What Happened When I Tried to be Melissa Ambrosini
We all have a vision of how our “perfect self” lives. Mine was morning yoga in my backyard facing east at sunrise, a hot cup of lemon water or tea, a few hours creating literary gold on my laptop, a walk in nature, a bath with lavender oil and soothing music, an hour’s worth of blissful meditation, a home-cooked meal at the table with my hubs, a book on the deck with another cup of tea to the symphony of crickets and redwing blackbirds as the sun set on another day of perfect health, wealth, and happiness, then finally slipping off to bed for sleep as restful as the day was exhilarating. In this perfect vision, the dishes would always be washed, the floors would always be clean, all my household chemicals would be replaced by their expensive, natural counterparts, and I’d have given up my blessed perfume fetish in favor of non-toxic essential oils.
Amazingly, there was a woman who was already living this kind of life, in one way or another, and her name was Melissa Ambrosini.
I should be clear—I’ve never camped outside her living room window or stalked her every move (I’m not crazy). We don’t even live on the same continent. I make assumptions about her life because of what she chooses to share through her books and social media. Quickly she became the embodiment of everything I thought I wanted in a body, home, and life. She hadn’t always been a shining image of health, wealth, and happiness, but that only made her more beautiful. She had the courage to pull herself out of the darkest days of her life into the light of her truest self, then casted that light onto her tribe like a beacon in the night.
And I rushed to soak up the rays.
It’s a bitch of a thing when you realize that all the things you thought you wanted really don’t make you happy.
Morning yoga in my backyard without a parka is only practical half the year; the other half eludes me for reasons I can’t explain. Most days I can’t force literary gold (who am I kidding? I can’t even force literary bronze), and the nature walk is just a hasty trek to the end of my road while I wrangle my pupp from sniffing every urine deposit from every dog that walked the road before us. I like tea, but I like coffee even more, and while you’ll likely find me on the deck at sunset when it’s not covered in snow, it’s with a glass of red wine because brewed chamomile just doesn’t cut it. I love essential oils and have been integrating them wholeheartedly into my home and personal care routine, but you’ll probably have to pry my favorite perfume from my cold, dead fingers.
Still, I looked at my dear Melissa and thought, “She’s got it. She’s everything that I want for myself. I know it won’t be easy, but I can do it. I can have/be/do all these things, and then I’ll be living my best version, my truest life too.”
Maybe you can already see where I messed up.
First, it’s easy to get confused and mistake her ideal life for mine. Yes, my shining version of health takes a lot of pages from the books she’s already written, but I am my own woman. I want to live my best life, not a poor man’s version of someone else’s.
Second, every time I woke up and skipped the lemon water for my blessed creamer (with a dash of coffee), sat in front of the TV instead of curled up with a book, failed to squeak out enough words on the page for a whole sentence, and skipped yoga (again) because I was just plain lazy, I felt the ideal get farther and farther away until there didn’t seem to be a point in chasing it. I would never be perfect. I would never be the best version of me if I couldn’t commit to even the smallest change, and I would certainly never be Melissa.
After a few weeks of harsh battering by my inner critic, or—as Melissa Ambrosini calls it, my “Mean Girl”—a realization slowly dawned. Maybe the reason there’s so much resistance to these changes isn’t because my ego refuses to cooperate, but because they’re really not who I am.
Is it possible that I’m not the girl who happily starts her day with yoga and meditation? I enjoy sipping coffee at my laptop at 6AM. Have I deemed that wrong because there’s something “better” I should be doing? And what about the wine? I gave up alcohol for five months last year and the only thing I missed was the taste of red. A little vino greases my creative wheels. It’s not a crime unless I make it one.
I’m not saying there isn’t room (OK, a LOT of room) for change, but maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Melissa Ambrosini, and women like her, aren’t the objects of my admiration because they tried to be something they are not. It’s because they created lives in alignment with their truest selves. I don’t know what my true self looks like yet, but I get glimpses of her when I stop trying to be someone else. It’s possible she likes the idea of yoga—or the sense of calm people who practice it seem to carry—more than doing the downward dog, or that she doesn’t need to guzzle beer every night but finds joy in pouring a glass of cab and cranking out a few pages. Maybe those things aren’t wrong; maybe they’re just who she is.
I feel like I know what Melissa would say in her titillating Australian accent if she read this. It would be something heartfelt and perfect like, “Hello Beautiful. You are perfect just as you are. You just need to honor yourself and trust yourself. You can’t live your life in the shadow of someone else’s ideal. Stand apart and be YOU.”
And, of course, she’s right. I still like to look to her and the ever-growing flock of inspirational women—and men—who are at the helm of their lives, charting exciting and passion-fueled courses, and sharing their stories for those of us who aren’t there yet, because they give me hope. The only thing that separates me—or any of us—from them is that they listen to their heart and follow it, wherever that crazy love muscle may lead.