I Believe a Little Wish For Me

Catching up with a dear friend hundreds of miles away while I painted my nails and did my hair up hipster-style, I smiled thinking of her pretty face and of the sweet memories we shared in college. As we’re spending half our time carelessly bitching and the other half vocalizing our big dreams for the year ahead, she pauses and says, “Everything always works out for you Linds. It always has. Somehow you just make it all work. How do you do it?

She’s not the first one to say these words to me — it’s actually something I get asked quite often. Some people spend their whole lives searching for what they want to do and where they want to do it, and I happen to be part of the rare group who has always just kind of known. There are dozens of things I’m completely unsure about (and therefore analyzed to death on this blog), but there are two truths that have never teetered for me: I’m a writer who loves New York.

When I’m speaking to youngsters who just graduated and are trying to land their first job, I always talk about the importance of networking, hard-work and being absolutely dedicated to each and every little detail, even the ones that seem insignificant (like writing hand-written thank you’s and such). When I’m speaking to my friends and family who are dearer to me than any career or location could ever be, I credit my success to luck. I often comment on how I just landed at the right time on the right foot and the universe laid it all out for me. I took the opportunities I was given and I kept plugging along even when I felt like nothing else could go wrong. And because I followed my heart, my heart followed me right to where I belonged.

But if I’m honest with myself and with the thoughts I have when no one else is around to hear, what I really credit my happiness and my work to is belief. Regardless of how much of an unstoppable force I was in terms of doing all the recommended strategies to enrich my resume or how many pennies I picked up that signify blessings from the heavens themselves — the thing that kept me going was the fact that I didn’t believe in anything but making it. Even when the world seemed impossible, I believed anything was possible if I kept believing. I apologize for channeling Cinderella here, but my dream was a wish that my heart made, and it was there that I laid my beliefs — if I trusted all would come true because I had it in me, then it would.

And it did.

Love, though somehow seems different — yet scarily similar. Like a career or a zip code, you can work really, really diligently (and strategically) to meet someone who you could be with. There are hundreds of bars, plenty of shared-interest activities, speed dating activities, common friends who know single folk, chance encounters on trains, planes and automobiles, flirty glances across messy platforms and funny conversations with dudes who will never be more than a blinking box on Gchat. And if you seek out all those measures to meet a man, you’ll meet one. If you’re lucky, that is.

That luck will transfer throughout your relationship, too. You’ll believe that because it’s so damn difficult to meet someone of substance, when you meet someone who could be a special something, you keep counting those blessed, magical stars that you met him. He may even tell you how thankful you should be for him and for your love, because only a privileged few get to find the romance they seek on the streets they stroll.

But then as quickly as it all started, no matter how much time, effort or energy you put into the relationship that seemed so inclined with the unquestionable ways of the world, it all crumbles at your feet. You may resent that you wasted your heart on something that never worked out anyway, you may even feel like that same heart won’t feel that thing again. You may start to wonder if the universe has decided you’re not meant to find the infamous One, that instead, you’re just meant to have the career you wanted in the city you chose to live in. And if you try hard enough, if you accept what you think the illusive fates are trying to tell you, somehow you will be just fine, alone. Just fine without having to try again (and again and again) for a love that never seems to be available.

After all, New Yorkers tend to adopt the bitterness rhyme — but me? I’d rather sing a song of hope and move to the beat of forgiveness. It’s easier to give up on love than to believe in it. It’s simpler to shut yourself off from crowds of blank faces that may or may not become faces we love. Especially when the looks you once grew accustomed to, became the same smiles and eyes you’ll only see a handful of times the rest of your life — if even at all. It’s tough to accept that some people are just bad people. Or that they aren’t awful souls, just not the soul that was made to mate with yours. Even more troubling to swallow is that some people are just kinda lost, and if you could, you would find them — but it’s not your responsibility to.

The beauty, though, of an open heart is that you know it can expand to take someone in. And if that someone is wrong, if you believe it can adapt to a new pulse, it’ll let you love again. But you have to keep reminding yourself that anything is possible, even in love, even when you don’t technically want happily-ever-after right now (but someday!), even if you don’t know how you’ll be as unconditional and liberated again, even if hard work and fate don’t always play on your side — it’s your belief that makes you attractive. It’s what makes me have a beautiful energy, it’s what makes me exude positivity and shine when everything (or everyone) is dark.

It was my belief that I was a writer that made me one. It was my belief that New York was home that made it so. It was my belief that dreams come true that I was able to make them my reality. It was my belief that I’m irreplaceable that makes me unforgettable. It was my belief that most people are actually good to their souls that’s made me surrounded by incredible company.

And so today, on 11:11:11 on the day that we’re all supposed to make a wish, I believe this little wish for me: that I will never stop working hard at believing that I’m actually one of the blessed, lucky ones who finds the love I was meant to share my beautiful dreams with in this remarkable city that I adore.

Finding (and Un-Defining) a Faith for Me

Coming from a ruthless, unforgiving Southern Baptist background in the heart of the infamous Bible belt – once my mom was old enough to leave the church, she went as fast as she could in her early 80’s up-do and pumps.

Wanting to find a religion that would not only suit the words she read, but the spirituality she craved, she tried all sorts of different options as a 20-something. She dipped her toes into all of the waters her past congregation would have found unholy, and submerged herself into learning what she could about what other people believe and why it means so much to them. By the time she met my father, she was active at the Unity Center of Christianity – where they would eventually marry – and a few years later, when I made my grand entrance into the world, she wanted to place some structure on my faith. And so, like she always had before, she prayed for a sign from God about where to go to find that open-minded, yet not too liberal, mindset she craved.

As the heavens always seem to do, they delivered an unspoken guidance to my family.

And so, I was raised in a tiny-church-that-could on the winding back roads of Western North Carolina. My mother swears the first time we went to look at what would be our home, she drove past this hidden chapel and her bones told her this was the place to give her blue-eyed little girl a proper upbringing. Or as proper as one can get with my low-key parents, anyways.

This Methodist church taught me the basic fundamentals of good and bad, guided me through adolescence, and hosted my piano recitals during my childhood. It was there that I met my very first best friend, became a Girl Scout, learned how to make (and appropriately destroy) sloppy Joe sandwiches, and how to jump rope. The backyard of this church, along with the basketball ring I never grew tall enough to touch, is as familiar to me as the address I still write on my tax returns.

Once I passed my driver’s test, my mom stopped forcing me to attend church. She encouraged me to seek out my own beliefs, figure out who (or what) I wanted to worship, and what morality I wanted to base my life upon. Trusting I was mature enough to handle the exposure of diverse religions and ideologies, she suggested a few different places to give a shot. She even offered me gas money.

And so I started on a pilgrimage to find an undefined faith that fit me.

I attended a Catholic mass, where I learned the art of rising and standing (over and over) and how to respectfully decline communion because I was not confirmed. I tried out a Pentecostal church, where though they seemed incredibly passionate about their faith, I found myself a little frightened by the use of a language I couldn’t understand (and wasn’t convinced they could as well). I visited a Synagogue, where while beliefs are slightly different, they have a certain majesty to the depth of commitment and tradition that other fundamentals do not have (or at least express). I took a shot at meditation in my mother’s meditation room and my youthful, easily-distracted nature kept me from falling into any realm of anything. Unless Ancy Land counts, that is.

Now quite some years later, I find myself unsure about religion. I’m not Catholic. I’m not setting snakes free, unafraid of their poison. I did not convert to Judaism. I have yet to figure out how to meditate, even at the yogi-endorsed locations of the Lower East Side. I am still, technically, a member of the Methodist community- but I do not go to church regularly. Sometimes I feel like I should and I love hearing the bells on my walk to the gym Sunday mornings. At some point, I will attend one of those Gospel services around my Harlem neighborhood  -the fire eluding from them is simply intoxicating, not to mention they gave me free cake last summer.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I consider myself. I hear people toss around words like “spiritual” and “religious” over cocktails and o’dourves constantly, without giving it a second thought. Maybe a byproduct of my mother’s curiosity, but I’ve read countless books and asked people the ideas behind their belief systems and as adults who are not forced into stockings, socks-with-bows, and Sunday-best dresses, how we decide about a being above.

This blog is not about religion. But it is about love. I’m not a theologian, I’m not ordained by any church, or accredited by a university – but if there is one central theme I discovered in my quest to find my own ideology, it is love. The name of their savior or where or how its followers practice their rituals shouldn’t be a question, but rather if they are leading a life that’s based on a belief of an unconditional love. If they have a dedication, an honor, a profound respect, and continuous committment to a love they trust will never turn its back on them. That even when relationships fail, wars are declared -in our homes or around the world, when jobs are lost, when money is tight, when disasters strike that we can’t understand, we can trust in a higher power to be present.

When no one else will listen, when no one else is around, when no one else proves dependable, when no other sentence can ease our troubled mind – something we can’t see, but we can somehow hear and feel, appears.

I do believe in God. But I’m probably not the best devotee and I certainty don’t visit his blog everyday. I feel awkward praying and usually end up writing instead of speaking. I’ve always been more loyal before a test, when I’m scared, or when I anticipate the departure of someone or something I’d like to stay. But on days like today, where I commence in the rules of Lent, regardless of the lack of my Catholic-ness, I can’t help but feel a sense of connectivity. In an odd way I’ll explain at a later date, I think he/she (not sure which gender I’d like to assign to God, if any at all) has a gentle way of guiding my life -through things I stumble upon, from pennies that seem to fall from the blue abyss, and by giving me who I need, when I need them. I’ve felt alone, I’ve been depressed, I’ve wanted to find a man to give me love – but I’ve never felt abandoned  by a power beyond myself.

I’m not sure it is a relationship I can define or one where I give more than I take, yet it soothes me when other efforts do not. I believe that something, more dynamic than a human, and in a place away from this planet, has my best interest at heart. And while I don’t always get those things or those people who I want, I am challenged with accepting the simplicity of my needs that always find themselves met. And the strength I derive from a silent plea or praise in the middle of a busy New York train that lets me know I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m safe.

My sacrifices for Lent – no more Diet Pepsi and cutting back on the makeup – have the intention of making me a better, healthier person in the spirit of Christian traditions. And while I can never be guaranteed the way I lead my life, the decisions I make, or the company I keep will grant me a happy afterlife or an upgrade in my second life – I’m at least going to do this act of love. Not only in the honor of the holy-whomever, but in the name of the better me it is helping me to become.

PS: Jennifer from Cincinnati, OH completed Love Addict’s survey and won a fabulous glass from Lolita and perfume set fromPacifica. Love Addict will be doing another giveaway soon, so make sure to take the survey for your chance to win! Congrats Jen and thanks for reading!

These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New

A not-so-long time ago, a brown haired, blue-eyed little girl saw New York City for the first time. She came out of the tunnel that brought her from Pennsylvania to this new land, stepped out onto the glittering pavement and stopped.

First, she told her mom how much it smelled and then with a two-front-teeth missing smile, spun around in the streets, and said “I’m going to live here one day!

And so she did.

Now, 15 years later, that same starry-eyed young woman still feels the urge to dance in the streets and thank her lucky stars that they aligned so she can have a New York, NY address.

There are moments when I’m doing everyday, ordinary things, and I feel such an immense amount of love and thankfulness in my soul that I literally swell.

My New York story is one that’s like many other hopeful artists who grace the streets with only high-heeled bootstraps and raw ambition to be their guide. I’m not alone –there are endless writers, musicians, models, actresses, dancers, and performers who move to Gotham knowing that all they ever wanted will reveal itself before their eyes. The universe, surely, will move and shift to make fate play its magic cards.

This city has been a large portion of my focus, who I am (and who I will be), and what gives me encouragement for so long. I sincerely cannot imagine my life without it –especially now that I’ve had a taste of how much it feels like home.

And if this blog, this experience, this journey and multi-step program is about being honest with myself –I’ve got to be open about everything that New York means to me.

I didn’t move here in a relationship. I didn’t move here tied down to anyone or anything or any flame. I didn’t move here with hesitation or thoughts of failure. I didn’t move here thinking returning to NC was an option.

But I did move here to build my career. To work for a magazine. To be a voice for women everywhere. To learn the street personally. To meet friends I will have for the rest of my life. To explore everything that the city embodies.

And to fall magically, perfectly, idealistically, and incredibly in love.

Not a big surprise, I know – but I’ve been trying to tell myself that I moved here only for my career. But that’s a lie. And this journey is teaching me to stop lying to myself. To stop ignoring how I feel or how I react or the thoughts and language I use to speak to myself.

I’ve dreamt of working for a magazine since I got my first column job at 15 with The Clay County Progress (titled ‘TLC: Thoughts, Lessons, and Creations from a Teen”). And of course, I’ve known I wanted to live in New York. Thus, I knew that if Manhattan was my place, my very first one true love – my very last love must be here. Right?

As I’ve admitted earlier, I thought I would move to NYC and instantly find Mr. Right. I never listened to anyone when they said dating would be hard (or rather impossible in this city) or that it would take time. I just believed it would be simple and right there just waiting for 5’3”-me to step on solid ground.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened and I’m not losing hope of it. But I’m also not focusing on it. I’m trying so hard not to make “finding love” or “meeting the right man” at the top of my priority list or the greatest source of my disappointment or sadness. I’m believing in myself (and in my higher power) and surrendering away the thoughts that hold me back.

And I think telling myself that part of New York’s draw is the fact that I hope to find love (it’s by far, not the biggest attraction for me), and the NYC-happiness recipe wouldn’t taste correctly without that desire.

I still have moments when I cry. I still have moments when I’m down or get discouraged or feel ugly or not worthy. I still have moments where I’m jealous or I reach out and seek attention for the sake of the flattery. I still have moments where things that should be inspiring, are painful.

Like when my friend R, full of excitement for seeing the city for the first time (as I remember all too fondly) showed me a picture from The Wish Tree at the MoMA. It’s a place where you can place your most coveted wish on a tree with hundreds of other wishes of people who pass by. The wishes make the tree grow and give it the nourishment it needs to keep spreading its limbs. It’s truly a beautiful idea.

R had taken a picture of a wish that said:

“I wish I could fall in love like I moved to New York to do.

Maybe that should have made me feel less alone or supported or that there are other people who feel the same way I do. Maybe it should have given me some hope. But, it made my heart sink. It sunk so hardly and so deeply that I about lost my breath. It reminded me of part of the reason I moved to New York – a reason I had been avoiding admitting. It reminded me of the dozens of images and dreams I have stored away in my head (and clipped out of magazines stored under my bed) of what romance I want to experience on this island.

It is hard. It’s not always funny or empowering or hopeful. There are these moments where even the city who always make you feel brand new – can’t take away the longing. Or even a blog that I love to write so much.

But, if I can move to a New York and find a job and an apartment in three weeks, and still maintain a constant glow for the city – I bet I’m capable of just about anything.

And one day, I’ll make the shoe fit on my single self (without someone’s help), and I’ll have that contentment I keep wishing to find. But sorry, Prince Charming – I’m won’t lose a shoe at some enchanted castle tucked away behind Fifth Avenue –so you’ll have to find me in another way.

C’mon Baby, Make it Hurt So Good

To overcome fear –must you feel pain?

I’ve been reading a daily mediation book since the start of the year. It was a suggestion from my mother (by the way, I love reading suggestions, so if you have one, please share!) that she recommended because it helped calm her nerves.

I should have taken it as a sign that I would ultimately write this blog, but it’s an everyday “food for thought and prayer” that was written based from Alcoholics Anonymous, and my mother used it for anxiety issues. However, I think most of the material can relate to any addiction…or just those of us who tend to be utterly obsessive.

Regardless, The Language of Letting Go has proven to be helpful –and a bit of a mind reader. It almost always seems to know exactly what I need to read. It’s like it knows what days of the week are more difficult and about all the different moods I cycle through.

Yesterday –the entry was about “feeling the pain”. In a nutshell, it says to overcome fear –you must feel through all of your discomfort. Of course, acknowledging is part of that, but even more –is allowing yourself to physically go through the ordeals.

To believe my higher power can take away my distress and my fears and intensity towards not being in a relationship or being single –I’ve got to feel my way through it. I have to let myself cry, let myself get upset, let myself get angry, and let myself…

…let go.

It makes sense to me now why Step 3: surrendering all of the negativity to a higher power comes after Step 2: believing. Before you can give up anything – you have to figure out why you need to get it away from you in the first place.

Letting myself feel the longing, the regret, the sadness, the loneliness –all of it…is actually kind of refreshing. Maybe that makes me a sadistic love lady, but crying it out, yelling/screaming it out, writing it out, talking it out –just flat-out getting it out gives me a little bit of freedom.

I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to “surrender it” or how long it may take me –but I think I’m ready to approach it. My longtime friend, T, said in a comment on a previous blog that “I think this is one of those steps that you have to keep coming back to, that you have to keep reminding yourself of.”

I agree with her. There are always going to be periods of highs and lows, and moments where you believe with your whole heart and moments when you just want to eat some peanut butter.

I’m human. I’m single. I’m struggling. I may believe today and tomorrow I may not. But for now, I’m accepting myself as I am and attempting to keep my head held high. And, even as it hurts (hurt so good, actually) –I’ll keep pushing through.

Because one day – all will make sense and all will unfold as it should.

As soon as I figure out how to surrender….and all that.

The Battle of Belief

The beauty of a new life. New York’s ability to give me a glimpse of hope in the most unusual places.  The comfort of my father’s chicken noodle soup. The smell of my mom’s hair when she gives me a heart-to-heart hug. The lines on my best friend’s face when she smiles. My puppy’s ever-lasting and faithful playful spirit. The peacefulness of the first leaf falling in Autumn, first bloom in Spring, first tiny fluttering flake in winter, and the first warm ray from the summer sky. The feeling of reaching something you thought was unattainable.

There are many, many things I believe in.

And in myself, I also believe in many truths. I believe I was born to be a writer. I believe I am brave, diligent, and strong. I believe in the power of my dreams and my power to turn my dreams into realities. I believe I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to –physically or emotionally. I believe I am blessed in so many different ways. I believe I can turn even tiny spaces into homes and I believe I was given the heart of a humanitarian.

Step 2 is about belief. I have to believe all negativity and fears of being single forever or being hard on myself can be lifted away. I have to believe that something higher than me can lighten my load and ease my worries.

I have to believe.  And I don’t.

This isn’t to say I will always feel this way –but Step 2 is going slower and is full of more difficulty than Step 1. I get to a point where I start to feel like everything will change, that I will grow and mature, and not let self-defeating thoughts and fears get to me. I’ll have a day where I feel completely secure with just being me-and-only-me, and then the next day, I see something that makes me lonely…and the sense of longing is right back where it was –the pit of my heart rocking my everything.

How do I make myself have that sincere feeling of complete trust all the time? Why can’t I just believe that a higher being can just take all of this away? Is a feeling of contentment something that’s not constant? Is it always just going to come and go, make me hopeful and then scared, together and then messy?

Belief in something out of our hands. Why is that so much more difficult than things we see, things we touch, things we’ve experienced to be true and real? Why is belief in something that is not proven, not guaranteed, not a matter of fate –so difficult to retain?

Why is the constant battle between faith and fear a fight we have to go through? Why can’t we just believe that all that is meant to be, all that’s meant to happen, all that we’re meant to be part of, feel, and endure –will just happen.

Why can’t we just let the control go? Why can’t I believe?