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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The Non-Negotiables

I make incredible demands on myself.

Some may call me a perfectionist, others may coin the term “over-achiever”, and I can’t even begin to count the amount of times someone has told me they envy my bravery. But to me, none of these titles really fit who I am because I’ve never thought twice about pushing myself to the extreme or shooting for my dreams – no matter how unattainable they may seem. To me, the most terrifying risk is not giving the things that matter the most, my everything. I’d rather fail a thousand times than to never try once. My expectations are undeniably high for what I hope to achieve and where I want to go in life.

And the same level of elevated standards applies in my relationships, too.

In the past, as I would go on and on to my friends about a date gone awry, a relationship that fizzled quicker than it boiled, and how for whatever reason, it was impossible for me to find someone who wanted to stay on the same page as me – most of them, either out of frustration, wisdom, or from what they thought was the right thing to say, advised: “Well maybe you shouldn’t expect so much.”

Is going into a dating situation or even the start of an official relationship without any expectations the best solution? They say if we don’t really anticipate much, we’ll be happy and pleasantly surprised with anything we get…right?

Well, I don’t know about you – but I can’t seem to wrap my head around this idea. If we don’t have standards, if we don’t insist upon certain qualities or things that are absolutely non-negotiable, wouldn’t we only attract men who are completely wrong for us? Or even worse, end up with someone who isn’t right for us, but could be perfect for someone else? Or vice versa? Wouldn’t we miss out on someone who we don’t feel the need to change?

I believe there is this thin line between having unrealistic images and hopes for what a relationship or person will be, and demanding what you will and will not settle for. That regardless of how wonderful someone looks on paper or in person, if they don’t meet what we know we need to be fulfilled and happy, then entertaining a love affair is wasteful of our energy, heart, and time. Sure, men are people too, but so are we – and we have personal standards that we shouldn’t (and probably can’t) shake.

So yes, I have expectations, and no, I’m not willing to lower them just to be deemed someone’s girlfriend, have someone give me a Valentine’s Day card, or find my match that I’ve always been told I can’t live without. (Though, I’m pretty positive I can).

My ten non-negotiables are actually quite simple, in my opinion, anyways:

Ya gotta be employed

And legally, for the record. You could be a millionaire or make what I make, as long as you have a job and you’re not sleeping on your mother’s couch or in your childhood bedroom. If I’m going to be an adult, I want to date one, too.

Ya gotta be taller than me

I’ve only dated guys over six-foot, but I’m not opposed to seeing if a 5’10 man would fit my fancy. The only thing is I love high heels and always will; so if I can’t wear my highest ones and be at least a little shorter than you, I’m not interested. May be superficial, but absolutely true.

Ya gotta be self-sufficient

As in, it is not my responsibility to transform you. That’s up to you, bud. I don’t want to fix you, I don’t want to mend your every worry, your every self-defeating prophecy, or your every case of blue balls. I also don’t want to control every conversation or lead you through discussions – you should have opinions and charisma inside of you already, that are not because of me. Life is full of bumps and I’ll sit in the passenger seat, but you’re in the driver’s.

Ya gotta want to have sex (and it has to work)

Think all men are sex-crazed maniacs? They really aren’t, and I’ve dealt with the ones who never want to do the deed, who can’t seem to make it rise to the occasion, and who just don’t have a clue what they’re doing. At our age, we should know better. And if we don’t, we should make an effort to learn.

Ya gotta be honest

Being charming and funny are also recommended, but above all other things – you have to be genuine. A big part of my job is searching and revealing the truth, so I value it. Even if it hurts me, even if it isn’t pretty, even if it changes my mind about you – just tell me. I’d rather know than to be fooled or oblivious. And you should remember the one person you should never get on the bad side of…is a journalist.

Ya gotta have your own world

I’m not one of those ladies who wants to be the center of her man’s universe. Sure, I like to be doted on, admired, and reminded that I’m beautiful (who doesn’t?) – but I’m also very independent. Even when I’m married, I’m going to need some nights with the girls and nights just by myself. You gotta have buddies and interests and hobbies that have nothing to do with me, please.

Ya gotta have energy

I’m a fast walker, a fast talker, and always a gal on the go. While I enjoy a lazy  Sunday afternoon and will gladly sit through sports with you (as long as you’ll return the favor by going to a show), I mostly want to be doing something. And whoever I’m with, should challenge me mentally along the way. So if you’re going to date me, you’re going to have to keep up with me – this may mean you’ll need to have Red Bull within reach.

Ya gotta let yourself go

I don’t think I’m God’s gift to men – and I know you’re not God’s gift to women. But, we could be sent from the heavens to meet one another. So please, don’t take yourself too seriously. You don’t have to be the best dancer and you don’t have to sing on key – but if you can’t have fun in our living room or at a concert – I’m not going to crave having fun in other parts of the house.

Ya gotta be open-minded

Yes, I want you to have your own opinions, but I also hope you are tolerant of those things you don’t believe in, don’t like, and of those who are different from you. Brownie points if you’re addicted to community service and volunteering as much as I am.

Ya gotta like NYC, the kiddies, and the puppies

Sure – I’m not at the point where I’m ready for children, but I can’t be with someone who doesn’t want them…ever. Also, I can’t rationalize picking a mate who hates the city I adore. As for the puppies – who doesn’t love them? I mean really?

Maybe I’m being too stubborn and overly ruthless – though those qualities have served me well in my career – but when it comes to finding love, I choose to believe that I’m worthy of the best. And when or if I meet Mr. Right, he’ll know that he has someone who is more than precious – but irreplaceable, because I hold myself, him, and our love to great expectations.

And that will never be open to negotiation.

PS: I’m curious to what your non-negotiable list. Comment below or email me and I’ll tweet them!

Flirting With Fire

Growing up as a fireman’s daughter, I was taught to steer clear of many things. Open flames, matches, fireplaces, ovens, and campfires, along with anything flammable. My father warned that fire, when it runs wild and uncontrollably, can destroy all in its tailwind.

And in those worse case scenarios, where flames engulf people – it could leave their skin, their touch, their feelings…numb.

As a child, the reality that if I played with fire and couldn’t stop it from growing, then I’d run the risk of not being able to feel my fingers was terrifying. Or maybe my toes, if they got too close to our woodstove. Or my elbow, if I accidentally dipped it in boiling water. Though I was (and still am, really) fascinated with the beauty of orange embers circling the air, I was very cautious and careful with how closely I teased their enticing flames.

But then, as all children do, I grew up.

And instead of literal blazes, the fire that I not only flirted with, but ignited and kept alive, was more in the form of men. These men, who at times lit up my life, and then also extinguished my hopes – were a lot more difficult to resist than the fires I was attracted to a decade before.

Maybe I should have known better and listened to my father, but I ended up proving him right. Sometimes, when you get too close to dangerous warmth and it burns you, a part of your heart and a fragment of your soul, feels like it dies. There have been moments, weeks, months, and even years, if I’m honest – where I was convinced the connection I had with one man, would never be sparked again in another. That because I was burned, I had these scars, these wounds I was still licking – and my heart wasn’t capable of allowing someone else in. Or my body wasn’t ready to make magic with another guy, until the ashes from the previous one were lost in the breeze.

But to have that passion and the velocity that can only come from intensity, is it worth flirting with fire? Is it worth risking the numbness we have all felt and we all fear? Is there a reason they don’t offer “grown-up” fire safety classes?

My newest co-worker, H, is what most people would identify as firery. She is brazen, bold, and when she walks into the office, she makes it known. She sits behind me and throughout the day, I hear her sales calls where she makes jokes with clients, and I’m constantly giggling at her energy. She has a way of lighting up the room – even on a Monday, and that’s saying a lot.

Last week, this firecracker pranced in and declared that she was jealous. One of her male friends had introduced her to his new girlfriend at a benefit they were attending, and at the point where she was to reach for his gal’s hand, she found herself dumbstruck and for a reason she’s yet to determine, she felt the green envy monster creeping its way out. Now, maybe this means she has feelings for her friend that she didn’t notice previously or she wasn’t prepared to know he was taken, regardless; experiencing jealousy wasn’t a bad thing for her – but a good thing.

With excited expressions and gestures, she said “I haven’t felt jealous in such a long time! I had forgotten what it felt like to feel like this…and it feels so good to feel something.”

At first, I was a little confused by the statement – as every dating book and article in any magazine I’ve read advises us to steer clear from envy, but then I thought about it. And I realized that after being numb or closed off from relationships or hiding from the opportunity for something more, there comes a point where we realize, we can feel again. Often times, when we’re not even trying or looking for it.

While physical flames that run rampant and uncontainable through forests and tend to piss Smoky the Bear off are irreversible, the fires we build with men we love can be destructive, but not permanent.

Sometimes, all it takes is a second, a glance, an encounter, or a simple brush against your hand – for you to recognize those third-degree burns, maybe weren’t so third-degree after all. That maybe, the band-aid can be taken off and you don’t need to run yourself under cold water, trying to put out the burning around your heart. Because perhaps, without realizing, you’ve healed yourself.

A large part of this journey and why I decided to embark on it in the first place was that I knew I needed to let go. Since I started dating at 15, there were (and admittedly still are), lesions from lost-love that I couldn’t let mend. Places in my heart and in my attitude that were scorched from the many men who I thought would love me endlessly, and merely turned out to be just another chapter in the book I don’t know the ending of.  And the saddest part about it was that I wasn’t even interested in repairing the burns. Somehow, my battle wounds gave me comfort as much as they gave me pain. In some respect, using the excuse that “I’m just numb” to any relationship, to any possible love, protected me from taking a chance. And if I did happen to go out on that limb and it broke, I could simply claim, “Well, this is just what happens to me. I find the fire, but it always gets put out.

Well – not anymore.

Because now, I know I can feel. And I know I can be burned. But more importantly – I know I can survive. Just because passion can grow and then wither away in an instant, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth feeling it in the first place. Nor, can anyone, regardless of the burn degree or how widely the fire spreads – be forever numb from the flames.

No matter how hard we try or fast we run or how careful we are above our stoves or while making s’mores – the fire will always catch up to us. And if we’re lucky, we know that maybe fire isn’t such a bad thing but more so, a friend. Perhaps if we allow it to glow, first inside of us, giving us the courage to blaze new trails alone – one day, the love we’ll find – in ourselves or with a man, could be powerful enough that we stop being afraid of the flames. And maybe flirt with them, just one more time.

P.S. If you’ve linked to Confessions of a Love Addict, let Lindsay know for the “Support” page. Email her.

Ciao Bella 2011!

I’m a big fan of making lists – for my groceries, for things I have to do, for things I’d like to do, for people I need to call, for blogs I need to write, emails I must return, ideas to pitch at work, qualities in a man I’d like to find…and the list goes on and on (pun rightfully intended).

Every year before this one, including 2010, I have made a quite lengthy list of resolutions that I wanted to fulfill before December 31. More often times than not, I almost always complete this list, like a good schoolgirl, checking everything off in red pen.

But lately, as I’ve been attempting to decide what I should seek in 2011 – I’ve found myself drawing one huge giant blank. Sure, I could probably stand to lose five pounds (but then, would I have boobs?), I could save more money (but, then would I have such a saucy collection of heels?), I could write more (but I write everyday), I could vow to drink less (but I live in New York),I could decide once-and-for-all that this will be the year I find love (but, that’s out of my hands), and I could have a more optimstic viewpoint (but, I’m happy as I am).

And then, it occurred to me – really what I’m doing with this journey, with this blog, is one multi-step resolution in itself that is simply to be the person I want to be. To be someone who is self-sufficient, obsessive-free, and confident in herself…regardless of a man. For so long, I’ve let all of the guys- from Mr. Fire and Mr. Fling to Mr. Idea, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Disappear, control not only my perception of love and its infinite confusions, but also my opinion of myself. I’ve allowed their choices, that ultimately do not have anything to do with me, let me feel like I wasn’t good enough to be picked as their partner. Or that some woman was always better than me or had something I simply could not offer. And for whatever reason, I wasn’t “good at relationships” – when in reality, relationships aren’t something to place on your resume. I’ve placed “meeting The One” on my life’s checklist, when I know in my heart, it should not be a box to check – and even worse, I’ve punished myself for each and every single thing that’s gone wrong in a relationship, allowing the men to have countless “get out of blame” free cards.

And so while it wasn’t the start of a New Year when I started this journey in September, it was then that I made a resolution to release their grasp, and the power of negative thinking, and let myself walk confidently in the direction of a healthy relationship – with myself. Past be damned, I’d rather have today, and the all of the hope for a tomorrow I can’t even imagine.

So for 2011, I’m moving on to Step 5I have admitted to a higher power, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. Not exactly sure how I’ll go about this one -but as I always do, I figure it out somewhere along the way, have no doubt.

And in addition to moving forward with this path that I’m so enjoying taking as a single woman, I’m also doing something that’s simply for me, without a goal in mind. Or at least one that’s intimidating. I’ve spent the majority of my life saving up for my move to New York and because of that, I haven’t been able to travel as often as I’d like. And of all the places I’ve always wanted to go, Italy tops the list (sorry Irish heritage, but I’ll get there).

Something about the elegant and sexy way they talk, how they drink gallons of wine like it isn’t a big deal, how food and company are meant to be enjoyed for hours beyond end, and there is an endless amount of pasta, pizza, and bread – not to mention the country is shaped like a shoe – makes me long for an extended visit.

For my 25th birthday, I will go to Italy for a month, alone (or perhaps with another single gal pal or two) – and see all that there is to see: Rome, Sicily, Florence, Venice, and Capri. And step one to catching the flight to Italy is learning the language, just as I’ve always wanted to do, so I signed up for classes at Scuola Italiana in the lovely Greenwich Village.

I don’t know much Italian yet, though I think I’ll be able to learn pretty easily (if not, Rosetta Stone it is!) – but I do know “Ciao Bella!” and that will be my mantra for the year: always greeting myself and others with beauty and excitement, no matter what bumps in the road, or men, who may get in the way.

And because Italians are simple with their greetings – keeping “hello” and “goodbye” the same – I may be forced to say “Ciao Bello!” to the men who just don’t measure up to what I need.

Ciao bella amantes fino a domani! (Goodbye beautiful lovers – until tomorrow)