The Crack in the Door

When Mr. Possibility left to go overseas the first time, he wanted to stay with me his last night in New York. At that point there had been no discussions of what we were, no title, no commitment, no anything – we were friends enjoying each other’s company and making no plans for anything more.

But I was falling for him.

It was the time when everything about him seemed refreshing, when our conversations were long and our nights were easily and sweetly passed sharing the tiny twin bed I used to have. It was when I had no expectations but still had hope of all of the things that could be. It was before I memorized every dimple, every line, each stare and every rhyme — it was before there was an “us”, before there was anything to be counted on. Or anything for him to be accountable for. It was before he explored other possibilities and before I realized his impossibilities vastly surpassed his opportunities.

The night before, we hopped from bar to bar, then ended up getting ice cream, even in near-freezing weather. I noticed the blush in his cheeks, the stubble on his chin and the easy laughter that made it so damn difficult to not admire him. He talked about his travels overseas and I listened intently, hanging onto his promises of flying me over to visit in a country that I barely knew anything about. Little did I know his invitation was already extended to another, but that would be a lesson I’d learn after hours on Skype and a bouquet of tulips sent to my home in North Carolina (with a few buds intended for my mother’s 50th birthday, mind you). Bastard.

Even though I wasn’t his girlfriend at the time, he asked to stay the night, promising to keep me warm and hold me as tightly as we fell asleep. I obliged, unable to dismiss his affections and terrified that this loving feeling growing inside of me would disappear just as he plane took flight. And so, I welcomed him into my miniature studio, on the right side of my tiny bed and into the smallest part of my heart, that eventually would spread to consume most of the organ that truly defines who I am.

When the clock struck 5 a.m. and the 6’2-200-pound handsome lug lifted himself off of me suddenly, I blinked my eyes to see my kitchen lamp on and that same lug pulling on socks and trousers. Too tired to greet him with much more than a sigh, I smiled in his general direction and closed my eyes again, hoping to meet sleep easily and ignore the sad good-bye that I knew was inevitable. In what seemed like hours, moments later he greeted my eyelids with dozens of soft kisses and cupped my face with hands big enough to swallow my cheeks as he whispered, “I’ll see you soon, Tigar. I’ll miss you so much. Come visit me.” I responded with a sweet nudge and let him walk away.

Less than a thought later, I opened my eyes only to notice a light shining into my room. In his hurry, Mr. Possibility had left my door cracked, allowing the hallway to look inside my apartment, along with all who passed my door. Groggily, I stumbled to secure the lock and curled back into bed, cursing the winter weather and an investment bank for taking a man I was falling for, far, far away.

When the New York sun found its way into the sky and made me greet a day I didn’t wish to meet, I peered out the bay window by my bed, wishing that warm body was still near me and dreaming up all the ways I could possibly see him overseas. What book is best about the Middle East? What would I wear? Would this mean we were something more? Would I become his girlfriend? Was I ready for that? I curled up into the quilt that came with the apartment, and after deciding I should wash it, I exhaled into it, missing his smell and missing the way his body moved in his sleep. Still buried in a blanket that wasn’t mine to begin with, I shifted my attention to my far-from-grand entrance and remembered the door he left open.

Perhaps it wasn’t intentionally symbolic, or intentional by any means — but in my memory of that moment, I took it as such. I believed it to mean there was a crack in the door, or at least a window ajar. There was an opportunity for something more that I couldn’t foresee. Maybe he was in a rush but maybe it meant so much more – it meant there was a chance for us. A chance for love.

I held onto to that crack in the door for as long as I could, and then a little longer than that. I held onto promises that were broken before they were made, beds that were ruined before they could be tucked in and dreams that died a slow, bitter death – as such unrealistic things often do. I believed in that crack in the door with more faith than I believed in Mr. Possibility – if I could always see how things could change, how the light could really be at the end of a twisted, dark tunnel, than I could make it work. Even after I had left the relationship in the past, I lingered on thoughts of what it could have been, what it should have been, what I wanted it to be — without seeing how the crack was swiftly disappearing into a void. Because I made up illusions that captivated me, I was determined to make them the beautiful reality I had imagined.

The last time I saw him – after giving into an invitation to visit his nieces, a chord he knew would strike me to my core — I watched him climb the stairs to catch his train, knowing it’d be a long time (if ever) I’d see him again. Startled by the idea that I wouldn’t see those dimples or hear his daily anecdotes, or be considered one of his friends or the one who got away,  I snapped out of my stubbornness and followed after him, damning the train that was arriving. As fast as my heels would take me, I reached the platform, only to see him disappear into the cart.

And just as I reached the doors, they closed. I knocked on the window, but he was already tuned into his Blackberry, not facing toward me, but far away, in a place I could never reach — even after a year of loving him with all that I had, despite who he was, and especially who he wasn’t. The train pulled away and the passenger inside watched me lust after him longingly, but Mr. Possibility never noticed.

I never told him, either. What’s there to say when the crack in the door…is sealed shut?

PS: I was amazed with how many Valentine’s were sent last year from all over the world. Your touching words, your kind sentiments and the way you expressed all the things you hope for, as well as all the things that make you so beautiful – were incredible. I hope you will take a moment to write a Valentine about all the things you love about yourself, all the things in the future you can’t wait to experience and what  self-love means to you. I’ll publish your words – along with a link to your blog, if you blog – on Valentine’s Day. Or if you’d rather be anonymous, that’s fine too.

Go here to submit your Valentine. You deserve it. Tell me how sweet it is to be loved by you.

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Let My Heart Design

There are moments in every 20-something’s life where you the world you’ve created doesn’t seem at all like you thought it would. There are these days where you feel out-of-place in your own skin, where your thoughts don’t seem to be your own and where doubts are far more common than reassuring sentiments. There are these ideas that pop into your head that you can’t shake and these desires that strike your soul that seem so positively unsettling, it’s inspiring.

One of those thoughts hit me the morning after I returned to New York after Christmas.

I opened my eyes, irritated that I woke up nearly two hours before I should have, and after twenty minutes of tossing and turning, I gave into my internal alarm clock and sat up in bed. There in the uncanny silence that this city only offers before the coffee is brewed or the street vendors set up shop, I really looked around my room — for probably the first time since I moved to this apartment in May.

I saw the pale-green walls that I didn’t paint. The mismatched frames that dusted my IKEA bookshelf and the dirty laundry piled in the corner. The lack of a bed frame. The desk that I never use, but has rings from beer glasses I actually filled with orange juice, not booze. My closet that’s practically begging to be cleaned out, sprouting shoes from the right, growing scarves from the left. The suitcase that won’t fit in said-closet, so it’s wedged under the window, with a wooden box covering it.

What does this space say about me? I wondered. Does it say a successful editor lives here? Someone who is full of optimism and lives a full life? I questioned, pulling the covers to my chin and turning off the fan I use to fall asleep with. No, it doesn’t. This space says nothing about me other than I have stuff.

But those weren’t the thoughts that struck me — it was this one: You’ll enter your mid-twenties this year, what have you actually done with your life? Does this room show that you’re still figuring that out?

This isn’t the first time I’ve analyzed my personal aspirations or intentions. Actually, I’d say I’m in a constant state of personal wonder as an explorer of my own self, constantly prying into the places I let no one else go, trying to make sense of the person I am and the woman I hope to be. But this very, very Virgo-ness comes with its downfalls — some would say that I can’t get no satisfaction, others would say my hopes for something more are selfish. I’d say it’s a little bit of both — sometimes I only want what I can’t have, but most of the time, I figure out ways to make the things that are the most important to me less like dreams and more like reality.

But I haven’t really traveled. My “studying abroad” experience was interning in New York — a destination that in comparison to North Carolina, is quite foreign. All of my savings, all of my efforts went into making the big move, so thousands of dollars to visit Spain or Greece fell low on the travel priorities. But now I’m here, so why not see the world outside of the island of Manhattan? I gave up on a second language in college, but I constantly find myself tuning into conversations in dialects I can’t understand, endlessly entertained by the jokes I don’t catch or the romance I can only see through body language, not speech. So why not learn? I’ve been running for years — off and on, mind you — but I’ve never ran more than a 5K. So why not try more? And though I have an entire Pinterest board of apartment decor I love, I never invest in anything other than brunches and lunches, clothes and books, wine and cheap accessories I find in the Village. So why not push some money toward making my place, look like me?

But what is me? I considered, standing up to put on my robe and flipping on a hand-me-down lamp. Who am I, now that I have the big girl job, the big girl location and the big girl life? Am I big girl now? What does she look like?

And so, I entertained my overly-structured, thoughtful-self and wrote down the things I knew about myself. My strengths, like being brave when I’m afraid, and afraid when I fear losing something that’s special. My ability to balance the best while handling the worst. My unyielding, everlasting, overly positive perception of love — between lovers, between friends, between families, between strangers. My courage to share with the world the things that most people never address privately. How I can see the good in the gullible soul, the great in the gray hair.

And I listed my weaknesses.

Like being far harder on myself than even the most dedicated hater of this blog. Or for putting the needs of unavailable men before the basic needs that keep me humming a little happy tune just for me. Or the way I can be oversensitive about things that are merely opinion, and saddened by the coolness of facts I wish weren’t so. How I snap at those who care when they see me clearer than I see myself. When I’m boastful in times when I should be humble, how I can be quick to judge and slow to forgive. Or worse, when I’m forgiving of those who don’t deserve it and resentful of those who do.

Or how, like in this moment, I’m overly critical of everything in my life, including the place I lay my head.

But I have my heart, I thought. It’s a bright shining center in the middle of a me that’s oftentimes, very messy. It’s the most brilliant part of me, that those I love see all the time, and strangers comment about on the street. It’s the part of me that feels warmed by the wide-eyed faces of babies on the train, and the me that waits until a kitten finds its way back into an apartment before I stop watching it. It’s what makes me give up my seat for those who need it, pause on the busy streets to let someone else pass and always offer to help, no matter how busy I am. It’s what makes me a dedicated friend and a loving partner. It’s what allows me to be walked all over and bruised, but still get up and do it all over again. It’s what allows me to choose the happiness of others over the satisfaction I’d maybe prefer.

So no, maybe I’m not where I thought I’d be. Or maybe I’ve come a lot further than I believed I ever would. Perhaps my passport is blank, along with the pale-green walls that I really don’t care for. Maybe I’m approaching the middle point of my second decade on this planet and I haven’t scratched the surface of what I hope to do in this lifetime.

But I have time to see places I want to see. Time to find the parts of me I’ve yet to discover. Time to paint my room before the Spring arrives. Time to learn how to say “love” in every language I find intriguing. Time to put that word to use with men who are worthy of all it entails.

And time to let my heart design my space, my intentions and my life. After all, without it, nothing I see around me (or inside of me) would be possible.

PS: I was amazed with how many Valentine’s were sent last year from all over the world. Your touching words, your kind sentiments and the way you expressed all the things you hope for, as well as all the things that make you so beautiful – were incredible. I hope you will take a moment to write a Valentine about all the things you love about yourself, all the things in the future you can’t wait to experience and what  self-love means to you. I’ll publish your words – along with a link to your blog, if you blog – on Valentine’s Day. Or if you’d rather be anonymous, that’s fine too.

Go here to submit your Valentine. You deserve it. Tell me how sweet it is to be loved by you.

Why Do You Love You?

Last Valentine’s Day, my two gay husbands (yes, two of them) sent me flowers (one with bacon, one growing in soil that I later killed). Another friend brought me a cupcake. And though I didn’t admit it then, Mr. Possibility had two dozen yellow tulips (my favorite) delivered to my work. He also came home from Dubai a day earlier so we could get dumplings in midtown, followed by chocolate mousse cake in bed.

This year though, I happily anticipate some buds from my father who is so adorably thoughtful I can’t even wrap my mind around it, much less my words. I’m keeping a pact with my friend M, where we agreed to send each other flowers on V-Day (which then turned to giving each other a bouquet in person once we looked up how oh-my-gosh expensive it is to send things that’ll die in a week on February 14). A few days before I’ll run a 5K and I think I’ll spend the actual day relaxing with the best girls in the world, drinking Merlot and eating cupcakes because our love for each other, wine and baked goods will never go out of style, with or without men on the side.

And hopefully, I’ll publish another addition of Valentine’s from you…to you.

I was amazed with how many Valentine’s were sent last year from all over the world. Your touching words, your kind sentiments and the way you expressed all the things you hope for, as well as all the things that make you so beautiful – were incredible. I hope you will take a moment to write a Valentine about all the things you love about yourself, all the things in the future you can’t wait to experience and what  self-love means to you. I’ll publish your words – along with a link to your blog, if you blog – on Valentine’s Day. Or if you’d rather be anonymous, that’s fine too.

Go here to submit your Valentine. You deserve it. Tell me how sweet it is to be loved by you.

 

The Nice Girl

Since I’m really trying to turn over new leaves and try new things this year, I decided vamping up my online dating profile would be a solid first step. Sure, dating isn’t a priority but I enjoy going out with guys and meeting new people in general, online is an easy way to take pressure off when bar-hopping with the ladies. Let the guys I may want to date stay online and the guys I want to dance with hang out at the club, right? Sitting in my new fluffy bathrobe, exhausted after forcing myself to start running again, I sent the link to my friend K to have her give suggestions. After reading, she asked why I wanted to change it, and I said: You don’t think it sounds too nice?

She replied, But you are nice.

Ugh that word. Nice. You’re so nice. You’re such a sweet girl. You’re a doll! It’s all so irritating. I don’t want to be nice. Her words nagged me. They buzzed about my head and allowed my brow to scrunch, though I knew my mother would say it causes wrinkles and I shouldn’t do such a thing to my skin. But I was annoyed. Very annoyed.

Surely she meant no harm and was just being honest – I am, indeed, a nice person. I think of things before others do, I try to be the best friend I can be, I send hand-written cards for the holidays because I love to picture the instant smiles from others when they receive real mail, I always give gifts with meanings, I pause to let the person walk in front of me, I give up my seat for the elderly and give half my sandwich to the homeless. I volunteer with kids who want to write because I’m passionate about helping children and literacy. I hold the doors open for people I know and those I don’t. I get cabs when I know others are struggling financially. I try to be considerate even when someone is inconsiderate. I’m even nice in relationships – I usually don’t really care what we eat, so I eat what he wants. I leave hidden notes in places he’ll find throughout his day. I learn to bake his favorite goodies, regardless of how long we’ve been together. I’ll return text messages timely and I’ll give back scratches without much persuasion. I may even sit through an incredibly sports-something-or-another if it’s important to him.

She’s right. I’m nice. But when she said it – I automatically hated it.

Noting my frustration, K asked me to describe myself in three words. Irritated at my “nice” label but trying to look past it, I typed: ambitious, thoughtful and optimistic. I stared at them on the Gchat screen gazing back at me. I didn’t include sexy or spontaneous. Or anything about adventure! I’m starting to travel and do things alone, should that be included? What about something about attitude? I can be a bitch if I really try! Or when someone royally pisses me off like Mr. P, oh my god, he can definitely bring that side out of me. Are those really the words to describe me? Really?

I typed to her: Doesn’t that make me sound boring? With her usual elegance, she replied, Thoughtful means you have the skill of making sure cards magically arrive right on time, ambitious means you moved here all on your own and made it happen without fearing the worst, and optimistic means you’re trying online dating, you believe in people, you believe in luck, you believe in fate, and you’re excited! That does not make you boring, that makes you, you.

I didn’t let go of my irritation that night, I went to sleep believing no one would message me — the nice girl. Or the guys that did, would be so intolerably irritating or nice guys that are waiting until marriage for sex or sport that button up with khaki look that I despise, I would curse myself a little bit more for being nice.

Staring up at my ceiling I decided how I wanted my profile to read: I’m so incredibly happy and satisfied with my life that I’m standing here in a black dress, drinking champagne and laughing, not caring what you think or if you want to go out with me. I want it to say: I’m sassy and independent, don’t mess with me unless you have big enough balls to match my courage, and the ability to wow a real woman. I want it to be like this: cool, confident, sarcastic, sexy and totally unavailable unless it’s a really, really incredible guy. I picture myself dripping in diamonds with a slender frame, red, red lips, standing in sky-scraper heels on a rooftop with Manhattan as my background, with a look that says: Don’t f*** with me.

But let’s be honest – that’s just not me. I am nice. A nice Southern girl who moved to the big city. Right? Or maybe – maybe – I’m confusing nice with boring. Nice isn’t boring – it’s…nice.

I am happy and satisfied with my life. I do wear black and drink champagne with my friends, not caring what a man thinks or doesn’t. I am definitely sassy in the right circumstance and I was raised to be an independent thinker. I’d like to think my ballsy courage is one of my greatest traits, and currently, I’d say I’m pretty unavailable unless a dreamboat comes sailing along. The thing is, even if I’m all of those things, I’m still a fun girl…with a heart. The girl who will say what she thinks, but kindly. The girl who is strong enough to walk away but will feel a little twang of guilt for having to do so. The girl who helps others but also remembers herself. The girl who dances on tabletops but also makes sure her friends don’t tumble while they’re joining her. The girl who is undeniably strong, but equally undeniably sensitive, too. I do lead with my heart instead of my breasts. I say what I want, I know what I want and go after what I want – but I don’t walk all over people to get there. I’m not that model-esque thing standing in the corner of an overpriced club downtown, I’m more the girl who hangs out at a lounge in the West Village, eying the guy with blue eyes and crazy, curly hair. And while I may first be attracted to his mystery and his sex appeal, or his comfortable confidence that’s not too arrogant, what will keep me attracted to him is how thoughtful he is. And the ambition that drives his optimistic view on life.

Maybe nice girls and nice guys finish last – if so, I might have a long way to go. But I don’t think being nice is a turnoff, I think being boring is. And they’re not the same thing, though it may be easy to confuse the two. I may not be all of the things I think make someone cool, and I may have more sugar-and-spice than frogs, snails and puppy-dog tails – but one thing I’ll never be… is boring.

Because if I was boring – I wouldn’t have woken up to a few messages in my inbox the next morning and two dates planned this weekend. Looks like nice girls aren’t so bad, after all.

Someone Like Me

The night I broke up with Mr. P, my best friend M had made the commute from the Upper West to the Lower East to keep me company since I knew no one at the party except Mr P’s sister. She arrived ready to dance and drink whiskey while I sipped on my hot tea, fighting the onset of an awful cold.

When the clock struck ten, two hours past the time Mr. P asked me to arrive for his friend’s birthday, I gave up hope he would show and any sadness I felt turned into bitter hostility. Too angry to move, I sat firmly in between his brother-in-law and an old friend, both of which expressed concern for Mr. P. In return, I shrugged an innocent grin, attempting to disguise my frustration. Seeing my blatant annoyance, M grabbed my hand and made me dance in the little black dress that was wasted on the evening. It’s your birthday weekend! she reminded me. You should be enjoying yourself!! I couldn’t help but smile and groove with her demands, especially since she wouldn’t let me even if I tried.

After a few songs, I returned to the table to hydrate when I caught a glimpse of Mr. P entering the bar and significantly intoxicated. He stumbled his way to me, muttered halfhearted apologies and laughed at his lateness. I responded with silence and rejoined M on the dance floor who mouthed: Are you okay? I shook my head No but continued to sway my hips, so M continued too, and there we grooved without saying a word, though saying everything, as best friends usually do. When the music faded into Adele’s Someone Like You, we looked at each other and it was clearer than it had ever been before that the last straw was breaking, or passing out on the bench at a dive bar downtown — either way I wanted to look at it, the answer was there. I’ve never been one to let pop culture define much of anything for me, but the words rang too true and too bittersweet for me not to take note. M hugged me and we danced and sang the whole song before I tapped Mr. P awake to try to talk some sense into him. Or at least give him the option to make up for his mistake. When he denied my offer, I refused the relationship.

I wish I could say that was that and I’ve easily moved on and let go of him without much hesitation at all. I wish I could declare my complete independence and that I’ve started dating someone I’m crazy about. I wish I could say I never think of him or respond to his emails or calls. I wish I could say I’m stronger than what I really am, less prone to stinging heartache than I’ve been before. But the truth is, that song still makes me sad. And it’s not the only thing that does.

When I stumble across places we frequented together or when I find something funny I think he would like. Or when it’s cold in my room or my family asks about him or I run into a mutual friend who still, four months later, didn’t realize we split. And for a while I was letting all of those things, all those places, all those reminders keep me from doing or going. I’ve gradually started reclaiming my New York and the stuff I love by dissociating it with a relationship or with the idea of a love that never was nourished enough to bloom. Recently though, those steps forward have become more like long, strong strides.

When discussing an upcoming solo ski-tubing trip with my friend K, she mentioned hand-warmers and I was instantly brought back to last Christmas when Mr. P bought $100 worth of hand-warmers for his family members. My immediate reaction was to express my distaste for them and how they bring back visions of a happy Mr. P I sometimes miss. Being the practical gal she is, K attempted to convince me that something meant to keep me from freezing has little to do with a sour relationship and a lot to do with survival on a mountain. A few hours later when I caught the train to the gym, I thought about K’s valid point and then chronicled some of the things I’ve stopped doing since I broke up with Mr. P simply because the actions remind me of him: cooking stir-fry (his favorite), wearing lingerie (no one sees it but me), buying yogurt (we used to sit together on the couch in the mornings eating it), wearing the coin necklace he gave me that I love and I even feel odd glancing at my Blackberry on the subway because it’s something he always did.

Really Lindsay? You don’t do all of those things because of some guy? Seriously? It’s time to do things for you. 

And so after my run, I stopped by the grocery store for rice, peppers, chicken and yogurt and I went to the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale because one of my 50 things is investing in matching sets. When I got home, I put on my new lingerie, sported the charm I love and cooked enough stir-fry to last me for days. He may have dictated my life while he was part of it, but now that he’s not, any ownership of memories or things, places or dishes have now switched back into my hands.

Mr. P taught me some great lessons but probably the best one is something he never sought to teach: how to stand up for what I want in love. He knew his weaknesses and his inability to emotionally commit, and when I finally saw it too, I realized how little I stand up for myself when I’m deep into a relationship. And that was my greatest downfall – I was so busy trying to find someone so perfect that I did everything I could to be the perfect person they wanted, and forgot about what I really wanted in my pursuits of happily-forever-and-ever. I let things that have nothing to do with a man have everything to do with him. I allowed myself to compromise what really mattered in my heart just to hold a fraction of his. And the pay off was nothing special or different – it was just another story to tell, another failed courtship to put in the books and build myself up from. Another reason for my friend to drag me out into an anonymous crowd to dance away my aching as I try to forget the shadow in the corner.

Adele may hope to find someone like her ex and a part of me wants to find parts of Mr. P in someone else too but the main thing I’m looking for is a man who is someone like me. Someone who is thoughtful and considerate, mature and ambitious. Someone who doesn’t need fancy dinners but likes them, someone who wants to travel and create a home at the same time. Someone steady and stable but surprising in the ways that matter. Someone equally as romantic and dependable, stubborn and generous. Someone who is no where close to wanting a relationship but still believes in the powers of fate he’s yet to understand.

Someone who is looking for someone like me.