The Six-Month Mark

My first date with Mr. Idea lasted nearly 24-hours, only interrupted by my hostessing shift at some wannabe-ritzy restaurant in North Carolina. We met for brunch and then stayed up all night talking, watching movies, and getting to know one another. My first date with Mr. Fire was similar, lunch shifted into cooking dinner, which moved to drinks and a very passionate first kiss. Mr. Fling and Mr. Disappear were all alike – I was smitten and convinced within seconds of chatting away.

After each of these dates, I excitedly called my mom, spilling the details and reading off his resume to convince her of this guy’s potential. She listened while repeating, “that’s great” and “how sweet” when the conversation permitted her to speak. And at the end of each monologue while I was still consumed with the splendor of a date-gone-well, I would ask: “So mom, what do you think?”

Cautious of giving me advice because she knows how strongly I take her opinion to heart, her answer has always been the same: “He sounds great and I’m glad you’re happy, but remember, you won’t see someone’s true colors for six months.”

Oh, mothers. Don’t you hate when they’re always right?

Mr. Fire and I almost made it to six months, Mr. Idea and I broke up right around six months, and the ones that lasted longer than half a year, probably shouldn’t have. Because of this, I’ve always feared the six-month mark in a relationship – it feels like the make-it or break-it point where the relationship will either continue healthily or fall to pieces.

And here Mr. Possibility and I are, flirting with the half-year mark, though we’ve known each other almost as long as I’ve been writing this blog. Our relationship has had its fair share of ups and downs and it’s required both of us to compromise to meet each other’s needs. We’ve traveled distances by car and by plane, lived together for a few weeks in between leases, and weathered the storms of the past while hoping for a future. We’ve had to spend time apart to learn how to miss one another, we’ve had to fight to learn how to accept our flaws, and we’ve had to grow as people so we could grow as a couple. While our story is probably more tangled and complicated than most relationships, I think what makes us connect is stronger than what’s connected me to men I’ve loved before.

Because with Mr. P, it was the first time I took things really slow.

I didn’t call my mom after our first date because I wasn’t sure if I was interested in him. I didn’t swoon over him, even though I fell in front of him on that silly bus. Partly because my focus was on myself because of this blog and partly because I just was exhausted of looking for love, when we crossed paths, I didn’t picture what tomorrow could be. Instead, for the very first time, I enjoyed getting to know him without placing any pressure on anything. Neither of us had any expectations and so when things worked out, when things progressed, when we became an item instead of just dating, we were happily surprised.

So maybe the six-month indication of success or failure doesn’t apply to this relationship. Maybe it does – I’m not sure. But for me, I didn’t need to hang around for half-a-year to figure out what Mr. P’s true colors were because I saw them way before I became his girlfriend, way before we kissed for the first time. I fell for his friendship, not for my own romantic ideas of a future that’s yet to be determined.

For now,he and I, and us, is still a possibility.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for a stellar Sunday morning with French toast, bacon, coffee, and orange juice. 

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Love Me That Much

Today, sitting on the boardwalk at Long Beach with Mr. Possibility eating the unhealthiest lunch you could imagine (Italian ice, nachos and hot dogs with a side of Red Bull and Vitamin Water), I was so distracted by an elderly couple a few benches down, I hardly heard a word Mr. P said.

The couple, probably in their late 80s, wearing matching yellow polos and khaki pants ate chocolate ice cream cones while they watched the kiddos (yeah, us 20-somethings) frolic on the beach below. It appeared the woman wasn’t completely there, as a nurse aid sat feet from them, observing sorta-intently. But the couple talked, the woman laughed. The man looked at her with love in his wrinkled eyes. She smiled up at him. And ice cream dripped from her chin to nearly her knees, staining her Land’s End-inspired attire.

He didn’t notice at first and neither did the nurse (who was now engaged in an intense conversation on her cell phone in Spanish), but then he saw the destruction. He grabbed his own napkin and opened it to reveal the clean part inside and started rubbing her face before he realized he just didn’t have enough. He looked over at the concession stand and then at the nurse helplessly, probably thinking he couldn’t leave her alone but needed to get something to clean up the mess.

Maybe it’s my Southern manners or my tender heart that leads me to tears during Animal Shelter commercial with Sarah Mclahlan singing, but I instinctively stood up in the middle of Mr. Possibility going on about something (as he usually does) and ran to get a handful of cheap quality paper towels. By the time I reached them, the nurse had came to the rescue but without proper tools. She looked relieved when I showed up with my gift and thanked me profusely. I grinned at the couple and they returned the gesture to me.

“It’s good ice cream, isn’t it sweetie?” The man asked his wife. She nodded sweetly and looked up at me, maybe trying to find words, maybe  unsure of what was going on. I wished them a good day at the beach and the man labeled me a “kind young woman” as I walked away to rejoin Mr. Possibility and his miniature pile of nachos.

Though we enjoyed the rest of the day by the shore and now both have sunburns to show for it (apparently an Irish background doesn’t serve anyone well in the blistering sun), as we caught the LIRR back to Penn, I couldn’t get the image of those woman’s eyes out of my head. They were light blue and freckled with specs of green, just like mine. There were lines and ages spots lining her lashes like liner, but she still breathed an air of youth and naivety. She was beautiful in a way someone can only be beautiful once they’ve loved a lot, lost a lot and have found a peace within themselves and their lives. It’s not a beauty I’ll ever claim, but maybe some 20-something will see that same luster in me one day.

Looking over at Mr. Possibility as he reads his second book of the summer, holding his bookmark (a picture of us) in his hand, I thought about age. Could I love someone through decades of trials? Through career and baby bumps, mortgages and struggles, carpooling and soccer games, ballet lessons and retirement funds? When they start to lose their hair or when it turns nearly all gray instead of wisdom-inducing highlights? When their belly competes with Santa’s, when sex isn’t as passionate or frequent, when illnesses strike, when miscarriages happen, when kids grow and then leave, when houses rot and things and people fall apart?

And will someone love me that much?

To sit by me on a bench as chocolate ice cream dribbles down me and still want to take care of me? To protect me and stand by me, no matter how many wrinkles I sport or when the time comes that my boobs rest near my knees? To see me through menopause and the battle to keep myself in one piece, as I’ve read in dozens of magazine is something that’s difficult with a house full of kids and a husband who needs more attention. To support my career and support me if it doesn’t go exactly as planned – or if it does, to not be intimidated by my success? To hold my hand when I feel unsteady and one day, when I need it to even walk? Will someone see through the age and still be able to picture the same face they fell for when I was 20 or 30-something, full of vitality and courage, unbothered by the world and uninterested in its damnations?

I don’t know the story behind that couple. I don’t know if their romance was fiery and complicated, or if they were high school sweethearts or letter writers from some war. I don’t know if they have children or if those children have children. I don’t know where they’re from or why they decided to sit on Long Beach on a Friday afternoon, right before the clouds encompassed the never-ending blue sky.

But I do know that regardless of where my life takes me, how many magazines I write for, how many loves I have, or how many days I spend at the beach, listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the sand crinkle between my toes, one day many, many moons from now, I hope to be standing by the side of a man who would rather eat ice cream with me and think about all the love we have and the memories we’ve created - like the time I showered myself in a chocolatey mess – than be anywhere else in the world.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for those Louie Armstrong moments that just keep coming. 

In Terms of a Blog

Do I think in terms of blogs or are my blogs the products of my thoughts?

After hundreds of days (over 300 now!) of writing, I’m not so sure anymore. This space, this blog, these words have become such a part of my life, so engraved into my everyday functions that it’s strange (and sad and refreshing and…) to think of my life without it. It’s so much a part of me now that my friends always make sure I’ve written for the day before we go out: “Linds, did you write today? I don’t want a midnight curfew, we don’t turn into pumpkins because of your blog!” And it’s a topic of discussion between Mr. Possibility and I after we have an intimate chat or we go on a trip or have an adventure he’d rather keep between us: “Hey, Tigar, don’t write about this in tomorrow’s post, okay? Please?”

And so I write earlier, I schedule a few out, I leave out some details here and there, and I do the best I can to keep my commitment to the blog, to myself, to this journey without sacrificing friendships. But always being on deadline (even if it’s one I created for myself) has a way of keeping constant pressure on you. These days, my battle with self-worth isn’t nearly as difficult – minus a few insecurities, I’m pretty happy. I’ve learned how to maintain a healthy relationship without losing myself in the process, and though it is far from perfect, it’s the most honest I’ve been with myself and with another person I’m involved with. I’m not exactly where I’m meant to be, but I’m somewhere and for now, that’s good enough for me.

Most of the time, now, as compared to six months ago, I don’t have something to work through or a task at hand that requires deep thought and consideration. I’m stable and secure, figuring out the ups and downs as they come, and mostly, not needing to write it out to work it out. But because I decided long before I reached this period of self-fulfillment, I vowed to be a daily blogger for a year as a way to keep myself focused on the progression of my 12-step program, I just can’t quit when life is pretty easy. Or when I’m happy.

However – I also can’t live my life in terms of a blog.

I can’t look at every experience I share – with M, with K, with R, with E, with J or N as potential blog material. I can’t chronicle my developing relationship with Mr. Possibility through a dot com, some things, most things are meant to be private.  I can’t end a fun night at 10 p.m. so I have enough time to get home and write before the clock strikes 12 and I miss a day. This blog was started because I wasn’t living my life how I wanted to be, and now that I am, the blog has to develop, not cease.

But how do you stop thinking as a blogger? How do you just enjoy a moment without wondering how it will translate into words or how you’ll describe this feeling, this experience, as beautifully as it is? How do you stop scribbling down ideas when your career is all about ideas?

How does a blogger – a writer – live without working on a make-believe deadline?

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for Central Park and all of its beauty and clarity.

A Time to Rub Feet

When your only wardrobe options are ugly panties and cocktail dresses, you know it’s time for laundry.

Deciding I couldn’t actually go to work in a little black dress tomorrow, no matter how sexy and curve-defining it is on me, I finally gave in and paid the extra $10 to have someone else do my laundry for me today. I became one of those city-folk who simply didn’t have the time: today is my only day without an “extra-curricular” activity after work, and if I needed to clock three miles before the gym closed, buy groceries, and write a few freelance posts – I couldn’t waste time at the mat.

I’ll give credit to my friend K who only had great things to say about sending her wash away, amazed I hadn’t given in yet – and welcomed me to New York when I agreed. It was a great investment of my hard-earned cash, especially since it’ll be ready tomorrow morning before work, folded, and waiting at the door for me. It’s because of this decision that I’m sitting, writing, in running clothes (only thing I have left), eating a delectable dinner consisting of humus, pretzel crisps, and orange juice, after a killer run and deciding if I’ll go to bed early or watch last season’s Project Runway.

After dropping off my 30-pound bag of separated whites and blacks, I called my dear friend L, whose voice always make me feel at home. Our bond, like the very best of friendships is one that knows no distance and has no boundaries. We pick up right where we left off and when I have an irrational fear or pestering doubt, her name is quick to appear in my phone. We get each other in a way that only best friends can get one another, and if I was to put it into words, it wouldn’t even hold a candle to the reality of feeling it.

As we try to each week (and usually fail miserably at with our respective busy lives) we caught each other on the ins and the outs of our day-to-day’s, with emotional, irrational outbursts sprinkled here and there, too. A newlywed, she talked about her new apartment, new town, new job, and the endless laundry that took four loads and five hours on Saturday. I talked about freelancing gigs, Mr. Possibility, my messy apartment and busy upcoming week, and the fun of the last weekend.

In response to my giddiness, she said: “You’re just a big ol’ black hole of happiness! I don’t even know if I can talk to you!” We giggled for a second and I reminded her there is bad in my life but that I’m trying to focus on what I’m blessed to have. Then, as I’m forever intrigued by the life of a married 20-something because it’s so far from what I want right now in my life, I ask her to leave the room so she can dish on the hubby. She instantly agrees and heads out, but less than a second later, she is distracted, exchanging some words with Mr. L and then says, “Well, we’ll have to talk about that another time.” Annoyed, I snapped back: “You don’t have to listen to him, he isn’t the boss of you!” She replied, “I was just rubbing his feet before you called. He had a rough day.” I probably said a few unkind words toward Mr. L and she asked if Mr. Possibility did sweet things like rub my feet instead of asking for the favor for himself, and then we eventually hopped off the phone.

While I was running, I couldn’t get the sour taste or visual image of Mr. L asking my friend to rub his feet while she was on the phone with me. It didn’t make sense why he couldn’t wait twenty minutes or why she obeyed him in the first place. I ran faster to distract myself, but by the end of my run, I still felt the need to call her and beg her to mouth off to him.

And then Mr. Possibility texted me from a meeting he had to attend for work: “What are you doing? I’m bored to tears.” Or translated into his language, “Entertain me! Humor me! Keep me awake at this stupid thing I have to go to!”

And so, while finishing up my to-do list, walking back to my apartment, making phone calls, and writing this post, I chatted with him. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to or that I minded, but it wasn’t my top priority. But I did it because he needed me to and because I care about him.

I wasn’t rubbing his feet – but I was comforting him. And while one is rather gross and requires me to wear gloves (ew, I do not like feet!), both tasks remind us to be unselfish. They also means knowing when to put aside yourself and do something for someone you love. I may not rub feet, but I’ll stroke ego and I’ll build pride, especially for someone who would do the same for me. Like for everything there is a season, there is a time to rub feet and receive text messages, and when to be of service to your partner or your friends.

So instead of igniting a fight between L and her Mr., I decided to bite my tongue. After all – it would be a little hypocritical of me. While I think he could have waited for her to end our conversation, I also interrupted their night with a ring, and while I came first in her life, he’s the one who sees her every single day. And who has promised to support her until her last breath – so I’ll hope if she asked for a nice rub down, he’d return the favor. Regardless if his friend fromNew York was on the phone or not.

Gratitude for today: I’m thankful for the clarity I find from the conversations I have with those who mean the most to me.

Thank You, Mr. Wrong

As it usually is on Monday mornings, yesterday the downtown train to Chelsea was packed. I’m one to stand near the door and let others grab a seat, a gracious tactic that usually results in a quicker exit and entrance. This quarter past eight in the morning decision landed me squished between an elderly man reading The Times and a pair of matching tourists, complete with fanny packs and “I love NY” shirts and all.

Nearing my stop, my cart started to disperse and as I turned to catch a spot closest to the parting doors, I caught a whiff of an old familiar smell. Unable to keep myself from turning away, I subtly followed the scent to find the trail. A few mini steps clockwise, I came face-to-face with a 15-year-old with shouting headphones, who was not amused by how uncomfortably close I was to his sideways-cap.

Embarrassed, I grinned at him (he didn’t return one to me) and left the subway quickly as I couldn’t keep my head from buzzing with memories Axe Deodorant Spray. Scent is, after all, the strongest sense tied to memory, and for me, that scent will never represent anything or anyone but Mr. Faithful. My very first boyfriend, my puppy love, the man whose heart I shattered, and the dude who I lost my virginity to.

And that same fragrance takes me back to all of those things – laying with belly buttons touching as I wondered if sex would get better; if he was the man I would marry, if I would be the one who ended up with her high school sweetheart; if this was what real love felt like; if I would ever meet anyone I felt as strongly about. If it got better than this.

But if I could have reassured  my 15-year-old self about how much I had to look forward to and how much love I was actually capable of giving and receiving, I would have never worried. I would have enjoyed those moments of innocence, toes dipping into the warm lake at twilight, gleaming into the eyes of a guy, who three years later, would be far removed from my life.

Because in those hot summer nights and the cold winter evenings we spent together as two kids, feeling what we thought was love for the first time –we were each other’s right person. If you would have asked me a few months into our relationship – maybe up to the first year, even – I would have told you I’d go the rest of my life smelling that Axe spray every morning and be perfectly content.

Or when Mr. Fire introduced me to gnocchi – something that always reminds me of him when I see it at the grocery store – in his tiny kitchen in our tiny college town. Dancing  (and sliding) in our socks to Dave Matthews, laughing, sipping wine we were too young to buy, and our hearts racing in anticipation of the love we hadn’t made yet. With those wild eyes that always seemed to get me – he rubbed his nose against mine, scooped me into his arms, spun me around, and dipped me toward the ground, playfully asking: “Do you trust me?” In that instant – I would have proclaimed to the whole world I would trust him with my everything, would have given him anything, and would have said whatever I needed to say to stay in his grasp forever.

In thinking about this ever-elusive Mr. Right character – I’ve thought about all the guys who didn’t fit the bill. All of the ones I loved or the dudes he didn’t fall for me as fiercely as I intended them too, and all of the suckers in between.

Because while Mr. Curls, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Fling, Mr. Idea, Mr. Disappear, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Rebound all have names specific to my experience with them – their ultimate titles are all the same: Mr. Wrong. Even if at one time, they had the opportunity be Mr. Right or were Mr. Right Now when they stood by my side.

I’m not convinced there is only one right companion for every person, but I do think it’s important to remember the guys who weren’t right. The Mr. Wrongs, after all, will never be completely gone – because if they were, then what would have we gained from their love – or lack of? Would we be able to understand what works for us and what doesn’t? What it takes for someone to be what we need and what will never measure up to fulfill us?

How can we know when it’s right if we don’t know what it feels like when it’s not?

The Mr. Wrongs ended up not to be the men I decided to lead with, but they all served their purpose. I’ve learned the lessons I’ve decided they’ve taught me and with all of them, I’ve released the “what could have been” thoughts that always attach themselves when love goes astray. I’m not interested in rekindling any flame that’s burnt out, bur rather excited about what’s next.

Because if history truly does repeat itself, then I’m lucky. I’m blessed to be strong enough to overcome heartache, to choose what I need over what I want, and to be loved by a few incredible men. And though at the time, I didn’t always realize what was waiting for me is better than what I’ve felt before – I know it now. And without dating, loving, losing, and leaving the Mr. Wrongs, I would never have the confidence that a Mr. Right – or maybe a few Mr. Rights – await for me in the days, the months, and the years to come.

It is sometimes those unanswered prayers that are answered against what we thought we longed for, those memories that were once bittersweet but are not just fond, and those men who were right at one time – that teach us more than the one who ends up being right, right now. They may have broken our hearts or steered us in the wrong direction or we could have stepped all over them on the way to our own happiness and personal gains – but without them, we wouldn’t be one step closer to finding the love that doesn’t bite the dust.

So, thank you Mr. Wrongs – for a lot of things, but mainly, for being wrong.