each day apart, I am learning that fearlessness is no easy feat, but in this particular situation, it’s the only choice. Not only have I jumped in head first, but I have jumped from a higher altitude I have ever known, head first, in reverse, and done a few backflips on the way down. I am, no doubt, pushing my limits. Once again.

I am seeing America in a new light: through Italian eyes….which makes each moment sweeter and each breath fresher…but I should have expected that. I am falling in love with false eyelashes and beginning to hate hotel room service. I have learned to appreciate individuals I thought I couldn’t support and fallen out of love with aspects of myself I assumed were essential. Every day there are a million lessons to be learned, and I am lucky to seize 10 of them- because they are priceless…and awesome…and just simply beyond…

I genuinely sense that after all these years, and all of the messes I’ve made, tasks I’ve undertaken, and errors I’ve committed- that I have found something that truly works for me. I underestimated the power of being tall, blonde (in Italy) and animated to a point of exasperation. I overestimated the value of remaining within the corporate confines and boundaries that we are taught, at too young an age, exist within our futures.

I think I have finally taken most of what I know, a large portion of that which I have experienced, and all the tiny little aspects that make me, well, me- thrown them together, and come out with something that works- something that I can be proud of. And something that however exhausted I may be at the end of the day, I am thrilled to wake up the next morning and begin again.

Sleep deprivation is beginning to look OK on me, organic protein bars (and organic protein bars alone) are beginning to nourish me, and being a television host is starting to suit me. Let’s just hope the rest of Italy feels the same way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sognando Italia

I was always told, "give a busy person something to do and it will get done"...and I find this to be true. Oh lord, how I do. However, what they don't tell you is that when one is busy- some of the secondary things get pushed to the side. I.e. blogging, writing, running, inventing new recipes, keeping in touch with old friends and of course, manicures ;)
In the past four/five months, I have been in and out of Rome- traveling for work and admittedly, for pleasure. I have begun planning a wedding, raised the most special puppy in the world, remodeled a new home- AMAZING VILLA in the middle of Rome, and have helped to create, organize and begin pre-production of my newest baby/endeavor- an Italian television program aptly titled, Sognando Italia (Dreaming of Italy). Below is the facebook link (become a fan!) and the website will be up soon.
I have to say, despite incredibly long hours, moments of doubt and hesitation and above all, fear of the unknown- I know that without a dubious bone in my body, this next phase is right... I.e. I am exactly where I was meant to be.
The production crew and I will be leaving Italy for the U.S. in mid-September to film: hitting New York, Chicago, Washington, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New Orleans and Miami and will return to Italy by the end of November (not before my bachelorette party in Miami though!)
Therefore, I would like to present you with, Moi- Italian Television Presenter! Who would have thought doing an MBA would lead me here? I plan on blogging during the filming and post-production process so I hope that whatever it is I encounter- whether it be triumphs or failures, laughter or tears- I can share with you.
Wish me luck...