There is SO Much Love in the World

On Thanksgiving – and always – I feel so incredibly blessed for this little life of mine. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be living in one of my favorite parts of New York, working at a job that I really love, writing for a dozen or so magazines and have an incredible group of friends, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Sometimes I want to pinch myself that nearly everything I’ve wanted has worked itself out… beautifully. Surprisingly.

Perfectly how it was supposed to.

Now of course, there are things I’d like and things I dream of. There are Thanksgivings I imagine with my one-day man, and there are certain visions and luxuries I’d like to be my reality one day, but in this moment, sitting in my PJs with Christmas music playing, my pup at my feet and my roommate cooking in the kitchen, I’d say life is pretty damn good right now.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me just how much love there is in this world. There is SO much, I can’t ever explain.

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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.

 

7 Things With Tiny Hearts That I Love

When my friends or family give me gifts, they almost always have one of two themes: covered in hearts or miniature in size. I love delicate, small things and anything that promotes love, I will wear. My father bought me a huge gold necklace that says “Love” in cursive for my birthday, and for Christmas, my mom bought a tiny “Amore” on a long chain (in honor of my upcoming Italian lessons!). I also have a heart-shaped teacup set that I absolutely adore and won’t let anyone drink out of (because that makes sense). Most of the decor in my room has some sort of heart emblem and admittedly, if given the chance to scribble on something, you’ll likely see a heart in my poor, unorganized handwriting.

We all need just a small little bit of love in the new year – in whatever form that might be – so here are some products to inspire you:

Little Hearts Necklace
heart-necklace
$11 on Etsy

Gold Love Print
love-print
$25 on Etsy

 

In Love Sunglasses
in-love-sunglasses
$16 on Urban Outfitters

Infinity Love Scarf

scarfy$35 on Etsy

Heart It Ring

heart-it-ring$8 on Urban Outfitters

Moschino Heart Red Leather Gloves

354X490TMPL
$220 at Forzieri

Kate Spade Heart Tights
8369691_fpx.tif
$32 at
Bloomingdale’s

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

We Were Just Beginning

In the home I grew up in, the love flows just as steadily as the wine. My dad still looks across the living room at my mom (who is pulling up the corner of her cheeks while talking about her fantasy face lift) and says, “Honey, you’re beautiful. You don’t need that.” In this house that’s a few right turns off of the main road that leads into town, my dog thinks I’m a better person than I really am. In this place, where my room is almost empty, minus some books and bedding, is frozen back in time when I loved playing tennis and hung up pictures of the city I wanted to call home.

And those photos are now sights I could see anytime I wanted. They are only a train ride away and some are views I see each and everyday. I made it to New York and I survived it – or as my friend E says, it let me stay. There is no secret to “making it” in Manhattan, it kicks out those who don’t belong pretty quickly.

But when I’m back in North Carolina, when my pace slows down, when I sit around talking astrology and dreams with my mom, when my dad brings me a heating pad and pillow to curl up with because my stomach hurts, when I walk out of the kitchen and return to find all of my dishes put away, I’m reminded of the place that grew me. The people who loved me enough to let me chase that brilliant ambition that is now my reality. The sense of longing that I used to feel while lying in this bed, looking out at the fog sweeping the mountaintops is gone – and in its place, I feel peace.

I feel this sweet surrender inside of my heart that for the first time, maybe ever, I’m just content. The journals I filled with wishes and hopes, are now subway stops and memories. The stories I used to store in a shoebox are now archived on WordPress and countless other publications I still can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to write for. Those magazine clippings of inspirational quotes and couples snuggling on the couch are now my own sayings and my own snapshots of the men I’ve loved.

Really, there was nothing this Christmas that I wanted or needed other than to hop a flight back to where the wildflowers grow, the sound of silence echoes pleasantly from hill-to-hill, and sweet tea is within driving distance. And thanks to this blog and all of the wonderful people I’ve met in New York, being a single gal for the holidays feels more natural to me than bringing home a love that wasn’t meant to last.

Sitting around with a group of my friends tonight at the annual Christmas potluck while I’m in town, I thought about where we were: single and striving, learning and loving, letting go and being brave enough to hold on, chasing dreams and their origins, starting all over again and putting together pieces, realizing we’re finally adults and wondering what that really means. Looking at their faces and hearing their stories that while we may have different zip codes, sound scarily similar, munching on sausage balls I pretended had zero calories, I thought about how we all worry about what the future holds.

There is so much more life ahead of us than what we’ve experienced. There is room to reach so many more goals. Chances to love someone more than we’ve ever loved before. Opportunities to see the world and to reveal a world inside ourselves we never knew. Experiences that will test and try us as much as they teach and taunt us. Mortgages and babies who will call us “Mom”, Christmases that will one day mean more to us than seeing our old friends and feeling fancy cooking our family the Eggs Florentine we discovered in the city. Lifelong friendships that only become stronger with age and men who think we’re radiant despite our age.

It’s hard, I think, as a 20-something to see an existence outside of the current one. We’re busy coming and going, figuring out what we want and how to get it, dating and mating, relating and playing, attempting to save money and determining how much we need to put into our 401ks when really, 45 seems old, never mind 65 when we actually see the account. Everything seems so far away, so not-something-I-need-to-think-about right now, something that I’ll address later when I’m ready, later when I’m older, when I’m settled, when I have it all together. We can’t see our children’s faces or truly believe deep into our bones that yes, one day, one man, will be different and it all won’t be so complicated. We can’t see that house or the playground behind it, the successful career that we worked so hard to achieve at its very peak, we can’t see the impressions we leave on others or imagine our beautiful, youthful friends with wrinkles around their eyes.

But before we know it – or so I’m told anyway – one day, we’ll wake up and our realities will be different. The ways we find peace will be new. Our intentions humble, our pace slower, the things that make us happy, simpler. We’ll look back on these days, where we roamed wild and free, dabbling in this while dabbling in that, fretting over being a size 6, crying over a guy who we won’t remember in the long run, drinking more champagne and coffee than what’s healthy while soaking up sun, and wonder why we took it for granted. We’ll look back and remember all of those Christmases – from being children to having our own, and be amazed at how much things change, how much we change, how much the world continues to change before we’ve caught up to it.

And we’ll wonder how we didn’t see that then, sitting around that table with our friends, talking about how old we feel at the ripe age of mid-twenties, that really, we were just beginning.

Playing House

I haven’t been outside today.

I woke up late with Mr. Possibility, made french toast while he made bacon, we watched re-runs of The Sopranos while lying around, aimlessly chatting and working on our own projects. From time-to-time we’d look over at each other and smile, at other times we were content just sitting in the same room. I showered and immersed myself into a freelancing article that’s due tomorrow and he wrapped himself up in the language studies that are occupying his mind.

There was nothing special about this day – now I’m still working on that damn article while writing this blog, munching on leftovers and drinking a glass of Merlot that’s hitting all the right spots. M recently got me hooked on Criminal Minds, so it is serving as a beautiful distraction, the only sound in the room except for the dishwasher running.

I’m not wearing anything fancy nor am I sporting my usual face of makeup, I’m natural with my hair wavy and unbrushed, I’m completely alone in an apartment that’s not mine – and I’m happy in the silence. I’m not sure if I believe in moving in together before becoming engaged, but I do know that playing house can sometimes be a good indicator of how you work with someone on a day-to-day basis.

The daily interactions used to not matter so much to me. I was in college or right out of it and thought that romance and butterflies, sexual tension and candlelit dinners were more important than anything else. I wanted to always have a racing heart, a sweaty palm and the feeling that I couldn’t live without someone. I wanted it to be intense and over-the-top, the kind of irresponsible and uncontrollable love that makes you die a little inside when you think about it.

Sure, I have sparks with Mr. Possibility. There’s definitely passion. But it’s not remarkable chemistry that makes us click – it’s the way we operate as a team. And while we’re not living together, nor will be we be anytime soon, the fact that we can function easily without much tension is a testament to how playing house could translate into making a home.

I’m not at that stage in my life – I couldn’t imagine having days like today over and over again. There are still countries I want to visit, experiences I want to have, people I want to meet, dreams to follow, and mistakes I want to make before I settle into happily-ever-after-home-sweet-home. I want to become a better version of me before I become anyone’s partner for the long run.

But sometimes, on a lazy Sunday with a pretty big week ahead, it’s refreshing to sit around in your guy’s t-shirt, relaxing and writing just as you love to do, enjoying the company of yourself and looking forward to the person you love to come home. I don’t want to be settled down, but it’s nice to have your heart settled in a moment.

Happy & Healthy Love

In an effort to save money, I enjoyed a night in with M, splitting beers and dishes from Brother Jimmy’s. Though I have a TV, it’s in the living room where an air conditioner is not, so Hulu won over any real-time attraction. We watched an assortment of stuff -Grey’s, a special on the Columbine shootings, music videos from the 90’s (remember S Club 7 and Britney, pre-crazy?), and at last, one of M’s favorites, The Newlyweds.

I used to watch Jess & Nick pretty regularly, captivated by their fairytale-like wedding and just the idea of how a couple fairs after joining their lives together. At the time, I wanted to look just like Mrs. Simpson-Lachey and well, Nick was tall and fit, a handsome dude who apparently, was marriage-material too. I was too young, I think to realize how incredibly toxic and dysfunctional their relationship really was.

From episode one, it was evident that not only did they not know how to communicate, but that they led their day-to-day lives differently. He was super-duper-OCD clean, she had lived a life of luxury since 14, never having to fend for herself. He believed his wife should do his laundry and keep the house tidy without a maid, even if they could defiantly afford one, and she didn’t even know how to toss out after 10-day old flowers. She had jealously issues that were rather normal, but she didn’t know how to handle them and often smothered him when space would have cleared up the tension. She whined for attention, he refused to give it to her. He didn’t listen, continuously put her down, and instead of stating how he felt, he walked away and shut down.

Watching this now, after having relationships that were quite similar, my wedded-bliss image of one of my favorite teeny-bopper couples was shattered. I was flabbergasted – how did I not see how poorly their relationship functioned? Why had I been so sad when news broke that they parted ways? Why did it come as such a surprise for me?

They were unlike any other couple that just couldn’t make it work. Simpson was 22 when she married, Lachey was 29, and while I’m not one to base the success or failure of any relationship on an age difference (Mr. P and I are eight years apart), Jess didn’t know herself well enough to agree to marriage. And Nick? He treated her like a child and put her down without taking any of her history into consideration. Sure she was 22, but she signed a record deal at 14 – placing her in the lap of luxury and stardom for all of her adult life.

I’m passing judgment of course – I don’t know them personally and no one except for them can testify to what went wrong after three years of marriage, but watching it now further proved to me how easy it is to fall in love with the idea of love. Of course, there are many splendid things about loving someone and having them return the intoxicating favor. Having the constant support, the sweet reminders of affection and having someone send you good-night text message is wonderful. It makes you feel good, it makes you want to make them happy, and it gives you hope for a couple-oriented future.

But relationships are more than that. They require a lot of work, more patience than anyone has, and the ability to forgive and forget quickly, and even when you’re angry or upset, kiss someone good-night with sincerity. They require understanding and consistent, constant communication, and also having enough faith in your partner to give them space when they need it. They demand compromise and two people who are healthy on their own, happy by themselves, but healthier and happier together. They aren’t always fun and you don’t always adore that person, they don’t always give you what you need and they forget what you want. People are selfish and insecure, immature and annoying – but that’s what makes us human, that’s what makes us children who are learning the best way to lead our lives. And when you decide to go about it with someone else, you have to remember that they’re human too.

So falling in love with love – with this idea that love cures all things, can stand any test of time, any argument, any difference or disagreement – well folks, it’s bullshit. Sometimes it simply doesn’t work. Sometimes there can be no way to resolve what sets you apart and even when it’s tough to swallow, deciding to separate can be the thing that makes you healthier and your partner happier.

Some love – most love – isn’t meant to stand the test of time. You’re supposed to learn how to love, learn how to be in a relationship, learn how to be someone’s companion. And it’s not until you stop falling in love with love, admiring couples from afar without knowing the story behind their cohesion, do you learn that the best of love, the truest of all partnerships, has nothing to do with being madly, passionately in love or with the best story or incredible sex.

Instead, it’s about the love where more importantly than anything else, you love the person for who they are, not how they make you feel. Not because they are handsome and tall, not because they are charming or good arm candy. But because they are themselves and if you weren’t in love with them, you’d still pick them as your friend. After all, in time, you realize the day-to-day is far more important than romance, more important than those butterflies, more important than that fancy wedding. Those things fade, along with looks and chiseled bodies and chins, but having someone you can sit on the couch with and talk about nothing and still be happy – that’s a healthy love.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful that I’m inside instead of out in this blistering heat. 

 

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

I lay in bed, alone; listening to the rain hit the streets below. It is the middle of the night and the slight light from the tall lamps below peek through the shades, creating squared shadows across the blanket covering me.

He couldn’t sleep, so he retired to the living room to catch up on some paperwork for his job. It isn’t one he cares for or one that brings him happiness, but it dictates the majority of his thoughts and nearly all of his worries. Before he left the bed close to 3 a.m., he rolled over and kissed my forehead, thinking I was asleep and trying to be careful not to wake me.

But I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t been able to for days.

It isn’t him. Everything about what we share is ideal for where we are in this relationship. He is gracious and kind, funny and inviting. He stands by me, and while life may be ripe with complication, there is nothing complicated about the time we spend together. It is fluid, gentle, and unhurried –similar to the way we continue to connect. I’m happy in a way I haven’t been happy in a long time, and for the first time, I haven’t defined myself by my relationship status. I’m proud of myself and committed to investigating all that could be…but something is missing. Something in me, not in us.

I haven’t been able to find peace. I’m not seeking it in his arms or in this bed that I’m laying unaccompanied. I’m not looking for it in my bylines or in my success. I’m not asking my friends how to find it or where true peace comes from or if it is even possible.

But isn’t it possible?

I’ve met those people – those who are just satisfied and content. There is no better word to describe them than peaceful: they exude an energy that is intoxicatingly calming that you crave their company because it puts you at ease. They are the ones who were called a “breath of fresh air” on their elementary report cards, and the ones who were so comfortable being who they are, it made you wondered why you doubt yourself at all. They are the ones in the working world who gracefully cascade through the office in seamless outfits; pairing the most mismatched items into something so beautiful you can’t help but watch them as they walk. And when they talk, their sentences are soft and subtle, not loud enough to hear from far away, but enough to make you lean into them, as to not miss a word.

Peeking out the window, hoping he didn’t come to check on me as I sat in his windowsill, pressed up against the glass with his Ralph Lauren sheets wrapped around me, I wondered how I could become that person. The type of person that doesn’t make excuses for herself, who is calm and confident, collected, and true to herself. Someone who isn’t full of worry and anticipation, who is always hungry for change, and desperate to be more, to be better. Being driven and ambitious has its perks, but it often leaves me disappointed when what I think is mine, doesn’t turn out to be. Or what I work so hard for, doesn’t come to be when I want it to.

If I was more peaceful, maybe I’d accept life for what it was, instead of what I want it to be. I’ve accepted peace can’t be found in any man, including the one I can hear attempting to be quiet, though not succeeding as well as he thinks he is. I’ve accepted it can’t be found in my job, though fulfilling, will never be all that I am, nor should it be.

I keep accepting, but I’m still not sleeping. I keep believing I will find freedom from being too hard on myself or not giving myself enough credit or valuing what I have instead of continuously desiring more, but I’m still anxious.

I keep praying, but I’m not finding my peace. Where are you, peaceful, easy feeling, and why can’t I feel you?