Giving Thanks Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Deal

It’s Thanksgiving week which means we’re all thinking about one of two things – the food or what we’re thankful for (or perhaps the devastating effects of colonization, but I’ll leave it up to you). In any case, gratitude should be a part of this week, and some would argue that it should be a part of daily life. Gratitude is definitely having a moment in the self-care space with people spouting all kinds of practices surrounding it that promise to increase happiness and decrease stress. There are multiple different ways to integrate it into daily life that can be far more impactful than just spending a few days on it each year. 

In my opinion, the thing people most often miss about gratitude is the feeling of intention, which can be applied to a much wider range of things than the big ideas. Of course, I’m enormously grateful for my loving family, my friends, my health, the fact that I have no problem affording all the basic necessities in life. But those are easy to think about – because they are so ever present. So I stop actively thinking about how much they do for me. They are huge facets of my life and I would sound insane if I said I wasn’t grateful for them but they aren’t the only things to be grateful for. 

What about all the little things? I personally prefer spending a little time each day being grateful for little things. I spend maybe a minute every day thinking about three small things I’m grateful for and, I hate to sound cliche, it does improve my day. 

For example, on Thursday of last week, I wrote down that I was grateful for having a good hair day, that my sister always picks up the phone when I need to cry, and I was grateful for that the sun had come out that day. These are random, the first things that came to mind as I started the exercise, nothing groundbreaking. 

But the reason this works for me is that throughout the day I inevitably get stressed a little bit – I’m high strung what can I tell you – and thinking about these little things in the morning gives me something to come back to when I start to get angry or annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I still let the negative emotions flow, but I don’t spiral because my gratitude practice produces this little nagging voice at the back of my mind that is actually positive. I’ll be frustrated at the slow response from a team member and the voice will say ‘yeah that sucks, but look outside. Look at how the sun sparkles off the lake’ and then I can’t really marinate in my misery quite as well with that little thought peeking through. 

That is the power of gratitude. If you find new things to be grateful for every day then the feeling retains its impact. You don’t feel the need to roll your eyes at yourself for picking the same things. You’re allowed to be grateful for the same things all the time, but you’re also allowed to be grateful for things that only apply to you – the seemingly small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Because if you allow yourself to intentionally feel for them, you may end up with more positivity than you thought. 

IMG_0889
PC: Tiffany Wong; Grateful for vacation time to take this photo in Portugal

Fall Favorites

I love favorites videos on YouTube – they’re how I’ve discovered a lot of products, books, and apps that I consistently use and adore in my own life. As such, I’m going to try and post Seasonal favorites for awhile. These lists will always be varied as I don’t typically shop a lot for fashion or beauty items, but I am always trying new things.

Wellness: 

Breakfast – recently I added a new breakfast recipe to my rotation. It goes like this: One large toasted piece of sourdough bread with salted butter, arugula, two pieces of bacon, a fried egg, and some grueyere cheese shaved on top. Takes about seven minutes to make and looks like a restaurant should’ve charged you $17 for it. 

Jump Rope – There’s a standard speed rope in my apartment building’s gym complex that I picked up one day and have absolutely fallen in love with using jump rope for warm ups and as part of HIIT circuits. If I use it as a warm up – I do 40 sec on, 20 sec off for 5-10 min and I vary my jumps throughout the 40 seconds. If I use it in HIIT circuits, it’s usually 30 second intervals of speed jumping. It’s amazing at getting your heart rate up in a short period of time. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to get some cardio into your routine but hate the steady state of a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.

Olly Vitamins – These are gummy vitamins that exist for all sorts of purposes. I have the women’s multivitamin that comes in a berry flavor. Typically I don’t take any vitamins or supplements, but these are so fun I couldn’t resist. For women they also come with some extra vitamin D and biotin to cater especially to our body’s needs. I like them because they make vitamins fun. That’s literally it.

Beauty/Skincare: 

Kosas Weightless Lipstick (Fringe) – I am not a lipstick girl, precisely because I find lip products to be super high maintenance. Lip gloss? Gets stuck in my hair. Lip stains? Turn flakey too quickly. Lipstick? Fades unevenly as soon as I eat or drink anything. So when I discovered Kosas’s lipstick as recommended as one that is easy to stain lips but doesn’t try and fades evenly I was intrigued. I picked up Fringe which is halfway between a bright red and a brick red and I love it. I put it on over lip balm, blend it in with my finger to make it look less done and I don’t have to worry about it after that. Yes it does fade, but it fades EVENLY which is all I can ask for. 

Ole Henrikson Truth Serum – This is one of the best vitamin C serums on the market and it’s probably one of the most affordable as well. I recently had some pretty bad breakouts and put this product back in my rotation to prevent any scarring and I had forgotten how much it helps my skin look brighter and more even consistently. As such I’ve added it back into my regular routine with the products I mentioned last month here. 

 

Media

Red Notice by Bill Browder (book): An incredible nonfiction story about one man and how he became the highest financier in Russia, to one of Russia’s biggest enemies, to a champion for international human rights. It’s all true but it reads like a thriller. I would describe very few non-fiction stories as true page-turners but this one qualifies. The stuff that happened to Browder is so unbelievable that the end of almost every chapter leaves you shocked yet ravenous to find out how he survives it.  

One Punch Man – Season 2 (subbed) came out on Hulu and I was pumped! I love this show so much mostly because the main character is just so amazing. The show is basically about a  hero who is so strong he can defeat any villain with one punch, easily, comically. As such, he faces an existential crisis because no one is strong enough to offer a real challenge. Season two focuses more on other characters and the infrastructure behind the world and there’s some pretty incredible action sequences. 

Parasite (Bong Joon Ho) – the Korean film that stole the show at the Cannes film festival is out in theaters in the states right now and it is a banger. The movie is about a con artist family who preys on a wealthy family. It’s an edge of your seat type film with some amazing dissection of the class system baked in. The imagery is insane, the characters are charming to a fault and it keeps you guessing. This director also did Snowpiercer which is my favorite movie of all time. 

Demon Slayer (subbed) – is another anime that is on Hulu. A girlfriend recommended it to me while I was in Spain with her and it is so good. The story revolves around a boy whose family is killed by a demon. His sister survives, but barely and he becomes a demon slayer to turn her back into a human. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite the simple description I just gave, the story is rich and keeps you clicking that next episode button. 

Miscellaneous

Zojirushi Thermos  – This is it. This is the thermos to end your thermos. I have been using this to take coffee to the office on days where I just CAN’T, and I have to literally leave the lid off the thermos in order for the coffee to cool down to a drinkable temperature. I didn’t do this one day and the coffee was still burning hot well into the afternoon. Also the lid fully seals and locks so spills are kept to a minimum. Worth the investment, especially as we move into colder weather. They also make a food jar which I also have to keep soup and stews warm. I heat up my soup in the morning and it’s still piping hot when I sit down to eat at lunch. This brand is no joke. 

Dagne Dover Backpack I hate company branded attire. Even though I like my company, I don’t want to be a walking ad for them. I had been on the hunt for a good work/multifunctional backpack to replace my company bag because I hated that my company provided backpack had the logo on it and also that it had a flap top which I find ridiculously annoying. I came across Dagne Dover and finally invested in their large Dakota backpack (I bought the color Siren), and it’s amazing. The thoughtfulness of all the pocket placements internally, the minimalist design, and the comfort of this bag all make it well worth the price. 

Attachment-1 (2)
PC: Tiffany Wong in Girona Spain! The real fall favorite – travel

 

I’m Selfish

I’m selfish. That’s not nice but it’s true. I believe we’re all selfish at certain points, though few of us care to admit it. I’m not always selfish, but lately, I have been feeling it more and more often.

Lately, all I want to do is what I want to do, when and how I want to do it, and I don’t really care about what other people want – and what’s worse is that I don’t want to care about what others want. 

In fact, I don’t even want to know. Knowing what someone wants from you is a burden. Because with this knowledge comes a choice with consequences. You can choose to give them what they want or you can choose not to. But if you never knew in the first place, you can make your decision without the burden of knowing you may, in fact, have been acting completely selfishly. 

Once you have knowledge of others’ expectations, you truly have a dilemma. Because ignorance granted you immunity. Not total immunity, but some. No matter how selfish the decision, you could always claim a lack of knowledge if accosted after the fact. But once the awareness is realized – you must own your selfishness if you choose to act in a way that disregards others. It’s the choice that hurts others. It’s the fact that you knew something would hurt them and still chose that route anyway. Isolated selfishness can be completely benign, many selfish choices have absolutely no impact on others, but if not, they can cause immeasurable pain. 

However, I refuse to believe that being selfish is inherently sinful. Being too selfless can be detrimental to your health, and draining to your soul. Pursuing the actions and things that bring solely you happiness can be incredibly freeing. If you constantly tie your pursuits to others than how will you ever know what you can truly handle, what your true taste for life is? Prioritizing your own wellbeing and pleasure should not be looked at as a flaw. Bettering yourself is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself, especially since that path often leads to more selfless behavior than if it hadn’t been indulged at all. 

My current feelings are a little bit of both. I have made some isolated selfish choices that have affected no one but myself, but I have also made some knowingly causing pain for others. It’s not a path I will be on forever, but right now I really feel like looking after myself is best for where I am right now – and that is sometimes necessary. 

IMG_9506
PC: Kiki Moussetis

Little Secrets

We all live, walk, and breathe while carrying secrets. 

Some are big, but most are small. The secret of saying you’re fine when you’re not, of saying you can when you can’t. 

We tell ourselves that these secrets are ok to keep, in fact they must be kept so as not to burden those around us. After all, these are small secrets. Who wants to hear about small things? The fact is, we just don’t feel we have time for others’ secrets as well as our own. 

You see it when your friend’s eyes glaze over as you’re telling her how you’re frustrated with your love life. You see it when your partner’s eyes dart over your shoulder when you just can’t put your finger on why you’re feeling unfulfilled at work. You don’t even realize it but you learn to stop. You learn that people pretend to listen so that you’ll pretend to listen later. In one ear and out the other. 

So you keep your secrets, you dwell on them. Small ones pile on top of tiny ones and before you know it, your entire being is composed of secrets that you no longer have the ability to define nor share. 

But then someone will ask you about them. They’ll look you in the eye when they ask but you won’t believe it. The first time they ask you’ll gloss over one little secret with a laugh. That usually works. But they ask again, intently. This isn’t fair, you think. Why would you ask for my secrets when I know you won’t care? Why make me go through the pain of defending them when you don’t really want to hear them? 

But they look at you and ask again. This time, you allow your suspicion to show and you ask them if they’re sure they know what they’re asking. If they’re sure they want to see a part of you that’s insecure, lonely, or sad. If they want to see a part of you that while soul-defining is not charming, or positive, or attractive. 

They say they’re sure. Steady, attentive, waiting. You’re going to tell them now, but you feel tears prick the backs of your eyes out of fear. What if they don’t think of you the same after this? What if your delicate balance of keeping secrets has been ruined? Or worse, what if they betray their indifference? 

It’s too terrifying to tell your secrets and tolerate their eyes staring so directly at you so your gaze rises to the ceiling, falls to the floor, lingers just past their shoulder as you talk so you don’t feel the full force of their unwavering observation all at once, you’re not trained to take such concentration.

But you take the risk and you tell them. And when their attention doesn’t flicker and their eyes fill with sympathy rather than indifference, the sense of relief you feel is powerful enough to forget all the other people who didn’t listen.

9257fe55-1b62-4780-a2ab-9ccaef6b6dd2
PC: Kiki Moussetis

 

Summer Vibes

When I think of summer, I think of Greece. 

Because Greece is the only place that seems to shine in the summer as it slows down.

Summer in Chicago, or Calgary, or Los Angeles means more – more drinking, more activity, more festivals, more plans. 

But in Greece, summer means more of doing less. Summers here are simpler, slower more sensual. 

The air gets hot. But it’s ok because the hottest parts of the day are spent napping, with cicadas buzzing in the background. Everything gets so quiet in the afternoon that you actually feel like the world has stopped for a second to let you breath.

Near the water everything smells fresh despite the heat. The sea breeze is the top note, with middle notes of burning sand, and finally the fig and citrus trees overladen with fruit releasing a brightness through the palette. 

It’s of course too hot to eat heavy food so instead we eat thoroughly red tomatoes that taste like candy, and cucumbers that taste like gulps of ice cold water. We eat fish fresh from the ocean drenched in plive oil and lemon. We eat bright fruits, and juicy watermelon for dessert. And because it’s summer maybe you have a frappe or a gelato too, because why not?

It finally starts to cool off a bit when the sun goes down, but not so much that you would ever need a jacket, just enough that you stop sweating. It’s perfect weather to sit with people outside and talk, drink, laugh, and eat for hours. You could go dancing, I suppose, but I would want to be outside and as close to the sea as possible.

Summer is my favorite season, but the way of life in a Greek summer by the water clears my skin, and brings me peace so that’s the version summer I’ve chosen to love the most. 

Attachment-1
Crete. A typical Greek summer lunch.

My Blood Ran Hot

I see you as you walk into the room and I feel my blood run hot. All long limbs, smooth skin, and a quick voice. 

Now’s not the time, I think to myself. But I can’t help it. I watch you as you speak to everyone else but me. I watch your lips curl into a laugh. I watch the tendons in your wrist flex as you write. 

I’m getting distracted. Every movement you make this morning I see in my memory of last night. 

When I tell the story I can pretend that I was reluctant. I can pretend that I was naive, but we both know I wasn’t. I wanted you. I wanted your skin, your mouth, your hands. 

And you wanted me. You ran every one of your fingertips across every inch of my skin and devoured my body. 

My desire was powerful but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be perfect. Certain ideas prevail no matter the partner, but I didn’t care about those. I needed your nuances, your secrets. I needed to know what I could do so that I could permeate your mind and make myself irresistible to you.

But there’s no way I could’ve known those things. You don’t tell your secrets to someone you just met…yet it seemed like you knew the secrets of my body without ever having to hear me say them and that terrified me. 

It terrified me because I hadn’t known I was out of my element. But it became apparent quickly that you seemed to know exactly how to touch me and I had no idea how to touch you. Everything I did from that point on became laced with doubt.

In the moment when I realized your actions betrayed nothing but confidence, my mind abandoned me. My want dissolved into anxiety. What if I was doing something wrong? What if my body looked unattractive from this angle? What if everyone you’d been with before was better?

My mind took my lack of knowledge of you and transmuted it into insecurity, which in turn, suffocated my passion. My mind never considered the possibility that you wanted to impress me as well. It wasn’t about my want anymore, it was only about your want. 

I wanted to be wanted more than I wanted to satiate my own want. If I couldn’t satisfy you, what good was I? 

So when you walked in the room, my blood ran hot, not from lust, but from embarrassment. I was embarrassed that I had let everything in my world tell me that my own pleasure wasn’t as important as yours. 

………………………………

This piece was inspired by some of my thoughts that have pervaded my mind over the years in my sexual encounters. I feel like from my earliest memories of these types of situations, I remember wanting to feel wanted more than any other feeling. I wanted to be so mesmerizing and irresistible to someone else, more than I, myself, wanted to feel good. And while there is a peculiar kind of power in becoming that seductive to someone, it’s also difficult to achieve, and certainly not lasting. It has taken me, and is still taking me, a long time to consistently put my energy into feeling good instead of worrying about what my partner is thinking of me the entire time. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing for me to release it now when I’ve always been such a strong advocate for women owning their own sexuality. Because I still fall into the trap of wanting to please my partner so badly that I will compromise my own pleasure to do so, and that’s not ok. It ends up being hugely frustrating for everyone involved and it’s something I continue to be aware of in my interactions.

 

ef85eff9-f603-4ab8-8a70-4e6c60cad2e1 (1)
PC: Kiki Moussetis on location somewhere in Greece

She’s Not Me

I want you to be happy, I said. And I meant it. But then I see a picture of you with her and I feel those words in the back of my throat like bile. I’m stopped dead in my tracks as my truth becomes a lie.

Because she’s beautiful. I know nothing else about her but I know she’s not me. And knowing just that much is enough for me to create her entire being in my mind. I tell myself that she’s my opposite, because that’s what I had to tell myself you wanted when you told me you didn’t want me anymore. 

She’s light where I’m dark, soft where I’m hard – it’s easy to hate what’s not me.

But it’s easy to hate what you don’t know. And though I don’t know her, I know you. I know you couldn’t be with my opposite no matter how hard you tried, not when you loved me so fiercely.

My hate pauses for a moment as I realize she’s probably the kind of person I would have been friends with. I shake the thought away.

I must hate her. And I must hate her without hating myself so I decide instead that any similarities to me that she possesses are mere shadows of the traits that I used to love you. I now disdain the very idea of her. I repeat this over and over and convince myself that I was simply too much rather than not right at all.

I must hate her. I have to believe that she is lesser than because if she’s more, then the end of us wasn’t about you, it was about me, and my failures.

She’s yours, and I’m not. She’s your present, and I’m your past. I take a deep breath as I reconcile my lie. Turns out, I did mean it when I said I wanted you to be happy. I just forgot the part where I meant not quite as happy as you were with me.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

I know what you’re thinking but surprisingly, this piece isn’t directly about my most recent breakup, merely inspired by it, and by the rupi kaur poem below. This piece is an amalgamation of all the feelings of I’ve ever had when I find out the other person is moving on. No matter how far along in the healing process I am, there’s an ever-present need to convince myself that I’m still better than whoever their new person is so that I can cope and protect my own confidence. I’m not proud of thinking this way because logically I know that the end of a relationship has rarely been only about me, or only about the other person, its end almost always has to do with the way we fit together. Eventually, I do move past this phase but my gut reaction is always negative and I wanted to capture that. 

This piece started out a lot differently. I had written a kind of repetitive poem pitting myself against this imaginary girl that represented all of the things I was insecure about in my relationships. But then I called my sister to run it by her and she ripped it to shreds. It stung a bit but she was right. The original piece was petty and superficial and honestly didn’t capture the depth of these feelings the way the piece above does. 

Last week I got a ton of good feedback and I’d really appreciate it if you could leave your thoughts on this one somewhere as well! Did you like this week’s or last week’s better? I’m really trying to get better at this type of writing so please let me know what you think!

Hit me up on any of the platforms below!

Instagram: melinamoussetis

Facebook: melinamou

Or comment here!

the woman who comes after me will be a bootleg version of who i am. she will try and write poems for you to erase the ones i’ve left memorized on your lips but her lines could never punch you in the stomach the way mine did. she will then try to make love to your body. but she will never lick, caress, or such like me. she will be a sad replacement of the woman you let slip. nothing she does will excite you and this will break her. when she is tired of falling apart for a man that doesn’t give back what he takes she will recognize me in your eyelids staring at her with pity and it’ll hit her. how can she love a man who is busy loving someone he can never get his hands on again. 

– rupi kaur, milk and honey

IMG_8860
PC: The inimitable Clara Yu

 

One Tiny Thing

I rolled over because it was too hot. Having your arms around me was comforting and I loved it but I couldn’t take the heat radiating off your body surrounding me in addition to the summer air.

You were already asleep but when I moved you shifted on to your back. I rolled back over onto my other side so I could look at you. You always fell asleep before me. What a gift! To fall asleep as soon as you went horizontal. I was always plagued by at least a few minutes of anxieties before being able to rest, but you were just so peaceful. Your right hand was above your head, and your left rested on your chest and I already missed you.

I know I was the one that rolled over and moved away, and that it had only been a few seconds since we were last touching, but I missed you. I didn’t want to disturb you, but I couldn’t be so far apart from you and still fall asleep, so I unraveled my legs and slowly moved my right foot to find your left one. Gently. Carefully. Your peace was precious to me. Your feet were splayed out, so they were easy to find. I softly tapped the tops of my toes against the bottom of your foot. I was calm again. You were right here again. I settled my head on my pillow and closed my eyes, all my anxieties were quelled with the smallest of touches.

And then, I felt your toes curl over my foot just briefly, drawing me just a little closer, and I knew you had missed me too. Even from beyond consciousness, you wanted me close, and at that moment, I believed I had everything.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Who is this about? You get one guess. But I wanted to write it as a sort of small personal catharsis piece because a couple weeks ago I was trying to go to bed and this scene just all of a sudden came flooding back to me and I had a full-on emotional breakdown over it. I had been relatively ok for months since the breakup but then this small thing hit me and I was just destroyed. Even now I can’t write or edit the above paragraph without my eyes getting glassy.

It simultaneously represents everything I want in a relationship, but also everything I lost.  Every relationship has different tiny things like this, that you discover together and a lot of them can’t really be forced or talked about, they just have to be there. My previous relationship had a lot that made for amazing chemistry, and now…pretty devastating loss.

Additionally, I am trying to play around with different styles of writing and writing things other than straightforward, advice type articles. So if the above passage made you feel something, anything, I’d love to know.

IMG_8853
PC: Clara Yu