Heart Open, Feet On the Ground

I waited anxiously outside of my favorite sushi restaurant, cursing myself for showing up early for yet another date. I knew being fashionably late was sexier than being on time but I hated missing a deadline, even one that was more about sake than sentences.

I tried (and my friends convinced me) to ignore my gut. Everyone said to give it a chance, to keep myself grounded and not to make judgements. After so many men who disappointed or were more interested in what it felt like to be in between my legs instead of in between my heartbeats, I was more than a little hesitant.

He could be different, I reminded myself. He could be something more, something better, I told myself. Every joint and fragment in my knees wanted to run downtown to meet my girls for a drink instead of waiting for this 6’4″ tall drink of water to arrive.

But I stayed.

And I sang my little “love is not dead” mantra until I saw him walking toward me from 20th street. I immediately turned away, acting like he could catch me by surprise, just like he did the night we met a week earlier.

On the 34th street uptown platform. I really do have some luck on public transportation, don’t I?

I was coming home from a night in with my kind friend, A, who offered to help me with my taxes. In exchange, I bought her dinner and brought Lucy so she could have a play date with A’s dog. It was 11:30 p.m. and it had been a very long day, so I was playing with my phone and tired, when I heard someone ask if they could pet my dog.

I turned on bitch face and turned my head, only to realize it was a handsome guy reaching for Lucy. I smiled, instantly wishing I would have at least put a little makeup on. We struck up conversation and had things in common (like talking to strangers on the train and taking philosophy classes), and we got off at the same stop on the Upper West Side. As we were about to part ways, he asked for my number and texted me 10 minutes later.

I was instantly intrigued.

After meeting up for drinks midweek and feeling that spark, we now found ourselves going out on a Friday night, and I found myself scared to death to like someone. But then he showed up in front of me. I smiled…

…and he pulled a single long-stem red rose from behind his back. Swoon.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been so worried about this, I thought to myself silently. We talked and talked, laughed and laughed, danced and sang karaoke, staying out until nearly 4 am. I’m never one to lose track of time, but I did. And I liked it. After so many online dating profiles and dates gone wrong or sour, here was someone I met in real life and I actually liked in real life.

After our second date, we texted constantly, planning our third meet-up together. He watched my favorite movie (Roman Holiday), he remembered things I told him about my family, my friends, my preferences, my interests. We started talking on Gchat and he was excited when I announced I found an amazing new job (more on that later). I was enjoying the smoothness of the conversation and the sweetness he exuded until…

… on a random night while watching Netflix, his texted turned dirty.

I’m not one to shy away from sex talk, but if I see the possibility for a relationship, I try my best not to rush or to ruin the fun by putting too much pressure on it. I don’t want to talk about getting off with someone before I’ve had a chance to figure out their intentions. I felt that little rumble of clarity come back to my gut- the one that was there before date 2- that said he was probably not interested in more. His thoughtful actions might have steered me differently, but this ploy to discuss getting naked was reminding me of my initial reservations.

I quickly veered the conversation, but felt hesitant about another date where he might push things too far, too soon. It’s not that I have rules on when to sleep with someone – it should happen when it feels right – but I didn’t feel that way, just yet.

I mean, it had only been a week and a half, right?

When things didn’t go all the way on date three, our rapid, interesting and fervent conversation turned to silence. No “make a wish!” text message at 11:11, no asking about my day or my night, no discussing date four. The furthest we got in a texting or Gchat was about Snapchat and then one quick: “I had fun last week!” followed quickly by “You have really great boobs.” If the red flags weren’t flying sky high, I’d try to ignore them but they were there, bright and waving at me.

And so, I finally cut through my politeness to kindly ask what the f*** was going on and if his initial interest in me had changed. To which I received a text message that – for lack of exact words – said: “I’m looking to have fun, be intimate and play, but I don’t want to be monogamous or just see you. It’s just not where I am in my life right now. But if you’re up for that, cool!”

Did I mention that he’s 34?

So, here I am, back to the drawing board after a barely two-week-whatever-that-was. Was I disappointed? Yes, a little. Was I invested? No, not really. Does it annoy me? Obviously. But more than anything else, I surprised myself. In a way that I didn’t think I was capable of anymore.

I’ve now been single for about two-and-a-half years and it hasn’t been easy – in fact, it’s been one of the most frustrating parts of my life. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong or if I just pick the wrong guys or if because I want it, the way of the universe just won’t give it to me until I’m uninterested. I’ve been afraid that all the men I’m actually attracted to, aren’t attracted to me, or the guys that I’m drawn to, just never want relationships, they just want to get laid. But what I’ve been most scared of it my ability to feel something. After so many failed non-relationships that ended before they ever started, my guard is up. My faith in men is not very strong.

But I do have hope. And I am able to let myself feel something. It might be with some trepidation each time, but I still do it. So I might be a bit bitter and fairly frightened, but I haven’t given up. I’m still standing up for what I want and refusing to settle for anything less than what I know I deserve.

As my friend J advised me as I talked about this past dating experience: Keep your heart open and your feet on the ground. And I might add – and keep on walking toward whatever is surely waiting for you in the future that you can’t quite see.

Not yet anyway. Not yet.

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You Can Do Anything

I wondered if everyone who warned me about the dangers and lasting effects of forcing my wide little feet into heels every day had some merit in their concern as I hobbled back into my Harlem apartment in 2010. It smelled like marijuana and though I bought the cheap air fresheners from the Duane Reade around the block (a pharmacy I had never heard of), the scent was far too overpowering to ignore. The big box my mom sent me from North Carolina sat in my “kitchen”, or rather the furthest left portion of my 400-sq-feet room that amazingly cost $850 a month. I had spent the day going to interview to interview, scouring through every possible magazine masthead I could, emailing to meet up for coffee and praying to the job gods to give me their blessing. I had only lived in New York for two and a half weeks and most of my savings were gone thanks to a security deposit and first months rent. I started my hostessing gig in a week if I didn’t find employment before then. My parents couldn’t help. I was 150% on my own. I was terrified. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted the city to welcome me with the open arms I always thought it had somewhere buried underneath it’s tough exterior and soiled streets. But instead of falling apart, I repeated my mantra:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Putting the dirty details of my existent and non-existent dating life on the internet was rather a bold decision, I told some girl I met through a new friend I didn’t know well enough yet. The girl was “obsessed” with my blog and I felt a little naked in front of her – considering she knew about my last one night stand the boy who broke my heart in college, and yet, I had no idea what she told me her name was 10 minutes ago. I should be thankful for my job, I reminded myself the next morning while writing a blog about taxes for small business owners. It was a challenging subject matter, and my salary (barely) covered my expenses, but I longed to do what I already did for free: write things that will help women feel less alone. I knew how to get from point A to point B, but the thought of keeping up a popular personal blog, working 9-6, dating, attempting to make friends and applying for a new job seemed daunting. I had done it before when I moved here a year ago, I reminded myself. My drive didn’t seem quite as high but I knew that passion could never really be put out. After all, I repeated:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

It was as if the city knocked the air out of me on the ride up Broadway to the Upper West Side. The cabbie had asked if I wanted to take the highway, but I said I preferred to pay a little more and watch New York wind down on that Sunday night. We had been broken up for six months then, but never stopped sleeping together. Even though I acted like I wasn’t seeing him drunkenly or haphazardly, dangling my heart in front of him as he pushed it away. As always. But then the last shoe dropped and something inside me woke up – was this really the love I wanted? Was this the type of relationship I would encourage my friends, my readers, the strangers in the street to have? It wasn’t – and I gave him the choice to make it better. Pick me and work on it, or get out of my life. He wouldn’t decide – per usual – so I made the choice for him. But as I cried silently and the driver ignored my sobs, I felt the fear building up. What if that’s as good as it gets? What if I don’t meet anyone? What if I can’t feel it again? To keep from sobbing from that pit in your heart few people ever touch, I sang my song:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Your knee doesn’t really hurt, you’re just listening to the pain instead of focusing on the finish. Remember philosophy class? What you give your attention to grows – focus on something else to distract yourself. I decided to think about complicated things as I pasted mile 8 on the West Side Highway last Sunday. Only 5.1 more miles to go to complete the NYC Half-Marathon that I didn’t have time to train for with everything. With my dad’s 5th surgery in one year. With the uncertainty surrounding my future. With my dire need to get laid after quite the dry spell. With a trip to Europe so close I can see it, but can’t get excited about just get. Not until my dad is fine. Not until my finances are balanced and my taxes are paid. Not until I finish this race, with my ears freezing and my joints aching with every step. But if I can just keep moving, I know I’ll be home napping before I can think. I know what to tell myself:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Just when you think the sunshine that always defined you was withered away into the clouds that just keep surrounding you, a little ray shines it’s way through. People always warned me that finding my way on my own would be hard. That dating wasn’t easy in this city. That careers are flaky and my industry is shaky at very best. That friendships would require work and diligence, patience and understanding. That loving yourself and believing in the good gets easier and harder as you get older, as you experience more things and question, well, everything. And at times, it all seems impossible. It seems stagnant and unreal. Scary. Like all that you worked so hard for, all that you wanted, all of those magical things that you imagined growing up would never come true. And sometimes, they don’t. Other times, they do. Most of the time, they work out just how they’re supposed to – without you realizing they ever came to be at all.

But of all the struggles and the dilemmas your adult life puts you through, of all of the trouble, and all of the unanswered questions left spiraling in your mind, if you can remember one simple truth that’s true for you, that’s true for me, that’s true for everyone:

You can do anything.

That is, my dear, if you never stopping believing that you can. That you already have. That you always will.

You’re Missing It

You’re missing it.

Your youth. You’re missing it. You’re missing it because you’re worrying too much. You’re missing it because you aren’t living in the moment. You aren’t fully in today, in the right now, in the present. You’re missing it because you’re not realizing your growth or your worth.

Linds, wake up.

Stop worrying. Look around: you’re a healthy, pretty, 25-year-old who has made her greatest dream come true. You’re living in New York City. There are girls around the world who would kill to be in your shoes right now. You are a subway stop away from Times Square. You have a favorite coffee shop in the West Village. You work in Meatpacking and live next to Central Park. One day you will live in suburbia and you will remember your life in the city, and you will think of how silly you were to worry away your early-20′s.

Stop worrying about your career.

Yes, you wonder what’s next. Yes, you question what you want. Yes, you get so incredibly frustrated thinking about what you should be doing and if you’re moving at the right pace and if you’re staying relevant. You question if your resume is as impressive as it can be at your age. Just remember, you’re growing your skill set. You’re expanding your contacts. You’re improving your writing. You’re meeting people who will one day be instrumental to your career path. You’ll figure out what you want. It’s not that far away. You’ll publish that book and it will be a best-seller. It’s all going to fall into place -so keep grinding in the 9 to 6 (or 7 or 8) groove, and work your little butt off. It’s going to pay off in big ways. Your name will be known. Women will benefit from your writing and buy books that will help them realize their value. You’re going to change lives.

Stop worrying about your apartment.

It’s old and dusty. You would have probably melted if you didn’t buy that air conditioner. You would freeze if you didn’t have sets of comforters to pile on top of you when the heat doesn’t work. Or the hot water doesn’t actually get hot. It’s not glamorous and your landlords are not the brightest. But one day, when you’re old and gray and telling your grandchildren about your New York adventure -you’ll tell them about this place that you decorated with cheap charm and made it feel just like home. You’ll tell them about how you never kept food in the fridge and you waited weeks to clean your dishes and do your laundry. You’ll tell them how you were scared about living uptown, but you sucked it up and you made friends with the hood. They will giggle and you will smile a smile that only belongs to you, and the memories of your youth. One day, you’ll move into a nicer apartment. One day, you will live alone with that little dog. The next move will help make you feel more established in a new New York, and new chapters will start to unfold.

Stop worrying about how you look.

Those zits that seem so worrisome now, will be nothing compared to the wrinkles that will grace your forehead, your cheeks and your eyes. Those extra five pounds that make you feel like you’re gaining weight, won’t seem as important when you’re 60 and enjoying stretchy-pants every single day. Those clothes that just don’t seem good-enough, trendy-enough, chic-enough, expensive-enough, or New York-enough, won’t be as important when you buy your daughter jeans and try to remember where your old clothes are so you can pass them down to her (even if she will never wear them). Your dirty feet that are constantly destroyed by the pavement and the heels or running shoes you insist to wear, won’t seem so gross when you ache in your bones and you can’t wait to get home to soak your feet. That hair that doesn’t corporate and never looks as silky or healthy as every other girl, will seem beautiful and stunning when you see yourself in the morning with gray hair that you’ll need to highlight with blonde again, just as your mother does. That skin of yours that doesn’t like to retain a tan or take well to self-tanning lotion, leaving you pale unlike the other girls, will seem heaven-sent when everyone else is pruning worse than you, and your skin is still healthy. Stop comparing yourself to others and cut yourself some slack. Beauty comes from the heart, and your kindness and compassion will take you farther than those toned legs you have.

Stop worrying about money.

You’re self-sufficient, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Even if you feel the need to save more and spend less, and to ask for a raise or figure out if you really need to take that weekend job -you’re doing just fine. And you’re only going to make more money as your career progresses. Stop beating yourself up for a splurge here-and-there, and keep putting a little money away each pay check. But, Linds, go for that drink with your friends. Buy those shoes on sale down the block. Keep booking trips like you did to Europe this year. You can’t hold your savings so close that you keep yourself from having experiences. That’s what you’re saving for anyway. Keep budgeting, and you’ll see how it will pay off one day. One day, you’ll pay for things like a house, a new car and college tuitions and those monthly-rents of the past and tiny paychecks won’t seem like much.

Stop worrying if you’ll have children.

Those little girls with braided hair and pretty smiles who point to your high heels in the subway, admiring them -are like your future children. You’ll have them. Your kids are beautiful. They are smart. They are healthy. They are able and they are dreamers. They are go-getters who will know more than you do by the time they hit high school. They are loving and they will be your whole world one day. Don’t rush that. The moment they come to this planet, you’ll wish time would come to a stammering standstill. They will grow up faster than you could ever imagine.

And, dear younger-me, stop worrying about love.

This one is a tough one for you -harder than any other part of your life. Take a deep breath and let it go. Let all of it go -the heartaches, the disappointments, the not-quite-enough, and the let-downs. Stop hanging onto old relationships. Stop thinking about the idea of what you thought previous lovers would become. Look at people for who they are. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Forgive others for hurting you or for leading you on. Give yourself more credit and change your negative mindset. Go out to dinner with someone new. Accept a date, even if you don’t think he’s exactly your type. Smile at the stranger who sits next to you every morning on the train and is cute, but you are too tired to care. Put that extra pump in your step and swivel of your hips.

One day, you and your husband will talk about this time in your lives. You’re going to love him, Linds. You’re going to love him in a way that shakes and soothes your soul all at once. He’s going to put a light and love into you that you can’t even begin to feel. He’s truly wonderful, charming and handsome. You’re going to get that great story that you’ve dreamt about, wrote about, and thought about for so long.

So stop worrying.

He’s out there. You can’t speed up the process and you can’t make time go backwards once it gets here. Stop being jealous of the couples walking on the street -one day, there will be a young single gal like yourself who will look at you and your hubby, and feel exactly the same way. Stop getting discouraged and blaming yourself -all of life is part of a magical plan and a blueprint that you can’t fill out completely on your own. Love is out there, and I promise when you’re ready -it’ll be here. So go kiss those frogs -there will come a day when you miss the anticipation of a first date, and the surge of the first time you hold someone’s hand or see them laying next to you as the sun peeks through the blinds.

Don’t miss it.

Stop letting it pass you by. Your youth won’t last forever, and neither will the sharp twang of loneliness in the big city. The puzzle is just starting to fit itself together -so let it. Go live your life. Go get that drink. Go for a run.

Go be you. Your future awaits.

I’m serious, don’t miss it.

Love ya,

Lindsay

PS- Go back to Macy’s and get those shoes that were on sale for $24 -you’re not going to find a better nude heel this summer. I promise. And call your dad!

Originally written July 16, 2010 before you started this lovely blog. It’s funny how little you had to edit to make it relevant four years later… Food for thought. No matter where you are – don’t miss it. Stop missing it. Live it, instead.

Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com

When I was a little girl, I would wrap a white sheet around me, put on my plastic princess heels and steal wildflowers out of my mother’s garden to play bride.

Because I grew up an only child, my parents were forced to indulge my imagination: my dad serving as my grinning groom, my mom stuck as the minister. I would make my kind, patient father write and deliver vows and then I’d perform them as if it there was a studio audience that consisted of more than my wide collection of stuffed animals.

Getting married wasn’t the only thing I played make believe with though: I was also Indiana Jones, a secret spy solving a murder mystery, a woman finding her man cheating, a homeless person begging for pennies, a teacher and Lois Lane – just to name a few.

But of course, all of my adventures in pretendland always ended with a happy embrace, finding love, meeting that perfect man, having a family.

Happily ever after.

Twenty years later, a lot of things in my life feel unreal because they’ve turned out so much better than I could have dreamed up myself. I live in New York City, I’m a writer, blogger and an editor, I have the luxury to travel and explore, I’m blessed with friends all over the country, I’m healthy enough to run a half-marathon, and though I haven’t met the man I’ll marry, I’ve been lucky to fall in love a few times with some pretty great guys.

Part of me can’t wait to start that relationship – or to at least be reassured that this mythical creature actually does exist out there, somewhere, dating all the wrong women while I date all the wrong men. Part of me is afraid that I picked the absolute worst city to capture the right guys attention.

And another part of me - probably the biggest part of me – is nowhere near ready for marriage. Even if the average bride in the United States is 25 – it’s hard to imagine being wed at this point in my life.

I’ll admit it though – I scour through my Facebook friends walls, reading their engagement stories, liking all of the photos in their wedding albums. I smile at little baby bumps that grow into bouncing toddlers. I get excited thinking about when some of my best friends will get engaged and how I’ll be a bridesmaid and watch them take those sacred vows, joining together with boyfriends that I’ve started to call my friends, too.

There is no doubt that I’m a sucker for love.

It’s my driving force behind everything, and above all other things, it’s the one truth I’ll always believe in: love is powerful and it exists in so many different forms.

But it’s also something that I have faith will always be there and is never anything to rush into. As much as there is happiness and hope surrounding marriage, I think a lot of women also feel fear (I know I do): what if he doesn’t exist? What if this kind-of-okay boyfriend is really the best I’ll ever find? What if I wait too long to get married and can’t have kids? What if I really am too picky? With so much doubt and questioning, it’s easier to throw in the towel and settle down with someone who is good enough…

…but maybe not quite great.

Before I’m committed to someone, I want to commit to myself. I want to go through lots of difficult things as an individual that will make me brighter, stronger and happier. I want to be a whole person before I meet another whole person – I’m not looking to be completed by anyone else. Before I say “I do” – I want to say, “I do” to adventure and travel and experiences that don’t involve a man. Before I get into a relationship or put on an actual gown (and not a sheet), I want to know that no matter what, I’d be totally fine on my own.

Because there’s a difference between wanting a man and needing one. And I’ll know when I’m ready to get married, ready to walk down that aisle, ready to maybe change my last name when I want a partner, I don’t need one. Most fear, after all, comes from desperation, and most of our regrets are from when we were afraid.

So I’m single. I’m 25. I’m not desperate. I’m in no rush. I’m not ready to get married. And that’s better than good enough. It’s great.

Ask the Addict: How to Know When It’s Really, Really Over

Each week, I’ll be publishing a reader question about anything – love, dating, being a 20-something, New York – you name it! If you have a question you’d like to ask, please email me (you can read more about Ask the Addict here).

Y: How do you know you’ve really let someone you loved go and that you’re ready to move on? Is there a time frame, a sign or something?

My take:

When I received this question my initial reaction was: that’s a fantastic question, I’m still wondering the answer myself. But after mulling over it for a week or so, I realized that though I’ve had trouble letting go of exes (cue Mr. Possibility’s dramatic plotline), I have learned a lot in the past few years about the moving on process.

For me, I knew I had finally let go of Mr. Possibility when I no longer felt the need to contact him when I was in trouble. It sounds silly but I kept him tucked away on a comforting shelf where I could pick him up and hold him close if I was ever stressed out. And honestly, for more than a year after we officially called it quits, I would still text him when I was upset. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or needed advice. Or simply to be held or told that I was truly fantastic.

Then one day, when something terrible and scary was going on, I didn’t want to call him. I didn’t want to text him or unblock him on Gchat just to see if he was there. I didn’t feel the need to have him in my life to fix anything or to rescue me from something that felt bigger than I could handle.

Instead, I convinced myself (and actually believed) that it was within my control. And that I had an incredible support system of friends and family that would drop everything to be there for me, so why would I want to invite this toxic relationship back into my life? No matter how handsome Mr. Possibility is or how much I depended on him when I first moved to New York, I’m not that girl anymore and we don’t have that connection any longer.

And for once, that was okay. In fact, it felt really, really good to not long for him anymore.

There is no definite time frame or a period that’s long enough to get over someone – it is really up to you and determined not only by the length of the relationship, but the importance of it. I didn’t date Mr. Possibility even half as long as I dated Mr. Faithful – but Mr. P meant more to me than any other man I’ve met, apart from my father. Letting go of him wasn’t just about getting over the relationship and the love we had, but also releasing him from the best friend role and finding my way in the city, without his guidance and support (even if his advice was often manipulative). It wasn’t easy and it took probably a little longer than I (and everyone who knows me) would have liked, but I did it.

Finally.

My best advice is not to rush it but to also to not drag your heels. As long as you’re still talking to an ex (and let’s be honest, sleeping with your ex), you’re never going to let go. Even if you think you can have no strings attached and one day be friends, until you cut the chord for a while, you never will.

Try not talking to him for six months and even harder, not talking about him. The more you invite the conversation of a past love into your life, the harder it is to find a new one. Don’t keep reminders of him around your apartment or home, and utilize the block feature on your iPhone that not only keeps you from knowing if he contacts you, but prevents you from reaching out, too. Ask your friends to keep you balanced and level-headed and put things in perspective when you get lost in the what-if thoughts that plague you. (Because I assure you, they will.)

If you can put him out of your present, he’ll stay the past – as long as you let him. And then you have a chance of really moving on and finding that future that you so dream of. Your sign might be different from my sign – but you’ll know when it comes. How? Because the freedom is so, so incredible.

It’s like riding in a car in the hot, but not-too-hot summer, your hair whipping behind you and nothing but an open road — and an open heart — before you.lips-no-background