Pins and Needles

Today is the last day of 2013.

Normally, the thing to do is to reflect on the year that was — but I’ve pretty much done that already.

In the event you need a refresher, it goes like this: attended a few awesome concerts, quit my job and got a better one, clocked in some mileage with two trips each to Savannah and Florida, three trips to Toronto, and one to Panama, had a couple of brief but fun romances, spent more time with family and true friends, found my spiritual center with Buddhism and meditation, and stepped up my active side with a bit of running and yoga. And overall had a great damn time living my best life. 

So I’d like to take this moment to discuss something that will likely become my new favorite ritual at the closing of every year… 

Acupuncture.

Yes, that centuries-old practice of Chinese medicine in which needles are placed into your skin at specific pressure points in your body to relieve ailments and release tension.

For the uninitiated, the question “How can sticking needles in your flesh make you feel better?” is probably running through your mind the same way it did mine. I’ve never been a fan of needles of any kind. Usually, I need to be distracted by a speck on the wall or something of interest when I’m getting medical tests done or donating blood, so the prospect of being stuck rather leisurely and frequently never registered on my list of things to do — even when one of my best girlfriends sang the praises of it years ago.

But one company health fair, a charismatic and slightly aggressive woman named Helen, and a fully covered insurance plan all conspired to spark my curiosity. It might have also been her explanation of another ritual called “cupping” which was said to remove toxins and — here’s the kicker, inches — from your body.

Hey, anything that gives Gwyneth Paltrow embarrassing circular marks that look like she was probed by aliens must be worth a try, right? 

Nearly two months after my first session, and I’m hooked. Considering I resemble some variation of a human cactus for about forty minutes a day three times a week, it is surprisingly relaxing, and very often knocks me the hell out. I’m also convinced the cupping has indeed slimmed my torso a bit, and possibly removed all traces of any drink-infused holiday revelry. Double score.

I suppose the main takeaway from this experience — besides Diana is always right — would be to face your fears  — especially the ones that truly scare you — and embrace things that cause you pain.

As it turned out, those momentary pricks don’t hurt when you don’t think about them, and the trade-off is long-term relief of a greater ailment.  

Which brings me to a conversation I had last night with a friend. We were talking about our past relationships, and after speaking about how unhealthy they had become, it was then that I realized the impact of this year in particular, and what really made it so wonderful: This was the first in which anyone whose actions or otherwise were either harmful or didn’t fit my best interests were, for the most part, left to their own devices. 

Men with stories about needing breaks or more attention, being “wild”, or being lost, were left alone and encouraged do what makes them happy. Women who relied on me to do their jobs while they sat on beaches, and repaid me in poor treatment (forgetting their days of unemployment when they were treated to dinners), and those who had mocking fun at my expense (on occasions with the aforementioned), were no longer worthy of the time I’ve grown to value exponentially. Generally, anyone who had the benefit of receiving a job referral or a housewarming, wedding, child’s birthday or christening gift in the last four years (three of which were otherwise known as my underemployed years) got “time outs” if complaints were made regarding my attention span.

In short: This year I lived for me, and pursued peace of mind over being a “piece” in someone else’s game.

That unconscious purging turned out to be the best medicine I could ever hope for; when one’s life is filled with so many positive, generous, funny, creative, intelligent and just downright amazing people, it’s counterintuitive to hold on to a few who make you feel anyway other than appreciated.

My issue will never be how other’s choose to live their lives… it will be how they think I should live mine in a way that pleases them.

It is at this very moment while writing this, that I considered on my next acupuncture session to give each needle the name of someone who’s “gotten under my skin” metaphorically. I’m sure it would be some great symbolic moment to name the pins protruding from my neck after folks I consider to be pains in the neck.

But I can’t… cause that’s just stupid.

Also, for starters, all I can think about is the fact that I’m half-naked on a massage table looking like a mash-up of a voodoo doll, the bride of Frankenstein, and Pinhead from the “Hellraiser” movies. My next area of focus tends to veer toward my lack of Chinese language skills, which would serve me well for the intention of eavesdropping on the conversation of the ladies in the office.

And then… everything goes dark… as tranquility and slumber take over, and any stress or discomfort is all but forgotten. Once I’m done, I walk out into the world feeling shiny and new with an extra pep in my step (and a need to hydrate).

Now if that isn’t the perfect way to start the New Year, I don’t know what is. I’ll take that over a resolution any day!

The Year of Living

It’s November…

It’s that time of the year when you realize it’s coming to an end soon.

For me, it’s the time my month-long introspection leading up to my birthday begins.

In all seriousness, 2013 has been fucking awesome.  

No. I didn’t strike it rich. Nah, I’m still simply infamous within my own circle of friends, former cohorts and occasional acquaintances.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way… although I wouldn’t take issue with having more money.

What made this year so amazing is that it was, in essence, “the year of living”. Not exactly dangerously (although I did almost jump out of a plane yesterday — had those pesky clouds not spoiled it), but truly living and fully appreciating my life and taking big chances.

This year, I rang in the new year at the Barclays Center watching Coldplay and Jay Z sing “Auld Lang Syne” as confetti rained on my head. I resigned from a job considered great for social-climbing, but draining for my soul (and immunity system). Braving bitter cold, I joined the throngs who stood outside the Capital to watch the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. Found a job at a company that feeds my creative passion; where my colleagues treat me with the utmost respect, shower me with praise and encouragement, and give me things like insurance, vacation days and “summer Fridays” — the first time I’ve ever had that in my entire work life.

This was just the first three months…

The following months would see me spending quality time with incredible people taking in great art, music, sporting events, movies and important teaching moments where rage and emotion ran deep. The spring and summer months saw me boarding planes to Miami, Savannah, Panama and Toronto (a few times).

Truth be told, that was fucking exhausting. Fun. Exhilarating even… but exhausting.

This year I learned to let go of things and people who weren’t healthy for me. It wasn’t as deliberate as it was natural. At some point, you realize whose around for the party, and who’s with you when there’s no music (or other methods of escape) playing the role of artificial bond. And you just let things be.

This is the year of self restoration, where my body and soul discovered the joys and benefits of yoga, meditation, and Buddhism. Nothing brings me back to a place of calm and resolve like a good “Om” and chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. I’ve found it lifts my inhibitions the way alcohol or weed would, except I don’t get a headache, nausea or slight remorse afterwards.

This year has been unprecedented when it comes to physical activity that doesn’t involve sex (well, exclusively anyway). Aside from yoga, I’ve also completed my first 5K race, my first Breast Cancer walk in years, and my first indoor rock climbing experience. Also, a special shout-out to aerial silk class, for simultaneously making me look and feel like a graceful acrobat and temporarily cutting off the circulation in my hands and feet. Pink makes that shit look so easy — and she sings while she does it! I’m pretty sure her stage name also stands for the color of her fingers and toes as she belts out those songs.

Speaking of sex, I gladly took a break from it until I committed to dating someone who connected with me beyond physical chemistry. As I’ve come to value the role communication and friendship plays in building a worthwhile relationship, I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the pleasure of being intimate with someone who makes me laugh, makes me think, and recognizes and encourages me to value all that I have to offer. In turn, I’ve found how quickly and easily things flow when you mutually have that kind of connection as opposed to forcing one based on a desire to not be alone.

The best part of this year by far has been my father. Two years ago, there would have been expletives in correlation with that word. Today, my father provides me with some of the happiest moments in the simplest form. When he answers the phone “Hey baby!” after hearing my voice. When he continuously hugs and kisses me during my visits. When he lets me cut his ridiculously long fingernails. When he remembers a detail without me having to repeat it about six times in one conversation (a rarity). When I hear he doesn’t need as much insulin because his sugar levels are good. When I hear he’s recognized an old classmate before they got a chance to approach him at a 50-plus year reunion. When I hear he’s gone outside for a walk. And finally, when he looks me in the eye after widening his own after a long pause, and randomly reveals that while I didn’t grow up in the way he had hoped, he was proud of the way I had, and of the woman I’d become as a result.

Nothing could really top that…

While the remaining two months of this epic year have plenty of opportunities for equally memorable moments, the past ten have been nothing short of a sensational dream. Of course, there have been bumps along the way, but that’s made it all the more perfectly balanced.

It takes a year like this to restore your faith in the beauty of life when just a few years ago you momentarily considered ending it.

When I think of the lovely beaches and people of Panama… The majesty of the Falls and the lush vineyards of Niagara Lake a drive away from the clean and beautiful city of Toronto… Being so close to Chris Martin you could literally touch him as he and the band head back to the stage during an encore… Cheering, booing and crying with a million strangers on a chilly D.C. morning… Crossing a finish line as a crowd cheers you on… And even getting close enough to jumping out the plane… How could I not value every minute and every breath of air spent this year having these experiences, and not look forward to more to come?

The last year that had this kind of impact on me was 1996. That was the year I made my first trip to London, Paris and Versailles, experienced the Olympics firsthand while working in the Olympic Village during the Atlanta games, and had an internship with a magazine that ended up putting me in two of the editorial stories and spent my days playing dress up in sample closets, taking Polaroids of ugly prom dresses and making showroom appointments for a beloved market editor who now goes by the name of Rachel Zoe.

I doubt my appreciation for years will lapse as drastically going forward.

I drink far too much wine now to let that happen again.

Looking forward to picking up a bottle of a 2013 vintage. Even if the wine itself is crap (seeing as there’s a crop crisis — thanks global warming), when I say “it was a good year”, it’ll be with the utmost sincerity… and maybe a bit of nostalgia.

So… what’s your year been like so far?

Open Season

These past two weeks have found me in a tennis stupor.

It started when I finally realized a longstanding desire to attend the US Open tennis tournament. What began with casually checking out some qualifying and practice matches the Friday beforehand, escalated into full frenzy the following weekend after catching a day of hard-fought elimination matches during the event itself. It’s now culminating into exhilarating terror as the world witnesses the brutal physical and emotional tolls the players face as repercussions of pursuing greatness.

It’s really only one of the few times it’s acceptable to spend an entire day in Queens without a heavy intake of alcohol.

I’m kidding. Sort of…

For the uninitiated, tennis may seem something akin to watching paint dry. You are literally watching people bounce a ball back and forth. When one of my colleagues revealed that she “didn’t know how to begin following tennis”, my response, natch, was “start with following the ball”. It’s almost the same concept with any sport that has a ball, really.

Except this one can zoom past your head at 120-plus miles per hour. In some cases, it actually hits the body. Hard. Softer than a baseball, but still can break your nose.

Now, you have my attention.

Add that to the fact that they’re being projected by some of the fastest, most graceful, agile and loudest athletes in the world, and it’s a feast for the eyes (but not necessarily for the ears).

I’m also fascinated by the game lingo; use of words like “double-fault” or “ace”, and particularly the role the word “Love” plays when it comes to scoring. Never mind that the players themselves show little of it when they’re smashing racquets, throwing tantrums and threatening umpires. Personally, I find it amusing and ironic that the use of the word means you have zero points.

In other words: you’re losing.

It makes me think of how often I’ve used the word “love” to describe something that didn’t exist. Sure, there’s the usual “I love this color” or “I love that song” — but, really, how often have I used it for a relationship that didn’t truly warrant the word?

The answer: too often.

This thought was sparked by the most unusual news story. A celebrity journalist was recently identified publicly as one of numerous mistresses and the mother of a lovechild for a famous musician. Upon reading it, my first reaction was an audible gasp that startled and intrigued the guy handing me my sandwich at the deli. The reactions that followed ranged from disbelief to devilish giddiness that I later felt marginally guilty about. Only much later did I acknowledge the baby is cute.

Here’s why: The woman in the story was instrumental in ending the first relationship in which I truly loved and valued the man for all the right reasons.

After being in back to back situations where I’d either been cheated on or outright abandoned, I’d found someone who was my best friend before becoming more. It was the first time something beyond lust was present. In fact, my favorite pastime was spending the morning into the afternoon reading the Sunday Times. Boring stuff by today’s standards. It didn’t matter to me that he was white — or well into his thirties while I was fumbling into my mid-twenties — I adored him.

But not everyone felt it was a suitable match, and six months later he was gone… although he could still be found drinking beers in his office in the middle of the afternoon before quitting the magazine where all three of us worked.

It took two years before I’d date anyone else seriously. But, despite spending the last eight years of my life in two long-term relationships, I’d never come close to feeling anything remotely close to what I felt then.

…Until a few months ago.

Sadly — or perhaps fortunately — it ended before I could bring myself to allow that feeling to sink in fully. That feeling of being so utterly unguarded, that you could see the world before you because there’s no wall obstructing your view. Where the possibility of a future with someone whose mind, body and spirit are so in sync with yours that the concept of options is not an option… or even a thought. Where finding that “one” makes you feel stronger, unstoppable and confident that no matter what challenges you face, there will always be someone who has your back (like a “Doubles” partner).

A world where age, race, views or a headstrong personality isn’t used against you.

Until I find that world, I’m content spending my days — or the remainder of the tennis season — watching Serena Williams crush the championship hopes of chicks with too many consonants in their name for me to do pronunciation justice, or Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic send balls screaming past their opponents.

Or take off their shirts.

Or both. In that order.

And when that world presents itself…

When I find that [true] love once again…

I’ll be a winner.

A Day In A Life

Yesterday, one of my awesome girlfriends and I went wherever the day took us… and it was quite an experience.

First, it took us to a diner downtown where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast while listening to songs from classic artists like Sam Cooke, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and wondered aloud if the hits of today will ever deserve the longevity of the songs they often sample from. We also agreed that Rihanna’s raunchy songs have nothing on Miss Ella’s sweetly sung dirty ditties.

Next, it took us to One Police Plaza, to join the throngs of people who battled the sweltering temperatures to listen to Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, as she choked back tears when she spoke of her son and her new fight to save the sons of others. Although she succeeded in fighting the tears from flowing through her speech, we were not so lucky.

Afterwards, it took us to the Shomburg in Harlem, where we viewed items documenting Nelson Mandela’s transformation from prisoner to president, and the works of Lois Mailou Jones — whose vibrant pieces influenced by African, Caribbean, post-Impression era Paris and African-American culture had us in awe.

Not finished with us, the day proceeded to carry us into a panel discussion around the corner at the Congee Library, where we listened intently as women discussed being single in America, and the rise of single people in comparison to those who chose to marry. Among the great insights was the observation that many factors have changed since the days when marriage was popular and, ostensibly, sacred (i.e. we died younger, met our spouses at school, and had more inventory and less online presence and options, etc.). By the end of the discussion, we all collectively agreed that there are no rules when it comes to relationships and marriage… only a requirement that you have to want to be in one and willing to put in the mutual work to get the mutual benefits. Afterwords, my friend an I were so determined to get the unspoken men’s perspective that we semi-cornered the lone man that sat in on the discussion, and spent another half hour standing in the hallway getting his take.

After a brief visit with another friend who was getting her jewelry hustle on at an outdoor festival, the day then ushered us down to Lincoln Square to see “Fruitvale Station“; the powerful film documenting the last hours of Oscar Grant’s life. Before Trayvon Martin, Grant was another young African-American man whose fleeting moments of bad judgement overshadowed his life struggle to be a good person and do the right thing — also with fatal results. More tears flowed. That the movie was released around the timing of the verdict was a mix of serendipity and shrewd marketing, and a strong reminder of just how blind the justice system can often be when it’s convenient.

Our final stop of the day was possibly the most endearing to me. During our day adventure, my girlfriend got a call from her mother informing her that there would be a feast of crabs at her home in Brooklyn. When we got there, the house was filled with family who gathered to eat seafood, talk, entertain the adorable newborn girl and make plans to meet for church and a birthday boy’s dinner the next day. While there is little that excites me more than the taste of crabmeat, the sight of a family gathering warms my heart to the highest level and gives me hope beyond any description I could give.

Yesterday, I witnessed life through the eyes of two African American sons whose lives were cut short, an outraged public, a mother who has unwittingly become the hope and voice of terrified mothers everywhere and one African-American woman raising her own son and grappling with what to say and do to protect him from becoming a statistic. As I spent the day absorbing how special it was, it didn’t escape my thoughts that the idea of bringing a male child into this word could conceivably be considered a dangerous thing in the future.

In a country where the victim’s character is often on trial more so than the person who ends or endangers their lives, it almost seems comical to expect drastic attitude adjustments. But history has shown us that persistence — and faith — can ultimately pay off in time.

Alas, that’s for another day… and if it’s going to be anything like yesterday (although I suspect it will be better), I don’t want to miss a minute.

Color Me Happy

A year ago, if anyone told me I’d run a 5K race, they’d be met with a strange, piercing look that would likely be accompanied by aggressive eyebrow arching (I can kind of give Steven Colbert a run for his money there).

Actually, If I’d been given a play by play of this year thus far — there would’ve been lots of eyebrow raising. People may have suspected I had a face-lift.

But here it is; one day after completing my very first race… although I didn’t do so much racing, as subject myself to getting pummeled with colored powder to the point of having it literally oozing from my pores and looking like I got “smurfed.” Aside from the slight leg and foot soreness associated with doing a 3-plus mile course (which has since been slightly alleviated by a much-needed pedicure), overall I feel amazing.

The credit goes to one of my incredible girlfriends — one my two great “how did you meet” stories, and herself an avid runner — who put a feeler out to form a team for The Color Run. Thus, the “Supersonics” were born.

Dubbed “the happiest 5K on the planet”, TCR lives up to its promise by providing runners with good music, good vibes and packets of colored powder that offers up an experience akin to putting kindergartners in a room with Kool-Aid packets after giving them an endless supply of sugar. In 80-plus degree heat. Hence, they spray you with colored water from a moving cart while you’re in motion.

Yeah… this was a good idea.

Truthfully, it was a great idea! Not only was it insanely liberating not thinking or stressing about winning anything, minding your time or appearance, it was all in the name of charity. Frankly, that’s worth getting my butt up off the couch any day!

Added bonus: the comradery and encouragement that my four fierce female teammates provided throughout our training leading to the event itself really made the difference in my choice to fully participate in anything that forces me to exert high levels of energy. Knowing someone believes in you, cheers you on and stays with you from start to finish gives you an incredible feeling… like you can do anything. Even when we found ourselves going at different paces, we would wait until the others caught up so we could reach our goal as a team.

Crossing that finish line with those women could not have been a more profound and defining moment for me.

While there have been many people who’ve come and gone throughout my existence who spoke words of encouragement and — according to their own intentions — attempted to “lift me up” by making suggestions regarding my life direction, I see now that I respond more to actions than words. It’s much the same when someone professes love to me.

It’s almost as if a culture of “drive by emotions” have replaced the art of getting your hands dirty — both literally and figuratively. “Liking”, “commenting” or “pinning” things on social networking sites have become our new support groups rather than simple forms of self-expression. (Or, for me, a cost-effective way of letting my friends and relatives who live far away know what I’m up to with a side of capsulated recommendations on good stuff to check out.)

This year has seen me build stronger friendships from existing ones, and making more of an effort to pick up a phone and talk for an hour or two and re-shift or scrap plans entirely when a friend needs an ear or shoulder. I’m still not done. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a man who said, “you and I would never work because you have too many friends”, that I realized just how incredibly fortunate I am to have so many incredible people in my life who support my choices authentically, serve up tough love when they don’t, and won’t leave me in the proverbial (or colored) dust when they see me lag behind. (Yes, I’m glazing over the comment, because anyone who genuinely feels threatened by a network of friends doesn’t have true ones — and if they can’t grasp the concept of having true friends, then they’ll have equal difficulty being a true friend — missing out on all the benefits that comes with such a connection.)

As we crossed the finish line yesterday, we felt no pain. We celebrated our triumph as a team, took some commemorative pictures, and headed to breakfast with the significant others of two of our teammates (and one adorable new puppy). As we ate, drank, laughed and got to know each other better, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect moment (interrupted only by Baxter’s puppy cuteness, and my feverish obsession with my ESPN app, so I could follow and share the Wimbledon Men’s Final results with the few who cared).

The fullness I feel in my heart for those women (and men) and that moment completely overwhelms the tightness in my shoulders and my faintly fatigued legs and feet.

I think that’s a feeling worth running across the world for…

Celebrity Skin (Reborn)

[The following is a “cleaned up” version of a post that required “tweaking”. Much like the subjects involved.]

After seven days, one harrowing family emergency, one pretty promising work week, two NBA Finals games, one emotional Amel Larrieux concert, one hour and a half walk, one Central Park run, one Yoga class, one appropriately titled dark comedy mocking celeb culture and hours of chanting/meditation… I finally cried.

But strangely, not for the reasons I used to.

While dating a celebrity is the dream of many, it’s never been my life goal. I’d spent years working around actors, models and entertainers in some capacity, and understood the caveats of that world. So much, in fact, that I ran screaming from it in pursuit of a “normal” life in the form of a retail career and a buttoned-up architect boyfriend.

Both lasted eight and five years, respectively… an eternity in my world, and the benchmarks that validate my ability to be committed to some-thing/one when I begin to wonder.

Alas, like the Mafia, the universe has always found a way to bring me back to that environment.

So when I met a cocky-but-charming actor last summer, I chalked it up to a fun encounter that wouldn’t amount to anything more. That he didn’t live in the same city made dating him even less of a possibility.

Nonetheless, we kept in touch, and a new friendship began.

Months of only speaking by way of the internet and mobile apps segued into hours-long phone conversations in which we’d get lost in thought and time while discovering striking similarities in our experiences and beliefs. Alas, we were so similar, that the conclusion to this story came as no surprise. In him, I found a kindred spirit who, like myself, found our “happy place” despite hardscrabble upbringings through spirituality. His passion and driven nature inspired me, and — slowly — I began to imagine a scenario that seemed initially absurd.

But, also like myself, that same upbringing which forced us to be so profoundly independent minded and welcoming of the unknown, harbors insecurities and defense mechanisms that can kill burgeoning romances. Especially ones with difficult and virtually impossible challenges at its inception.

So, what happened? Many things. A man whose words are softer than his touch and a woman whose touch is softer than her words equates to a lit match near kerosene. Accusations and assumptions based on previous experiences. (The majority of which surprisingly not coming from my camp. No, really, I’m shocked.) Mutual feelings of being taken for granted combined with scheduling challenges, unfulfilled personal goals that require more attention, fatigue, poor communication and unfortunate circumstances.

You know… the usual cocktail for disaster.

Which is sad, because in another life with less anxiety, we could have been a dynamic family… if people like us believed we could be a family, as opposed to broken people seeking redemption through blind faith and kind words we can’t (or won’t) support with action.

In spite of things, there are no regrets. Only love and admiration for him and what he has given me: a renewed value in my time, and appreciation for how little of it I have to spend giving up my own dreams and desires for someone who hasn’t made a vow to do the same, or at least share our loads equally as partners.

Yes, it is an absolutely selfish stance to take on. But at this point if I’m gonna be a failure at relationships, I should at least be successful in other aspects. If you can’t beat ’em… join ’em.

The only exception — natch — is if you’ve come out of my vagina. Then all bets are off.

Until then… it’s all good. Broken hearts lead to thicker skins.

Although he, by far, has the more superior moisturizer.

My Funny Valentine

Sunday, I picked up the most adorable designer Valentine’s day card and got it autographed by its lovely and talented artist, Bella Pilar.

I’m giving it to myself.

You’re welcome.

Whatever. To the outside world, it may appear a little sad, desperate, and perhaps even certifiable… but I promise it makes perfect sense.

For starters, the card was free… scored it at the Papyrus stand at Fashion Week. The marketing guy appreciated the genuine enthusiasm my friend and I have for custom stationery. What can I say? We’re traditional girls who like sparkly, decorated cards that pack a punch no text or email could ever give.

Next, I think I’ve been an awesome date to myself lately. I’ve taken me to a hot concert, the inauguration, a spa, the movies, a chocolate tour, and an aerial circus class; where I gracefully dangled in the air like that kid in the Dreamworks logo.

And finally… why shouldn’t I declare love for myself?

I gotta say that’s a nifty departure from what had steadily become the norm of waiting. And wanting. And hearing things like “I used to give my ex-wife flowers so I don’t do that anymore” or “I don’t do Valentine’s Day” by guys who probably would not have liked to hear me say “I used to do that , but I don’t do that anymore.”

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the concept of St. Valentine’s Day. The massacre part intrigues me more. I feel like it grabs us by our privates and forces us to declare affection for people whether we love them — or like them just a little — literally and figuratively at our own expense. For loving couples, it’s an adorable addition to their romantic routines. For the rest of us, it’s akin to being eight years old and having a relative command you to go hug the urine scented elder, when you’d rather be climbing trees or playing “hide and don’t seek” with said unsuspecting relatives.

Either you dread the idea of spending absurd amounts of money on dinners, fragrances, themed underwear that does not have pictures of Spiderman on them, jewelry and whatever you haven’t thought of, or worse… you dread acknowledging that you have no one to get or give anything.

As a result, you’re now confined to your home to avoid being that person in a theater or a restaurant without a plus one. You become that salty person who gets annoyed by the PDA of couples and (sometimes) quietly predict their demise. You contemplate going places where you know there’ll be heavy V-day activity because single people occasionally garner pity from the staff and you feel affirmed by their inquiry as to why you’re single and shower you with compliments to make you feel (and tip) better. You will yourself not to scream, or cry, or punch someone in the face because someone actually thought it was a good idea at the time to show them in the corniest… sweetest… most imaginative way… that the recipient of their “valentine” is ostensibly the owner of their heart.

So this year, I’m proud — no, excited — to say I am the sole owner of my heart… and as such, I feel the need to express it in the silliest, cutest way imaginable. And if that means I get a sparkly card… then dammit, it’s gonna be the BEST sparkly card EVER!!

Did I mention it was Papyrus? Did I mention it was free? Do you KNOW how much those babies go for? It’s like the Tiffany’s of greeting cards!

As sociopathic as it may be to give oneself a card inscribed “XOXO from me to you”, it’s not as crazy as never having the kind of self adoration where you realize it’s okay to fly solo. It’s better than being with someone who makes you feel alone.

Love who you are. Love who you’re not. Celebrate your kindness. Your compassion. Your humor. Your intelligence. Your individuality. Your bravery. Your quirks. Your generosity.

And if you’re an asshole… celebrate your ability to not give a fuck.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love,

Me

 

 

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time…

These days, the art of reflection has become a constant source of amusement to me.

We’ve all had them… those “WTF?” moments where we questioned our judgement and motivation in retrospect post incident, or two… or fifty.

The night of tequila-based drinks that ended in the ruin of both your purse and dignity in the eyes of a unknowing cab driver.

The time you tried desperately to fit in and divulged your deepest personal secrets to a bunch of women with superiority complexes.

That guy you met outside The Strand.

That chunk of time fondly referred to as “my Twenties”.

Okay, those are my moments of reckoning, but as long as you were able to fill in your own blanks with equally humiliating and regrettable tidbits, then my work is done.

But the key is to recall them with a lightness of heart that can only be matched with the feeling of your feet dangling in the air — because you’ve fallen off your chair laughing at how stupid they are now.

There are so many things that hold such importance in our lives to the point where we feel lost without it; material things, status, relationships, appearances. If we lost any of these things tomorrow, would it really be that big of a deal?

Is it that important for you to have that lifestyle at the risk of breaking your bank?

Do you actually give a shit if people don’t accept you for who you are, or support what you do if they don’t consider you on “their level”?

Would life really end if that person didn’t love you back?

When we read it, it seems absurd to even contemplate any of these notions. But in the heat of a moment, when phrased differently in our minds, we answer a resounding “yes” more times than we care to admit.

If we didn’t, it would be a perfect world where people didn’t go deeply into debt, succumb to insecurities to be part of a group, or feel like a breakup is proof we don’t deserve loving and respectful partners and friends.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t take anything seriously. In fact, when we reflect on how badly we cocked up a situation in our past, it should ideally give us pause and perspective on how we can get it right in life the next time.

These days, I find reason to smile even when my thoughts turn to tragic things. If I’m unable to find a funny instance in the moment, then I find comfort in knowing that whatever it was… it’s over and I survived it.

This frame of thinking might have made high school and college significantly smoother transitions, but hey, better late than never.

Happily, my relationship with tequila has since improved… vastly.

Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.

 

 

Assume the Position

In life, it would appear role play isn’t simply relegated to the bedroom.

This thought came to me as I considered the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. Normally, I detest this practice because it sets me up to make promises that I have zero intention of keeping, which then creates a domino effect of self-effacing for the remainder of the year; what begins as a noble introspective attempt at creating a better me suddenly morphed into an analysis of how and why we seek certain changes in our lives. I then began thinking about how in so many aspects of our being, people adjust or conform to whatever societal norm to either fit in or survive.

After it occurred to me that I’ve been steadily drinking my way through the month of December, I realized I was thinking way too much… but by then my mind locked onto the concept that — whether consciously or subconsciously — men and women desire “titles” or “positions” for status. Manager. Director. Boss. Girlfriend. Boyfriend. Wife. Husband. Mother. Father. Best Friend.

Which finally brings me to the point: It’s all well and good to be that person… if you really want to be that person. Unfortunately, we willingly demand these positions while being unwilling to do the work required of them.

Many of us have encountered a situation or two where our workplace has had less than effective management, so it’s easy to relate when we hear someone isn’t doing the job they pushed, pleaded and schemed to get (hell, politicians are providing some of the finest examples right now). But rarely do we acknowledge how we do that in relationships with people… and even ourselves.

Recently, it occurred to me just how dishonest I’d been with myself when it came to the “positions” I’ve (allegedly) wanted. For the majority of my years, I’ve accepted jobs, boyfriends, and other things simply based on the fact that they were options presented at that moment… instead of taking the time to assess whether mutual needs and desires were being met. I always hated disappointing people, and in my twisted logic felt compelled to remain in unpleasant situations despite the stress it would ultimately incur. Needless to say, I remain unfulfilled, but these days I’m more at peace with disappointments and find them to be fantastic lessons as I pursue my true position in this world.

Most importantly… I also take less shit.

As this year — with all its trials, tribulations, tragedies and transitions — comes to a close, my hope is that 2013 brings about an awakening of our minds, bodies and souls… allowing people to become more accepting of themselves and others for who they are. The tolerance of intolerance has produced disastrous results in the form of racism, bullying, homophobia, political unrest, and overall disparity between genders, class and even the mental and physically disabled. The new year requires a new perspective, to say the least.

It all starts with being true to ourselves and others… because the simple truth is, what we receive in this life is intrinsically connected to the effort we put into it. And if we’re not giving our best in any role — be it in work, play, and general existence — we set ourselves up to not just fail as an individual, but also those we affect through our actions.

Besides, there isn’t a more gratifying feeling than a job well done.

 

Stormy Weathered

“In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire… hurricanes hardly happen!” – Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle in “My Fair Lady”

Yesterday at work, I found myself wishing I was in one of those places… but instead I was catering to the needs and calming the nerves of displaced hotel guests who were either stranded by a cancelled flight, evacuated from their homes or having their luxury experience interrupted by mother nature’s wrath in the form of Sandy.

It all began innocently enough. Throughout most of the day it was just windy with a little rain. Locals spent the day typing productively away on their laptops, playing board and card games, and indulging in a cocktail or four. As the day progressed, the energy took a very different direction. The jovial, yet cautious vibe soon became more frustrated and frightened.

This is of course when things truly got interesting…

All the disaster movies and TV dramas in the world don’t prepare you for the range of emotions you go through when you’re in a situation where you are completely powerless. When you have to turn away frantic people who need a place for the night because they can’t stay in their own homes because you have no room. When you are expected to remain calm and overall pleasant when a demanding mother makes numerous outrageous requests. When you find yourself sleeping in a room full of strangers, and someone who shared theirs with one they know asks for their room to be cleaned. When you must find a way to keep children entertained and calm and unaware of the destruction and chaos occurring outside. When you find yourself walking through a hallway and staircase that’s pitch black and using the last of your battery life to illuminate your path. When you must endure an increasingly unpleasant odor that you can still detect in spite of blowing your nose until the skin is raw. When you watch someone attempt to plug an iPad into a generator, as a number of people just want to charge their phones enough to make or take a phone call once service resumes… It makes you wonder.

There came a point in the night — amongst the emergency generated light and candles — when an impromptu piano performance by one of the servers made me unexpectedly weepy. (It could have also been the two and a half hours of sleep I’d gotten prior to working twelve hours with almost no break.)

In any event, I began thinking of the reality of the moment more than the severity; I’d once again found myself working in an industry where myself and my colleagues forgo normal existences where we could be passing those stressful hours in the company of loved ones, to essentially babysit the privileged. Hearing one housekeeper use her colleague’s phone to assure her family in Mandarin that she was fine, and another get an early morning call from her relatives updating her on the news she couldn’t access while the power was out (I need their service carriers) — it was all too clear what sacrifices were made for the needs to support their families. That there were people who took that for granted with absurd requests made me march to the bar, request a “Dark and Stormy”, and retire straight to bed.

It is in moments like those you realize just how fleeting life is. How lonely you are. How important it is to have people who appreciate and enrich you instead of use and take advantage of you.

If you’re anything like me (God help you), you find yourself wishing for someone to weather the storm with. A plus one for all occasions. Someone willing to fight for you like they would their own spawn when you can’t stand up for yourself.

…You also find yourself thinking you’re in a scene out of “Titanic”, which may have precipitated your hasty exit more than the drink and disgust fueled by anxiety and exhaustion.

In a matter of hours… trees and buildings fell, homes and possessions were submerged under water, and people sat in darkness literally and figuratively waiting to learn their fates.

As the daylight began to clear the dark skies and thoughts, I found myself aching to make a call I couldn’t. In the midst of attempting to place guests in other hotels that had power and hot water, my desire to go to my own home grew stronger. When the clouds finally provided an opportunity, I made my escape with pained eyelids, an unforgiving sinus headache, and overworked legs to begin a very long walk home to rest, recover — and start over.

Of course, in that moment of clarity, it struck me around mile three of the six required of my journey, that my African/Native/Scottish migrant lineage was too far removed for me to complete that walk with two bags on my shoulders… and immediately hailed a cab. On my way home, I chatted with the driver — who assured me he was going to be home by nightfall, and made sure to tip him extra.

We don’t all have the power to save trees, buildings or lives — nor can we make people behave in such a way that there’s never disparity toward their fellow human being. But we can control what we build or break with our own words and actions. While observing the hotel manager calmly diffuse an irate guest, that gem of a life lesson was my final takeaway after a very introspective experience.

Some people just get cabin fever. I get philosophical and a fever.

Would rather have Nyquil or Mucinex.