What Would the Wise Woman Do?

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

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

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

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

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

My dating life.

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

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

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

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

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

Like on Tuesday.

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

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

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

And so I did.

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

And then I looked up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Illusion of Mr. Right

Originally published on YourEngagement101.com.

I’ve always imagined that at the end of my long dating road, with its twists, accidents, forks and bumps, I’d make it up the staggering hill and there, standing atop, would be this shiny, sparkling man. He’d be made of everything I wanted in a partner – kind, loyal, tall, successful, loving – and maybe sport a few special qualities that I’d inevitably fall in love with. The price of playing the dating game is steep and strenuous, but the payoff must be tremendous if you have to work so hard to earn it.

Or at least, a girl can hope.

I’m still owning my single status, but if the countless dates have taught me something – it’s that you can’t predict anything. And you certainly can’t carve out your husband out of vision you’ve dreamed up in your head. Somehow, life just doesn’t work that way. But a lot of women think that it does – and when they’re dealt a different hand than what the prepped for, suddenly they feel lost because they never made the effort to define themselves before they went searching for a man.

But the thing about making up Mr. Right is that every single man you date, including the one you’ll marry, will never be Mr. Right.

Because no one – absolutely no one – will fulfill you in every way that you desire. He will not say all of the right things at all of the right times (and if he did, you’d find him patronizing). He will not always know exactly what you need when you need it without you telling him (or you would long for someone who surprises you). He will not be overly romantic and terribly kind 24/7 (or you would wish he’d make you work for it, just a bit more). He will not make an astronomical amount of money, tower over you when you’re in your tallest heels and still have time to cuddle on the couch for hours at night (or he would would be a character in a Ryan Gosling movie).

The thing about admitting that you’ve found Mr. Right is admitting that your description of him (and yes, your expectations that you’ve had since you were 6 years old)… were wrong.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a long list of things you value in a partner and standards you hold them to – it just means that to be happy, you have to accept that really, the person that will (and should) make you the happiest is yourself. And it’s only when you can accept your flaws and the fact that your dream guy will also have some imperfections, is when you stop believing in this illusion of Mr. Right.

It’s when you realize you never needed a Mr. Right to come and rescue you from the woes of singledom – instead, you learned to savor the time you have alone and go on adventures without having to worry about someone else to consider. It’s when you become proud of the life you built, all on your own, on your own two feet, without having to depend on any man to lay the foundation for you. It’s when you see yourself as this whole being, this entirely grounded and secure person, that’s not looking for another half or for an idealist man to make you complete. You’re complete already, and though you might not need a man to share your journey…

…you want one.

And you don’t want the world’s best guy. You want the best guy – for you. One that has wrongs: he’s always three minutes late, he can’t remember anything to save his life, he isn’t as motivated as you, but he’s happy with his job, he’s more introverted, he might be balding. But he has goods too: he absolutely adores you, he’s awesome in bed, he’s super smart and teaches you things, he’s interested in travel, he always wants to hold your hand. And you would have never known what you want if you didn’t date. If you didn’t learn how to love yourself, no matter what, with or without someone.

If you didn’t have to go through all the trouble and all the lessons, you’d never make it to the top of that mountain. You’d still be sitting at the bottom, waiting for a prince and his horse to carry you to the top. But you didn’t wait. You went ahead and made it yourself. Now, just maybe, you’ll meet the guy who climbed it too – just on the other side.

And perhaps you’ll meet at the top and take in that view together.

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

14 Things I’m Giving Up in 2014

The past week has been unusually warm in Manhattan. The air feels crisp and inviting, the atmosphere of the streets lively and fresh, and the people – myself included – invigorated for a New Year. I always make resolutions and oddly enough, I do actually keep them. There’s something about January 1 that makes me feel like I get a second chance (or a 26th one…) to improve bad habits or start great ones.

In 2012, I spent a lot of time holding back and not compromising. If my friends wanted to go out, I almost always selfishly insisted on the west side so I’d have an easier commute. If I was asked out on a date by a potentially wonderful man – but he suggested the Lower East Side on a Tuesday – I would have politely declined. But in 2013, I made a vow to say “yes” more – and that’s exactly what I did:

I said “yes” to Mexico in April. I said “yes” to late nights and early mornings. Yes to training for (and completing!) a half-marathon. Yes to kissing a nameless man on the corner of West 4th at 2 a.m. Yes to walking all the way across the park with Lucy in tow to the east side to visit friends. Yes to going all the way to Brooklyn for brunch — and thoroughly enjoying myself. Yes to trips to North Carolina three times, yes to new foods and new drinks, new clothes I normally wouldn’t wear, yes, yes, yes!

But in 2013, I also said “yes” to a lot of negativity.

And even more fear. I said “yes” to those really terrible thoughts that made me feel like everything that could possibly go wrong, did. I said “yes” at the expense of myself, sometimes sacrificing what I really wanted to make someone – anyone – happy. I said “yes” to thinking the absolute worst in every situation, every person, every date that left a bad taste in my mind. I did learn how to take those chances and change my attitude, but in ways that made me stronger.. and weaker, too.

What I want the most out of 2014 is to be happy. And so many things can contribute to happiness: health, friends, career, love, travel, new experiences. I don’t want to limit myself or put pressure on a timeline, but I do want to live better. I want to live with the same kind of passion, that same drive and hopefulness that made me who I am and made me a success in New York. I miss that beat in my step, that faith in my heart, that smart, sharp, kind, enthusiastic spirit that made me feel unstoppable.

And to get that firecracker Tigar back, I need to let go of some very small and very big things that are holding me back or keeping me down. These aren’t quite resolutions – just a little guide to help me along the new journey of 2014. Because really, with some of these out-of-the-way, my resolution to be happy again, might just be a reality.

In no particular order, here are 14 things I’m giving up in 2014:

1- Duck Face
Guilty as charged: if you stalk my Instagram, you’ll see so many duck face examples, it’s quite embarrassing. Sure, it can be cute. If you’re, like, 15, not, ya know, 25.

2- Investing in People Who Don’t Invest in Me
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as an adult is that friendships change. We all expect relationships to be difficult, life-changing experiences, but friendships are that way too. Even if you’ve been friends for years or just a short period of time, if someone isn’t making your life better by being in it, then get them out. People who are worth your time, will make time to invest in you.

3- Biting My Tongue
Maybe it’s my recently damped self-confidence or just the anxiety of saying the wrong thing, but in my life and in my career, I’ve had a tendency to not say what I really think. But this year, it’s time to lean in. I can’t move up – or move forward – by being silent.

4- Hitting Snooze
I desperately want to be a morning runner but snuggling in bed with Lucy is so much nicer than a 6:30 a.m. wake up call. But think of all the time I’d have to do things post-work if I got that 3-5 miler finished before my morning coffee!

5- Having Another Drink When I Don’t Want One
Sure, Saturday nights are great for having a bit too much. But a random Wednesday? With a guy I know I will never, ever want to go out with again? Forget saving feelings or following the crowd, my liver demands better. And I’d rather have less of those paralyzing hangovers post-25.

6- Judging People For Their Choices
I try my very best to be understanding and considerate, but it’s human nature to raise an eyebrow when a friend (or even a stranger) does something that isn’t quite the route you’d take in the same situation. You can’t change people, you can only be honest and caring, and thus, changing yourself. We’re each climbing our own hill and we’ll all get to the top in our own way.

7- Forgetting to Dream
I put in the hard work to get to New York and once I landed in my little apartment with my big NBC job and my big, popular blog, I sat down. It’s time to get up. I’m not finished yet – I’m merely getting started.

8- Buying Lunch Every Day
I work in Chelsea Market. For New Yorkers, I need not say more. For everyone else: imagine every delicious, decadent, expensive food you could ever imagine – from lobster to truffle tacos – a few steps away from you every. single. day. I could save so much more money (and travel so much more often) if I could plan ahead better.

9- Keeping Up My Routine
I’m a Virgo, and I love, love, love plans. I’m often the person sending out a group e-mail, trying to get my friends on-board to a new idea. But I go back to the same restaurants. I do basically the same thing every weekend. Not anymore though: I already signed up for Italian lessons and philosophy (yes, philosophy!) lessons. Time to switch it up.

10- Using the Word “Should”
It’s a dangerous word, that one. And it creeps it’s way into every worry I have: I should make more money. I should be thinner. I should have a boyfriend by now. I should live alone at this point in my life. I should save this extra $100. I should be more responsible. The only should I’ll say this year is: I should be me, exactly how I am today.

11- Getting Angry Over Things I Can’t Control
Like a long line at Starbucks. Or train delays. Or friends bailing at the last second. Or a guy with an attitude problem. Or people who don’t agree with me. Or the fact I’ll never be a size two (this girl has hips for miles). If I can find peace in every moment, I can find peace in every outcome.

12- Mentioning the Mr’s + Relying On Tinder
I’ve wasted far too much space (in my heart and on this blog) on the Mr’s I used to love. It’s time to let go of what was so I can find what will be. The archives will always be there. On the other hand, I can’t just rely on a dating app that’s basically “hot or not” to provide me with quality dating material. Bye, bye iTunes Store dating. Hello, just getting out of the apartment and into life.

13- Focusing on What’s Hard Instead of What’s Good
If everything was smooth sailing and easy, then would I appreciate the life I’ve built? If I never had to say good-bye to a friend because they moved on their own or because they were forced? If I never had my heart-broken or my dreams crushed? If I never cried out of frustration or desperation? If I never heard really bad, scary news? Life will always have it’s hard parts, but it’s never without goodness. I just have to breathe enough to feel it.

14- Being Afraid To Do It Alone
My friends won’t always want to volunteer at the soup kitchen with me. Or go to that new pub around the corner. Or sign up for a pizza making class or join a running group. But instead of dwelling in the fear of going alone, I choose to dwell in the possibility that something really amazing can come from taking a leap of faith. After all, that’s what I used to do every single day before I developed my life here.

Surely, I can do it again. Surely, I can do it with even more courage. Surely, I can open my heart to the New Year, and the new me, that’s waiting in 2014.

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.