Moving On

It is never easy leaving something or someone you truly love.

Oftentimes, it is unpleasant.

But the time will come when we’ll have to say goodbye to something or someone dear to us for whatever reasons that apply. It’s one of life’s inevitabilities…much like me wrecking a manicure seconds after walking out of the salon.

This week, I had that horrible task. Twice.

The first isn’t theoretically final, but symbolically it is; the apartment my roommate and I have shared for nearly a year is being reclaimed by its lovely owner and her family at the end of the month, so we needed to find a new place quickly. What stung the most was having to leave the beautiful neighborhood we’ve grown to adore, due to lack of affordable housing options. Never mind the fact that the apartment itself is a unicorn in terms of space and affordability. Both were ideal.

Alas, it was never truly ours…and so we had to face facts and move on.

Fortunately, we found an affordable gem in a decent neighborhood that suited all our needs, and wouldn’t force any major and/or uncomfortable adjustments.

The part I’m most grateful for, tho – aside from having a relatively painless search process in comparison to last year (woo hoo!) – is having my name on a legal document holding me responsible for the payment and upkeep of a place that I reside in…for the first time in SIX years.

While that concept seems scary AF, I’m elated, because circumstances over these last years haven’t supported this moment. A layoff in 2010 – followed by an unexpectedly lengthy stretch of un/underemployment mixed with drastic pay decreases throughout the years that followed – proved challenging. Signing a lease wasn’t only risky…it was impossible.

All this to say: As much as I’ve dreaded moves in the past, this one I look forward to, because it means I’ve finally reached the point where I can start over on my terms. It’s bittersweet, yet empowering, all at the same time.

The next goodbye is final and painful, because there’s still a great deal of love, and there was a tremendous emotional investment. The demise of a relationship always impacts me because the failure is personal and, at times, I’d like to think avoidable.

But that’s just wishful thinking.

Over the years, I’ve struggled and occasionally succeeded at being mindful of things in my past life that could – and have – segued into fatal relationship flaws: Let’s just say the list isn’t pretty. Or short. Let’s also say not living with my parents after twelve was the best thing that ever happened to me. Let’s also say that it’s because very early on, life played out more like a Lifetime Network movie written by Alice Walker.

Basically, I was a powder keg with a laundry list of issues ranging from trust, abandonment, intimacy, anger, jealousy, people-pleasing, self-esteem, selfishness and withdrawn (this one’s tough to shake).

Truth be told, I’ll always be a work in progress. But time, meditation, faith, introspection, healing, much-needed therapy and an outpouring of unconditional love and support from friends and family has allowed me to develop into a woman who is now open and optimistic about life, love and all its possibilities. I find joy in authentic relationships and experiences, and I’m quicker to listen to and embrace different perspectives. Most of all, I’ve learned to forgive, let go, and just let shit be.

Which brings us here.

If I’ve learned anything in these forty years and eight months of life, it is that as much as I love the idea of being in love, there’s much more to a relationship than that. It’s work, and sometimes I don’t want to do it, but I will if I know the end result is having someone to grow with, who has your back in times both good and bad and inspires you to do the same. Someone who takes interest in your interests, and includes you in theirs. Someone who relishes in your quirks, and can talk and listen for as long as it takes as you both learn something new and/or rediscover something not so new about each other (instead of using social media or discussing with an audience that doesn’t include either of you). Someone who understands that conflicts and anger should be addressed and resolved in minutes and (if really serious) hours…not days and weeks. Someone who has longterm plans and knows where you fit in them. Someone unafraid to take a leap of faith and land wherever your lives together may take you. Someone whose actions speak louder than their words.

For all our intents…we both failed spectacularly in making that happen. Twice.

And for what it’s worth, I wanted our relationship to work so badly, that I was willing to accept it as it was…even as it left me wanting more.

But it occurred to me that – much like the apartment hunting experience – I began the process desperate to compromise at the risk of losing a part of me. In the end, it took venturing out of my comfort zone on a road less traveled in order to find the place that feels like home, and nothing is lost except the expectations of how things should be.

Not only is that worth moving on to…it’s worth moving mountains for.

I’m scared and excited to find out what the future holds, but right now, I’m just gonna relish in the freedom of the present moment, and go wherever the day takes me.

Which, right about now…is the kitchen. I’m starving.

Where the Heart Is

When it comes to the subject of love, I’d developed a fairly warped perspective over the years.

Some may have used the word “cynical” or perhaps “jaded”, even.

Like most people (with a vagina, whose estrogen levels are only slightly bested by oxygen), I had bought into the belief over time that all the Disney fairy tales, Harlequin novels and anything that wreaked of romance was the definition of true love. In other words, it didn’t exist unless there were grand gestures (preferably without “Jazz hands”).

To be fair, like many many disillusioned people out there, I’d come from a broken home and didn’t know better. Unfortunately, sex ed only taught you what things were and where they go, but glossed over the part about what emotions and actions should accompany any of it. Recipe for disaster…

Undoubtedly, it was by sheer fortune that two amazing women came into my life and provided me with one of the greatest examples of the truest, most unconditional love I’d ever witnessed. It was through watching them on their journey from courtship, to friendship, to relationship, to hardship (with acceptance) and finally partnership that I realized the true meaning of what it’s like to find your soul mate.

Much to the excitement of myself and a few dozen friends and family — and after nearly ten years, countless gatherings, and a couple of freshly passed laws — my friends El and Chris decided to make it official. When they asked me to officiate their ceremony, I didn’t think twice (well, once I found out it would be the second, non-traditional “symbolic” version, I didn’t).

During our consultation with the minister, I was asked why I’d agreed to do the ceremony, to which my response was simply “Because it’s them“. What had been unsaid, was that after observing them over the years, I learned the very thing that was missing from my education during my upbringing…

Through them I learned that beyond passion, there has to be compassion. That patience and tolerance are nonexistent terms when you’re with someone who “gets” you. That the right person will not try to “make you better”, but will instead bring out the best in who you already are, as you ideally would for them. That friendship takes any relationship to a higher level, and if you don’t like the person you’re with, loving them — authentically — is an uphill battle.

Of course, I also became more cognizant of these things while experiencing my own ups and downs in dating. The past year alone had been an invaluable awakening, as it found me coming to terms with my genuine feelings, and determining that settling was no longer an option. After coming off of two long-term pairings (the bulk of which were both miserable), I’d made a choice to go with my gut and walk away from anything that made me unhappy or uncomfortable.

Very often, men and women stay in relationships they should long have ended for the sake of “making things work,” because that’s what we’ve been told throughout history by people who, in retrospect, probably had numerous affairs and whose vested interest likely had monetary motivation. Or religious connotations. Or Tyler Perry.

Not only did the union I’d be a part of show me differently, but I’d come to see and feel it for myself thanks to a smart, confident, funny, wickedly charming and all-around beautiful man who has helped me make sense of it all in just a short period of time.

Tonight, while listening to a Deepak Chopra meditation about “Finding Love”, it felt as if — for the first time in my life — I was ahead of the class. As Deepak explained how having love within allows you to have a greater love for others, it resonated in ways I couldn’t imagine just a couple of years ago, but was keenly aware of now. Once I stopped fighting my heart and following it instead, it led me to a place that has been so effortless and pleasure-filled, that I’ve decided to allow it to guide all my other moves going forward. (Although asking it to choose winning Lotto numbers might be a stretch.)

Thirty-eight years later, all the intake of books, movies, songs, articles, blog and social media posts, soap operas and “reality TV” simply left me with an overstuffed — yet strangely malnourished — perception of something that comes quite naturally when you don’t force yourself to feel it.

When you think about it, most of the greatest love songs and stories are written by people who, in real life, suck at maintaining relationships. I imagine it’s because they write what they want love to be and what they think love should be, and the rest of us are drawn in by the semi-mutual feeling, and/or the “misery loves company/you’re not alone” aesthetic that comes with a particularly tear-inducing piece of work. Matchmakers and love experts are often single themselves, yet we look to them for guidance with our “happily ever after”.

(I’m reminded of a saying: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”)

This occurred to me when I found myself at an event having a conversation with two women; one was a lovely older woman in her fifties, whose husband was on the event’s committee, and would occasionally pop over to chat with his wife of over 30 years. The other was a self-proclaimed “relationship expert” in her late twenties, who had a blog touting many followers, and was — you guessed it — single. At some point, as the younger woman spoke about her relationship theories, the two of us gave each other knowing looks, and waited for her to get bored with us in order for her to move on and allow us to have the conversation we were meant to. It was that moment, when the decision was made never to take relationship advice from anyone who has not been happily married longer than two decades.

Life changing decision… trust.

And although I’ve stopped taking advice, I remain a constant pupil when it comes to the study of relationships. I understand that when you think you have nothing else to learn, that’s usually when you make the most egregious mistakes because you’ve taken something and/or someone for granted. (Clearly, I’ve dated a few “experts”.)

As I end this post at an ungodly hour, I do so with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to El and Chris, and to my “Jersey Boy” for showing this woman — whose vivid imagination often leads her astray — what it’s like to be part of something very real.

They’ve inspired me, in ways they may never know, to instead follow my own heart…

Until it stops beating.

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.

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.

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.

 

Parental Guidance Suggested

Some people have all the luck, in which they never experience or understand a desire to have what constitutes in society as a “normal” life.

They grow up in loving homes — not necessarily nuclear ones — with families that support them and teach them valuable life lessons to prepare them to be thriving and successful adults in society. They live life fearlessly and ready to take on the world because they were told throughout their lives that they could do and be anything they wanted to be. Their complaints vary from having the option of two family homes and not getting what they wanted for Christmas. Or something of that nature.

But then, there are the other people… the ones whose innocence and youth were lost very early in life through various methods ranging emotional, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and just overall circumstances. They grew up afraid to speak their minds and hearts, mistrusting of adults — especially whichever gender caused the most trauma — and resentful or very angry with anyone they felt had a better deal. They have difficulties in relationships friendly and romantic, and often hurt people both intentionally in retaliation or unintentionally through subconsciousness.

Unfortunately, if the media reports and case studies are correct, there are a lot of the latter in the world. As scary as the reality of abuse cases are, scarier still are the ones that never see the light of day. These days the commonality of people (many high-profile) revealing their ordeals have sparked more discussions and openness about the subject, which allows the possibility of healing and coming from a place of despair, to one of hope. But the truth is these people function in our society and in one form or another, their demons affect how they do so. Our understanding, or lack thereof, can sometimes put us in uncomfortable and presumably unfair life or death situations.

Why am I going down this slippery and awkward slope… again?

Yesterday, I read a story about a father in Texas who discovered someone sexually assaulting his four year-old daughter and punched him continuously in the head until he died. As tragic as the death of someone by the hands of another may be, shamefully in retrospect, the emotion that came over me was anything but grief.

My first thought was that the father should not be charged with a crime. My second thought was about what that little girl is going to have to endure emotionally. Surprisingly, my third thought was that I envied her future.

For the rest of her life, that little girl will always know that her dad literally killed someone to protect her. He will most likely never let her out of his sight for the rest of his life. She will never have to live with a soul-crushing secret, or believe that somehow she was responsible for what happened to her, because her family will give her all the support she needs to be a strong, confident woman.

When people become parents, they sometimes forget there’s more to having a child than feeding, changing and clothing them. They’re not accessories to be paraded like the latest “It” bag, and you can’t give them away if you grow tired or bored with maintaining them. Some people have children for many reasons that don’t include the most important reason: having a legacy.

Adults forget that children are the ones who build on the foundations we create. When we break everything in their paths, they go through life thinking everything should be broken. When we neglect them, they neglect others — and worse — seek the acceptance of those who don’t have their best interests at heart. When we create entertainment such as music, movies, books and video games that glorify sex and violence, they embrace them in place of love and compassion. When we speak and act disrespectfully to and around them, they replicate the same behavior. Everything we do impacts their futures… and ours.

But I’m no expert.

My own story is not a new one, so I don’t need to elaborate. But when one has spent the last six-plus years in long-term relationships with men so similar to her absentee father that she could only tell them apart physically… you can gauge someone dropped the ball during my formative years. With that, I’m taking a much-needed break from it all for a while to re-draft that blueprint.

You don’t need to be a parent to determine the future of a child, but it helps to be a parent to your child for the sake of their future. This especially rings true now that we can no longer rely on teachers, nor the church — or even our communities — to protect them.

Perhaps the moral of the story is if you choose to bring a child into this world, be prepared to have a watchful eye, impeccable time management skills, the willingness to sacrifice some of your life’s comforts for them… and potentially take a life for them.

Only the last one I don’t advocate, but if the “stand your ground” law can enable psychotic provocateurs to murder innocent people, one would think exceptions can be made for the most innocent of all.

Take Me Out of the Ball Game

I’ve always been amused by men and sports.

The raw emotion they display when their teams are doing exceptionally well or abysmal. The animated expressions when points are scored or a bad play is made. The way they know the stats of the entire roster of a team as far back as each player’s pre-pro days. The way an injury affects them personally, and sends them scrambling to make sense of how the team will recover. The way they create “fantasy” teams. The way grown men actually cry when their team is eliminated from competition. The loyalty they show their favorite teams and players… even when they fail them…

It’s all fascinating to behold.

What’s even more intriguing is how they have all this wealth of information and feelings, but most of them reserve it for game time. When it comes to actual interactions and relationships with people, it turns into a different ball game.

The other day, one of my girlfriends took me to my first Yankee game. Admittedly, I’m not as diehard about baseball as I am about basketball, but I’ve always respected the Yankees, and an opportunity to visit the new stadium and view Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano’s butts up close and personal were an added bonus.

During the game, I witnessed so many men gesticulating and verbally expressing either displeasure with the pitcher’s performance or elation at a home run, I momentarily mistook it for a Jerry Springer episode. When one man proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of the sixth inning, my eyes darted to see where the cameras were rolling (they were actually right behind us).

The thrill of attending a sporting event suddenly took a turn into a world where men expressed themselves freely, honestly and occasionally in a bizarre fashion. They have their best girl by their sides in the stands, and they belt out tunes in unison and brotherhood — each of them understanding they are members of an exclusive club where the devoted are welcome, and rivals and fair-weather spectators get shunned and ostracized.

I marveled at the level of commitment and involvement it takes to be a sports fan. Not just because of the intensity and pageantry that is often associated with it (tailgaters and face and body painters — I’m looking at you), but because it indicates the amount of passion a man is capable of having for something that he truly loves. It’s probably the only time you’ll ever see genuine disappointment at the thought of a person being traded for someone new. But they adapt very quickly to change when the team performs better… something we can all appreciate. We can also appreciate when someone is cut for poor performance and unwilling to be coached.

It’s common knowledge that almost every team in every league has a marquee player. One particular athlete that stands out above the rest with exceptional skills, endorsement earning looks, and crowd pleasing bankability.  I’ve often considered that the best teams are the ones that have a culmination of good players who each have specific abilities that collectively make them unstoppable. They complement each other, and work together to achieve mutual victories as opposed to individual grandstanding.

It’s the difference between Kobe Bryant and the Dallas Mavericks. (There’s my basketball reference.)

…It also happens to be the foundation of a strong relationship. Ironic, since lots of athletes have commitment and fidelity difficulties — and women whose boyfriends or husbands are serious sports fans are often referred to as widows.

Clearly, there are different rules depending on the balls you play with.

Go figure.