You Haven’t Really Been Loved Yet

Feeling the warm water trickle over my feet, I closed my eyes and exhaled, trying to permanently capture this moment in my memory. I lost count of the blue stars above me, and for a second – I lost track of where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. The night burst into a million little white flames, circling and consuming everything I could see, all of what I could feel.

It’s so beautiful! I heard behind me in a few different languages and I whispered it to myself into the air – knowing no one could hear me, but hoping that someone, somewhere did. I can’t believe this is happening to me, I thought as I folded my arms against my chest, pushing sand further into my skin. A meteor shower just happens to happen the night I’m here. After a few failed attempts to take a photo, I gave in and decided it’d just have to be something I see for myself, without looking back at, without trying to show anyone else. This evening, this experience, it would be for me.

Are you okay? a sweet Spanish voice asked, as he reached for my hand. I smiled, tasting the salt on my lips, and told him in as many words as he and I both could understand, that yes, I was more than okay, I was amazing. He kindly wrapped his arms around me and we watched the magic unfold before us, and I thanked him for sharing it with me. After a few minutes, we noticed we were sinking into the ocean – standing still when you should be moving does that to you – and we walked with heavy feet and drunken grins back to the shore, as I wondered if I’d ruined my little black dress with all these tropical stains. I then realized I really don’t care.

So why did you come here alone? A beautiful girl, like you! Alone? I don’t believe it! he, the green-eyed, tall, Puerto Rican cardiologist that my new-found friends called after learning I was traveling solo. I explained for probably the hundredth time in the four days I was there, that I just needed to escape, that I wanted to try being by myself and that really, all I needed was more quiet and sun, less trains and delays. I then casually reminded him that right now, I wasn’t exactly alone. He leaned over and kissed me.

I let him.

Did you come here because you were sad? He asked while tracing imaginary lines up and down my slightly sunburned leg. I closed my eyes and wondered if honesty was the best policy, or if I could just continue kissing the heart doctor who lived to help others, but tonight, wanted to help me. I explained I was healing the organ he knew best, and that while I wasn’t exactly upset or depressed, I was releasing the girl I was to become the woman I wanted to be. Because only I would meet someone who cared about the feelings of a stranger he just met, he asked for the story, and I tried to sum up everything I could in a sentence or two.

You just haven’t really been loved yet.

He said matter-of-factually as he pulled me into him, and looked out into the vastness before us. Confused both by the statement and the tequila that was slightly starting to wear off, I considered what he said. How could this person, who I knew nothing about – not his age, not his last name, not his relationship status (though I hoped single for karma’s sake), not where he’s been or where he hopes to go, not anything – say something he, really, has no basis to claim? The only thing he knew of me was my name, that I write about love in New York, and I was getting over an impossible situation. Wrinkling my forehead, wanting him to stop running his sandy fingers through my hair, I felt anger brewing inside of me  – how could he say that I’ve never been loved?I’ve had how many relationships? I’ve said those delicately powerful three words to how many men? And all of those men have said it back. 

But all of those relationships have ended too, Linds, I considered. Sometimes because of me, other times because of them, and most of the time, because the combination was a little too much or a little too wrong. I’ve thought I’ve found it a few times, only to be proven that whatever it was, wasn’t really what I was looking for – or deserved. These men, the ones I write down in my personal history, the ones I gave myself to and shared portions of my life with, I’ve love endlessly. I’ve felt their love in return, or at least whatever fraction they could offer me at that time. Was this man right? This man who I was teetering between despising and wanting to invite to my two-room suite a few blocks away?

What do you mean? Why do you think that? I asked as I sat up. Look at those eyes, he said and touched my lips again. I pulled away and stared at him, really wanting to know the answer and refusing to let him use lust to distract me. In his best English, trying to make me comprehend, he said, When you’ve really been loved by someone, when that someone is good, they don’t let you get away. They make sure you know they love you, they do what’s best for you, even if it’s bad for them. They fight. When you’re really loved, it doesn’t end. 

Have you really been loved? I inquired, pensively. Not yet, but I hope to be one day, he replied with a crooked grin, begging me to stop talking to him with words, and find another way to communicate. I wasn’t sure if I agreed with him or if I thought he was full of crafty lines and reasons, but I spent the next few hours purposefully not trying to figure it out, and not saying much of anything.

When he left, we shared a kiss in the dark, and he said, Not everyone finds loveBut you will.

And you know, I think he’s right. Though I’ll never see him again – and I like that I won’t – I think he will too. I think we’ll both really be loved one day.

Much Ado About Nothing-Ness

As you read this, I’m somewhere in the country where it’s very quiet and neither my cell phone or my Wifi works.

Yep, y’all – I’ve apparently gone back to my roots, yet they seem to be stuck in the North instead of in the South where I thought I left them. Mr. Possibility and I have gone away for the long holiday weekend and as I sit here on Thursday, scheduling out blogs and attempting to pack for the mountainside where I’ll apparently be sipping something cold and fruity, my stomach is churning.

I always wanted to “go away” with a boyfriend. It had such a cache to it – just the two of us, somewhere not too far away, but far enough out of the city to escape the noise and New Yorky-smells. And yet, with a suitcase void of heels and cocktail dresses, fancy jewelry, or rouge of any sort, I’ve accepted that while I’m good at many things, relaxing isn’t one of them. This trip is supposed to be casual and cool, no expectations, no plans, no deadlines, no blog, no distractions, just nature and the sound of sweet stillness to put us to sleep early with full bellies and hearts at ease. It’s not about rushing or attending trendy events together or testing how far I can walk in six-inch heels on Manhattan sidewalks. Though that’s not as taxing as silence, if you ask me.

And I haven’t left yet, so maybe I’ll feel differently this time tomorrow when I’m being serenaded by crickets underneath a shiny blanket of stars – but right now, I’m a little worried. What will I do with all that….nothing-ness?

My mother, all of my friends, Mr. Possibility, and my boss all tell me I have to learn to relax. It’s a trait that I’ve never been able to master, though I admittedly haven’t really given it my best effort, either. I like having a million things to do, I like taking on time-consuming and demanding tasks (say, writing a blog every single day for a year, even when the country steals you away and you crank out four in one day), being really involved in things I’m passionate about, and never tiring of excelling in every avenue of my life. I love a full calendar, I love feeling busy, I love being able to fall right to sleep because I worked all day long. Because I used my brain, I used my body, I used my energy to put enthusiasm into all that I did. I’m the girl who goes-goes-goes and when it’s time to just stop, to breathe a little, to have a mini-vacation with her possibility, it’s a challenge.

I’m not sure why exactly I’m this way. Maybe in ten years, I’ll lose some of the ambition or that adrenaline that’s fueled me from a small town in Western North Carolina to one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Maybe children will slow me down or maybe I’ll decide to be one of those women whose responsibilities include brunching, serving as volunteer chair on a charity, and being the ideal Pilates student. Who knows. But my semi-tired bones aren’t interested in relaxing – they want to keep pushing.

Because when I relax, when I sleep in until the middle of the afternoon, when I take a night off from networking, mingling, and gym-ing – I feel lazy. I feel like I’m missing opportunities, I’m missing events, I’m missing the lifestyle that I moved to create, that I pay so much in rent to be a part of. Why waste it by spending time doing nothing? I feel guilty getting manicures or pedicures, buying facials or massages because the time I spent laying still, I could spend making waves or improving my life. I could write articles or pitch stories, volunteer more, meet more people, have more sex – and here I am, just being stationary?

Sigh.

But, perhaps I should give relaxing a shot. Even if I can’t pack anything glamorous or studded. Even if most of what’s in my designer red suitcase is cotton. Even if I’m not high maintenance and actually enjoy fishing and walking barefooted in the grass, yet would prefer to wear a cute dress while doing it. Even if Mr. Possibility probably has no idea what he’s getting himself into by taking me to the woods for a weekend…

…he just thought he was dating a true Southerner. Turns out, this girl is a little more New York than she (or anyone else) thought.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for my energy, my spirit, and the drive that always takes me a little bit too far. 

The Bird on the Subway

Without much warning at all, Spring has arrived in New York.

This season is so full of life: my favorite flower is in bloom, colorful raincoats and a bright spectrum are bursting from the back of makeshift-closets in makeshift-apartments, and the air just feels crisp. Even in the city, there is an undeniable freshness in the air, and as if New Yorkers are coming out of hibernation, everyone seems enlightened. Though it is a time of transition between the cold and the blistering hot, fellow inhabitants have been more inclined to make conversation about the changing temperatures, probably because weather is always an easy topic of interest to lead with or make meaningless conversation about. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier about the onset of a new season, apart from one thing this particular one brings:

Rain.

I’m lucky my hair is naturally pretty wavy if I let it air dry – but with the city humidity somehow doesn’t even compare to the sticky stench in the South, causing my locks to frizz and curl in embarrassing directions as soon as one drop hits the pavement. And then there are the careless cars and trucks that speed through intersections right past women like me who are silly enough to stand as close as possible to the other street before they cross it, causing splashes that actually drench you, unlike Carrie Bradshaw’s opening scene where she’s simply drizzled on.

But worse than the rest, the problem with a place already saturated with a high population is when the sky revels in rain, everyone thinks they need an umbrella. Even when it is merely misting, everyone will pay whatever they have to pay to find protection- what went for $3.50 will go for $10, and the merchants get excited to sell out when the clouds turn gray. So walking down the street, with or without a personal overhang becomes a nightmare of dodging and lifting, nodding to the person coming at you to see if they will go above or under, and praying you don’t lose an eye before heading underground.

Not rain’s greatest fan, I was more than happy to descend the subway steps into a passageway that would protect me from the soon-to-be-passerngers unsuccessfully managing their rain-only accessories. Standing near the doors, reading this week’s New York mag, I attempted to flatten my hair and stand somewhat tall for the ten stops uptown to my gym. Leaving Times Square, the indicating sound of doors closing and opening ended and as if I was driving the curvy roads in my hometown, I heard a bird chirping. The sweet song caught me off guard – I can’t remember the last time I could hear a feathery-friend’s lyrics– I looked up from reading and met the eye of a mid-aged woman sitting across from me. Her expression, much like mine was of stunned delight paired with frank confusion, and we both turned our ears toward the sound, where we noticed we were not the only ones who noticed this unfamiliar voice.

Before I had a moment to examine the cart, near the ceiling, a little wren flew past me. Everyone on the subway, except for those drowned by their iPods, noticed this unusual straphanger and watched it go. Aware I didn’t know the first thing about capturing a bird or luring it out of anything, much less a moving train, I sat still intently observing, and hoped someone would help free it. As we approached 50th street, a few red-line riders stopped people from getting in and within a few seconds that felt like hours, the wren discovered an opening and made its escape.

It was difficult to go back to reading about Wall Street after semi-meeting the wren – as MTA doesn’t usually allow birds to have Metro cards. Because it was so unexpected, yet such a lovely thing to behold, I found myself identifying with the bird on the subway. This sounds as crazy to me to type as it does for you to read, but like a fish out of water, a bird in a subway just doesn’t quite go with the status quo or nature’s way.

And while I’ve finally mastered the transit system without having to Google (much) and I’m able to get recommendations to restaurants and unknown gems I’ve actually been entertained at (a few anyways), a lot of the time, I feel like a bird in the subway – still unsure of how this city is growing on me. I have friends who have been here for a handful of years, some who have never known any other address, and a couple who are ready to leave – and they each remind me that I’ll come to learn things about this place the longer I’m here. I’m told I’ll be jaded, I’ll discover why New York is notorious for its difficult mating , eh – I mean dating scene, I’ll figure out the parts to avoid, and I’ll stop doing things in the Southern tradition or with the same uninhabited optimism that I still mainly lead my life with.

I do get asked for directions on the street, but I wouldn’t say I look the part of a New Yorker, and I know I don’t play it. My friend and co-worker J, encourages me to buy more black every time we go shopping at lunch; my friend E’s famous words are “wait until you’ve been here five years, then we’ll talk“; and my friend K continues to amaze me with her endless knowledge and experiences of dining and dating – both things I’m discovering I have a lot to learn about. Manhattan isn’t on a pedestal anymore – it is a real, physical place, that feels much more like home than North Carolina – though I’ve always thought the term “home” consists of where the people you love the most are. Luckily for me, I follow e.e. cumming’s advice and I carry all the hearts I need in my own heart, so I can make a home anywhere.

And this city is home but maybe it hasn’t made a home with me yet. Maybe it’s still letting me fly through the carts, discovering what I can, determining which stop is my stop, and finding my way out of places that don’t suit me – with a little assistance from those who can open doors I can’t. Maybe time isn’t a measure of adapting or accepting where you are in your life, emotionally or determined by the U.S. Census, but sometimes it takes a few rainfalls to free yourself from all that was holding you back, and sing your own sweet song on the streets.

And not politely as a Southerner would do, but at whatever pitch and tempo you preferred, at whatever hour of the night, regardless of who was or wasn’t watching, like a New Yorker who’s more concerned with the stride of the city than those who think she’s out-of-place. When in fact, she’s exactly where she needs to be…for now.

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.

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