It Looks Great On Me

After weeks of bipolar New York City weather, the clouds parted just enough to allow a sliver of sunshine to grace the Hudson river. I felt the breeze tickle my back as the light warmed my face, and even though I didn’t have anything particularly exciting or enlightening to smile about, a grin appeared anyway.

With only a few more blocks to go, I slowed my pace just enough to enjoy the walk but not enough to be late to meet my friends at the Boat Basin on the Upper West Side. It was a night dedicated to a children’s charity and to buying (many) glasses of wine in support. When I finally met up with J and entered the establishment, a few brilliant rays of light beat into the patio, putting a stunning haze over everyone. And in my red off-the-shoulder dress, feeling the heat of the sunset seep into my eyes, I felt something that I haven’t felt in a while:

Beauty.

Maybe it’s been the unpredictable weather or my Accutane hangover, but it’s been some time since I’ve truly felt beautiful. Sure, after a long shower and the right spritz of perfume, I’ve felt attractive enough to flirt up the bars. Or at least confident enough to pretend I felt prettier than I really do. It’s taken longer than I ever expected — nearly two years — to shed the lingering effects of the end of my relationship with Mr. Possibility. It took me nearly a year to realize how his snide comments or constant effort to compare me to other women took it’s toll on me. And it’s taken me another year to release those negative words from my memory. For all the good he gave me and the things he taught me, pointing out my flaws was something that I didn’t fully digest the harshness of until I was completely emotionally removed.

But you know, it’s not all his fault. It’s actually more my fault — I have, after all, been repeating the you-must-be-perfect mantra since high school. The song didn’t stop sounding sweet until I finally faced what I didn’t like and well, took control of it. I officially ran my first 10K this past weekend, I’ve lost nearly 15 pounds in the past 9 months and by some stroke of modern medicine miracles — I don’t have to wear makeup anymore.

And sure, those things matter but what matters more is that I feel attractive from the inside out. Cliche, for sure – but truth all the same. Before you can create that simple confidence and bask in the natural, not-even-close-to-perfect beauty that is yours — you have to believe it.

You have to believe it until you actually feel it.

Maybe it’s by humming a new tune to remind yourself that you’ve got it going on. It could be as easy as putting your focus on being happy instead of being the best. Or it could be taking time to dream and fostering those positive thoughts into everything you do. It can be remembering to smile in a city that’s full of grimaces and frowns. Or teaching yourself to look past the faults of others to discover beauty in places you didn’t see before.

However you do it, however long you have to try to find it – once you do, something remarkable happens:

People notice it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been called a goddess by a barista at Starbucks. A man with a vintage camera asked to take my photo on my way into Chelsea Market because he wanted to capture my glow. At the charity dinner, I caught more glances than I have this entire year. A handsome stranger stopped me on the side of the street just to remind me that I was beautiful. My friends have noticed my clear skin, the freckles they’ve never seen because I’ve always worn so much coverage and a kick in my step that hasn’t been kickin’ in months. I’ve finally started showing my teeth in pictures — going against the advice of Mr. P who always told me I didn’t have a good enough smile for that. I’ve gone out on two quite successful dates with a guy who I’m excited to go on a third date with — and I didn’t do myself up either time to see him.

Instead, I came as myself.

And you know what? Being natural, smiling, laughing, confident and dare I say it, beautiful… it looks great on me.

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I Thought of You Today

I thought of you today while riding the subway downtown to a date I wasn’t quite sure was actually a date or not. I caught myself not being able to turn my attention away from an older couple — sitting next to each other, reading the paper on a Friday night at 8 like it was the most normal thing in this city. They shared the Times, flipping through thoughtfully, digesting each sentence and with care, turning the page. The husband rubbed his wife’s knee from time to time during my 20-minute commute. She turned her attention to him with a casual smile, probably the same look she’s been giving him for decades. The same look that he loves, the same grin that’s gotten him through the tough times and the good ones. They looked insanely comfortable and so beautifully, easily, sweetly with one another.

It was adorable.

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And it made me think of you. You — whoever you are. You who I haven’t met yet, or perhaps I have. Maybe we’ve already dated, broken up and lost contact. Maybe we’ve seen one other naked. But no, I don’t think so. I could have caught a glimpse of you while walking my dog or picking up groceries around the block. Perhaps I didn’t catch your name when we were briefly introduced at a loud bar somewhere in the West Village months ago. Maybe, as the psychic predicted, your name begins with J.

Or not.

Whatever your name is — however your last sounds with my first — I try not to think of you. I know better than to imagine and create illustrations and hopes of what you look like or how your voice resonates in my head without actually, ever meeting you. I know that believing in things that feel impossible or totally out of reach at this moment can only make me feel worse. Especially if everything I dreamt of, everything I’ve considered true about love and marriage someday just become things I once thought would happen, instead of things that are. How can I think of you – you, with eyes I haven’t locked with, lips I haven’t actually kissed – when you’re just someone I’ve never known? How can I think of you without one hundred percent knowing your existence is something I can depend on?

That you’re someone I can believe in?

But it’s when the world feels a little lonely and my personal universe is a little uncomfortable or uncertain, that I do think of you. It’s when I dream of you, knowing better and rebelling against logic in romantic spite. It’s when I close my eyes on a crowded train or tucked away at night, looking out at the stars I convince myself I can see, even when I know I don’t. City lights are brilliant and alluring but they conceal the sparkly specs I love to see. I think of you and the days I hope will come, the children I hope I’ll bear. The love I can’t wait to make in our bed I want to share. I think of you in a way that’s unfair and extremely biased — without ever being introduced to you, without tracing your face or feeling your grip on my hip, I both love and hate you. I love you because I hope you’ll be mine, and I hate you for hiding. For taking so long. For not being here…

…Right now. On this train. Next to me. Kissing the side of my head and excited to show me a new downtown joint you discovered. Holding my hand that holds your ring, looking at me in the way my father always promised you would. With love, with admiration. With everything…

…after making it through everything to get to you.

And yet, I try not to think of you. And so usually, I don’t. I pick myself up from that moving train and away from that couple I aspire to be like, and head out to that date. And I smile at a perfectly good guy who doesn’t ignite a spark but insists on walking me to the station. I may kiss him for whatever it’s worth, to disguise the disappointment on my face. I may politely respond to him the next day that I see more of a friendship and I’ll head out to continue with my weekend, trying my very best not to think of you. Trying not to look for you in the cute guys who pass by me or the ones who smile in my direction. I’ll stop myself from thinking of the stories I’d like to tell, the ones I’m dying to write and the adventures that seem so far-fetched that planning them would seem crazy. I won’t think of you that day or the following week, maybe even a month.

But then, on an unusually windy April afternoon, as I walk to pick up a latte after another less-than-interesting Saturday night, I’ll see an elderly man shushing the oncoming cars and taxis as his wife shuffles along with a walker. It’ll take two traffic rotations for her to make it across, but he just tells her to take her time. She’ll be wearing red lipstick and he’ll reach over to make sure she can make it up the sidewalk, and I’ll be standing right there, watching it all unfold in literally, slow motion.

Then I’ll smile. And I’ll think of you, whoever you are, wherever you might be. And I’ll pray that you’ll make your way to me soon because I’d rather walk these streets alone than to meet someone who isn’t you.

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Feelings Know Best

My friend A has a sense of adventure that I admire as much as I fear.

She galivants around the world — by herself — hitch hiking and talking to strangers who quickly become stories in her never-ending journal of interesting conversations that seriously, no one else has. She is truly a curly-headed wonder woman who takes risks and creates a bucket list of things she actually ends up doing.

I consider her one of my strong-willed and fiercely independent companions — someone who praises me for having the balls to walk away from something wrong for me and then telling me an obscure fact about elephants a beat later. She’s not traditional but she does believe in traditions of great families, like the crazy one she comes from, and though she doesn’t care for those vulnerable pieces that make her beautifully gushy and maternal in all the right ways, I love it about her.

But she’s afraid of feelings. Actually, she says she’s not good at them.

And I’d have to agree. She has emotions — overpowering, vivid, passionate ones — that when she articulates them can sensationally take your breath away. But it’s a rarity when she lets it all out, when she makes herself tender enough to shed a layer of her sturdy walls — the ones meant to protect her and everyone she knows. Her emotions can overwhelm her in a way that she can’t process in the second the moment happens. And then the moment turns into a memory and then she has enough time to feel the feelings without avoiding them, and then that memory becomes a new fascinating, gripping tale she tells you.

The truth is, I wish I was like A. I wish I could think before I speak. I wish I was brave to tackle uncharted territory and I wish I was bad at feelings.

Because frankly, I’m almost too good at them.

Which is why Dr. Heart made it to this blog. Or why I developed faith in him before getting to honestly know him. In this case, I let the heart lead the head and the head found reasons to steer the heart away.

I hearted too soon.

As I often do, but this time, I went with my gut and the lessons I learned a little too hard from Mr. P and I got away from a negative nelly before he got the best of me. I also learned an important lesson about my own heart after prematurely naming someone a love doctor before truly getting to know his heart and seeing if it actually matched and beat along with mine.

I didn’t let feelings really develop before calling them emotions. They were, in all actuality, just thoughts. And while those are quite powerful demons when they want to be, when heart strings and brain waves work together, something wonderful happens. When they don’t, nothing really can ever work.

Those feelings, whatever they may be, they must be given time to foster.

Regardless if you’re good or bad at feelings, it you’re afraid of them or crave them, if you express them way too often or not at all — you have to have them.

And through relationships and anything else that’s tied closely to those pesky little butterflies that direct so many of our decisions, you have to feel your way to figure out which direction is best.

You have to try to fail, you have to cry to swell, you have to hope to cope, and you have to think you know, only to find out that you, well, don’t. 

I’m not sure what’s next for me and whatever mister I muster the courage to welcome into my life, my bed, my never, ever giving up soul — but if anything, I’m not worried. I can feel my way through and figure it all out with those feelings.

Just like I always have, just like A has, even if we verbalize them differently. Even if being bad or good at feelings doesn’t really mean anything — the most important thing about those annoying, constant and sometimes fascinating flutters, is that after every disappointment or struggle or relationship that never actually became such a thing after all… You still have them. You still let yourself feel them.

You let them figure it all out. After all, good or bad, they do know best.

So Very Worth It

In a few weeks, I’ll celebrate the third anniversary with the city I love.

It’s seen me through for better and for worst. It’s pushed me out of a love I hoped would last and into days I never wanted to end. I’ve seen it transform itself and me with it’s ever-changing, ever-beautiful ways. It’s still like living in a dream, but it’s more like living in an interesting world I created. That I achieved. That against the odds, I found and made for myself. The streets don’t scare me anymore but they do entice me. I don’t feel like I’ve finished all the things I came here to do but I know I’ve done quite a lot in not a lot of time.

I flow better with the rhythm and the speed of the people and with buildings that surround and challenge me. I’ve given into wearing black, yet I still let my colorful intentions radiate. I understand and have experienced the harshness of the land and the field I’ve decided to pursue. It hasn’t always been easy, not at all, but it has always been a journey, with every step and certainly every stumble. Not matter if there was something — or someone — to break my fall or… nothing at all.

I’ve dated and fallen in love with the natives here — men I used to refer to as businessmen, but now adequately equate as investment bankers or financial traders, even though it all seems like all business (and all cold-hearted) to me. I’ve fished on all the dating sites that I can and I’ve met a few good ones among the constant crash of terrible matches. I’ve tried my hand at the bars on the east and those on the west, but I’ve settled into neighborhoods that fit me better than the rest.

I’ve learned to judge in ways I’m not proud of, but I’ve also developed opinions that I now stand firmly beside. I’ve left the island only to feel in my bones that I would never feel as much at home as I do in this strange place. I’ve missed trains and opportunities, passed by strangers who could have used my help and given too much of myself to someone who didn’t really need it. Or want it. I’ve been embarrassed of ignorance in a city so full of brilliance, and I’ve savored my Southern roots for all that they’re worth and all that they’ve made me. I’ve missed people I’ve yet to meet and hungered for days I have never lived but I’ve also finally learned to settle into the skin and the place I’m in.

I never knew for certain that I would make it here in New York, an urban jungle that determines making it anywhere else in the big old world with all it’s big old cities. I didn’t doubt my abilities or my talents or my humble, caring attitude that I still believe gets me further than anything else. It’s even more powerful than the sound of my heels clicking miles before I appear. I wondered if I would become anther listless writer, another hopeless dreamer who lost her way somewhere between New Jersey and Queens. I didn’t know if I could convince someone to give me a chance or if I could even survive on the minimal salary that I knew would come with my very first big girl job.

But I did believe I should try.

Even if failed to a disappointing demise and had to tuck my Tigar tail and catch a flight to the bittersweet Carolina, I knew I had to give it a go. Remorse I could live with, regret I could not.

It all worked out– as I imagined it possibly would. And I worked myself out in the process. It’s easy and probably sensible to argue that these changes and these growths were mainly due to my age — so much happens in the years between when you’re old enough to buy a beer and when you face the big three zero. But I have to give credit to the city that made me brave. That made me a fighter. That knocked me down and encouraged me to never stay sitting for too long.

I often wonder if I’ll stay here in this island forever– if New York is where I’ll want to raise my children, should I be lucky enough to have them. I think about the days when I’ll move in with a man into a (nicer!) apartment and when I make more money to do more things, and yes, give me more responsibility and accountability. Though I feel like so much has happened on these avenues and in those changing wintry or steamy seasons, if I’m really honest, it’s really just begun.

And the beauty of not knowing my fate with my sweet and seductive city is just like not knowing my fate with anything else: it’s a little scary. But it makes me hopeful more than it makes me anxious. If so much good has happened and I’ve been able to move past the bad to find the parts that I can learn from — surely what’s ahead of me is even better than what’s behind me. Perhaps the heartaches and headaches and growing pains are far from over — but I do think that a love, an apartment, a moment with my wonderful Manhattan are silver linings I’ll one day be able to experience.

No, moving to New York has never been completely, totally perfect. Not my life here, not the dating adventures I always blog about. But you know what? That’s what makes it so amazing. That’s what makes it — and will always make it — so very worth it.

When You Listen

It’s easy to ignore especially since it’s nearly impossible to detect unless you let yourself escape away with it. You can tune it out and pretend that you don’t hear the gentle, nudging — maybe even nagging — rhythm it beats. It’s simple enough to just go on about your day and all of the errands and tasks that define those 24-hours, trying so hard to focus on the car horns and the street signs, the dance of the traffic lights and the unfamiliar faces that pass.

But then it gets a little louder.

It gains momentum and tries different tactics to steal away your attention, oftentimes without you even realizing its sheer force and determination. You can’t adequately describe what exactly it is. Even with your best attempts, the words don’t come out the right way and your friends just can’t wrap their brain around this alluding, and perhaps deluding concept that you seem so fascinated by. You explain and you examine, you question and dissect your options, hoping that by some pro-con list or magical realization that you’ll find a way out. You’ll discover the easiest path to take you the easiest way, and you’ll never have to step up to the plate and battle that thing that’s ringing in your ears.

That thing that for whatever reason feels a lot like an intuition.

That feels eerily like a voice telling you to do something that you can’t really explain. It’s the same irritating, pesky feeling that makes you do things that make you uncomfortable and explore emotions that you’d rather hide away where they’re safe from any harm.

But then, if you’re anything like me, you start singing that song of urgency and you follow along the notes until it takes you to the very spot in the middle of Times Square that not only makes your skin crawl but puts you so far out of your warm-and-fuzzy-mode that you’d basically do anything if you could just run far, far away, back uptown to your apartment. With your dog.

So there I was, standing in a room of strangers at a trendy-ish bar in midtown, refraining from plugging my ears from the raging DJ’s awful taste, not knowing one single person, and yet, knowing I was meant to go to this party. It was a fundraiser for a new charity in New York and from the moment I saw the invite on Facebook, something — that silly something — told me that I had to go.

When I started bringing up the Friday-night event to my friends, it seemed like every last person I knew on this island couldn’t attend: “I’m sorry, I’m out-of-town!” “Oh, I’m not feeling good. I might be able to do it, I’ll get back to you.” “I’m going to stay in tonight and be lazy, have fun!” “It’s in Times Square? Sorry, just can’t handle it.” “I have plans with my boyfriend that I can’t break, miss you!”

Ugh. So, I flew solo, just as that intuition instructed.

Now, why am I supposed to be here? I wondered while making small talk with another small town girl from the South over a $5 glass of champagne. She was talking about dating in the city and seeking my “expert” advice while pointing out men that looked like celebrities. That one looks like Ross from FRIENDS! And that dude by the bar looks like Channing Tatum, doesn’t he? Maybe a little? She was quirky and sweet enough, but I knew it wasn’t her that I was supposed to meet.

Or was I supposed to meet anyone? I considered. Maybe my mission this evening was to join yet another non-profit — since I can’t seem to refuse to help anyone — and give just a bit more of my free time to another cause who needs me. But that’s not it, I told myself as I signed up to join the marketing committee, mentally calculating how in the world I was going to make this work with my already jam-packed schedule. 

I decided to give the party another hour while I mingled and moved about, desperately trying to find the source of this lingering voice that made me come to the party to begin with. But the minutes came and they ended, and I was still uncertain of why exactly I was drawn to this establishment, and I started to doubt my ability to distinguish between intuition and restlessness. As I started to make my way to the front, I started to lose the voice I had heard all week, and I decided that maybe, my imagination was just getting the best of me. Or was it my ever-hopeful heart?

After closing my tab and unchecking my coat, I glanced at my phone to see a number that only started texting me the day before. The number, those 10 unsaved digits that meant really nothing to me, wanted to buy me a drink on the Upper West Side. Tonight. Like in an hour.

Then suddenly the voice was back. It just had the time frame all off. And the actual location. But it returned with more clarity. It wasn’t screaming or demanding and it didn’t need any words, I already knew its directions: goJust say yes. Without hesitation, I agreed. I listened.

And you know what happens when you listen? You get rewarded for following your heart and trusting in its timing and its patience. When you listen… you sometimes get lucky enough to meet someone who really, truly, for the first time in a very long time, could be… someone.

Falling in Love on Fridays

Whenever I meet a new couple or I speak to someone who gushes about their partner, I always ask about their how-we-met story. For whatever reason, the way two strangers turn into friends or into lovers or into friends and then lovers, fascinates me. Maybe it’s because I believe in fate or the power of the universe (thanks mom!), or it’s just my romantic disposition at its sappiest – but I love learning about how folks somehow, in some magical or terribly ordinary way, found their way to another person. To their person.

I’ve had a few meet-cutes of my own: I fell down in front of Mr. Possibility on a bus on the way back from JFK Labor Day weekend. I saw Mr. Idea working and found a mutual friend to introduce us because he looked so darn dashing in his green shirt. I used to pass by Mr. Faithful every day in high school until finally, I invited him to a BBQ by putting my number in his pocket. I interviewed Mr. Fire for an article in the college newspaper, and once the feature ran, he asked me out.

All of these meetings could have made for the start of happily-ever-after if the guys didn’t turn out to happily-after-never – but the way we stumbled into each other (sometimes, literally speaking), will always hold a special place in my memories of each of those relationships. Our stories of how we fell in love (or sweaty, amazing, passionate lust), are tales I tell here and ones I keep close to my heart, reminding me that if I can love once (and twice and three times…), I can always love again.

But the story of how I fell in love with myself – as I’ve depicted through hundreds and hundreds of blogs over the past two years – that story is just as beautiful and endearing. It’s been brutally honest to a point of pain and also full of light, hope and gentle peace. It’s had ups and downs, and I’ve fallen in and out of love with this city, with my life here, with the woman I’m becoming and the woman I want to be over, and over again. That’s what makes it a great story – from the meeting to the ending and everything that had to conspire in between to make those two points important.

And so – I want to know your stories.

Of how you fell in love with the man you’re dating or married to. Or the one you broke up with three years ago. Or the one you just can’t get over, but want to. I want to know the story of how you fell in love with yourself after the breakups, the makeups, the unemployment periods, the days you got the dream job, the moment you felt your best and sexiest, the periods of complete self-satisfaction. The stories of moving to a new place or falling back in love with an old one.

Every Friday, I’ll post a “Falling in Love on Friday” blog. You don’t have to be a writer to submit, but if you do have a blog, I’ll gladly link back. Pictures aren’t necessary, but always encouraged. Email me at confessions (dot) loveaddict (@) gmail (dot) com. I’ll try my best to respond to everyone.

Tell me your stories – and I promise to keep telling you mine…

The Expired Metro Card

Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall…I repeated, watching my silver high heels cascade down the subway stairs. Logically, I knew the rest of my body was with me, too – but my New Year’s champagne intake made it difficult to actually feel it. One of my dear best friends J, who kindly invited me out with her and her boyfriend D, grabbed my arm and together we finally made it into the tunnel below.

Of all the nights in New York — there are really only two that it’s a better idea to take the train than to attempt to get a cab: Halloween and New Year’s. Though you may be wearing a dress that has little to it and heels higher than appropriate to ring in a new beginning — those assets won’t get you a cabbie unless you have some magical stroke of fate. We weren’t that lucky, so we braved the great underground at Union Square, along with hundreds of others.

In the hectic maze, I realized that on 01/01/13, my subway passed expired, and I needed to buy a ride to get me home. Just a few more steps and your toes will stop pinching. You can do it, you can do it! I encouraged myself as I wobbled over carefully, wondering if anyone else could detect my buzz or if they were equally intoxicated and uninterested in the drinkers around them.

As J and D waited, I went through the clicks on the screen, something I have memorized after buying subway cards for the past 34 months (wow!), to receive my golden ticket uptown. The pass flew out — and though it looked totally different than it normally does — I accepted and went with it. Within an hour, I was pushing the button to the 7th floor, excited to see my fluffy white bed and fluffy white dog.

The next morning, after some much-needed coffee and sleep, I took Lucy to the puppy park to get some energy out (and to feel less guilty for leaving her alone for so many hours). As I watched her spin around with the other pups and the cute couples who always hang out at the dog runs, holding hands and watching their “child” frolic, I reached into my coat pocket to find my expired subway pass.

Once the New Year came, this sucker wouldn’t grant me new rides or travels. It wouldn’t get me anywhere at all actually. And though looking up at the guy who was now placing his hands over his girlfriend’s ears to keep them warm, I thought about the love I miss having. And I considered the New Year as my new subway card — valid in 2013 to get me anywhere I wish to go. But that old one in my hand? It doesn’t work this year and it no longer can give me access to memory lane.

I can’t go down the “what if” trail that only leads to anxiety and making phone calls or returning text messages I really shouldn’t. I won’t even entertain the idea that the best love is behind me or that the intimacy I once shared with certain someones isn’t possible again. I won’t let thoughts of what I once had or the future I once envisioned keep me warm at night when my bed is just a little too cold for my tough skin. I won’t believe that I’m destined to wear these single shoes forever — but while I have them.. I better rock them.

Though I spent the New Year with couples and gladly took pictures of their New Year’s kiss instead of having one of my own, another single gal and I toasted to each other and smiled. And it was a genuine one — I’m happy with where I am. I feel the most beautiful, the most in shape, I’ve ever been. I’m fulfilled by things outside of relationships, and though everyone could probably use a little more loving, I don’t find myself aching too badly.

That being said, I spent a good portion of 2012 really working to get over Mr. Possibility. Though for half of it, he was overseas, he continually sent emails. Flowers. Macaroons from France. Paintings from Prague. Gifts and tokens of admiration — making sure he had a spot in the back of my mind, a sore spot on my heart, some kind of hold on me, even though he wasn’t  and isn’t ready to be anything in my life but a bittersweet, no-strings-attached memory. And while I really hate to admit it, I loved the attention. I loved knowing that some man did care about or miss me — even if I know he’s not right for me. So, before 2013 got here, I took all the steps to leave him in 2012 where he belonged. I cut off all communication and asked him (nicely) to do the same — and though I received a New Year’s text I didn’t respond to, I hope he’ll listen. I hope he’ll love me enough to let me go.

Because I don’t want to live in memory lane or with fear that I’ll never find someone to be in love with. I don’t need a place in yesterday or in the days I’ve already had. I don’t need to know what comes next because it’ll get here all on its own without help from me — but I know what’s in my past. And I know it needs to stay there — where I can learn from it, where I can grow from it, where I can move on from it. So that my bright shining future that I know in my heart-of-hearts is waiting for me in 2013 — can actually get going. Once the anchor is up — the sails will just fly out of the harbor, right?

Bye, bye, I said to that expired metro as I threw it in the trash. Lucy looked up at me with a big puppy grin that still makes me melt. Alright Lucy girl, let’s go! And without the old pass — and heavy past — the path and the year ahead somehow seem a little easier (and much more inviting) to trek.

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