My Dad: The (Cancer) Fighter

Last April, after too many phone calls from my mom at the hospital, I decided I needed a few days off of work and a few days at home. My father had three surgeries since that February and though my parents never said it was serious, something told me to go to North Carolina.

 Just go home.

When my mom picked me up from the airport, my father wasn’t with her. She was coy about the reasons why, just saying that the incision from his appendix surgery was deep and painful, and that riding on bumpy Southern roads was difficult for him. I wanted to pry for more details. I wanted her to come clean.

I wanted her to tell me what was really going on.

But she didn’t divulge and I didn’t press, instead I tried not to look at her as we drove the two hours back to Asheville from Charlotte, her blue eyes glowing in the traffic and car headlights. They looked sad and tired, and though I told myself it had just been a stressful few months for her – with the medical billing, hospital trips and all – I knew it must be more than that. My mama doesn’t lose her spunk for any ole’ reason, it has to be something major.

My dad was awake when we made it back home, but he didn’t greet me with a big glass of red wine, like he usually does. He wasn’t playing his music from the satellite radio that he’s explained how it works about a million times to me. He wasn’t asking my mom to dance in the kitchen, in their matching Kmart slippers, kissing her in the same way I imagined he has since they first met in 1985. He couldn’t hide his smile – that one that’s just for me, just for his little – and only – girl, just for his daughter that broke his heart by moving 800 miles away to New York City. But I could tell he was uncomfortable and exhausted, distraught and full of thoughts he wasn’t sharing.

Again, I didn’t ask too many questions, I just curled up in the corner of his chair on his side, like I always have and laid my head on his shoulder, careful not to touch the gnarly stiches I was afraid of brushing up against. He smelled like Old Spice and soap, and I let out the first big exhale since February when my mom called to say my dad’s appendix had burst and he was going into the ER.

Should I come home? I can catch a flight tonight? I asked, holed up in a conference room at work, trying my best not to think the very worst.

No, no. It’s not a serious surgery, she said. I’ll tell you if you need to come back, don’t worry sweetie, she said.

Two weeks later, I called my mom while walking Lucy, our morning ritual, and her voice was frantic: Your dad’s stitches came undone during his sleep last night, we’re at the hospital getting staples instead.

Mom, do I need to come home? Is he okay? What’s going on? The hospital again? I asked, stopping in the middle of the street as Lucy looked up at me confused. My mom reassured me that all was well and I should just keep my phone on.

Two weeks later, I called after work and asked about their day and my mom so casually said, Oh, your dad had another surgery today. No big deal, sweetie. Everything is fine. Don’t worry!

Mom, why did you never want me to come home when dad went to the hospital all those times? I don’t understand, I asked that night after dad went to sleep well before we did, something that almost never happens. What’s going on, mom? Again, she refused to divulge anything, and I dropped the issue, reminding myself that if something was wrong, they surely wouldn’t keep it from me.

Forever, anyway.

The next day we went for a long walk as a family and then to the Lucky Otter, one of my parents’ favorite watering holes. We sipped on margaritas and we all ignored the awkward tension between all of us, the big secret that no one wanted to say, but needed to be said. We made small talk and I tried my best to stay positive, just waiting for the shoe to drop and smash the conversation. I watched my dad give my mom the look to reassure her and she gave her encouraging smile, a quick nod of the head, and a huge gulp of her drink. My dad sat his down and said words I still hear crystal clear:

You know when I had that last surgery, Linds? He started. I kept eye contact. Well, when my appendix burst, they tested the organs around, just to make sure everything was fine and unaffected. And they found cancer. I had some of my colon removed and I find out in three weeks if it’s gone completely. They caught it early, so it’s probably going to be fine. I didn’t want to add stress to your life or worry you before I needed to. You’re an adult, you should know, but I wanted to protect you.

I thought I might burst into tears, and they started to fill my eyes (just as they are right now as I type this) and in front of all of the people at this restaurant, I walked over and sat in my dad’s lap and hugged him. And I did cry. He did too. But mostly, I just felt relieved. Relieved to know the truth. Relieved that his surgery went okay. Relieved that I would know his diagnosis in just a few weeks.

Relieved I was still able give my dad a big bear hug, as we’ve always called them.

And by some miracle of the best kind, his cancer is still gone today. He goes every three months for testing (I hold my breath all day long on those days) and he’s had other issues since then too, but he’s mostly at the end of a very long road of recovery. One that’s tested my mother’s patience, my father’s courage and my strength.

One that’s changed our family.

My father has always been this brave, resilient man in my eyes – someone that’s capable of absolutely anything, and who always encourages me to take risks. He’s lived a big, full and exciting life, and more than that, he’s let love guide him every step of the way. A true romantic, a funny guy and a tormentor – he’s had my heart my entire life, and frankly, it’ll take quite a man to ever compare to him.

And though ‘cancer’ is a very scary word, one that I didn’t fully understand until it affected me directly – my dad fought it. He refused to let it bring him down. He wouldn’t let it define him. A little over a year later, he’s riding his bike. He’s looking forward to swimming at our lake house this summer, his stitches cleared by the doctors and only a scar left to remind him. He’s planning a big trip with my mom next year – their 29th year of marriage. And he’s sending me letters every few weeks and leaving me funny voicemails nearly everyday.

He may seem more human now to me – instead of a superhero. But I treasure him more. I value his advice, his words and just being able to hear his voice. I think about him more often and I miss him more than before. And though I didn’t think it was possible, I’m a bigger daddy’s girl at 25 than I probably was at 12.

On Father’s Day and every day, I’m thankful for the wonderful, incredible and loving man that I’m lucky enough to call dad. I can’t wait to introduce him to the man I’ll marry, call him when I get that book deal (and yes dad, buy you a new boat when I do), and watch him hold my future children.

Thanks for teaching me to never, ever give up. And dad – thank you for never giving up either. I love you from NYC and back, and I’ll always be your butterfly.

Burgers and beers with dad in NYC, 2013

Burgers and beers with dad in NYC, 2013

My first half-marathon in October 2013

My first half-marathon in October 2013

Labor Day weekend, 2013

Labor Day weekend, 2013

Dad's attempt at the selfie.

Dad’s attempt at the selfie.

First trip to NYC!

First trip to NYC!

First photo at home together

First photo at home together

Hamming it with daddy at 2

Hamming it with daddy at 2

Right after the big news at the Lucky Otter. Cheers to life!

Right after the big news at the Lucky Otter. Cheers to life!

Christmas in NYC, 2013

Christmas in NYC, 2013

"Holding" my bottle at 1 week old.

“Holding” my bottle at 1 week old.

 

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The Greatest of These is Love

Stop holding your breath, honey, my mom said, squeezing my hand. I was stunned watching the swarm of doctors and nurses and then nurses and then doctors come in and out of the Emergency Room. One took blood pressure, the other started a drip. Another asked how he was feeling for the 100th time.

I wanted to scream at them to just pass along the information so my sick father didn’t have to repeat himself over and over again. I wanted to scream that I didn’t know that my surprise visit to North Carolina would end up in the hospital, trying my best to stomach my panic so my dad wouldn’t see it. I wanted to scream that four surgeries in one year was way too many. I wanted to scream that now, the pressure had broken not only my mother and I’s heart, but my dad’s too. I wanted to scream that this wasn’t fair and this wasn’t what we – the Tigar family – deserve or needed right now.

Not after everything we have been through. Not another medical bill. Not another surgery. Please God, not another surgery.

One hour passed and then another.

Five hours.

I wanted them to turn down these unforgiving, florescent lights and let my dad rest. I stood with the pashima I got in Chinatown last year for $5 wrapped around me, frozen by the air conditioning, while my dad – with a heart rate of 163 and climbing – was sweating. I could have sat down, there were two seats for my mother and I, and the nurse (Angie? Was that her name?), kept motioning for us to relax. You’ll be here a while, she warned. Take a seat.

But I stood anyway – right by the curtain, leading out out to countless other rooms, all filled with people. Filled with strangers with problems and illnesses and worries and fears – the anxiety of the place was so heavy that I felt consumed by it.

I wanted to run.

But I wanted my dad to be able to run with me. Instead, he couldn’t even get out of bed without his heart rate raising so high that he needed oxygen. Where was my father, that just last year, after beating cancer, could bike 10 miles on a hiking trail? Where was my father that was a far better swimmer than I’ve ever been? Where was my brave, unstoppable dad that gave me my sense of adventure and my thirst for jumping head first into everything?

Don’t worry Linds, he said. I’m going to be just fine. Don’t worry about me. He repeated himself every hour of so, the burrow in my forehead growing deeper than I’d like at the ripe ol’ age of 25. I tried to keep him smiling and entertained, telling stories of my New York antics and mishaps until around 1 a.m., when he was finally moved to a regular hospital room.

I have to stay the night, then? He asked the nurse. She just nodded and smiled, promising that we’ll all know more tomorrow. As the two hefty EMTs loaded my dad into the stretcher and into the ambulance to transport him less than a mile away, my mom and I held hands silently while walking to the car in the cold.

After a sleepless night, we arrived back at the hospital with hard candies and sweatpants, putting on our best grins to keep his spirits high. We watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit because it’s his favorite and then 19 Kids and Counting because it was on.

Would you want 20 kids, Lindsay? he asked. I wondered if the morphine was going to his head or if he sincerely thought I’d want that many children. I made a joke and he laughed, and the sound filled my heart with so much joy that I had to rest my hand on my chest to keep myself steady.

Let’s try to do a few rounds around the hall, okay? The nurse asked, unhooking the colorful cords that were attached seemingly everywhere. The three of us trekked slowly around, passing many open doors with sleeping patients. I tried not to look because I thought it was inappropriate, but I did. I later told my mom that all of the patients on the heart wing seemed elderly and it didn’t make sense that dad would be joining them. Sweetie, he does collect social security now, she had said.

How were my parents aging before me and I had yet to notice?

After lap three, my dad had to rest because he was out of breath. While he sat upright in a chair, thankful to be out of the bed, we all watched more Law and Order, and I held his hand, thinking of all the times he had held mine. Walking into grocery stores and to banks, down the stairs when they were too tough for me to climb, when I was scared of jumping off the high diving board, when my heels for prom were dangerous for my ankles, when the snow was too slippery. I knew I couldn’t support him now, not without a degree in medicine, but I could hold his hand.

We have to get you back on the drip and oxygen, Jim, the nurse rushed in and told us. I didn’t like her, she was too abrupt and not sensitive to my dad’s many questions. A team helped him into bed and got him hooked up to monitors that kept beeping, and then they talked outside. We watched them chatter, unable to make out their words. And then my mom and I looked at my dad.

He looked so scared that I started holding my breath again.

While I sat frozen, straining to hear the secret medical huddle going on outside, my mom raised and hugged my dad and whispered something I couldn’t hear into his ear. They stayed in a hug – or at least as much of one as you can have in that position- for a few minutes, and I watched my dad’s heart rate go down. 10 beats down. Then 15. Then 25. He stopped crying. The fear left his eyes.

They kissed.

And though I’ve never been married and I have never loved someone so unconditionally like my parents feel for each other, when I witnessed their embrace, I couldn’t help but think:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The kind of love that’s worth everything, endures. It is not about fancy dates or finding the most attractive person to wed. Instead, it means it when it says for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It is not about romance and diamond rings. Instead, it doesn’t judge. It is not about having the most spectacular sex or having the highest paycheck. Instead, it is patient and it is kind.

It is the love that my parents have always had.

While I pray for faith in the universe as my father heals, and I hope for better answers and less stress for all of us, I rejoice knowing that even if I can’t always be in North Carolina to help my family, I know we have the greatest truth of all between us.

Love. And even if hearts beat out of their chests, there will be love to steady the rhythm.

28 Things My Parents Taught Me About Love

Twenty-eight years ago in Asheville, North Carolina, a woman with flowers in her hair married a man with so much love in his heart, he couldn’t keep it to himself. Only four months prior, they went hiking for their very first date and that man wrapped his arms around that woman – and she just knew.

Two years later, they had me.

I don’t know the first time I realized that my parents were in love. Sure, they had fights like everyone else, but what I remember the most from my childhood is seeing my father leave notes by the coffee maker in the mornings before he went to work. Or my mom leaving notes in his fireman gear – complete with a lipstick print to seal the message. My dad almost always had fresh flowers for my mom (a dozen for her, and a single rose for me because I was jealous). They would dance in our living room after dinner and when I was off in never-never land, playing make believe, I could hear the laughter of their beautiful reality from the living room.

While I’ve never doubted that my parents loved each other, I’ve also witnessed just how hard marriage can be. Through sickness and in health, when times are hard and when they’re good, with youth and then with age, with distance apart and too much time together, with a full house and then an empty one. It’s because of my mom and dad that I believe in both the magic of love and the difficulty of it – it’s not always romantic and idealistic, it’s also, well, work.

But at the end of the day, they pick each other.

Again and again, over and over, because they meant what they said at that altar. And though the NYC foodie in me is rolling her eyes that for their anniversary they’re going to Red Lobster and eating a chocolate cake (the first one my dad has ever made in his life) afterwards, I secretly think it’s actually kind of adorable.

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So, this one is for you, Captain Tigar and first mate Kim. Thank you for teaching me to not settle for anything less than a match that’s as perfect, crazy and wonderful for me, as you are for each other. You’re the reason I’m able to write about love with such sincere hope in my words, and I will be very lucky to have a love like yours.

Here’s what you’ve taught me about love, marriage and all that jazz:

1- Love starts as a feeling and grows into a choice you make every single day.

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2- Love isn’t about your wedding day, it’s about your marriage. (My parents’ wedding cost about $500, my mom’s — very, vey 80s — wedding dress was only $40… and they’re photos were $50 – and I treasure them so much.)

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3- Couples who have adventures together, stay together. (Even if the adventure is remodeling a house, painting a deck or having themed-dinner nights at home…)

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4- Never go to bed without saying “I love you.” You can go to bed angrier than a rattlesnake (as my mom would say) but make sure you (grudgingly) say those three little words before you do.

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5- Perfection is for sissies. It’s the hard times in your marriage that make you so thankful for the really amazing times. If it was always perfect, you’d take it for granted.

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6- Remind each other. That you love one another. That they’re a wonderful person, father, mother, employee, boss lady, dancer, bruncher, maker-of-the-best-spicy-chicken-ever…

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7- You only have to put one foot in front of other. You might roll out of bed and hate the person you’re laying next to, but tomorrow you might think they’re spectacular. Take it one day at a time, one step after the other.

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8- Always stay friends… with benefits. Your spouse should be your very best friend, your favorite companion, and yes, the love of your life. But don’t marry someone you wouldn’t want to be friends with if you were so wildly attracted to them.

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9- Your marriage comes first. Even before your children. Because without taking time to nurture your love, it will wither like anything else that needs sun to flourish.

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10- Take time apart. For the majority of their marriage, my dad was gone three-days a week for 24-hours. Though that’s not typical, because they were separated, they got to miss one another and look forward to when they were together again.

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11- Be a united front. I could never win at the “go talk to your mother, go talk to your father” game because they were almost always on the exact same page about raising me. As I grew up, I realized they made a pretty solid team (even if I never got that pony that I really wanted. Hpmh.)

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12- You got to keep that flame burning. (I can’t really type anything more on this because eww, my parents!)

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13- Give one another space to grow. I’ve never believed there’s an “ideal” time to get married – you just get married when you meet the person you want to share your life with, regardless if it’s 20, 30 or 45 when you find them. Whenever you do, realize they’re not going to always be who they are right now and make sure they have space to change. And that they give you some room, too.

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14- Forgive quickly. It’s normal (and healthy!) to fight with your spouse, but holding grudges is elementary.

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15- Don’t take gender roles seriously. In my family, my dad always cooked and both of my parents worked. If my mom wanted (and could have afforded) to stay home, that would have been cool too. Or if my dad wanted to. You have to let each other do what you’re good at and not force one another into stereotypes.

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16- Support one another. My dad is notorious for picking up hobbies, becoming obsessed with them, and moving on to something else. Even so, when he picks up a new-something-or-another, my mom is there cheering for him, whatever it is. And he returns the favor for her as she has moved from accounting to astrology to real estate to…

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17- Marry someone who makes you laugh. Even if both of you are laughing at something no one else finds funny. Actually — especially if both of you are laughing at something no one else finds funny.

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18- Dream together. When I was ten, my parents bought this run-down lake house that they’ve refinished for the last 15 years into a gorgeous home. It was their dream to have a second place and together, they achieved it. (And I’m insanely jealous of their ‘We’re just drinking margaritas on the porch in the sun, honey, how’s work?’ text messages…)

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19- You can’t change the other person, but you can love them. Sure, my dad has made my mom a little braver and my mom has given my NJ-raised dad a Southern accents, but they’re still themselves. If you don’t like who someone is when you marry them, you won’t like who they are five or 28 years later either.

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20- There will be sickness and there will be health. My dad has had lots of health issues the past ten years, resulting in my mom taking on a lot more responsibility than she used to have. Though it definitely hasn’t been easy for her, when I ask her how she gets through it, she just says: “He’d do it for me if it was the other way around.”

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21- Everything is going to sag one day. It’s okay. Just more skin to cuddle.

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22- Develop good couple friendships. My parents have always had couple friends that they go on double-dates with or vacation together. And now, that all of us kids have flown the coop – they’re having even more fun together.

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23- You are an example to your children. Take it seriously.

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24- Let them surprise you. Even if it’s just with a chocolate cake.

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25- Don’t parent them. Sure, you want to take care of one another, but that doesn’t mean you baby them. You’re partners and lovers and friends, but not parent and child.

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26- Admit when your wrong. And sometimes, even if you’re right, for the sake of peace and love and making up, just say you’re sorry. It’s easier that way.

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27- It won’t always be equal. Someone will do more housework, someone will do more with the kids, someone will spend more money, someone will make more money. It’s not always going to be 50/50, but that’s what keeps it interesting.

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28- Kiss every single day. No matter what.

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This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here.

Where the Happiness Is

Though it seems so anticlimactic and uninteresting compared to every other attraction in New York, one of my favorite things to show visitors is the subway system. Sure it’s often gross and rat-infested, but if you’ve spent your entire life driving from point A to point B, the ability to hop on a train and arrive at your destination is liberating. Also, while I’m used to the sudden stops and the jerking (and sometimes, twerking by other passengers), visitors are fascinated – and sometimes frightened – by the ways of the MTA.

So when my parents made the trek from North Carolina to Manhattan to spend Christmas with me, I couldn’t wait to get my pops on the downtown train the very first night:

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He was impressed by how easy transportation was (told you so) but he also was avidly reading the advertisements, something that I’m rarely inclined to do because I’m tuned into my Kindle or headphones. After putting on his glasses and focusing, he noticed an ad about “Finding Happiness” and pointed it out to me:

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Hey Linds, look. Have you ever gone to the school of philosophy?” He asked, expecting me to know everything there is to know about New York and all that it offers. I shook my head in response and my mom turned her attention up and said, “Yeah Linds, you should do that. That looks really interesting!”

I had no intention, really, to sign up for this class.

I took philosophy in college and while I enjoyed my professor, I found everyone in the class far too argumentative and annoying. I thought Plato and Socrates were interesting, but as soon as I passed with a shining gold star, I forgot most of what I learned. And yet, something told me to check out the website and just see what it was all about.

And there, in the course syllabus, I found all of the things that I’ve been wondering about lately:

  • How can we increase the power of attention and realize our full potential?
  • When awareness and attention are open, how far can we see?
  • Where is Beauty? What is beauty itself?
  • What can be done about the negativity that limits our awareness and happiness?
  • How can we wake up more often during the day?

After a year of hardship, what I most wanted was what the advertisement offered me: happiness. Not from a guy, not from a job, not from my friends or my family (or my dog) but from something inside of me. I was very close to registering, but had some doubts, until I saw that for the first time ever, the School of Practical Philosophy was offering a $10 introductory course in honor of their 50th Anniversary.

Sold.

A month later when classes started, I was sure I’d walk into a room of 40-years-old-and-up philosophers and stick out like a sore thumb with my youth and lack of wisdom. But when I walked into the class, I was surprised to find classmates all my age, give or a take. There were a few middle-aged, but mostly, it was a younger crowd, full of opinions and ideas and ways of looking at the city, at the world, at life.

And for the first time – in a very, very long time – I was completely tuned into a lecture. I took notes. I brainstormed. I tried meditating (I’m bad at it, but improving). I found myself captivated by stories and discussions by strangers a few seats down. I wasn’t worrying about work or a man, my need to lose 5 pounds or my running pace. I didn’t think about what I really want tomorrow to bring or what I definitely regret in my past. I didn’t think about my never-ending to-do list or my need to compete with myself day-in-and-day-out.

I was just present. And it felt so empowering.

This Saturday was my third philosophy class, and I almost didn’t make it. I was out later than anticipated because of a particularly great second date (more about that later, promise) and didn’t feel like I slept much at all when 9 a.m. called. I considered skipping it – it’s not like I’m graded and it did only cost me a Hamilton. But after I snoozed for 10 more minutes and then shot out of bed, desperate to get the class that made me feel rejuvenated for the weekend and week ahead.

I grabbed coffee and then hailed a cab, striking up conversation with the cab driver, per my philosophy homework: what would the wise woman do? In every situation, petition the wiser voice about what the best, calmest, happiest version of yourself would do – and in that moment, the wise Lindsay thought she should meant listen to the cabbie tell his life story. He moved from Haiti. He became a special needs teacher in Queens. He got a divorce. He decided to drive a handicapped-taxi on the weekends to make extra money. He decided to live his life believing in himself first, having patience and always helping others.

There are so many things I’m not patient about and I worry will never happen. The right job, the right guy, the life I want, I told him.

I came here in 1985 – you weren’t even born yet, were you? he asked.

No, not yet. I admitted.

I never doubted that I would make a difference. I was always positive. Whatever will be yours is already yours. You just have to be positive. You have to believe more than anyone else, he advised with a big smile.

I left a big tip and headed inside, with only a minute to 10 o’clock. And as I opened my notebook to look at the homework for week three, I found myself in complete disbelief: take everything you see and everyone you meet as a teacher. What can you learn from them?

I grinned up at the front of the classroom, knowing that for whatever reason, philosophy was teaching me to be a wise, wise woman with more kindness in her thoughts, and more trust in her heart. It’s teaching me to live in the present, where every little magical thing actually lives.

Where the happiness is.

And all because of that smelly, jam-packed subway and the ad that I never bothered to read until right when I needed to see it. It’s funny how fate works, isn’t it?

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here.

When You Suddenly Feel Lonely…

This weekend was one of those perfect ones in New York: full of celebrating, wine and laughter. I bounced between birthday dinners and themed parties, had long walks with Lucy and long talks with my closest friends. After two full days on-the-go, I was excited about a relaxing Sunday to check off my to-do list for the week.

I started with a light brunch with my friend A, catching up about her European travels and then grocery shopped for my new diet, weaving in between the crowded aisles at the (cheap and totally worth the hassle) Fairway on the Upper West Side. I even held true to my unspoken New Year’s resolution to make more eye-contact and small talk with attractive men, casually asking for help reaching the salad dressing and where to find the frozen chicken. Neither conversations resulted in anything, but did boost my ego for .05 seconds. After trekking on the train and cuddling with Lucy, I looked out the window by my bed at the blue, wet city below and I…

…suddenly felt very lonely. 

Instead of giving into the random sadness, I took a deep breath and analyzed the situation: I’ve had a full weekend of fun and excitement and even relaxation, I have nothing to be upset about, so why do I feel this way? I took another deep breath (they truly help with everything) and counted just a few things I’m thankful for (this apartment, this puppy, my family, my amazing friends, this banging booty that helped me pull off a Beyonce costume on Saturday night) and got myself up out of bed with determination: I was going to distract myself and not let myself fall into a funk like I did in 2013. Not this year, not this time.

So I meal-prepped for the entire week. Then I swept and mopped all of the floors. I gave Lucy a new chew bone. I made myself some hot tea. I emptied out my inbox. I wrote down ideas for blog posts. I hung a fun sign on our front door that encourages happiness. I responded to some messages on OkCupid. I took out the trash. I tidied my room and made my bed. (And I would have gone running if it wasn’t raining and very cold.)

And at the end of all that, I came out to the lemon-y smelling living room with my chamomile tea while Lucy slept on the dog-hair-covered futon, and I still felt a little sad. I took yet another deep breath and admitted what was bothering me: I wanted was someone to cook dinner with, watch something on TV, snuggle in bed, maybe have some lazy sex, perhaps split some wine and fall asleep. I’ve gone on many dates, but I haven’t had that level of comfortability in quite some time — nearly two and a half years, to be exact. I do long for that, I do want that, I won’t settle for less than that, but on rainy Sunday nights, it’s easy to feel cold and alone.

What helps (for me) is remembering that I’m always exactly where I’m supposed to be, that I’m always the person I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. I remember that I’m so very lucky and most of the time, so happy with the life I have. I remember to write down my dreams and to remind those I love just how much they mean to me. I try to do a good deed (even if it’s just letting Lucy run in the rain). I try to remember that most everything is temporary, and that this feeling will pass and another one — splendid or terrible — will come. I change something small or I make sure my living area feels homey with a candle or some tea. I take a long bath or close my eyes and think of things that make me smile without hesitation.

So as I write this blog on Sunday night, texting my friends for their advice, I do feel a bit lonely. Somewhat sad. But I’m riding the wave of lonely – and so can you. Here are how my dearest do it:

“I try to do something nice for someone else… write a surprise card, send an encouraging text message, or just call someone I haven’t talked to in awhile. I go for a long run. I write it all down for me — not to share. I mindlessly surf Pinterest. I succumb to the glory that is retail therapy. And sometimes, I watch a documentary about people who have it worse than I do.” -M

“I do a lot of self-care. I clean everything – up and out. I throw away a lot of things. I do yoga, take long deep breaths, and  long walks where I just pay attention to every detail. I guess my big thing I do (thanks therapy) is trying to identify the source of the problem, and then I try and cut myself some slack and decide how and what I’m going to work on. It’s all about the process.” – A

“I have a music playlist or have a mental pep talk with myself in a quiet (but public) spot… like in a park, on the river, outside on my stoop. Or I go to this bar where I’m a regular, it’s my happy place. But… going to a bar is not the most constructive…” -E

“I exercise. I read uplifting material. I remind myself that this is just one day and that everything works out in the great divine order. I also go to bed. I look at nature. I think about how big God really is and how much we are loved and taken care of. Also count my blessings for all of the good in my life. Just takes practice.” -Mama Tigar

“I try to do something productive, something that gets at the cause of that loneliness, which is really just fear that I’ll never have a full life unless I meet someone. Putting extra money into my IRA or finally comparing my health insurance options isn’t exactly a feel-good experience, but it reminds me that I’m a capable adult who is going to be fine no matter what. Not to mention, my white knight’s arrival is a lot less urgent if I have medical coverage and enough money to pay for my own retirement.” -K

“I pray and I read the Bible.” -N

“I think about how lucky I am for the things and people in my life.” -J

“I kinda just let it ride out until the mood or the thought passes, like what the little girl says in The Tree Grows in Brooklyn: ‘Let the hurt waves pass through.” Also, I take a hot shower, ride out the thoughts and listen to some happy pop music.” -K

“I get my nails or hair done, buy a new dress or something pretty to make me feel good. I also change something as simple as the curtains or the pillows or do something that I’ve been meaning to do. You never want to over-analyze. If I feel down, I do something that brings a little joy. I think the key is getting your mind off of it.” -M

“I have a photo album on my phone that I call my ‘Be Happy’ file. They’re pictures of quotes. Quotes I found on Pinterest or see on Instagram or statues I like on Facebook.  Quotes about uncertainty and fear and bravery and being vulnerable or other things I’m lacking or I’m afraid of or that inspire me.” -R

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize! Learn more here. Submit here

I Tried to Hate Christmas

It snowed for the first (real) time in New York on Saturday.

I woke up hazily hungover and tired, wondering how I’d ever make it to midtown east for Lucy’s vet appointment when my mouth still tasted like red wine. My little pup blended in with my comforter, snuggled between my feet like she likes to do, and I laid in bed, listening to the quiet. I relished in those peaceful, stolen moments before I have to force myself out of bed and into the chaos below. My room was colder than usual, only warmed by the bright white glow outside, and I opened the curtains just enough to inquire about the weather.. and there they were:

Perfect, fragile snowflakes, falling gracefully to the ground I can’t see below.

I watched them build up on the rooftops and though I’m 20 years too old to get so excited over such little things, I smiled and eagerly told Lucy it was snowing. She licked my face and went back to sleep, unimpressed and obviously not-human. I didn’t care though – I slung on my boots and dressed her in a (probably not necessary) coat and outside we went to see the snow.

As I walked down to the friendly Starbucks that lets me bring her inside when it’s cold, I kicked the snow underneath my feet and I laughed as Lucy played with it, hopping on the small piles and seeing the flakes flutter on her nose. The upper west side was alive and happy, excited for this wintery-mix that makes this dirty, darkened city seem more pure, more hopeful than before.

And like the snow lightened the push-and-the-shove of Manhattan (and Brooklyn and Queens, and maybe even New Jersey), it did the same for me. I’ve been adamantly against Christmas this year. In fact, I was so not looking forward to this time of year that I convinced myself that I wouldn’t be full of the holiday spirit, instead, I’d be a scrooge. I’d hate Christmas with all of my might.

After such a difficult year, with so much bad and so little good, why would I invest my heart and my expectations in December? Why would I think that the end of the year would be any better than the rest of it? Why waste money on decorations and holiday cards, postage and gifts, if in the end, I’d be miserably humming around a fake Christmas tree, mulling over everything I didn’t have? Over everything that didn’t happen or unfortunately did happen?

Why celebrate 2013 at all?

Maybe it was the snowflakes – or how the shift in the seasons shifted something for me, too, but I couldn’t keep my love of the holidays at bay. I couldn’t be negative about it. Even though New York and I have had our trials this year, the city wouldn’t let me forget about Christmas. Not with it’s street fairs and it’s subway performers singing “My Favorite Things.” Not with it’s lights and it’s weather, it’s people dressed in puffy coats and stockings from head-to-toe. Not with smiling kids and (surprisingly) grinning adults, even with it’s happy tourists seeing this place I call home for the first time, in the snow. Not with Macy’s windows and Fifth Avenue shops, not with splitting a bottle of wine with my friend in a cozy Parisian restaurant in the West Village. Not with all the truly magical parts of New York – from people to places and everything in between – that seem to glow with those silly white lights at this special time of year.

Though things haven’t quite gone my way and I’ve had more learning pains than triumphs this year, it only gives me better reason to show my thanks at Christmas and as 2014 begins. It might not have been the easiest of months, but they were necessary to teach me something. To be stronger and to take more chances. To believe in things that you can’t feel, see or imagine. To trust in something bigger than you, some force that you might not always believe in. To know that everything has it’s time and it’s place, that we will figure it out as we go, if we have enough hope to see it through.

I wanted to hate Christmas this year, I really did. But I don’t. I can’t. I won’t…

I sent out 50 holiday cards.

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E hosted (yet another) amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

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My friend A came to visit.

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I made a wreath (for $10!).

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My roommates put up a tree and I hung stockings.

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Lucy got a new red coat.

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And a new pillow (thanks Pottery Barn!)

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J threw quite the party with some deadly jingle juice.

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I shopped for Christmas gifts with M while looking at a lovely view.

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iVillage named me the Best Party Planner at our holiday party.

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This is my view while writing this blog.

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And best of all… my family will be here in less than a week for our very first Christmas in New York City.

I might not be exactly where I thought I’d be at the end of 2013, but I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, learning what I need to know. And maybe one day, I’ll have a Christmas with a man I love, watching the children we made open presents in a home or apartment we bought together. Maybe I’ll have the best year yet in 2014, maybe it’ll be harder than all the rest. Maybe I’ll move abroad, maybe I’ll keep falling back in love with New York.

Maybe it all doesn’t matter – as long as I’m thankful enough to realize that regardless of how it all turns out or what I have, I’m so incredibly blessed. And so very loved.

Believing in the Unknown

I traveled to North Carolina last weekend for some much needed time with my family. The three days and some loose change of hours were blessed and bittersweet — we all knew the time was too short, as it always is, and the circumstances, not ideal. My father– the brawly fireman that fights as fiercely as he loves — has had three surgeries in the past six weeks. My mom has taken on the role of sole caregiver, bandage changer, and keeper of the finances, the household and the sanity, leaving her, unsurprisingly, a little insane.

With the kindness of my great job, I took off a day to help out and give as much support as I could offer. The trip was full of some tears and laughs, red wine and margaritas, shopping trips and steaks shaped like hearts, all underneath the transcending beauty of the bright blue Carolina sky. I always forget just how vast and endless it feels in the south — uninterrupted by the skyscrapers and smog, quiet and subtly enticing. I spent my mornings waking up early and retreating to our back porch, drinking coffee and just staring at the horizon, gulping in the fresh air and the crispness of the day. I walked barefoot with my family pup, Suzie, feeling the dew on the grass and the gushy, gooeyness of the mud in between my toes. I tiptoed from stepping stone to stepping stone to retrieve the mail and take out the trash; all the while my dad, sore from surgery, hollered out for me to come back inside. Then at nighttime in layers of jackets — my mom’s and then my dad’s because I forgot to bring one of my own — I looked up at the same familiar stars that I used to dream under, thinking about those same shining lights in Manhattan that I’d one day be part of.

It reminded me of being a kid. And I liked it.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the truly hard parts of being an adult– leaving the home you knew and the parents who raised you on hearty meals, boat rides and unconditional, encouraging love. Or learning how to save money for a future you’re not sure you’ll actually see, while spending enough to create memories today that you’ll tell your grandchildren about 40 years from now. Or how your 20s feel so incredibly long and intolerably fast all at the same time, making you squirm somewhere in between thinking you’re getting old and that you’re too young enough to care.

It’s confusing and maddening, and yes, beautifully educational.

At the ripe ‘ole age of 24, I’m proud of the decisions I made and of the zip code I selected — but as wonderful as my little apartment and job is, I still miss my mom and dad. I still long to be taken care of like and to be void of any responsibilities, cares or concerns. When my greatest achievement was catching those fireflies and sneaking a flash light under the covers so I could write in my diary. When boys only mattered enough to hold hands in the hallway and call you for half a minute at night. When your parents seemed ageless and young, incapable of being human, but rather all-powerful superheroes who rescued you from all of the bad guys – the boogeyman, the bullies and the insecurities that wrestled your mind and mirror. When time seemed like something obsolete and fascinating, when adulthood meant turning 22 and having all of your dreams already perfect.

Once you’re actually a 20-something, you realize that nothing is perfect and that maybe, nothing will ever be exactly how you planned.

But that’s why childhood needs to be sweet. So that when you’re sitting on a bus back from JFK on a Sunday night, longing for the comfort of your dad’s arms and your mom’s laughter, you savor the life you’ve already had. You can close your eyes, even if they’re filled with tears and your heart full of prayers. You can think about those memories to keep your warm and keep your hopes high. They remind you of where you came from and how you were able to be the lady you are, living this life you worked hard to create.

So that even when times are unsure or uncertain, for when you realize how little control you honestly have over everything, for when things change and so do you, you think about those possibilities you always knew were possible. You remember those people who told you that you could if you set your mind to it.

You open your eyes to look outside to that skyline, its dazzling puzzle luring you in, once again, to take another step. To give something another try. To keep believing in the unknown, in the things that have yet to come, the people you’ve yet to meet, the experiences you haven’t felt yet.

If you believed in them when you didn’t know any better than to believe in extraordinary, imaginary things, you can believe even harder when you do know better. Because that’s when believing gets tough, that’s when it becomes worth it.

That’s how dreams become more than stars glittering above your 7-year-old head on a chilly North Carolina night. That’s how you go from being a wanderlust kid to an adult that knows the unknown isn’t as scary as it feels, it’s where all the magic actually happens.