7 Things I Do Everyday to Be Happier

I went on a date on Sunday… with my literary agent.

If you could see me right now, you would see a grin ear-to-ear, and if you could get inside my heart, you’d feel it beating frantically out of its chest. There are very few words to describe just how happy – and excited and thankful! – I feel to have someone actively trying to turn this little ‘ole blog of mine into a book. (When it happens, you will all be the first to know, I promise!)

Even so, I was nervous to meet him (and afraid he wouldn’t like me) – but my gut was right: it was two hours of constant rapport, brainstorming and storytelling. And then he said something that just about made me cry:

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Where the Happiness Is

Though it seems so anticlimactic and uninteresting compared to every other attraction in New York, one of my favorite things to show visitors is the subway system. Sure it’s often gross and rat-infested, but if you’ve spent your entire life driving from point A to point B, the ability to hop on a train and arrive at your destination is liberating. Also, while I’m used to the sudden stops and the jerking (and sometimes, twerking by other passengers), visitors are fascinated – and sometimes frightened – by the ways of the MTA.

So when my parents made the trek from North Carolina to Manhattan to spend Christmas with me, I couldn’t wait to get my pops on the downtown train the very first night:

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He was impressed by how easy transportation was (told you so) but he also was avidly reading the advertisements, something that I’m rarely inclined to do because I’m tuned into my Kindle or headphones. After putting on his glasses and focusing, he noticed an ad about “Finding Happiness” and pointed it out to me:

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Hey Linds, look. Have you ever gone to the school of philosophy?” He asked, expecting me to know everything there is to know about New York and all that it offers. I shook my head in response and my mom turned her attention up and said, “Yeah Linds, you should do that. That looks really interesting!”

I had no intention, really, to sign up for this class.

I took philosophy in college and while I enjoyed my professor, I found everyone in the class far too argumentative and annoying. I thought Plato and Socrates were interesting, but as soon as I passed with a shining gold star, I forgot most of what I learned. And yet, something told me to check out the website and just see what it was all about.

And there, in the course syllabus, I found all of the things that I’ve been wondering about lately:

  • How can we increase the power of attention and realize our full potential?
  • When awareness and attention are open, how far can we see?
  • Where is Beauty? What is beauty itself?
  • What can be done about the negativity that limits our awareness and happiness?
  • How can we wake up more often during the day?

After a year of hardship, what I most wanted was what the advertisement offered me: happiness. Not from a guy, not from a job, not from my friends or my family (or my dog) but from something inside of me. I was very close to registering, but had some doubts, until I saw that for the first time ever, the School of Practical Philosophy was offering a $10 introductory course in honor of their 50th Anniversary.

Sold.

A month later when classes started, I was sure I’d walk into a room of 40-years-old-and-up philosophers and stick out like a sore thumb with my youth and lack of wisdom. But when I walked into the class, I was surprised to find classmates all my age, give or a take. There were a few middle-aged, but mostly, it was a younger crowd, full of opinions and ideas and ways of looking at the city, at the world, at life.

And for the first time – in a very, very long time – I was completely tuned into a lecture. I took notes. I brainstormed. I tried meditating (I’m bad at it, but improving). I found myself captivated by stories and discussions by strangers a few seats down. I wasn’t worrying about work or a man, my need to lose 5 pounds or my running pace. I didn’t think about what I really want tomorrow to bring or what I definitely regret in my past. I didn’t think about my never-ending to-do list or my need to compete with myself day-in-and-day-out.

I was just present. And it felt so empowering.

This Saturday was my third philosophy class, and I almost didn’t make it. I was out later than anticipated because of a particularly great second date (more about that later, promise) and didn’t feel like I slept much at all when 9 a.m. called. I considered skipping it – it’s not like I’m graded and it did only cost me a Hamilton. But after I snoozed for 10 more minutes and then shot out of bed, desperate to get the class that made me feel rejuvenated for the weekend and week ahead.

I grabbed coffee and then hailed a cab, striking up conversation with the cab driver, per my philosophy homework: what would the wise woman do? In every situation, petition the wiser voice about what the best, calmest, happiest version of yourself would do – and in that moment, the wise Lindsay thought she should meant listen to the cabbie tell his life story. He moved from Haiti. He became a special needs teacher in Queens. He got a divorce. He decided to drive a handicapped-taxi on the weekends to make extra money. He decided to live his life believing in himself first, having patience and always helping others.

There are so many things I’m not patient about and I worry will never happen. The right job, the right guy, the life I want, I told him.

I came here in 1985 – you weren’t even born yet, were you? he asked.

No, not yet. I admitted.

I never doubted that I would make a difference. I was always positive. Whatever will be yours is already yours. You just have to be positive. You have to believe more than anyone else, he advised with a big smile.

I left a big tip and headed inside, with only a minute to 10 o’clock. And as I opened my notebook to look at the homework for week three, I found myself in complete disbelief: take everything you see and everyone you meet as a teacher. What can you learn from them?

I grinned up at the front of the classroom, knowing that for whatever reason, philosophy was teaching me to be a wise, wise woman with more kindness in her thoughts, and more trust in her heart. It’s teaching me to live in the present, where every little magical thing actually lives.

Where the happiness is.

And all because of that smelly, jam-packed subway and the ad that I never bothered to read until right when I needed to see it. It’s funny how fate works, isn’t it?

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here.

What’s Age Got to Do With It?

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about age. Some people in my life are celebrating it gracefully, some really don’t care at all, and others are fighting it tooth-and-nail.

I fall into the oblivious category. I’ve never given much thought to how old I am and once 21 came and left, birthdays haven’t been that celebratory, except for an excuse to gather all of my friends together and pretend calories don’t count for an entire day…or week, sometimes.

Because I’ve never been one to make excuses for myself because I’m young or believe I’m too inexperienced to accomplish what I want to accomplish or go where I want to go, I’ve never made my age part of my opinion of myself. At fifteen, I had my first internship, I graduated college a few months after reaching the legal drinking age, and I interned in New York, without knowing anyone for three months at 19. I’ve dated guys my age, ten years older than me, and a year young than me. My friends range from freshmen in college to early 40s and I get along with them all the same. For all intents and purposes in my life, my age has been just a number based on the day I was born, not by my maturity level or experience.

But with a dear friend turning 30 today, I’ve found myself thinking more about what age has to do with it.

As a child, being in my twenties seemed like it would be so glamorous – I’d be a real adult. I’d have my own place. I wouldn’t have to listen to my parents. I would be able to walk around in pretty dresses and high heels and I’d actually have that curvy figure I always wanted. I would make real money and could buy whatever I wanted. I would work at some fancy magazine or The New York Times and people would love my articles and I’d be admired and filthy rich. I would go out on dates and I’d meet the man who made my dreams come true and we’d live happily ever after, in a beautiful home following an exquisite wedding, and we’d be happy for all the rest of our days.

Needless to say – my twenties haven’t been quite as rose-colored as I imagined them being and they are far from fabulously sensational, most of the time.

I don’t have my own place, but I rent with three other lovely girls and through mid-May, I’m sharing Mr. P’s place. I don’t have to listen to my ma and pop, but I take their advice closer to heart than anyone else’s. I do walk around in flowy and tight dresses with heels, but I also know the pain of frolicking on my tippy-toes and the reality that most of the clothes I want the most, I simply can’t afford. I do have the figure I hoped I would, but like most women, it is never quite up to the intolerable standards of beauty I’ve set for myself. I don’t quite work at a prestigious magazine and I’m far from qualified (or talented enough) to work for The Times, but I have no doubt my career will continue to excel. I have gone on dozens of dates, some dreamy and some quite the contrary. I’m not engaged or married and thrilled about it.

Maybe my expectations of what this age, this decade would look like were far-fetched and idealized, and though before I knew what being a 20-something was all about, I thought I wanted that picture-perfect existence. I wanted all those ducks-in-a-row and my future settled in stone by 25. But maybe that’s the thing about expectations, you expect to want something until you get there, and then you discover while your expectations weren’t met, you’re glad they weren’t. Though I thought I wanted more of the Upper East Side, heavy left-hand life in New York with bylines on demand, I’m enjoying my Upper West Side barehanded and constantly challenging city journey in ways my dreams could never predict.

Turning 30 doesn’t freak me out and I’m not sure I have a scary age, as some do. What I have about my thirties are the same ill-conceived notions I had about my current age, so how can I tell how I’ll feel about the decade change until I’m  actually there?

What I can say, though, is while there are certain things I’d like to do by then, certain people I’d like to meet, and certain places I’d like to add to my traveling Rolodex, if my twenties have taught me anything so far, if those things don’t happen, if I don’t meet those people, if my passport doesn’t get those stamps – I’m sure I’ll be fine. And more than likely, I’ll be better than fine, but happy.

Because when it comes to learning to accept the place you are in your life, wherever that may be, with or without someone by your side, and find happiness in what you have instead of what you wish for – age has nothing to do with it. But maybe if you’re lucky, the older you get, the more comfortable you grow in your skin, and the happier you find yourself because while aging is inevitable, finding happiness isn’t. It’s a choice you have to make all on your own – at 20, at 30, at 40, and every decade that you’re blessed enough to reach.

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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.