What Would the Wise Woman Do?

I started taking this philosophy course at the start of the year. It was something that I was a little embarrassed to admit because it’s not the type of thing “us New Yorkers” do. Or at least, the response I’ve received so many times when I admit my class enrollment is “OMG, that sign on the subway! You actually did it!” (It looks like this, if you’re curious.)

Based on the advertisement alone, you would think it’s some hoax but the actual lessons I’ve learned through my 10-week schooling have been so influential on my life that I signed up for philosophy 2.

Each class, we discuss topics that relate to life as a group, and then we’re given homework to practice throughout the week. They range from “What would the wise woman do?” (your smarter, less crazy inner self) to “In every situation, find the beauty. If you don’t see it, look again. And if you still don’t see it, look again. And again.” (much easier said than done!).

All of these lessons about patience and listening, kindness and relaxing, selflessness and seeking the wisdom you can gain from every situation have benefited me immensely. When I’m stressed or anxious, upset or unsure, I find myself repeating the smart mantras to get me through the moment or the day or the incident. I’ve become more balanced at work, I spend more time really listening to what my friends have to say and giving more thoughtful, understanding advice. When I feel like the world is crashing down, I can usually apply something from the class and build back up the pieces that started to crumble.

In all areas of my life, I’ve become a better version of myself… except for the one pain point that philosophy class hasn’t been able to soothe:

My dating life.

Now – all of the principles I’ve been taught and repeated in my head for the past 10 weeks definitely make sense in terms of finding love:

Expand your circle of kindness. (Don’t just say no to some dude because he doesn’t fit perfectly into what you want)

Consider every person and every situation as a teacher. What can you learn? (When a date goes terribly and you are eying for the closest exit to get the f*** out of there, breathe, and see what you can gain from this experience.)

What you give your attention to grows. (If you keep focusing on the bad and the disheartening parts of being single or seeking love, you’re going to be continuously slapped in your pretty little face.)

Logically, I see the direct correlation but when I attempt to put it into practice, all of my zen attitudes and my self-encouraging thoughts quickly turn into the catastrophic rolling tide of negativity.

Like on Tuesday.

I met someone in a rather interesting way recently and I was excited about going out with him for the first time on Tuesday. There was some brief texting and some minor flirtation, and though I knew better than to get my hopes up about a date with a stranger, I was actually excited to see how it (and he) turned out. Maybe because the majority of first dates either go very well or very bad, or that I’m just so programmed to expect the worst out of men in New York, but as I was walking to the subway station to meet him, I felt the fear start creeping it’s way into my mind:

What if it’s really awkward? What if I don’t like him? What if how I remember him isn’t quite how he is? What if I’m really, really early? Or late? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I want to leave and I won’t know how to get away from him? What if he doesn’t think I’m pretty?

I felt my anxiety continue to build as I turned the corner and out of nowhere, something inside of me said: Look up. Look around you. Get out of your head and in the moment.”

And so I did.

I saw the toddlers racing out of their doorman building and the golden retriever happily following behind them. I saw young women around my age coming out of the local market with bags of food, talking to someone on the phone in hushed tones. I saw the street car vendor call out to passerbys and I saw little old men shuffling their way to the apartments they’ve probably had for decades.

And then I looked up…

… just as someone accidentally let go of a heart-shaped red balloon and it floated quickly up to the sky from the uptown streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Just as I was walking by. And just as Maroon 5′s “Love Somebody” came on my Pandora app.

First, I though, wow, my friends are right. My life IS a romantic comedy, and then I gave myself a break for being so negative about relationships.

The truth is  – dating is hard. It is frustrating. It in oftentimes, infuriating. And after going on date after date and meeting guy after guy for two and a half years, it’s natural to be a little burnt out. It’s normal to feel nervous before a date and frankly, nervous for how you’ll feel afterwards: more disappointed or hopeful (and honestly, the latter is a little scarier than the first).

And while it’s okay to worry, my energy and my time (and my heart) are better spent living in the now. Enjoying every single second of every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year is the single most important thing I’ve gained from my philosophy training. Time spent analyzing the past and holding onto it keeps you from the joy and the splendor of the now. And wondering what tomorrow will bring or who you will meet or how it will go or how it won’t go or what will happen are all questions that you’ll never have the answers to until… well, they happen. The truth of everything is found while you’re experiencing, not afterwards and not in anticipation of the moment.

So I got on the train. I took the local and I read a book the whole way. I took my time getting to the bar. I casually sat down, arriving before he did. I drank some water and I scanned a menu I already basically had memorized. I saw him arrive and I watched him walk in.

He smiled a genuine, kind grin at me and sat down.

And we talked philosophy – something that both of us had studied and both had our lives and our mindsets changed because of the work. A few drinks, a few kisses and a few days later, I’m excited about our second date this Friday.

But I’m not stressed about it. I’m just letting it happen. Why?

Because that’s exactly what the wise woman would do.

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You Can Fall Apart

A few weeks ago an article went viral on how to cry in New York.

Like anything that makes fun or sheds light on the city, I opened it, knowing I’d relate to whatever it said. I laughed at the tips – wear sunglasses and have a good song to really get you in the sobbing mood – and I liked the link my friend shared on Facebook.

And then on Friday, after a particularly stressful day, I found myself overwhelmed with my ever growing to-do list and as I talked to my mom (our nightly ritual on the two block walk to the train at night) – and I felt them.

The tears start to well.

I pressed into the receiver, complaining about the stress of doing taxes and how freelancing makes everything complicated and expensive. I expressed my anxiousness over the half-marathon I was running on Sunday (that I ended up rocking!). I talked about how guilty I felt about being jealous of my friends and their sweet boyfriends that surprise them with dinner reservations and a night out dancing – just because. I basically screamed into my iPhone that it wasn’t fair that for the past two and a half (and counting) years, I haven’t felt a lick of any emotion toward any man. My list went on – far too melodramatic to continue here – and as I kept going, I couldn’t hold back the sadness anymore.

I stopped in front of a party supply store and turned away from the people passing me on the street to hide my embarrassing, splashing drops, and my mom tried her best to comfort me with euphemisms and words of encouragement.

I got off the phone, finding it too difficult to talk, and stood there, collecting myself in the cold weather, praying no one I knew walked past me. I had cried in New York – like I have many times before – but I didn’t have sunglasses this time. Or a song to listen to. Or even tissues.

I avoided eye contact and kept my head down on the train home, willing myself to just make it to the UWS before collapsing on my bed, Lucy greeting me with her worried face and diligently licking away the salty mess. And though the article was right about ways to go about crying in New York, I’ve always found it hard to fall apart.

Certainly in public and often times, not even alone.

Somehow, letting it all come pouring out feels like opening the flood gates to something I don’t want to reveal or even see for myself. Why open the doors when denial feels so warm and protective? If I let the stress build and then I admit that it’s heavy, I fear I won’t be able to pick it up again, paralyzed by the thoughts themselves.

Falling into negativity doesn’t wash away the despair, it just heightens it.

And so, I mostly keep it together. I sing little mantras in my head for when I’m nervous. I remind myself that most everything is temporary and the best thing about life is that it always changes. I hold my head high and I try to count the things I’m thankful for instead of rhyming the things that make me bitter. I believe in the great tapestry of the universe and that I will never be dealt a hand so bad that I can’t handle it. I try to place my faith in the goodness, the boldness, the kindness of the world – and of this city – and thus, by merely having hope, I have strength in my heart.

But sometimes, like on Friday, the best possible thing I could do for myself was to let it go. To allow the thoughts to race through my mind, dangerously close to the edge of reason. To watch myself spiral wickedly out of control, witnessing my emotions like an outsider, seeing the adult tantrum take form, and eventually, end.

Because the thing about falling apart is that once you do it, you feel lighter. Those damning feelings don’t read as threatening anymore. Anger, jealousy, fear – whatever was building within you – go from boiling to simmering to frozen. Sure, there may be messy tissues and mascara-stained pillow cases, but once you’re finished, once you really release it, you’re you again.

And the world can see it.

Everyone around sees the weight that lifted. Your eyes are clearer, your head is not as cloudy, you’re smile is more generous. And perhaps, you attract something – or someone – just by releasing the tension you were clinging to for far longer than you needed to.

So you can fall apart. You can let it all hang out. You can lose control and have a meltdown. You can curse the world and fear your future. You can watch everything crumble and break, and you can bend yourself to the negativity. You can cry your eyes out like you have so many times before.

But then, you have to get up.

And though you may fall apart again and again and again – what’s more important is how many times you pick up the pieces and put yourself back together. The mark of a person is not how many times they have suffered or failed or been disappointed, but how many times they have said, “Okay, I’m done. Now what?”

So go ahead. Cry. Let it out. Let it go. And then figure out what comes next. Because trust me, there will always be something more – something better – to come.

Not Yet. Not Ever.

Four years ago today, I started seeing someone.

He had a ruthless kind of energy that was so captivating that I’ve yet to pin-point the reason I fell so instantly in love with his charisma. I was different on that Spring day when we made things official: I was three months out of college and full of the hopeful optimism that’s only available when you’re inexperienced and naive. I saw the world and my future as these untouched, timeless adventures: journeys that I had yet to plan, dreams I hadn’t felt yet, love I hadn’t held.

He made me feel like everything and anything was possible, that each shining light could illuminate inside of me if I just tried enough. If I just kept going from train to train and street to street, up one set of elevators and through another revolving door, all that I had ever wanted would be mine. Believing that I could be successful, that I could be loveable, that I could have all of unimaginable things that I wanted so desperately, was half the battle.

If I knew I could, if he said I should, I would.

It won’t be easy, he warned. You’ll have to fight for it each step of the way.

And while he was right, he was also the cause of my many frustrations. He didn’t take anything easy on me: he’d predict sun when the sky would part to rain, he’d say the downtown subway was running on time and then I’d show up late, he’d say another drink would be just fine and my head would disagree at dawn. He would ask for more cash than I could flow, more patience than I could muster, and then the very next day, he’d ask for double amounts of all of the above.

He was infuriating, but I was in love.

And each day for the first three years of our relationship were full of turbulent dramas and frustrations that made the romantic affair that much more tantalizing. I grew addicted to his carelessness and his candor. I loved the way he belittled me and then encouraged me. I grew attached to his inconsistent affections and his unreliable promises. He made my expectations so very high and yet, so very small, depending on the second of the minute of the hour of the day of the month of the year. I knew that though he had committed to me, he was prone to seduce many other young 20-somethings with bright dreams and eager eyes, and though we laid in lust, I knew I wasn’t the only one he loved.

How could he only charm one lady? His attention span was far too spastic for such an ancient principle like monogamy. Not only did he rarely sleep, he rarely slept alone.

I didn’t mind how he came and went, offering me everything and sometimes giving me nothing in return. I kept coming back for more. I worked harder. Smarter. I shaped myself into what I perceived to be his ideal mate, and in return, he gave me the most amazing – yet fleeting – advances. We’d go on the best of dates, dancing until the early hours and waking up to watch the sun rise over the Hudson, drinking coffee and passing time like we had it.

But then I grew older. I felt my heart break. I watched all that we built together – through the good times and the bad times – start to crumble. I wondered if the happy ending I had hoped for was merely a wasted dream.

Don’t give up on me, he had whispered into the night, the streets lights beckoning shadows across his side. He was cold that day in a way that he hadn’t shown me yet. He didn’t say what I needed to hear and that break that I needed, wasn’t coming. He didn’t offer to help me stand and he didn’t hold my hand. He sat motionless and let me walk away from him, unsure for the first time since we fell in love that rainy March day.

Was I really falling out of love? I wondered. Isn’t this the life I had planned and created? Isn’t he what I wanted all along?

We stayed together, even though I wasn’t sure if he right for me. He could be very persuading with his random acts of kindness and his unpredictable sense of adventure. Without warning, he would be that glowing being again, reminding me of what it was like when we were still new to each other, when we hadn’t explored all of the parts that made us work. He would give me reasons to believe in him and he’d give powerful examples of why I was meant to stay by his side. He explained that I was still growing, that I was still learning, that there was so much left to discover in his wild, wild world, and that I couldn’t let go.

Not yet. Not ever.

Things got worse.

I wondered if I’d ever feel that certain something in the pit of my stomach and the depth of my heart for him again. I didn’t know if all of that scheming and all of those outlines of the perfect little life I had planned for us would be realities or something to recycle into someone new. I didn’t know if I could keep holding on while he kept falling apart, only letting the light shine through here and there, often in ways that never measured up quite enough. Was he too far gone? Was it just simply too hard? Was there not enough to salvage here?

How could I decide?

Today, we’ve been together for four years. And though I’ve loved many before him and one during our courtship, his love will always be my greatest. And frankly, the most difficult.

Though I didn’t realize it then, the start of my relationship with New York, when I first started writing this blog was the easiest part.

It was full of days where every sight and every experience was the first. It was when I was new to dating, new to living on my own, new to building a career and a character. It was before the city let me down and before I had to make a choice. Or really, I had to make the choice – the one that every person makes in a long-term relationship after the honeymoon stage wears off and the truth sets in:

To stay or to go.

I never thought I’d ask myself that about New York City - the one thing that has remained a constant in my life above anything else. I thought moving would be the only difficult part of the big transition from South to North – but I was wrong. If New York actually manifested into an actual man that we could all date, we would all probably break up with him. The city is not a quaint place to live and it is not for the weak-willed – but that’s why we stay. We stay because it’s a challenge. We stay because we weren’t made for a simple kind of life, but we strive for the extraordinary.

And that’s why we fall in love with New York. It pushes us to do better. Even when we feel like we’re falling out of love with it.

We aren’t. It’s still there. You just have to look.

I’m still in love with New York – the people, the neighborhoods, the local joints I’ve become a regular at, my favorite places to run and the life that I’ve created on wishes, pennies and a very busy networking calendar. I’m still in love with everything that New York has to offer – the art, the culture, the love, the intrigue and the endless opportunities to try something (anything!) new. I’m still in love with the person that this city has made me into – strong and resilient, brave and bold, curious and a bit crazy.

But like all great loves, the relationship has it’s ups and downs. I still can’t picture myself anywhere else, but it takes work to have faith. After a series of unfortunate events and months that blend into each other because they are so similar, I made a decision to keep my commitment to New York. And to have faith that those Louis Armstrong moments I used to have all the time, will come back again.

You haven’t given up on me, New York. And I won’t give up on you either.

Not yet. Not ever.

Once Upon a Tinder

I was adamantly against Tinder when it first came out.

I couldn’t understand as my friends explained about swiping left and right, choosing guys to go on dates with based purely on a glorified, modern version of hot-or-not. I needed to know things before letting a guy buy me a drink. I couldn’t blindly accept an offer without knowing at least the very basics….

… Could I?

I can. I did. I have. I do.

A quick glance at my matches list today reveals I’ve swiped right on enough men to give me 312 potential daters. Of all those guys somewhere in New York (or NJ or CT), the vast majority are sitting idly in my inbox with absolutely no conversation, a third of them are silent after the niceties wore off and others asked such inappropriate questions they quickly escalated to being blocked (or screenshotted) within seconds.

Even so, it’s fun. So you play.

Tinder is an easy, no-fuss app for finding dates, and you would think the process of getting off our iPhones and getting on a bar stool would be easier… but it’s not.

Back-and-fourth painfully boring questions (that would already be answered if anyone bothered to fill out their profile or Tinder created a form), makes you quickly lose interest. Or excuse my crudeness – you get guys who ask if you will sit on their face.

Nope.

At the start of the year, I deleted the app and prevailed to meet more men the old-fashioned way. Surely if my parents and their parents and several of the couples I know today met through friends or at a bar or in a class- I could do that too. I’m social! I told myself. I’m friendly! I can do this!

Then polar vortex happened. Like five times. And then I made a last-minute trip to NC. And I got into the NYC Half-Marathon and had to start training. And then… well I stopped making an effort to go out. Blame it on the weather or my age (and the hangovers that just keep getting worse!), or just on the fact that dating is tough, but it’s March 13 and I’ve gone on whopping 4 dates this entire year.

None if which were worthy of a blog post.

And so, I did what I think many women do: I re-downloaded Tinder. I watched as the matches rolled in, building my confidence and making me blush that I am hot! I am dateable! I am worthy! I’ll find love!

But the thing about a meaningless app is that it produces meaningless pseudo-relationships and dates. Because the simple act of just judging someone’s appearance and a two-sentence description (if that long even) doesn’t equal any sort of actual connection. Though it does make you feel wanted, the sad truth is that most Tindering is done while waiting in line at Starbucks. Or on the toilet. Or passing time in between meetings or at lunch.

And while I haven’t actually gone on a date with any of these new guys since welcoming the flame back to my iPhone’s home screen, I feel like I’ve put myself out there more. I feel like I’ve been dating. I feel like I’m being more proactive about my love life. Like Pinterest, even though I haven’t actually done anything differently – the simple act of swiping makes me feel like I’ve pranced around all of New York and met all of it’s bachelors.

But I haven’t. At all.

There are a few guys I’d probably go out with, and yet I couldn’t tell you their names without checking Tinder right now. I couldn’t tell you anything I talked about with them or why I was intrigued enough to say “yes” instead of  “no” – because they had dimples? Their profile said they were 6 foot? Because I liked their photo with a Tiger? Or from the Color Run?

I don’t know and I bet the same guys wouldn’t know a thing about me either. They especially wouldn’t know that while I’m messaging them or selecting them, I don’t look like that made-up girl in my photos – instead, I’m plucking the chinny-chin hairs off my face with my hair in a messy bun, eating popcorn and wearing oversized sweat clothes I’ve had for almost six years.

Attractive, eh?

I get the appeal of Tinder and I understand why it’s still growing and popular – but I wish there was a way to make online (or app) dating more serious. Maybe if Hinge could get it’s messaging issue together, it’d be an option, but even more than that – I want a way to make dating online more like dating offline.

How do you make something so superficial have substance? How to look past your own mental check-boxes while trolling profiles to give someone a chance? How do you know if you’d actually talk to them in a bar before deciding to go out with them? How do I best spend the very little time I have to date the smartest and most effective way?

I don’t know the answers – but my guess is that Tinder probably won’t derive the results that I desire. And so, like I have done several times before, I’m deleting it.

But for good this time. And with a clever twist: I took the time to scour through all 312 matches (yes, really) and I sent a message to the ones that I could possibly be interested in with my e-mail. If they’re interested in something beyond dirty questions and pointless banter, they’ll get in touch.

Or they won’t.

Either way, I give up my once-upon-a-Tinder fairytale dreams. I give up deluding myself that I’m actually dating, when I’m not. And I’m not making myself feel bad because I’m focusing on other things or choosing my friends or new adventures over finding a so-called prince to shape my Manhattan life. I might want a happily ever after, but it’s not going to be found inside of an app. And maybe not inside of a bar or a running group or an Italian class or a philosophy course or any of the above.

Maybe it’ll be somewhere else entirely.

But for now, I’m trading the glass slippers for running shoes to run my second half-marathon on Sunday. I’m letting go of a silly app and I’ll celebrate crossing the finish line with margaritas and my dearest of fairy godmothers – eh, I mean friends – and should an attractive someone be there, so be it.

And if not… I will be in Europe in 21 days. Just saying.

Happy 2nd Birthday Lucy Liberty!

When I head out for a night on the town with her aunties, I always tell my pup, Lucy: “Mama is going out to find you a daddy! I promise I’ll be home later!” I’ve yet to come home with a um, father, for Lucy, but I don’t think she minds.

She’s just one little ball of happiness, all the time. 

When I made the (very, very quick) decision to bring Lucy Liberty into my life, I only thought of how much work it would be. When would I have time to walk her? What if I wasn’t home on time? What kind of food should I feed her? How much will it cost to take her to the vet? What if she wasn’t healthy? How would I take trips? Would anyone want to date a girl with a dog?

But what I instantly discovered was that all of the time, money and stress was worth it for all of the joy she gives me each and every single day. If I needed to fall apart about my dad’s health problems, she would be there to lick the tears off of my face. When I was frustrated with another date gone bad, she would be there to share her squeaky toy with me and bark me into reality. When I just didn’t feel like getting out of bed on a bright, sunny (or cold and snowy) Sunday, she’s snuggle me outside to enjoy the beauty of New York.

From patience to hope, thank you, Lucy Liberty, for teaching me some hard lessons in the most loving way. I’m thankful for you, little pup and can’t wait to have many more woofs and adventures with you!

Here are just a few of my favorite photos this year of you (because we all know I take WAY too many!)

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Just helping Mom write her blog…

Valentine's Day, every single day.

Valentine’s Day, every single day.

 

Meeting her Auntie Ash from Boston

Meeting her Auntie Ash from Boston

 

Hanging out with her pal Liam

Hanging out with her pal Liam

 

Celebrating Halloween at Mom and Uncle Jim's annual BYOP(umpkin) party!

Celebrating Halloween at Mom and Uncle Jim’s annual BYOP(umpkin) party!

 

Lucy hearts selfies.

Lucy hearts selfies.

 

I love you, too Lucy!

I love you, too Lucy!

Dog days of summer

Dog days of summer

Just relaxing with Uncle Jim and her pal Suzie

Just relaxing with Uncle Jim and her pal Suzie

Visiting North Carolina for the Fourth of July!

Visiting North Carolina for the Fourth of July!

 

Central Park is my playground.

Central Park is my playground.

Happy Mother's Day, mom!

Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

Spring!

Spring!

Wine and dine with Auntie M

Wine and dine with Auntie M

 

Merry Christmas with her pal Shorty!

Merry Christmas with her pal Shorty!

Just snuggling with Grandmommy

Just snuggling with Grandmommy

Becoming a celebrity in the New York Post - first photoshoot!

Becoming a celebrity in the New York Post – first photoshoot!

Lucy was not in the mood to have her photo taken.

Lucy was not in the mood to have her photo taken.

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Lucy's first dog bed from Pottery Barn!

Lucy’s first dog bed from Pottery Barn!

Another selfie, mom?

Another selfie, mom?

Fall is my favorite!

Fall is my favorite!

Central Park playdate with my auntie K and buddy Dylan!

Central Park playdate with my auntie K and buddy Dylan!

Just hanging out in Central Park with my Auntie J!

Just hanging out in Central Park with my Auntie J!

 

Grandpoppy makes me smile!

Grandpoppy makes me smile!

I'm two!!!

I’m two!!!