To My Younger Self

Dear
This will probably come as no surprise to many of you but I have spent a great deal of time in therapy. After my divorce and losing my brother, I started weekly visits to Barb. We had a good run together. Four years. A success. The one thing I can still hear her saying, all these years later, is “Maybeth, you must nurture that sad little girl inside of you. What would you say to her today.” Nearly four years since my last visit to Barb, I finally came up with the words to say to my younger self. Hopefully you will find some peace in these words too.

Dearest May,
Who would have thought we would come this far and end up back 30 miles out to sea. Remember when we left and said we would never return. Funny how plans always seem to change. I was having a conversation with my dear friend Liz last week and we were talking about what we would say to our younger selves to help us today. What I can tell you is this… love yourself. To realize that indeed you are good enough, you are smart enough and you are beautiful inside and out will change you. When I think back to all those years I never allowed myself to enjoy food or indulge in a sweet treat because I didn’t think I was thin enough, I am just sad. Good news, we have finally made up for it! Enjoy life and eat dessert first, as my favorite bakery suggests. Life is far too short to worry about those calories. But do remember to be kind to your body. Nourish it. Eat your leafy greens and yogurt and try to shy away from soda and processed foods. We really are what we eat.

After learning to love and accept yourself the next exciting but sometimes challenging act is finding that certain someone who makes your heart skip a beat . Little May, please know you should never, ever be with someone who doesn’t treat you like the true gift you are. Don’t settle. Don’t stay with a man because you are afraid of being alone. And don’t try to force someone into loving you. When someone shows you their true colors, pay attention. People can certainly grow and change over time but know you will never be the force to change that person. Be patient, my dear. There are wonderful ones out there. Until you meet him, date. Meet people. Awful dates give you something to talk to your girlfriends about, I promise. They also help you figure out what is really important in that life partner. Here is a hint… it’s not just about looks. Find the one who makes you laugh!

Speaking of girlfriends, spend a great deal of time nurturing these relationships. Boyfriends will come and go, your family will sometimes disappoint, but your girlfriends will always be there. A weekend away with the ones who know you best is always a good thing.

Little May, I know you still carry around a great deal of pain over your childhood. Know that Mom and Dad did the best they could at the time. Life is never as black and white as we think. We need to get comfortable with the gray. And know, everyone’s family has their complications. You are not alone in this. Learn to accept your parents and your siblings for the unique and wonderful people they are. Will they let you down? Of course. And you know what, you may do the same to them. It’s ok.

Please try to not be so perfect. Life is all about the struggle. Everyone is trying to figure it out just like you. Our mistakes and imperfections are what make us who we are and you know what, you are pretty great. And don’t always look for the answers. Sometimes they aren’t always clear. As one of my favorite quotes go… “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” Some of the best advice I could give you.

So hang in there. If you are feeling down one day, that’s ok. Be true to your feelings. Honesty really is the best policy.

Love to you always. I promise there are great things ahead!

Love Story

True Love
Don’t you just love hearing how people meet? How just one day paths cross and lives are changed forever. As a hopeless romantic, I am constantly asking couples I meet how they met. This past summer, a sweet Australian couple told me how they met on a train platform. A dear friend met her husband at church upon settling into a new city. Just today at the shop one of our artists told me she met her husband at The Muse, a local Nantucket watering hole. But my favorite story by far is that of my sweet grandparents, Malcolm and Gladys. My grandfather tells it like this…

I was working on the docks and my buddy mentioned to me that there was a new girl visiting the island from Fairhaven. Rumor had it her father had a fishing boat. He said she was quite cute and that he was going to ask her out to the movies that evening. I, trusting his judgement, quickly told him that she was already busy that night as I had asked her out. Now, I hadn’t even met her yet but knew our paths would cross later that day. And of course, they did. On Main Street, with my buddy, we saw your grandmother and I promptly asked if she would join me at the movies. The rest is history.

Amazing, right? I love the confidence of my grandfather. Fighting for the girl he hadn’t even met yet (perhaps this is where my hopeless romanticism comes from). And now, in their 69th year of marriage, these two continue to be my hope and inspiration for love. They both will attest it takes work. My grandmother says she just got lucky. I think they both did and so did I.

malcolm & gladys

Listen

Love Yourself
Friends, I had an epic fail yesterday. I woke up early to make a batch of my go-to chocolate chip cookies for a certain someone for Valentine’s Day. The plan was to send them overnight today to my old city but with Winter Storm Pax on the way I thought I better get them in the mail ahead of the storm. I love this recipe because the cookies always come out just as a cookie should be: crispy, chewy and delicious. But on the one day when it really mattered how they turned out, they were just, how do I say, not good. How could I possibly send along to that someone I wanted to impress?

But then I took a step back. And listened. The universe was giving me a sign. You see, I tend to put myself out there a bit too much. My dear friends (thank you so much) have certainly heard me analyze relationships over and over again. I will admit, I think I’ve gotten better but as my wise friend Mary told me just this past week “May, you have to guard your heart.” So universe, thank you for making me take pause and listen. While sending cookies along to Mr. Boston would certainly be a nice gesture, perhaps Valentine’s Day is not the time to do so. He knows how I feel about him and has shared how he feels about me but our timing is just a bit off. In the end, timing is everything. And you know what, I believe he and I are both worth the wait.

Island life is teaching me to be patient. And listen. Two important lessons for this girl. And thus, I guess I will be my special someone to impress today for as Carrie Bradshaw reminds me, “the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

To H

Letter H
My sweet H… How are you on this chilly Friday? Warm and cozy by the fire, I hope!

Did you learn about Martin Luther King this week at school? We observe his birthday every year on the third Monday of January (he was born on January 15). You know why? Rev. King was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement (and yes, your Mom and I were not alive then). Between 1957 and 1968, Rev. King traveled over six million miles to protest racial segregation through non-violent sit-ins and talks and marches. I am sad to say that there was a time when not everyone was treated as equals. One of Rev. Kings’ greatest legacies in his speech “l Have a Dream”, that he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. This speech, along with his continued protests of racial segregation, brought about change. And while there is still work to do, we have Dr. King to thank for so much.

I have learned a great many lessons from the words of Martin Luther King but my absolute favorite is this: “I have decided to stick to love… hate is too great a burden to bear.” I am going to let you in on a little secret, my dear. Love really is the only thing that matters. If you have love in your heart and truth in your words and convictions, you will go far. Please, please try not to carry anger or resentment. It will only eat at you, I promise.

I’m on the slow boat now and my internet service keeps coming in and out so I will bring this letter to a close. Know that I love you and hope to see you very soon, thinking the second weekend in February. Perhaps you will be my Valentine. How lucky would I be!

Until next time, continue to be you for you are simply the best!
Auntie May

My Light

Will
As a little girl there was only one thing I wanted… a brother. When my Mom called that September day to tell me she had just delivered her fourth daughter (my third sister), I put down the phone, grabbed my pre-packed basket with all the necessities a four-year old could possibly need (white t-shirts, underpants (as we loved to call them then), my blanket (of course) and snacks) and off I went. I had warned my mother before she left that if she didn’t bring me a brother, I would leave. Granted, one couldn’t go very far on an island and by nightfall I was back home. But the longing for a brother stayed with me.

Nearly 9 years later, William Ashton was born. My world changed that day. You see, I was a determined and driven little girl (I mean I did run away from home at the age of 4) and dreamt of the Ivy Leagues and law school and thus children and being a mom was never really a thought. But then, I held my new brother just hours old for the first time. And my world stopped. The instant bond and love I had for little Will was like nothing I had experienced before.

From that day on, my life goal was quite simple… to be the best big sister I could be. I enjoyed every basketball game at The Club, little league games at The Delta Fields, pizza nights at Sophie T’s, just times together. As we both got older, I cherished visits to my apartment in Boston and proudly took Will to his first concert at The Orpheum. Moe. What a trip.

And then the unimaginable happened. I was walking down Charles Street that January night in 2008 and my world stopped. Again. My sister called to tell me that William had been in an accident and was taken to the emergency room. I looked at the time and realized there was no way for me to get home. The 7 pm flight from Logan was taking off in 10 minutes and the last boat was leaving Hyannis in an hour. I couldn’t get home to be by his side. Thirty minutes later, my mom called and told me that William was gone.

To this day, it is still difficult for me to comprehend that my sweet brother is not here. I will never see his smile or be the reason he laughs again. I will never see him graduate from college, fall in love, get married, be a father. I have written about loss before but nothing, even my divorce, compares. You know what I struggle with most… what were the last words I spoke to him. We had spent the holidays together and enjoyed our yearly ritual of going for a drive to look at all the Christmas lights. I remember him getting out of the car and opening my door to give me a big hug. Did I tell him I loved him then? Did I tell him how proud I was of him? I think so but I can’t remember. It still eats at me to this day.

I try to find peace in the written word and this past weekend, I picked up Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons. Her Short Guide to a Happy Life has always been one of my favorites. She writes “I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. This is what makes us human. This is why our world is so precious.” I have learned that the hard way. People often comment that I have such strength in going after what I want. I have my brother to thank for this. So let his passing remind you of this too. If you want something, fight for it. If you love someone, tell them. If you have wronged someone, apologize. Life is far too short to hold onto any fear.

And Will, thanks for continuing to shine your light on me. You were everything I ever hoped a brother could be and so much more. Can’t wait to see you again!

Movie Monday

her
I started off my New Year indulging in one of my favorite activities… a movie at Kendall Square Theatre. The decision of which film to see was a bit difficult as there are many amazing films out right now (American Hustle was our second choice) but alas we decided on her, a Spike Jonze love story. And you know me, I love a good love story.

her, set in a not-so-distant future L.A., tells the story of Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix. From the first clip, the viewer is introduced to Theodore’s amazing ability to express love through the written word, his daytime job a writer at beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. We soon learn that he is going through a heartbreaking divorce from his wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara. It becomes quite evident that Theodore leads a lonely existence as we see him leave work and immediately log into his email (through an ear piece that listens to his commands). In his stark apartment that appears to be missing a dining table but has four chairs, Theodore sits back to play hours of interactive video games. And the only slight enjoyment we see him experience is a late night encounter with a lonely woman from the internet. Theodore exists in a city full of people being alone together. A feeling I am sure many of us can relate to.

Enter Samantha, the operating system Theodore falls in-love with. At first, this may sound like a crazy idea. How can one fall in-love with an operating system? But what Samantha provides Theodore is something we all need: someone who listens and is there when we need them. Since Samantha is linked to Theodore’s computer, she is able to review his emails in seconds, to get a sense of who he is and thus the getting-to-know-you period is virtually instant. She anticipates his needs and meets every one of them, even his physical desires. Samantha is there when he falls asleep at night (often asking to watch him sleep) and is there in the morning when he opens his eyes. It all seems ideal.

But as the movie progresses, we learn that Samantha is talking with hundreds of others. What Theodore thinks is only his, he soon realizes, is in-fact shared by many. The only other significant relationship we see Theodore have is with his upstairs neighbor Amy, played by Amy Adams, who herself has separated from her husband. I believe it is Amy who provides the key takeaway from the movie… “We are only here briefly. And while here, I want to allow myself joy.”

This film questions what makes love real: the lover, the loved one, or the means by which love is shared? Have you had a relationship purely over your mobile device, without much physical contact, that made you think you had it all? I know I have. Is the human form a necessary? A movie to make you think.

Joaquin Phoenix certainly has my vote for Best Actor. He was in one word, superb.

To H

Letter H

My sweet little H,

Are you beyond excited for the man in the red suit to come down your chimney next week? It’s crazy how the holidays just sneak up on us out of nowhere. I feel like just yesterday we were hanging at Children’s Beach. Oh wait… that was over a year ago! You are going to get tired of me saying this to you over the years, but time really does fly by.

I know it might be hard to believe, but Christmas isn’t all about the presents. Now don’t get me wrong, the presents are wonderful and fun to open but the true meaning of Christmas, I believe, is showing acts of love. Not only to our family and friends but to those who sometimes need it most. The ones in-fact we may not even know.

My parents started a wonderful tradition years ago. Each year, they make a donation in our honor to a charity that is near and dear to our hearts. In several instances, these organizations are ones that we have volunteered at throughout the year. And you know what these gifts have taught me… sometimes the best gifts are not those that we receive but rather those we give away.

It’s so easy to want more. We all do but at this time of year, please remember those who have far less than you and me, my dear. As Janie Maeditere said “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”

I will leave you with this thought. Christmas is not a date on the calendar, but rather a state of mind and one, I believe, that should be celebrated throughout the year.

Wishing you the merriest of days, little H. Having you in my life is one of the greatest gifts!

Hugs and kisses,
Auntie May

Gratitude

Gratitude
Indeed. I am so very grateful, and especially on this day of thanksgiving. And thus, first and foremost, I want to say thanks to all of you out there who read this little blog and let me share my life with you. Your comments, words of encouragement, actually clicking a link to read a story… still blown away by it all.

One of the things I value most in my writing is the actual act of putting pen to paper. For once the written word is down, it can never be erased. I believe it was Hemingway who wrote “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Well, today I am not going to write about what hurts but instead write hard and clear about what I am most grateful for. And there is so much.

My sisters – Megan, Marie and Michelle. Since returning to the island, I have come to realize that we are viewed as a package deal… The Soverino sisters. What a force to be reckoned with we are. And while I know we are all so different in how we view and approach this life, I want you to know that I am who I am today because of you. I can’t imagine life without you.

My brothers (from another mother) – Todd, Travis, Connor and Will. All I ever wanted as a little girl was a brother. And then, life brought me four. You have set the standard for what a man should be in my eyes. You guys are the best. And Will, thanks for looking down on me. I feel your presence always.

Nantucket – My sweet island. We have always had this push/pull relationship. Thank you for wrapping me up in your beauty and tranquility this past year and nurturing me through this year of discernment. And if I should leave you again, know you are always home and I am so very grateful for that.

My grandparents – Later on today, I will be enjoying dessert with my dear grandparents, Gladys and Malcolm, two of the sweetest people you will ever meet. Just last month, they celebrated 68 years together as husband and wife. Can you believe it?! My grandfather is known around town for always having a plentiful stash of lifesavers in his pocket to share and my grandmother keeps everyone at the nursing home on their toes with her laughter and charm. You both are a testament to all that is good in this world and have taught me that life really is about the simple things. So grateful to still be able to share these holidays with you both.

My friends – I began to list you all out by name but then realized that would probably bore my readers so I hope you know who you are. From San Diego to Germany, I am blessed to know some of the greatest people who walk this earth. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there for me and making me laugh when I need it.

My little people – My sweet nephews, god-daughter, friends’ little ones… you all have returned my childhood innocence to me. Playing Candyland, or dolls, or riding bikes together, life really is sweet through your eyes.

New beginnings – We have all had them… ups and downs and moments where we think we can’t go any further. But then, the universe opens herself up and reveals a new beginning and you can’t imagine your life being any other way. These moments take my breath away and make me oh so thankful.

The little things – Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds, a delicious latte with extra foam, a good book, my iPod, my Netflix account, the fast ferry, the slow ferry, my Volvo, a cozy sweater, my kitchen knife, my cookbook collection, my passport, an afternoon movie at Kendall theatre, Flour bakery, macaroons from Miette… the little things in life that warm my heart.

I hope you enjoy this day surrounded by the ones you love. And remember “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Wise words indeed, President Kennedy.

To H

Letter H
My dearest H… I am so excited that I get to see you next week. Can’t wait to see the new house and your new room. Are you having so much fun? Thinking hide and seek in all the rooms will be a must!

One thing I know you are just beginning to learn about is the great joy(s) of being a big sister. As your mama might have told you, Auntie May comes from a rather large family. I am blessed to be the big sister to not only two sisters but three brothers. And let me tell you, at times it can be a bit challenging. You see, we are all so unique in our needs, desires and how we communicate with each other. So, my words of advice for you this week is get to know what makes your little sister smile. Is it reading Thomas the Train? Or playing dress-up in your closet? These things will certainly change with time but it is important to take the time to really get to know your sister. And in turn, I promise she will get to know you too.

Alright little H. Sweet dreams and I will see you on Monday!

To H

Letter H
I realize I didn’t make a formal introduction of the sweet little girl I was wishing happy birthday to a few weeks back. Forgive me. Her name is Henrietta. She is my god-daughter; is blessed with two of the greatest people I know for parents; and is the big sister to sweet little A. I thought it might be fun to share with her some lessons I have learned along the way. The first… take notice!

*************************

My sweet H –

I simply can’t believe you turned three a few weeks ago. I still remember making the trip down to Collingswood to meet you when you were just a few weeks old. I knew instantly we had a special bond and I am so honored to call you my god-daughter.

First and foremost, I must say, I am writing these words simply as a point of reference for you. Now that I am in my thirties (not quite sure how this has happened) I realize that I wish I had been told similar things in my younger days. Not that I regret anything but I think points of view are always good to have and to hear. As your Mommy may have told you, I have been through quite a few changes these past few years. Last year, I decided to leave my steady life in Boston for Nantucket. I call it “my pause on life.” I wanted and needed some quite time to listen to that inner voice of mine (first lesson – listen to yours too) and you know what I have come to realize, the things I loved to do as a little girl are exactly what I am doing right now. Writing. It is something I did all the time as a child. Poems, short stories, our neighborhood paper. I loved to write. And somehow, along the way I lost that.

So my sweet H – my first lesson for you is this: take notice. If you find yourself doing something and loving every minute of it, maybe just maybe that is your calling.

Until next time, know that I think of you often and can’t wait to hear all about your vintage car birthday party this weekend. So sad to miss it.

Love you to the moon and back, my dear!
Auntie May