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A CURIOUS CASE OF EXPECTATION

Michele Amitrani

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I wish I could handle my expectations. Even better, I wish I could bottle my expectations somewhere dark and deep and just forget about them. At least for a while.
Expectations are a dangerous thing. They prepare you for something that most likely will never happen, and when, of course, that thing doesn’t happen you are demoralized, or sad, or angry, or all these things and more.
I’m an ‘expectationalist’ of the worst kind. I don’t know if there is a cure for this kind of illness. So, not knowing one, I do the next best thing I know to get along: I write about it.
I don’t want to sound too harsh with Ms. Expectation, of course.
She has a lot of merits too.
In fact, it’s not the expectation itself that is the problem here. It’s rather the importance that I, as many of us, give to it. 
Expectations can be a good thing, if well handled. They can be a force for good, a powerful engine for change, and a cure for inactivity and procrastination. 
But only taken in the right dosage.
Funny. If you think at it this way, it almost looks like a coin. A spinning one. Doesn’t it? The bad side and the bright side turning and turning in the air. 
Well, sometimes the coin just land on the wrong side.
So what is the lesson here? What is the taking? Should we stop playing the ‘expectations game’? Should we crook the game? Should we pretend it doesn’t exists? Should we write a blog post about it?
For now, I’ll do the only thing that feels wise, on this moment. I’ll stop tossing the coin in the air, I’ll open the refrigerator, and I’ll get some chocolate.

THE EMPTY HEART AT SEA

Michele Amitrani

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This is a short story I told my 5 months old nephew Alessandro a few days ago while watching over him for a few minutes. 

I think he smiled a couple of times while I was telling it. Sure, it might have been also the prelude of a regurgitation. I guess I’ll never know. 

Anyways I decided that it was nice to keep the memory of it. So here it is. I added a few parts here and there, but the core of the story remains.

Thank you for listening, Chibiale. ;)

THE EMPTY HEART AT SEA

Captain Kegaria was the youngest and bravest of the eleven seas.

He was respected and honoured by the captains of every corner of the world, and well known for his courage. Kegaria was a famous adventurer and an explorer, always looking for magical and mysterious places where to find the greatest treasures a man could lay his hands on.

Once the Captain heard the story of a chest no one could open in an island almost impossibile to reach, a chest that was fabled to contain the greatest treasure of the world.

After listening to the story, he decided to set sails for the island, along with dozens other captains eager to open the chest that could not be opened.

After months and months and many perils, they found the island, beneath an ancient temple near the coast. The temple, they soon found out, had been built by a long forgotten civilization that once inhabited the island. And deep beneath the temple, they found the chest.

It was big, the biggest Captain Kegaria had ever seen, and entirely made by a metal no one could recognize.

The captains spent days trying to open it. They tried tricks, strength, fire, curses, but nothing worked. 

Kegaria decided that their efforts were hopeless. He spoke to the others and said that the only way to open the chest was to go looking for somebody in that island that could tell them more about the lost civilization.

But the captains were scared to venture in that strange place, and they felt safe only near their ships and so Kegaria went alone exploring the island, trying to find a person still alive on that island that could tell him how to open the chest.

Eventually he found a small cave in the middle of the island, and inside the cave he saw a yellow smoke rising. He called out, and a very old lady, with long green hair and purple eyes came out.

The Captain asked her questions, and found out that she was the last remaining daughter of the extinguished civilization that once inhabited the island. 

Kegaria asked her how to open the chest. 

After looking at him with her deep, purple eyes, she said, “You will have to sing a song.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Captain.

“The only way to open the chest, is to sing it a song,” the old woman explained.

“What kind of song?”

“The one you mean the most,” was her answer. She then returned to her cave, closed the entrance door leaving the Captain alone with his thoughts.

Kegaria returned to his crew and to the other captains, and told them what he discovered. 

And so one after the other the captains started to sing songs.

Every man sang a different song, a song that reflected his personality.

One of them repeated loudly the song his crew was used to sing when everyone was busy sailing the ship in the looniness of the open water. 

Another one choose the song of battle, when a ship clashes against another, and courage and madness meet blood and steal over money and power. 

The oldest captain sang the only song left when there are no others, when a man wake up in his bed, and found his hair grey and his teeth missing, and finally understand that time took the best part of his life without he even realizing it.

A song after the other was sang. Nothing worked. The chest remained closed.

After one months, the captains started to depart one after the other. They saw no sense in remaining in that forgotten island, singing songs to a chest that would not open.

Only Captain Kegaria remained.

He spent a long time there, when the other captains left him, alone in front of the chest. 

One day he felt loneliness creeping at him and he realized he was thinking of his family, back home. He had left his wife and infant son in search for gold and adventures.

He felt a deep pang of pain inside him. He had spent so much time away, he couldn’t remember how his wife looked like. 

A solitary tear rolled down his cheek, and Captain Kegaria, the bravest man of the eleven seas, could not keep his sorrow at bay any further. He started crying silently, while thinking to his son.

How old was him, now?

He must have been a boy of five years, maybe seven? It was difficult to remember. The passing of time had become a succession of one adventure after the other. A long, blurred stretch of events without meaning.

Captain Kegaria tried hard to remember how it felt like to be a father.

The glimpse of a memory surfaced. He remembered the song he singed to his infant boy, the only one that made him smile. 

He opened his mouth, and started singing.

Captain Kegaria heard a noise, and looked in front of him. The chest was open. 

Bewildered, he came closer to look inside it.

The chest was empty. There was no treasure inside it. No gold, no diamonds, no precious, nothing. 

And it was then that Kegaria realized that the treasure he found was not material. No. It was the simplicity of a realization.

For so many years he had been away from home, away from his family, chasing things that were not meant to make him happy. 

The last time he had been happy was not on his ship, giving orders to his crew, making a name for himself and putting gold in his pockets.

It had been while holding hands with his wife, while  Kegaria was singing a son to his child.

The Captain stood, left the island and went home. Where his treasure chest was waiting.

ON PLANS AND EXPECTATIONS

Michele Amitrani

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In the past four years, I’ve set goals on a daily, monthly and a yearly basis and I tried as much as I could to stick to them. Most of them I achieved, but few times I appreciated the act of completing them.

And this can have sour results in the long run.

I always strive for more, and have little interest in celebrating any kind of accomplishments simply because for me they are little more than check marks on a to do list.

I don’t know what it feels like to be satisfied by completing something and putting it in the real world, I only know how to check an item on a piece of paper and turn the page for more.

This is way I sometimes fell nothing I did since I started my go-get-it writing marathon really made me happy. It just made me busy.

And here I am, writing to you about a truth I seldom admit to myself. Is this some sort of complain? A way to channel my fear? A solitary thought written in my kitchen after sleeping for less than three hours? Just a way to fill up time? 

I’m not sure. And I don’t really care, because on my to do list I’m reading, ‘Write at least two blog posts per month in English’, and that is exactly what propels my fingers on the keyboard: Keeping promises to myself, regardless of the outcome, regardless of any contingent thoughts.

What matters in the end is a series of imperatives that define who I really am.

Look at the big picture. Stick to the plan. Keep writing. Don’t lose hope. 

And enjoy every moment of it.

SHARPEN YOUR AXE

Michele Amitrani

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This sentence, supposedly said by Abraham Lincoln, got me thinking since I started writing my novel.

There is something I noticed in the past couple of months, something I guess I’ve always been aware of but that now is becoming quite clear. I tend to write too much about a story I know too little.

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THE EVER CHANGING STORY

Michele Amitrani

My story has a will of its own.
I mean, seriously. And it’s driving me crazy.
I must have written close to 20,000 words in the last few weeks. I’ll be lucky if I’ll be able to use a fifth of them.
Yup. Everything changes on an hourly basis.
Main characters I believed would be the backbone of the plot are gone. Other have been relocated. Few have survived.

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