Happily Forever Me

It started out as just any other ordinary day.

As I usually do on the weekends, I woke up around 11, laced my running shoes, and went for a run in the park. It was one of those mid-afternoons that are rare in New York -the air smells strikingly clean, the noise is at a bare minimum, and distractions seem more like far fetched ideas than obstacles. After a brisk four miles, I settled into a local coffee shop for water and iced coffee while devouring that week’s edition of New York magazine. Unconcerned with my lack of makeup or my unwashed hair, I sat out on their patio, enjoying the spring sun and the tulips starting to bloom in the city’s versions of “gardens.” My North Carolina-roots, however, may always make me a snob to such greenery – especially with the endless rolling hills I grew up with in my backyard.

Once I was thoroughly filled with ideas, news, and midtown’s people-watching debriefing for the day, I caught the downtown train to the West Village, where my cozy and classic one-bedroom was waiting for me. Along with Henry, my miniature mutt I rescued from the Long Island animal shelter a year back. Not much of an athlete, but more of a hunter of falling leaves and city-street grime, he sadly doesn’t get to partake in my days-off rituals, but he’s there in spirit and dog hair. Following a much-needed shower, a conference call to the UK to set up the following week’s speaking engagement and travel arrangements, and a play date with Henry – my friend and fellow editor rang to make sure we were still on for the gallery viewing, along with our signature wine and Chinese food meal with the regular group of ladies. Still smitten that somehow, everything managed to work out in its own way – perhaps not as I planned – but here I was, living where I wished, able to call myself a real writer (and get paid for it), and have the most wonderfully dynamic collection of friends and adventures.

A few hours and cocktails later, I found myself seriously considering purchasing a painting in a new exhibit hidden away in Chelsea at a unknown, yet trendy establishment. This portrait, of a woman in a yellow sundress, with the city cascading infinitely behind her made me remember the days of my fresh beginnings in New York – and of the path I decided to take to reach the place I was now. Champagne in one hand and the other resting on my hip, with my head tiled slightly, I became so engrossed in memories of what was, that I let my program slip out my grasp.

And it was in that instance, where the sheets went flying towards the ground, catching me off guard, and I knelt quickly in my tall Louboutins to gather my mess – that he realized he had just laid eyes on the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Of course, he told me such a thing many, many years later when that first glimpse of luster hadn’t necessarily lost its effect, but had evolved into something more profound and meaningful: love. And not just love, but the love.

When I first started this journey, I had grown exhausted of romantic illusions. As quite the daydreamer with a highly overactive imagination, I could design the scenerio of fate’s course, like the one above, in a single moment. Anything and everything I did, each move I made, man I went on a date with, or stranger who locked eyes with me, had the potential to be part of this grand story that I so badly wanted. So thoroughly was convinced I needed.

Then, I decided that to be cured of the love addiction qualities, of these self-defeating thoughts that robbed me of confidence and worth – I needed to cut out the dreaming. I needed to learn how to be completely self-sufficient, completely independent, completely, madly, totally, fully, in love with myself. This way, I would never feel like I needed a man, I would never let anything a guy did or didn’t do rule my life, and I definitely wouldn’t waste energy and time when the man in question refused to do the same. I would let my emotions fall far, far behind and put my rational, reasonable, and mature self in the forefront battling all of the dating wars to come, instead of letting a little thing called desperation step up to bat.

But, in admitting the nature of my wrongs, I’ve realized as time and steps have passed…you need your heart as much as you need your head. And as important as actually thinking through and doing something is, dreaming and believing are part of learning to really live, and really love, too.

I used to get caught up in visions of what a grand meeting would be for my hubby-to-be and I and when days, weeks, months, and well, years would pass without anything spectatuclar really happening, I’d start to doubt the possibility that something so magical, so wonderful, so beautifully designed by the heavens themselves could ever happen. And then inevitably, I’d start questioning if I was worthy of such a thing, or if love and all of that jazz I’d hoped for since I was a little girl was even meant for me at all.

But maybe what I forgot to take into consideration was the central theme of all of my fantasies: when the charming Mr. Right found me, bumped into me, came to my rescue, or met me – I was happy. Or more specifically, I was enjoying my life, doing something I loved, and content with whatever point in time I was existing in. The reason this man, whoever he was or will be, found me irrestistble because I was radiating a confidence that derived not from him, but from me.

Perhaps in every version of happily ever after I’ve created, I forgot that romantic bliss started with self-love. And while my obsessions led me to believe it was all about the man, the reality of my longings were actually all about me. So when I became disappointed or intolerably lonely, it wasn’t due  to the fact a knight on a horse didn’t come riding up the subway tracks (though, I’d love to see that, just for giggles), but because I wasn’t searching or demanding happiness with myself. I was waiting and waiting for the ending, when I hadn’t even given thought to the beginning.

Do I still hope there is a true love out there, somewhere in this city I adore so much? Do I still find myself, from time-to-time brewing up a story I’d greatly enjoying playing out in real life? Do I still allow my emotions to overtake my practicalities? Do I still find myself delusional in illusions? Do I still occasionally feel quite alone, even though I know I’m not?

Yes.

But now, at least, I have a rather brilliant, mostly secure, and increasingly interesting prologue, that one day, if I’m blessed, will turn into an ending that no story, no movie, no book, no creation of my playful mind, and no blog, could ever portray effectively. Even if that conclusion, ends with me standing solo – because no matter what page in my story I turn, there’s already a love inside and a hope for a love that’s outside of me…that’ll never stop writing more.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little differently this year. We’ll make it more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.

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Entitled to Be Single

When my parents were newlyweds, my father once made the mistake at a dinner party introducing my mother as “his wife.” While she was, and is, his partner – to my incredibly independent firecracker of a mom – this made her feel like she lost her identity.

Needless to say, she didn’t keep quiet about how she felt. On the ride home, as my dad tells the story: “She laid it out for me -I didn’t own her. If I was going to introduce her to anyone, I had to say her name first and then her wifely title. Or, I was just to say her name. Under no circumstances, was she ever to solely be my wife or was I ever to say ‘wife’ before her name.

Now – I don’t know how I would respond in the same situation because I’m not married, but I will say I think my mother demanded nothing out of her rights. Nor do I think it’d sit well with me if my husband dropped my first name just because I took his last. And really, just like my mom, I’ll never just be a “wife” or a “mother” – I’ll always be me, and there are not enough titles to represent who I am.

I’ve carried a few of them the majority of my life: female, daughter, and well, writer. Those have grown as I have, from girl to teenager to woman; from daughter to kid to adult; from writer to editor to blogger. And of course, I’ve gone from crush to girlfriend to lover, from single to attached, from hopeless romantic to love addict,  from committed to heartbroken.

But in relationships, title changes seem to carry so much more weight than the other ones. Somehow, we know that regardless of what happens we will still be people through any birthday, promotion, or change of friends, and we’ll still be able to call ourselves a woman, a person, a daughter – because those things can’t be revoked or erased.

So, maybe in terms of love it is less about title and more about entitlement.

As a lady who adores words (even when she isn’t the best grammar girl in the whole world) – when I edit articles and writers confuse “title” and “entitlement” – I always cringe at my desk. Much like I do about “they’re” and “their”, but I digress. You see, title is the name of something, say a book or a movie; and entitled means one is deserving of whatever they are getting.

By these definitions, when we approach relationships, though we think we’re seeking a title – aren’t we really seeking entitlement? To be told, to be reassured that we are in fact, worthy of being someone’s girlfriend? Or fiancée? Or wife?

Of all of the roles I’ve played and hats I’ve wore in my past, the one I wanted the very most was exclusiveness with a man. I wanted whatever dude who was stealing my attention, where it be Mr. Disappear, Mr. Fire, or even Mr. Unavailable – to view me as his dream girl. As this beautiful, irreplaceable creature who appeared from the dusty woodwork, and became as important, as vital, as necessary, as the air they breathed and the beer they drank. Maybe it was college, but I didn’t even know these men very long – probably just upwards of a few weeks – before I determined I had to do everything in my power to be that girl. That remarkable woman who caught them off guard and made them stumble in the game they seemed so good at playing. I had to be the different one, the woman who woke him up from whatever bachelor-daze he was stuck in and I had to persuade him to entitle me the title I wanted.

In pushing for a man to make me his, to be what he desired, and what I thought was attractive to him – I stopped focusing on if I actually wanted a relationship and became more intrigued by the challenge of roping in this character. Of being convincing enough by putting on a charade that I was calm, cool, collected, and aloof , when in all actuality, I’m anything but most of those things. In all of my dating experiences prior, as soon as I realized he made me nervous in the best of ways – I was ready to have the girlfriend title. In fact, it became much more important than any other title – friend, sister, daughter, student, editor, or employee – I may have had at the time.

But now, it seems the title I enjoy the most, that I feel fully entitled to – is single. Incredibly, proudly, surprisingly, happily solo.

Maybe the reason I feel a sense of entitlement to the single title is because I had to work for it. More so, because I really got to know what it meant to be single before I determined that yes, indeed, that’s what I wanted. I had to go through nights where I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fall asleep due to my heart that was pounding so hard, I was sure it would never stop hurting. I had to give someone every single bit of hope and trust inside of me, only to realize they weren’t deserving of it, nor did they really want it. I had to fall in and out of love, both with myself and with the parade of men who for a while, defined my life. I had to be willing to put myself through the very worse part of being in a relationship, take a chance on what felt like fate, and promise myself that no matter what happened, I’d still be able to stand again. I had to face some pretty harsh realities about myself, how I approach love, and the lessons I’ve learned from loving and losing, believing and grieving.

And most importantly, I had to get to a point where it didn’t matter whatsoever what title I had, as long as I stopped putting all of my energy toward becoming someone’s girlfriend. I had to turn away from searching for the love I thought would complete me, would make me a better person, would give me the confidence I wanted, and decide that that love is only possible from within.

Today, I know it isn’t about the man anymore. It’s about me. Instead of worrying about being entitled to a title, I instead try and determine if someone is up to my standards of being my partner, my man, my lover, my boyfriend, or even my man friend. They aren’t just entitled to a place in my life, my bedroom, or my heart – those are places that must be earned with something I’ve never given enough credit to…time.

So yes, I’m happy with my single title. And unlike other titles that must be given to you, this is one I decided for myself I was entitled to. But should you ever meet me, I won’t lead with “Hi, I’m single,” because though it is something that’s part of me, just like being a woman, a friend, and a writer – most importantly, I’m me. I’m Lindsay. And that’s a title that’ll never change.

PS: If you’re a fan of Confessions of a Love Addict, please take this survey for a chance to win beauty goodies!

Making It is Living It

Somehow, no matter how old I get or how diligently the city attempts to jade me – the simplest pleasures of life still outweigh the bad. Like yesterday morning when I took one step out of my brownstone and felt the soft snowflakes land on my face, and for the first time in a very long time, I remembered how carefree I used to feel.

The part of North Carolina I’m from was rarely blessed with snow days, and I can remember attempting to fall asleep as quickly as possible, and waking up incredibly early – just to see if maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was right. And of course, to determine if I was free from school for a day and could spend an afternoon sledding down the bumpy hill in our backyard, followed by my mother’s hot cocoa and my father’s chicken noodle soup.

It wasn’t until college that I really experienced what a blizzard could be like and if I’m honest, going to school at Appalachian State was probably a brilliant idea, for many reasons, but one huge one: to prepare me for cold winters in New York. Though it was surprising to have any classes cancelled because you knew what you were getting into when you signed your tuition check, but when we did – my friends and I tucked ourselves away in our apartments, watching America’s Next Top Model marathons, sipping on mimosas, and strategically putting off any homework. One of these monumential snows, Mr. Idea and I were snowed in, and though it sounds like I’m an old man exaggerating – we literally had to walk a mile to the nearest grocery store so we could eat for the week. He let me borrow his thick socks and pants that were way too big on me, so I wouldn’t freeze to death, and in return, I agreed to make his favorite cake. See, give-and-take, right?

But in Manhattan, having a get-out-of-work for free day doesn’t happen very often. To be a New Yorker, you must adapt the Postal Service mentality too – rain or shine, sleet or snow, we will arrive at the office at nine, frozen and already dying to go, yet making our boss the dough! With my high-heeled boots (yes, even in this weather), layered sweater dress, tights, gloves, scarf, and earmuffs – I walked a little slower to the train to enjoy the snow. I felt the incredible desire to spread my arms wide, raise my face to meet the cloudy sky, stick out my tongue, and let the flakes fall against me. I considered it for a moment, but then remembered my age, and decided I could just happily smile before going underground.

As I watched the people hurrying to escape the snow and ice, I thought about how I’ve spend the majority of my life reaching for and rushing toward something. I have never been complacent, stationary, or satisfied with the idea of just “being.” In a way – I have to figure, while I’ve lived, I have also been waiting for the life I wanted to actually start. Between sledding and studying for finals -I somehow managed to stop experiencing the freedom life offers and started focusing on tomorrow, more than today. In such a short amount of time, my life, who I am, what I want, and how I perceive my future has completely changed. Sure, I’m the same lady at heart, but I have to wonder – did I ever really enjoy those moments of peace? Of rest? When the snow gave me every excuse to do nothing, and now the same snow doesn’t give me any leeway? There has always been an end-goal, a plan, an unattainable person, title, or place I wanted to make available to me. There has always been a belief that once I reached this certain thing – whatever it may be – that’s when I could breathe. That would be when I made it.

And yet, as a 20-something who is now working as an editor, propelling her career, residing in the city she’s always loved – have I actually stopped pursuing the next big thing? Perhaps I’ve let finding Mr. Charming fall to the wayside (currently, anyways), but aren’t I still going and going, without a true destination in sight?

Do I feel like I’ve made it? Or maybe a better question is – what does “making it” even mean?

Since moving to New York, actually landing a job, and figuring the rest out as a I go – I haven’t remained still. There have been afternoons where I admired the city and all of its beauty; evenings wrapped around Mr. Possibility; nights spent pouring out blogs posts because I just can’t stop writing (even if I wanted to); – but there have also be all-nighters spent reading about how I can be a better editor, a stronger writer, and a profitable blogger. Though I’m very happy and proud of the things I’ve been able to accomplish in a remarkably short amount of time – there is always more that I want. And I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad quality to have – I would much rather seek more and therefore give and receive more, than to never help anyone (including myself). But if the constant pursuit for who I hope to be becomes more powerful than who I am right now – then I’m missing what will probably be one of the most brilliant decades of my life.

If I don’t stop to smell the roses – or play in the snow- am I fearing that success or love won’t come, and therefore keeping myself from believing that everything is really, truly, on the right track?

One of my dearest friends, L, when I get upset about a disappointing dude, a setback in my career, or when everything I thought was steady, crumbles, she tells me: “Linds, you just fake it until you make it.” This is her kind way of letting me know that sometimes, even when we don’t feel like we’re doing the right thing or heading in the right direction, if we have faith that all is well and going according to a divine plan, one day, we’ll stumble across what we we’re looking for. Or across something we never thought we wanted, but turns out to be perfect for us.

What if we don’t ever actually feel like we can stop pushing for something more or reach the decision to do absolutely nothing? Maybe “making it” is an illusion to keep us shooting for those things, those people, those addresses, those vacations or those faces of children we’ve yet to meet. Maybe to make it, we must realize and accept, we never really will.

And if we can just rest assured that if we keep going, if we don’t surrender when the days are long and discouraging, if we don’t stop being our own biggest fan – then we can also realize that in the middle of our going and pushing, hustling and bustling – it really is okay to raise our pretty face up high, close our eyes, and embrace the serenity of the now.