Could I Be Happy?

Last night, as I was picking up groceries that make up my diet – orange juice, humus, grapes, bananas, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate – I was forced to wait in a ridiculously long line. The grocery store by my current apartment is new and attracts customers from dozens of blocks away, and therefore, is always crowded. I usually don’t mind – it gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop and people watch.

Curving around the escalator, I noticed a good-looking man in front of me. He looked early to mid-30’s, was well-dressed and groomed, and had a simple basket full of good food and good beer. Not really inclined to say much of anything to anyone, when he looked back and shared a grin with me, I returned one, and then took my eyes in a different direction. A few moments later, as I casually looked his way again – a family had appeared. His arm was around a lanky young boy in soccer clothes, and a pretty curly-haired blonde in boots was laughing with a little girl whose face mirrored her’s.

The children had been in the bakery, picking out the one sweet treat they are allowed to have with their mom, and when they returned – so did the light in the man’s face. As the kids were somehow entertaining themselves with a display of sugar cookies (seeing who could reach the top), the man leaned over and kissed the side of his wife’s face, and as she probably has since they met, she warmly laughed, and looked into his eyes. They were about the same height but she looked tiny next to him and their body language was so easy and so loving, I noticed the others behind me watching them too.

As any child would do, the brother and sister duo returned, begging for cookies on top of their goody from the bakery. The man automatically dismissed their pleas but mom chimed in by teasing, “But Dad, they are peanut butter. Your favorite.” Blushing at what seemed like an inside joke, he agreed they were his top pick, and allowed the kids to have them – under the condition that they couldn’t have eat any tonight. At 8 p.m., I thought that was a smart decision on his part, having baby-sitted and mistakenly given sugar way too late. Excited, the siblings returned to pick out the best dozen, and mom teased again asking, “But I want one tonight, can I have one tonight?” Dad wrapped his arms around her waist, squeezed her hand, and in a sweet-and-sexy tone promised, “Oh yes, you can have one tonight.

I had zoned in so deeply to their conversation and watching the family interact, that I hadn’t noticed my arm had fallen asleep holding a heavy basket, or that I was next in line. Minutes later after selecting debit and thanking a cashier that didn’t say anything to me, I walked the two blocks back to my packed-up apartment and for the first time, in a long time, I felt sad.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy with my life. My weeks are spent writing articles and blogs, attending events and happy hours, trying new foods and neighborhoods, and spending time with friends I love and a Mr. Possibility I adore. Soon, I’ll be able to run in Central Park and this summer is filled with trips I’m counting down to, and within a few weeks, I’ll move into a new place on this island. My life is constantly in transition, I have more freedom than I know what to do with, and much of the beauty of my 20s is that they are unplanned, unknown, and uninhibited.

I’ve spent 203 posts – or 203 days – reaching this point of content. Of being ale to feel secure in my single shoes, of not feeling like a man is the end-all-be-all to my existence, of not feeling incomplete without admiration from the opposite sex. I’ve developed a security in myself and should Mr. Possibility and his many possibilities walk away tomorrow, I would be upset, but I would be fine. His presence isn’t the most important component of my life, it’s just a bright one. I’m no longer defined by a man and I don’t feel this incredibly intoxicating urge to be in a relationship or to be reminded of how wonderful I am by a guy. I think I’m pretty great without someone telling me, as I should – I’ve worked hard and loved long to get to where I am.

So why did I feel sad after witnessing a healthy, engaging, and adjusted family? Why did it leave a poor taste in my mouth and make me feel like my life was hollow – filled with boozing and blasé brunching? Even though I know I’m nowhere close to wanting or being prepared for marriage and children, why did I instantly want both of those responsibility-ridden things in that moment?

Well, because I want them. One day, that is. And while I can push at the American dream and work as hard as I can to raise myself up from my heelstraps, move to the city I always knew I belonged in, and go on countless amazing and awful dates – I cannot control success in love. Or in creating a family.

And maybe that’s what is the hardest about being single – the lack of control. Even if you do all of the right things, find a peace inside yourself, and love the life you lead – if you want children and you want to get married one day, you want it. It isn’t something you can or you should change, it is just part of who you are – encoded in a DNA that few understand. And if we observe the world around us, the women who have found it and the women who have not, we realize which category we’d like to end up in. Sure, happiness isn’t defined by if you get Cartier or if you are able to produce offspring, and there are splendors a career can give that nothing else can match -but for me, and the life I hope to have, I don’t want to kiss or be kissed goodnight by my byline forever.

The question is – if I’m not among the lucky who finds someone they can tolerate and agree to share a bed and bathroom sink with until death parts us, or if I can’t carry a baby or afford to adopt or if my eggs becoming infertile by the time I become ready for that chapter – then what?

Can I still be happy? As satisfied and blessed I feel to be where I am today – miles and miles away from needing to even worry or think about such things – I can’t answer that question. I’d like to think I could find happiness anywhere with anything – but I also know that I wouldn’t want to do it without anyone. I’d rather have a someone and few little somethings.

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Pasta for One

They say you’re given signs in strange ways to let you know you’re on the right path.

For me, apparently, all it took was a box of $1.50 pasta.

Going into this journey, I wasn’t sure if the process would work. I knew I could write about it. I knew I could talk about it. I knew I could actually do it (or I at least hoped) – but for the whole idea to produce results…I had no clue.

Slowly and gradually, I’ve noticed subtle changes in the way I think and the way I talk to myself. I’ve noticed a little bit more confidence and a little less negativity. I’ve noticed different feelings and different approaches and a kinda-different me.

But yesterday, I noticed a sincere transformation…without even trying.

After a very wonderful 40-minute run at the gym (beat my time!) and a lovely nighttime talk with my parents, I headed towards my neighborhood grocery store to buy what I had been thinking about all day: spinach and garlic pasta. Smothered in butter, garlic, and olive oil. Yummm.

I admired the sight and the smell of the barrels of apples on the way in (amazed they put them outside), took a sample of a cheesecake as I passed (hurried actually) by the bakery, and then headed down the escalator for some pasta and spinach.

I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing, stopping to smell the flowers on the stand, taking a double look at the produce, and as I approached the spinach – I about ran right into a handsome stranger reaching for the leafy-greens too.

We both said “Excuse me!” and smiled, and then continued studying what we would like. I figured out which one fit my fancy before he did and I politely scooped past him to head to the aisle over. I didn’t really think too much of the encounter (I did turn around to check out his backside…just because I could) and quickly got distracted by the cookies calling my name.

As I was deciding if I wanted cinnamon, chocolate chip, or sugar, I noticed the same guy walk by out of the corner of my eye as he passed the aisle. Again, I didn’t pay extreme attention to his presence, but then, he stopped and came by the aisle just as I was reaching for my cookies (I went with cinnamon, if you’re wondering). We both laughed and shared a smile as he went by me. He turned red, grabbed a box of something, grinned again, and walked away.

At this point, I’m flattered and intrigued, but not too worried about it. I continued my shopping and then headed upstairs to checkout. I crossed by the sushi bar and again, barely out of my sight I saw the same dark haired, dark-eyed, and handsome stranger in the green jacket buying some meat in the deli.

I got in line and then looked back at him again. My mind started to read into things a little bit, “He is very cute. He is in my sight. I mean, basically he is right in front of me. We ran into each other twice. Not just once, but two times. That means something…maybe? That’s a romantic way to meet The One, right?”

I looked around at the line, which was quickly wrapping itself around the middle of the floor. “If I get out now, how long will I have to wait? I still have Dancing with the Stars and Desperate Housewives to catch up on. And my spinach pasta! I mean…I’m in workout clothes. But hey, it’s spandex. And he is cute…”

I tried to think about if I had business cards or what I would say. I didn’t really need any meat, but should I pass up on this opportunity? What if I never see him again?

And then, I snapped out of it. He’s just a guy. He’s a guy I’ve never heard his voice before. He’s just some guy getting some groceries. He isn’t worth losing my spot in line, delaying my pasta, or making me nervous.

So I didn’t do anything. I turned right back around, waited in line, and bought my groceries. I hit the streets and didn’t look back once.

As I walked home, I realized that I had taken the pressure off myself in an instant. I talked myself back down to reality, out of the love-addict mentality, and moved on. I wasn’t upset or disappointed (as I shouldn’t have been) that he didn’t come chasing after me – I just accepted the random multi-meeting as just that.

When I returned to my apartment, I was so at peace, so excited, and just content with where I was in my life. Of course, my apartment is smaller than most Manhattan cubicles and I’m not living in luxury – but I do have myself. And this gal is making some progress in her love-seeking madness. And this gal is fine – regardless of any handsome stranger or chance encounter happens or not.

After all, sometimes, pasta for one just simply hits the spot.