In Search of Me

I have a strategy for making strangers become instant, hold-nothing-back, bear-all best friends: have unlimited drinks of any kind outside in beautiful weather. Such strategy yielded great results in the form of fabulous conversations with a group of volunteers and staff at New York Cares’ happy hour.

As it inevitably does, my blog became a topic of discussion. And with all of us buzzing on Wednesday evening, watching the sun set over the Hudson, everyone was forthcoming and open. Someone – my memory doesn’t serve me well enough to decide who exactly – brought up the mantra that advises “Love will find you when you’re not looking.”

One woman, drink in hand, sunglasses on her forehead, and a sweet smile argued: “But when are we not looking? Do we ever not look? I mean, seriously. I can say I’m not looking all I want, but I’m always looking. I see a guy and I wonder, ‘is that him?’ or I do certain jobs, like checking people in, just in case it’ll be a chance to meet someone.”

If she would have asked me a year ago if it was possible to actually not look for a relationship, I would have firmly said “Absolutely not!” At that point, I felt just as she did – constantly on the watch for anyone who could become a someone, anything that could turn into something. Each guy that glanced my way, sat near me on the train, bought me a drink, bumped into me on the street had the potential to be a possibility, to become Mr. Possibility.

But when I made the commitment to myself to write this blog, to overcome the title of “love addiction” I gave myself, something inside me changed. Honestly, it changed from blog post #1, many, many days ago. I had reached a point where I wasn’t so much fed up with men, but I was fed up with myself. And I was exhausted of the person I became when I didn’t get what I wanted with a dude or how I felt about myself if I was single or if one of those somethings or someones suddenly wasn’t interested.

I knew I had to stop looking for love and I had to start looking for myself.

Somewhere in my endless pursuit of Mr. Right, in all of my dating dilemmas, sexual encounters, breakups, makeups, and hookups – I lost who I was. I was so damned-and-determined to have someone be in love with me, to fulfill those parts of me that were insecure and seemingly empty, that I damned myself into a needy, emotional version of who I really am. I wanted the ball back in my court and more than anything, I wanted to love the person I am, be proud of what I offer, and sincerely let everything else fall into place.

And so I really, truly, sincerely, stopped looking for love. I lowered my love antenna, I shut down any online dating profile I had, I removed guys from Gchat and from Facebook, I deleted phone numbers, and I stopped reaching out to males. If they contacted me, sure. If they wanted to ask me out, okay. If they felt the need to pursue anything more, I obliged. But instead of focusing on the Great Male Search, I searched for the pieces of myself I had been neglecting. I called off the search team for The One, and went in search of me.

I hate to type this because it confirms all those people who told me that love would come into my life when I didn’t want it or expect it – but it did. Soon after I started the blog, I met Mr. Possibility, and while there’s no telling if he’s the last possibility I’ll entertain, he’s pretty entertaining for now. And when I met him – I didn’t want to date him. I was so focused on this journey, on becoming the best me that I could be, that developing a relationship with him wasn’t a priority. It took time and lots of patience on both of our parts to grow into what we are now. So I didn’t look for him and I found him.

But more importantly, I found me. I found a strength inside of myself that takes a chance on falling in love, but knows that if it all shatters, I’ll be fine. I found peace knowing that one of the most beautiful things about love is that it can happen at any moment, anywhere, at any stage, without notice – and it can happen over and over again, no matter how impossible that may seem. I found the bravery to believe in myself above all things, above all men, above all romantic ideals that filled my head with insecurities and nonsense.

I found that with or without someone, I can still be me. And that me is worthy of the many wondrous things that make a beautiful life ripe with possibility.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for my wonderful new friends and for M, who run through fountains with me in the middle of the night. 

A Sweet Longing

The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.

While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.

But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant  in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.

They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.

If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.

I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.

Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?

I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.

I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.

And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.

There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.

Meet My Boyfriend

The thing I get asked the most by friends, readers, and fellow bloggers is: How do you write every single day?!

The answer has consistently been rather simple – it is easy. Partly because I consider myself someone who was lucky enough to always know what they were meant to do, and also due to the mere fact that I write about my life. And what else could be more natural to do than recording, dissecting, and describing every-day adventures? Or better yet – what could be more entertaining when those experiences primarily relate to relationships – something that everyone, no matter their demographics, can understand and relate to.

And while I write about personal experiences, most of the ideas that turn into blogs come from outside sources. From eavesdropping on two friends at the gym, by graffiti stained on my building, by a penny I kick across the pavement, by an exchange I witnessed that was only meant for that couple, by something I feel that I can’t explain, by a sighting or a viewing, by an argument or a profession. I try to listen while I linger, ask more questions than I make statements, and try to put myself in the shoes of strangers. Or the ones I know best – after all, fodder is frequent from my friends.

Unsurprisingly, as our pals often know us better than we know ourselves, this is where my claim of fluidity and simplicity in blogging becomes objected. As in the case of my friend J.

On Sunday, over burgers at one of my New York favorites, Corner Bistro, a group of us were catching up, drinking Blue Moons, and taking in more calories than the rest of the week allowed. I met my friend J in a way that can only be described as fate by the Internet –through a Meetup group that I was hesitant to join. However, it turned out producing five of my closest pals in the city, some of which are starting to get to know me pretty well. As J is telling me about her latest dating adventure and how the scene is different than the laid-back and sunny market in California where she’s from, I must have looked at her too hard because she said:

“You’re writing your blog right now in your head, aren’t you?” Stunned she could detect the writing wheels turning, I smiled a 4 p.m.-and-tipsy grin, and asked, “Um, how did you know that?” She took a sip of her wine (not a fan of beer), she laughed and replied, “Well, you know when you really like someone and they bring you happiness, you think about them all the time? Even when other people are talking to you?” I nodded. “That’s kind of what your blog is now. The blog is your boyfriend.”

Interesting.

A relationship, much like a blog, depends constant attention. You have to put in effort to make it work and be understanding when glitches out of your control cause trouble (like WordPress’ meltdown last night). The longer you’re with someone, the more people know about the person you’ve become exclusive with, and the more energy you put toward something – the harder it is to let it go. You become committed and involved, engrossed in what-could-be, and needing to know that person feels the same way. And if you’re anything like me before I started the blog, you become quite obsessed with the man of loving opportunity.

So, is my friend right? Maybe I have made this blog into my boyfriend. Or into an entity outside of myself, even though it’s primarily about me. I’m connected to it, I give it daily attention, I take time out of my schedule to make sure it is functioning, growing, and giving me what I need. But what is it that I need from a blog? If you asked me a few months ago, it would have been similar to my response to what I want from a relationship: something that helps me grow, gives me guidance, and lets me say whatever I want to say, without passing judgment.

However, like every relationship that experiences change with tide, waters have been rough with me and my boyfriend, the blog.

For a while, as much as I was writing about my exciting life, the majority of it was spent at work and at home. The weekends were sometimes full of outings and doings, but I had the energy and the dedication to put into the pages of this blog because it was my main concern and central source of entertainment. But like I’m learning to let love fall lower on my list of priorities, as my life started to become…well, a life – the less time I’ve had to focus on blogging.

My calendar has started to fill up, event invites continue to roll in, my friends rightfully demand my attention and my evenings, I’m running more, I’m planning trips, I’m further investing into the potential return of Mr. Possibility’s possibilities, and above all else, I’m still focusing on me. The 12 Steps continue to help me guide through the emotions that used to throw me. The essence of the blog is still alive in my life, but the availability I used to have to give it love is gone.

So do I stop writing? Do I break up with my boyfriend because he doesn’t fit into the life I’m making for myself? Do I put an end to the love I once found because I’d rather turn my attention to seemingly bigger and better things?

Nope.

Because when a relationship experiences trouble or things outside of the union start to expand and rise, that’s when you test how the connection. The commitment, the loyalty. That’s when you realize that love will never be everything that defines you or all of the things you’re made of. That’s when you remember the relationship that makes it – the one that’s worth all the hassles and frazzles – is the one you can maintain, even when the rest of your life becomes fuller and happier. I can’t make a man – or a blog – my everything. But if I can remember that love is just a part of life and this blog is about my life – the inspiration to pen another post will come just as easy as it once did.

As long as I just live, that is.

Silly Little Thing Called Luck

As many bloggers and magazine outlets will say today: I don’t consider myself lucky in relationships. In fact, I’ve considered myself unlucky in the game of love – never one to get the hearts, clubs, or diamonds; only the spades.

Nevertheless, while I could write about the fact that love is probably the factor of a little faith and the luck of great timing – I’m not committed to the idea. I’ve yet to determine what I think the best prescription for finding true love is and I’ve honestly reached a point where it isn’t the priority, but rather something I trust will be in my cards eventually. Maybe.

However – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, tribute must be paid to those Irish things that have brought me much joy over the years. And perhaps, even a little bit of that silly little thing called luck.

Claddagh ring

My hometown is this beautifully hippie and new age town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a mecca for up-and-coming bands, artists, and the beat of the streets beats “come as you are.” Growing up in a contradictory town: Southern and accepting of different cultures and orientations, made me an investigator of international affairs, as well as a curator of my own background.

Following my junior year of college, I finally jumped on the Claddagh ring ban-wagon and bought a fancy one (by fancy, I mean more than the $10 one on the side of the street. This one had a real stone with a real personal meaning) from a local artist in downtown Asheville. And since I signed my name to charge it, I never took it off. Not to shower, not to cook, not to do anything. To me, it was symbolic of love in my life – where it be romantic or self. A few guys cleverly turned it around when they asked to be exclusive, but somehow, it only felt  right when it was displaying my single title to the world.

Because even when I find love, it doesn’t mean I’m not open to any other expression of admiration from other sources. So really, my heart is always open. Funny thing is though, a week after I started writing this blog, I tucked away the ring in my drawer, having decided I didn’t need anything that defined me by my relationship status. I may sport it again, but if not, it’ll always remind me the universe is always giving love – as long as we’re perceptive enough to see it.

Fitzgerald’s Pub

Today, I’m not much of an Irish pub kind of girl. Maybe I’ve grown out of the feel or prefer live music or dancing to darts and rugby, but if given the choice, a place with “O’Connor” in the name wouldn’t be first on my going-out list. However, when I interned in the city and was without a friend to my name, the bartenders at this joint in the Flat Iron district became my instant pals.

I’d come in after a long day at the mag or hostessing at a restaurant in Times Square and there they’d be to greet me with their lovely Irish accents: “Lindsay, darling! Give the girl a Guinness, will ya?” I’ve never cared for Guinness but in my naivety, I was flattered by their gesture and always accepted anything they gave me. We’d sit watching baseball (which I know next-to-nothing about), talking about their wives, and dissecting my Southern/Irish roots. Without these entertaining nights, I wouldn’t have had as many dates that summer (somehow, I was always hit on at Fitzgerald’s) or felt like I had a place to just be myself. Now, I take guys there to see how they respond to something so special to me – and of course, to get the opinion from the same bartenders, who after several years, are still serving up the pints. They told me then and they continue to reiterate it every time I stop in: You wear your heart on your sleeve, lady. Don’t ever let that city harden ya.

So far, I haven’t.

Jerry from P.S. I Love You

When I saw this movie in the theaters with my friend L, it was a few days before Christmas and intolerably cold for North Carolina. She brought in a blanket she had stored in her car and we watched the midnight showing with it sprawled across us. Ten minutes into the film, we both started bawling our eyes out…and didn’t stop until the credits rolled.

Now, I know it’s a rom-com like all of the other ones that dazzle our televisions and trick us into believing in serendipitous meetings that end in an honest, everlasting love (though, if you listen to J.Lo, don’t make it your first dance song). But something about Gerald Butler as Jerry captivated me. The movie illustrated that relationships are far from perfect. And most of the time, we treat the ones we love the most with the most critical eye and unforgiving mentality. But even when we’re unforgiving and profoundly ridiculous with the people we care about, if they are worthy of our good and our bad – then they’ll see through it and love us regardless. Just as Jerry did with Holly after she threw a shoe at his face. (I’m embarrassed to admit I did the same to Mr. Idea – and he was less than thrilled).

Now, I don’t expect my husband to schedule out letters before he goes six-feet under – but I do know I will only end up with someone who accepts me for me, flaws, obsessions, and all. And maybe if the heavens humor me, I’ll find a guy who is as go-lucky as a leprechaun and does a little Irish strip tease in suspenders for me, too.

Lucky Charms

My household growing up was void of sweets and anything that was remotely bad for the body. It was only on holidays, special occasions, birthdays, and sleepovers that my mom cracked and bought potato chips or cookies, otherwise, I considered peanut butter and celery sticks just as good as Dunk-a-Roos (remember those?). However, one day at summer camp as a kid, I discovered the goodness that is Lucky Charms.

I begged and pleaded to have a box at home and even offered some of my allowance money to cover the $3 cost. She remained firm for a while, but eventually gave in and bought Lucky Charms once in a blue moon for me. I’m not too much of a cereal eater in my adult life, but if I pick something purely for the taste, I still pick the charms.

And yes, I always leave the marshmallows for last.

Leprechaun in Alabama

This is a real newscast. These are real people. Enough said.

Tall Brunette

And especially for this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m a fan of a newfound friend and Gchat companion. She has Irish roots and lives in the Northwest and we may be polar opposites – but her clever advice and wit always brightens my mood. Not to mention, the gal’s fiercely talented in artistry, penning, and otherwise. Go check out her blog and stay tuned for a podcast from both of us.

Forever and Ever and Always

Of those topics sensitive to my heart, discussing my father’s past illness tops the list.

Though I may display my love, dating, and sex life for the entire web to find and read, when opening up about what it feels like to watch the man you’ve loved the most wither and weaken for six years, helpless to do anything to help him – is an entirely different experience. Maybe blood runs deeper than water, but I’d like to think the love between a daughter and a father is one no one can really understand unless they’re part of it. Especially when it becomes strained with questions that even the best doctors can’t answer.

There was a time during my sophomore year of college where my mother asked me not come home for Easter break because she didn’t want me to see my father in the debilitating state he was in. Not one to be banned from anything – especially my own family – I insisted on trekking two hours down the mountain, regardless of how bad-off my dad had become.

The next few days were spent in and out of waiting rooms, drowning in coffee, and investing in waterproof mascara. My mom and I shared conversations over a box of tissues and collectively lost about 10 pounds on the worrying diet (not recommended or FDA approved). We found refuge in these quite awful chocolate cake sundaes at the hospital’s cafeteria and one afternoon, as we were waiting for results and the start of visiting hours, I couldn’t help but ask her a burning question:

Mom, why do you stay? I mean, I know you’d never leave – you love Dad so very much, but that isn’t the man you married. We don’t know if he’ll ever get his mind back to how it was or what’s even causing his troubles. What are you going to do if he never gets well? Aren’t you afraid?

With her dark-circles and the few wrinkles she has, she closed her eyes briefly, and I watched brittle tears trickle down her flushed cheeks, and through the sadness she smiled at me. She placed her hand, which is identical to mine, just 30 years older, over my fingers and squeezed. As I usually do when dealing with an extremely emotional experience, I found myself unable to cry anymore, but I could still feel my heart wildly pounding, begging for a reason to stop moving, and I wondered if she could feel the intensity through our grasp. I gave her a hopeful grin in return and with the strength she’s given me since I was a child, I clutched tightly back.

Lindsay, my little sunshine. That’s not your dad in there. That’s not the man I fell in love with, you’re right. But he’s my husband and I love him. I love him even when he’s like this and when he’s better. When I decided to make a life-long commitment to him, I meant it with everything I have, knowing that there could come a time when I’d be sitting here, with our child, wondering about the results of a test. This is my test – the test of my love and loyalty. And even if things don’t change, I won’t leave him. I know he wouldn’t leave me, if I was in there, lying in that damn bed. When you fall in love one day and you decide to get married, make sure you know that you’d stand by him through it all. Because, really, you never know what can happen.

At this time I was 19-years-old and though I had been “dating” guys for four years, I knew I hadn’t felt that kind of obligation to someone yet. I was overwhelmed with balancing my contradicting sentiments toward my dad and getting through the semester, so I didn’t focus heavily on the advice she gave me.

But now, as I experience more and more dating experiences and the occasional relationship, I always hear those words in the back of my head when I encounter someone I could see myself with in a long-term fashion. If I decide to actually take the step from casual to serious, from dipping into different flavors to tightening up a jar of monogamy – what would I do if this person became someone else? If an illness out of their control changed the things I loved the most about them: their dynamic, their energy, their personality? Would I still want to stay? More than the prospect of want, though, would I do it regardless of how I felt or how it affected me?

Can I really love someone unconditionally?

In terms of “no matter what” – I’ve generally believed that sort of love only applies to parent/child relationships. I’m pretty positive that regardless of what I do, what I decide, who I marry, where I live, what mistakes I make, or what I engage in – my parents would still love me. They may not agree with my choices and they may not like my actions, but their love would remain a constant force.

In a relationship that’s claimed it’ll stand the test of time, what happens when something goes wrong? When one partner is weaker than the other? When sickness and health become an actual factor of day-to-day life? Or when someone strays or has an affair? When someone wants something more than what their partner can give them? When one wants to travel and one wants to grow roots? When opinions and desires, like everything else in life, change?

The love I’ve found, partaken in, given, and shared has all been quite conditional. I will love you as long as you love me; I will stand by you as long as you stand by me; I will be crazy about you, as long as you’re not crazy; I will be faithful and true, as long as you never look another’s way. I will be in love with you, but do I love you, for you? And not just for what you can give me, but what we can create and withstand, together?

Before I can love without stipulation – if romantic love can truly be such an unqualified emotion – I need to learn to love myself unconditionally. Because there is no foundation between two people that can completely claim it’s unbreakable or shatterproof. While we may make a promise for better or for worse and truly mean it, what we’re really pledging is “I love you right now and I believe I will still love you, no matter what happens.”

When we decide to full-heartedly love who we are, we ca n promise without prerequisites, without rules to be met, without conditions or terms, this love will make it through anything. Even failed attempts of unconditional relationships with other people. Even when you’re tempted by the fruit of another or faced with decisions that we should never have to make. Even in sickness and health. Even in singleness. Even when love doesn’t seem to be enough, but unrestricted acceptance, is.

Because maybe, the key to being able to love deeply, is knowing that even if your partner becomes a stranger or the roles in your relationship change, you still have someone to depend on. Someone who’s presence is unconditional because it’s part of you. Or really – it is you – no matter what, forever and ever, and always.

You May Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

Right now, as I write this, and as you, whoever you are, reads this, a new life will take his/her first breath. Someone else will die. A woman will meet the man she will marry. Another woman in a courtroom will be face-to-face with the guy who attacked her many years ago. A child will finally take that first independent ride on their bicycle, without the training wheels. Some 16-year-old will look lovingly at their driver’s license. A middle-aged woman will pick at her gray hairs and analyze her wrinkles in a magnified mirror. Someone will say “I do.” Another couple will sign their divorce papers. A college graduate will land in New York. Someone else will leave the city in haste. A man will miss his train. A daughter will get the news her father has cancer. Someone will be given a few months to live. A man will witness a miracle. A woman will break her heel. Someone will be given their dream job. Two people will chat from across the world, while a couple will lay side-by-side with a world between them.

And then there’s me, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the downtown train, looking around at all of those around me, fascinated thinking of how quickly, how frequently life goes through highs and lows. And along the way, we see and sometimes meet people who shape the way we see the axis turn. I mean, who are these people I see everyday? The woman with the pretty coat and the red boots – what did she do this morning? The old man in the corner, reading his paper, looks so tired, why? The young, tall, attractive guy two seats down isn’t wearing a ring, but is he single? The teenage girl listening to her music so loudly I can hear it three-feet away, what is she struggling with?

Even though I do not know any of their names, here we are, connected, in this single moment because we decided to board the same train, at the same time, on this incredibly snowy Thursday morning. I’ll never say life is measured by the moments that take our breath away – but I will say sometimes, in the middle of an ordinary day, an unexpected revelation comes over you.

Like, how most every relationship is fleeting, but yet, sometimes the most significant of ones are merely based on a connection. And sometimes, a coincidence. It’s that realization – that as easily as someone can come into our life, they can simply, just leave. Just like the strangers on the train who I shared the same air with, held the same rail, smelled the same things, and then simply exited on my stop, completely forgetting their faces.

Maybe the reason a relationship is so scary and seems so necessary for happiness is because we know how easily it can just slip from our grasp. And so, finding the one person who we will never have to worry about leaving or losing a connection with, no matter what curve ball we’re thrown or diagnosis we’re given, becomes an endless search.

It’s like trying to find someone in a city of millions who you were intrigued by, but weren’t brave enough to ask their name. Where does one even begin? For a while, I’d say the bar, at the gym, taking a class you’re interested in, the park, or actually, at work – but with the knowledge that relationships are in fact, so fleeting, I think it’s more important to start with a connection you’ll never be able to fully break – the one that connects you to you.

Being sans-man is one thing, but when you feel like you’ve lost the essence of who you are – it’s time to stop looking around at the strangers, including the one you’ve become, and start realizing that people come and go, both lovers and friends, and before we can offer anything to anyone, even someone we’ve never met – we’ve got to offer the best we have to ourselves. If we get so lost looking for the handsome stranger we want to meet, we become darkened to who we are. Faces we’ll never see may surround us, but the worse thing we could ever be – are lost in our own reflections, relying on someone else to recognize us. Or a connection to bring us back to where we started. If this journey has taught me anything so far, it’s that the one person I can never give up on, never let go of, and never forget is me – and I simply can’t be a stranger to myself.

Because until (or if) we do meet this magical Number One man, every love, every spark, every could-be -is probably simply temporary. They are fleeting feelings that at times may seem so incredibly permanent we can’t stand to hold them. But, the ones that light us will pass, just like the ones that sought to destroy us. Much like the thoughts that come with being single, like “What if he isn’t out there?” or “Why can’t I just meet one decent man in this whole damn city?” or “Could I really be okay if I never got married?” Yet, when we do meet someone with possibility, gone are the worries of being stranded in our single boat, and a new set of question make their way to the shore: “Am I settling?” and “Could I really see him in the long run?” and “Is this how it is supposed to feel?” or maybe perhaps the worse of all, “What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”

But in between the ups and the downs, the yes’s and the no’s, the consistent and the inconsistent, the strangers I pass who turn into lovers, and the lovers who turn into strangers -I have to be secure enough to sit in the middle of a busy train, content with the knowledge that no matter how many avenues I have to cross, people who have to leave, or bumps I have to endure – I’ll still be just fine.

Before I know it, something or someone, or an ordinary moment will come along, and there life goes again  in its extraordinary splendor: forever, beautifully, changing, and preparing me for the next stop along the way. And on I will go, single and secure, ready for any fleeting (or maybe permanent) tall, dark, stranger I may pass.

The Me Who Got Away

I’ve been blessed to love a few good men in my lifetime. And by a few, I mean three.

The word ‘love’ isn’t something I throw around casually – though it seems to be a word to describe me, according to my friends. Even in my most intense love addiction moments, I know how important and potentially harmful those three little words can be when they’re strung together and dangling in between two people. In the past, when I became brave enough and there was no way to escape that lovin’ feeling, I willing proclaimed and gave my heart to each of these men. Two reciprocated, while one was quite unrequited – but the all-consuming feeling I possessed, didn’t change in the least. Though it may sound cliche and against any independently geared mindset – when I’ve fallen in love, I’ve gone balls-to-the-walls without holding back, and allowed myself to be emotionally available because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. And really, with these three characters, I never quite cared if my decision was revoked by the masters of fates, anyways.

Each of them, in their own way and right, swooped in, and within a short amount of time, I found myself completely infatuated with this man who so easily became a vital part of my existence. In looking for patterns in past relationships to help make the future less complicated and heartbreaking, I’ve discovered the men I’ve loved have all viewed me in a similar fashion.

They’ve all crowned me with the title of “The One Who Got Away.”

And no, this isn’t by my own interpretations or inferences, but months after the relationship came to a close, they informed me of their regret, of their thoughts of “what could have been”, and how above all other things, wished me the very best in happiness…and in love.

Mr. Faithful, the high school boyfriend and very first love, was devastated when I broke up with him a mere three days into the college experience. After I crushed his heart for a chance to date Mr. Rebound, and then karma broke my heart in return, I went crawling back to Mr. Faithful.  He refused round two…until we crossed paths a year later, and attempted to rekindle the flame that was lit outside of Biology class, four years before. Though it ultimately didn’t work out, in one of our final conversations he said, “Linds, I hope you know you’ll always be the girl I compare everyone else to. You’re the standard. You’ve raised the bar. And I know this is dumb, but I think you’ll be the one girl I could never really get a handle on.

A few months later, I started seeing Mr. Fire, and found myself blind-sided by this rugby player who played the game as well as he played with my heart. Though we never officially slept together, dated, or shared sweet-nothings – our connection was something both of us have determined as “unlike anything else.”  He ended whatever-we-were-doing out of the blue, and then we  ran into each other before I graduated at a bar. And as if he knew I needed to hear “why” I wasn’t what he wanted (and the girl he was on Facebook with a day later, was), he smiled at me, pushed the hair out of my face, and took a deep breath. I gave him a puzzling look, and he said: “I was afraid of not having anything to offer you and I should have just sucked up my pride and took the chance that I could make you happy. Tigar, when you move to New York and make big things happen, know that to me, you’re beautiful. You’re the girl who got away and I will always wonder what could have happened between you and me.”

And last by not least, my most recent ex-boyfriend, Mr. Idea, who though I loved the idea of, I also did love him and what we shared. Even as complicated, messy, and toxic as it was. Over Christmas, when I wouldn’t grant him the second chance he thought he deserved, he asked if he wasn’t good enough for me.  I quickly rebutted his statement by letting him know that we were both great people, but not great together. In a rare moment where he allowed himself to be vulnerable and off of his incredibly high-horse, he said, “I want you to be happy and I’m sorry I can’t contribute to that happiness anymore. You’ve been the love of my life and I’m so thankful to have known you. I guess, Linds, you’ll be the girl who got away, huh?”

While I’m completely flattered by each of their sentiments and will always hold the conversations and intimacy close to my heart, if I’m honest with myself, when I fell in love with these guys, I felt like I lost myself. I became so enthralled, so indefinitely invested in these partnerships, that I let me get away. The me who valued her independence, her alone time, her confidence, her ambitions – disappeared and these men became the most important element of my life. My priorities were damned and they were deemed deserving of all of my attention.

To their credit, they never asked me to change. They never discouraged my vibrant personality or my fearless determination to become a writer in New York – but when I was with them, whatever they wanted, whatever they needed , from pancakes to cleaning their apartment – became my responsibility. Even if they didn’t ask me to do them a favor, I showered them with all of the affection and attention in the world. Friendships and family ties became strained, my work quality fell, and I can distinctly remember standing in Mr. Idea’s bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and wondering: “Who are you, anymore, Lindsay? Are you really the girl who is defined by her boyfriend?’

So now, a few years and experiences stronger, I’ve realized my tendency to do this in a relationship. I’m well aware of my mothering-like qualities when I fall in love, even if in the dating scene, I’m far from a mommy-dearest. And this journey, in all of its ups and downs, has helped me to know how important it is to keep yourself in tact, even when butterflies are swarming your head and tickling your tummy.

This, of course, is easier said than done. A large part of the reason I allowed myself to become lost in my partner was out of fear. With Mr. Faithful, I was so afraid of being alone that I attempted to go back to him, even when I knew he wasn’t the man for me. Mr. Fire appeared to be everything I had ever wanted – and was somewhat stunningly unattainable – and to keep him, or lure him into committment, I wanted to please him. And Mr. Idea came into my life when everything else was uncertain and before a dramatic change, and I wanted nothing more than to have one steady thing. So if I had to comfort him, put him first, and bake him cupcakes constantly, I’d do it, so I wouldn’t have to face myself and my apprehensions.

Basically, fear of singleness swallowed up my faith in who I was. And instead of finding myself again, I sought to seek a new definition in a man I loved. That if love was truly the answer to all of my problems, how could I not make a man, my everything?

There is a fine balance between being in love with a person and still being able to be in love  with and focus on yourself. Even though relationships are give-and-take, the giving shouldn’t always be towards your partner by taking away bits of who you once were before you met them. True love, who is deserving of attention and three fine words, will want you to keep yourself as much as you want to keep them.

And if being the lady who slipped away means I must lose myself, then I’d rather be the woman who even if she destroys a relationship or picks girl’s night over date night, or isn’t accommodating or agreeable, she is still, above all other things, herself.

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