Love Won’t Give Up on Me

As I smiled over cheap red wine and city lights, I chatted with a rather short endearing business man, and thought about Mr. Possibility.

We’re not speaking and I don’t really care to talk to him at this time – but he had just left me a voicemail and I heard his words lingering in my mind. Breaking up is tough, but really, I don’t think it’s as life-altering as Adele often makes it sound (though I do love the gal). I don’t find myself mourning the relationship as much as I miss the friendship. After an extended time, partners are of course lovers, but they also become our very best friend. They are the person you share the most intimate details of your life and your body with. Everything and everyone else hears the same stories, but they almost seem to have more value when you share it with someone you love. Part of the beauty – and the appeal – of a relationship is that you can come as you are, fall apart as you wish, and you still have someone to nestle into your neck at the end of the night.

But cuddling isn’t a reason to stay with someone, especially if to be spooned, you must spoon away parts of yourself to make room for all the mess they bring, I reminded myself as the businessman asked me about what I do and where I live. These are the most tiresome and common questions in New York, my friend M says, and I’m starting to agree. Small talk may be insignificant but it’s also exhausting, especially when you’re just not in the mood to connect with anyone. It’s too soon and for the first time – maybe ever – I have no desire to meet anyone. I’m enjoying and reveling in the time I have alone to really start doing the things I want and becoming the person I moved to New York to be. Single is as single does, and for me, it’s the perfect state to embrace right now.

But like any other person that has blood running through their veins, I still think about love. And for a few days after the final demise of our relationship, it made me incredibly sad to think about a thing that often appears so far-fetched. We all enter relationships with this hope that they will ultimately be the relationship. Casual dating is fun but at a certain point, age and mindset, we stop picking men we know are entirely wrong for us and we look for a stroke of special in the mates we mate with. But really, only one relationship actually works out – the rest teach us how to mend our broken spirits and they teach us what we really value in a person. All the Mr. Wrongs have brought both joy and tragedy, magic and misery, passion and pain to my life, and as the love comes to a close, it’s always up to me to decide how I want to process those varying emotions.

In the past, my first reaction was to declare I”ve given up on love. In an effort to strip my heart of any lingering memories or feelings, I’d drown myself in champagne and cheap conversation by dancing with boys in bars just so they’d buy me a drink. I’d write and spew hateful truths (or white lies) about the man who stepped all over my dignity and I’d position him in the part of my brain reserved for only things I despised. I’d yell and scream in the privacy of my own home, cry my eyes out until there was nothing left to escape. I’d foolishly call my ex continuously, hoping that they’d feel an ounce of the torture I felt like I was going through. I’d become instantly jealous of everyone I knew who seemed to have their love life together and I’d stop listening to love songs, just so I wouldn’t have to be reminded of what I thought I had but really didn’t.

Sure, this time, I could give up on love – but love won’t give up on me.

It’s still there when I see a random act of kindness on the subway when a teenager gives up his seat for an elderly woman. It’s there when one of the kids I volunteer with smiles so brightly at a job well done that my heart swells in admiration. It’s there when I see an older man block off the rest of the passengers on the bus so his wife, with a cane and a limp, can get off at her own pace. It’s there when the city surprises me with its ease and when a handsome man doing his laundry holds his glance at me a bit longer while trying to conceal a crooked smile. It’s there when I Skype with my parents and still, after all these years, they still make each other laugh. It’s there in the comfort of my friends, that no matter what I do or how ridiculous I may be, stand by me with umbrellas and cheer, reminding me of all the city I have left to discover and all the people I’ve yet to meet.

And so, even though it’s let me down countless times and probably will continue to for years to come, I choose love. I choose to focus on the things, the people, the places and the experiences that remind me of the goodness in my life. I choose to release the negativity and the hurt that comes with a difficult breakup and set my sights on the higher road I’ve decided to take. I choose to not lose too much sleep or too many tears over Mr. Possibility, for his purpose in my life has been fulfilled and has now ended. I choose to believe in the moments where the world seems beautiful instead of those dark hours when it appears impossible.

And most importantly, I choose to never let anyone or anything cause me to give up on love. Because as long as I decide to fill my heart with love, there will be no room for anything else.

A Lesson in Unlearned Helplessness

In a sociology class I took in college, we discussed the theory of learned helplessness. Basically, it’s the notion that we mimic what we see portrayed or illustrated to us. In the context of the course, the lecture was specifically directed toward learned helplessness in women. We see damsels in distress on television, we see knight-and-shining-armor-like male characters rescue them from their sadness, and then we believe by being needy we’ll attract the guy we want.

I see this time and time again, and I’ve probably been guilty of the same “help me!” tactic in past relationships. There’s something about being upset and then being comforted by anyone – man or friend – that seems normal. Sometimes it even feels good. But the older I’ve become and the more men I’ve dated that were far more helpless than I’ll ever be at any given point in my life, the more independence I have claimed.

Well, until today when Mr. Possibility experienced his first unexpected summer storm. And unluckily for him, with my hands on the wheel.

Returning from The Biltmore, wind, rain, hail, and lighting encompassed the Carolina sky and we watched the cars on the highway slow and some pull off to wait it out. I’m not a fan of driving due to a scary accident I had in high school and torrential weather only intensifies my fear because it reminds me of how it feels to be out of control of your vehicle. Stuck in traffic on the expressway where everyone else was going at the same speed, I didn’t freak out. He kept quiet, I stayed focused and I felt comfortable enough to get us off at the right exit.

But then my nerves got the best of me. On the older, uneven country roads plagued with flood plains, the water rose to the top of my tires and with the inclination I could hydroplane, I almost burst into tears.

“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!” I repeated continuously while gripping the steering wheel,  keeping my eyes peeled for wrecks ahead, and prepping myself for a disaster myself. Instead of consoling me or getting me out of the situation, Mr. Possibility calmly encouraged me to breathe, to keep moving, to not brake and assured me I could get through it. When we hit the next overgrown puddle, I returned to my “Oh my god” chorus and again, he let me know that this was in my hands, that I could do it and that this was all me. He even threw in a “Can’t Tigar do anything?” pep talk for good humor.

You could guess I was highly unamused.

Once we pulled over into a parking lot after a firetruck kept us from going any further because part of the road was underwater, I snapped at him: “Why didn’t you just comfort me? Why didn’t you just say ‘Baby, you’re fine. I’ll handle this, just pull over and get out’?” He reached across the car, placed his hand on my knee and asked, “Well didn’t you handle it?”

I nodded.

“And aren’t we safe because of you?”

I again nodded.

“You didn’t need me to comfort you. You didn’t need me to make you get out and let me drive. You could do it just fine on your own and you did.”

It took me a while to cool down, still convinced he should have just rescued me from the awful storm so I could crawl into the passengers side, curl up and hide my face from the ugliness outside. But once we pulled into the driveway and I finally exhaled an hour later, I realized he was right. I didn’t actually need him. If he had not been in the car, I would have been fine – I would have just said the same things to myself that he said to me.

So why did I suddenly feel helpless? Is it because we’re conditioned to give up and surrender when a man is in our presence? If a guy is by our side, do we throw away any gumption we had without them? Or is it just easier to tell someone else to do something, to get through the nitty-gritty instead of doing it ourselves? Instead of correcting what’s wrong with us or embracing our fears with courage?

A few hours later when I needed something out of our rental car (that luckily wasn’t damaged from the hail), I started to ask him to run outside and get it because it was still raining. As the words slipped out of my mouth and he asked where the keys were, I quickly excused him from the duty. Will I melt in water? No.

And I don’t really need Mr. Possibility – or any man that’s a possibility. I just kinda of want him – maybe that’s partly because he reminds me that helplessness isn’t part of who I am. And that if you can learn it, you can unlearn it, too.

A Little Piece of My Heart

Barely a month after I got my license at 16, I hydroplaned on a rainy Wednesday morning, lost control of my shiny red 1996 Chevy Cavalier (with a spoiler!), and flipped into a ditch. When I realized in a split second I wouldn’t be able to get my car back on track, I removed my hands from the wheel, covered my face, and prayed: “Dear Lord, Please don’t let me die.”

The next thing I remember, I’m sitting on the ceiling of my car in the passenger seat, purse on my shoulder, and feeling the urge to get out as fast as I could. All of the windows were smashed in, except for the driver’s side windshield and side window. I crawled out, taking a jagged piece of glass in my wrist on the way, stood before my car, the rain pouring, and put my hands on top of my head. I saw blood leaking down my arm, thought it was my head bleeding and furiously started searching for the wound. I couldn’t find one, and as I watched my tires still spinning, heard Michelle Branch still playing, I wondered if the new tank of gas I just put in would cause my car to explode. I then thought I may want to run away. My high school was less than a mile away, I could just go to class.

Unable to cry, dial my phone, or have a conscious, collected thought, I felt alone on the country road and unsure of what to do. It was then that a woman approached me. I don’t know her name – I’m not convinced she actually exists – but she came up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and asked me if I was okay. I told her what happened and she started making phone calls to 911, and helped me dial my parents, thinking they’d rather hear my voice than a stranger’s concerning the circumstance.

She then covered my head in her jacket, walked me to her parked car where it was warm, and started asking me questions. She inquired about the career I was interested in pursuing, the university I would be attending, what sports I played, what my plans were for Thanksgiving since it was the next day, and made me apply pressure to my wrist. It seemed like I talked to her for hours, listening to soothing music, and hearing her chat about her life, though I couldn’t tell you anything she said. Soon, my best friend happened to drive by (it was the road to school, after all), and I ran to meet her and we cried together – remembering all of the times we whipped around curvy road without hesitation. The ambulance showed up, the firefighters, and the police. My parents greeted me with watering eyes and smiles bigger than the State because I had survived, though my car would never be driven again.

By the time I calmed down enough to understand the kindness the woman showed me, I turned back to find her car and she was gone. No one remembers her there and my phone had “911” dialed from it when I looked in my history. But I can see her face. I can hear her voice. I remember the smell of her car and the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement below as someone directed traffic outside the window. My mother calls her my guardian angel, but I’m not exactly sure what she is or was.

The only thing I’m certain of is that whoever she is, she changed my life.

I took a tiny piece of my car with me that day. I still have it. It reminds me that our time here is limited. It could change, it could end, it could be over without notice. And it keeps me motivated to volunteer consistently. Since that day, November 23 to be exact, I created a community service club at my high school called SOUL: Serving Other Under Love, that’s still active today. I joined my campus’ community service center, serving as a peer counselor and as part of the leadership and service residential living community. When I moved to New York, I joined New York Cares within a few months, and now lead the Young Authors Club in Chelsea. I also participated in charity events through my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, and I run 5Ks and participate in other events when I can.

It wasn’t that she volunteered her time that morning to help a scared teenager, but that she gave a little piece of her heart. And really, I think that’s what volunteering is all about. It’s being generous enough with yourself to give a bit of yourself to someone who needs it. To someone who, regardless if they know it or not, craves compassion. I was lucky enough to survive crashing my car into a ditch and if I’m able to walk, to speak, to live my life fully – I should be living it to help someone else.

Perhaps she wasn’t a real person and maybe she really is sent from the heavens. I don’t know and it doesn’t quite matter because I still think of her often, especially on nights like tonight, when the group of volunteers, parents, and children celebrated a successful year of writing with story sharing and pot lucking. The smiles on the children’s faces, the pride the volunteers felt, and the love that circulated the room – that’s why I will forever aim to be a humanitarian, and one day if I can afford it, a philanthropist. Because no matter how insignificant the contribution,it  is a contribution in itself, even if it just shelter from the rain and smooth jazz tunes at 8 a.m., it’s enough to shape the life of a stranger…forever. And, for the better.

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

I lay in bed, alone; listening to the rain hit the streets below. It is the middle of the night and the slight light from the tall lamps below peek through the shades, creating squared shadows across the blanket covering me.

He couldn’t sleep, so he retired to the living room to catch up on some paperwork for his job. It isn’t one he cares for or one that brings him happiness, but it dictates the majority of his thoughts and nearly all of his worries. Before he left the bed close to 3 a.m., he rolled over and kissed my forehead, thinking I was asleep and trying to be careful not to wake me.

But I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t been able to for days.

It isn’t him. Everything about what we share is ideal for where we are in this relationship. He is gracious and kind, funny and inviting. He stands by me, and while life may be ripe with complication, there is nothing complicated about the time we spend together. It is fluid, gentle, and unhurried –similar to the way we continue to connect. I’m happy in a way I haven’t been happy in a long time, and for the first time, I haven’t defined myself by my relationship status. I’m proud of myself and committed to investigating all that could be…but something is missing. Something in me, not in us.

I haven’t been able to find peace. I’m not seeking it in his arms or in this bed that I’m laying unaccompanied. I’m not looking for it in my bylines or in my success. I’m not asking my friends how to find it or where true peace comes from or if it is even possible.

But isn’t it possible?

I’ve met those people – those who are just satisfied and content. There is no better word to describe them than peaceful: they exude an energy that is intoxicatingly calming that you crave their company because it puts you at ease. They are the ones who were called a “breath of fresh air” on their elementary report cards, and the ones who were so comfortable being who they are, it made you wondered why you doubt yourself at all. They are the ones in the working world who gracefully cascade through the office in seamless outfits; pairing the most mismatched items into something so beautiful you can’t help but watch them as they walk. And when they talk, their sentences are soft and subtle, not loud enough to hear from far away, but enough to make you lean into them, as to not miss a word.

Peeking out the window, hoping he didn’t come to check on me as I sat in his windowsill, pressed up against the glass with his Ralph Lauren sheets wrapped around me, I wondered how I could become that person. The type of person that doesn’t make excuses for herself, who is calm and confident, collected, and true to herself. Someone who isn’t full of worry and anticipation, who is always hungry for change, and desperate to be more, to be better. Being driven and ambitious has its perks, but it often leaves me disappointed when what I think is mine, doesn’t turn out to be. Or what I work so hard for, doesn’t come to be when I want it to.

If I was more peaceful, maybe I’d accept life for what it was, instead of what I want it to be. I’ve accepted peace can’t be found in any man, including the one I can hear attempting to be quiet, though not succeeding as well as he thinks he is. I’ve accepted it can’t be found in my job, though fulfilling, will never be all that I am, nor should it be.

I keep accepting, but I’m still not sleeping. I keep believing I will find freedom from being too hard on myself or not giving myself enough credit or valuing what I have instead of continuously desiring more, but I’m still anxious.

I keep praying, but I’m not finding my peace. Where are you, peaceful, easy feeling, and why can’t I feel you?

The Plane Will Take Flight

There’s an old story about a person who wakes up to a blaring alarm clock, stubs his/her toe on the bedpost, runs into the chair haphazardly displaced in the middle of the living room, and steps into the shower, only to find the hot water is not-so-hot. And though this person has only been awake a matter of minutes, the rest of their day will follow in the same format: profanity hidden under deep, exhausted and frustrated sighs of angst.

And nothing about this 24-hour period will be rectifiable. Everything is unquestionably shot to hell and while it may be the only March 23, 2011 that will ever be, to me –damned it be.


I didn’t stub or bump into anything and the shower held up to its steamy standards – but I woke up yesterday in a panic, due to an odd dream. I won’t go into details because I’m still not sure what I think and the fact that my mind can conjure such ironic concepts and scenarios without my consciousness is rather freaky. Anyways – a moment before my cell phone attempted to wake me, I shot up in bed, eyes wide-open, and hoped I didn’t wake the possibility who was possibly still sleeping next to me.

Thirty minutes later at the unforgiving eighth hour, I rushed to catch the train and found myself appalled at the weather New York was entertaining. I mean, less than a week ago I had effortlessly eaten dinner outside in a wrap dress without a sweater and without pantyhose. But now, as I ascended from above ground to the underground metro maze, I watched the sleet, hail, and snow mix disappear out the window and thought the only word to describe the day’s conditions was disgusting.

Though work was at its normal, dependable pace, and the magazine’s press due date on Friday is quickly approaching, I didn’t find myself stressed. Something about working on a deadline actually gets me working harder than I normally do (probably why journalism is a great career for me), and when everyone else is buzzing with productivity, it makes it easier to stay focused.

However, as the hours passed, I noticed my downward mood. No matter how many positive things happened or how my soul felt a certain sense of happiness – I couldn’t shake an overwhelming feeling of sadness. You know – one of those emotions you can’t deny and derives from a place that makes everything else tender? Right in the pit of my gut and the center of my heart was a pang of awful ache that matched the weather stirring outside.

As I looked up the proper way to spell canceled (if you’re curious, it can have one “L” or two, it is a preference thing), I wondered what was wrong with me. I’m not expecting a visitor I never excitedly invite (unless I’m worried it won’t come, that is), tensions aren’t tight between me and anyone else, and while I haven’t slept as much as I’d like, I wasn’t exhausted.

So why the gloom and doom?

Concerned with my concerns, I first focused my thoughts and then listened to them. I went through my never-ending to-do list that is needed for work, the blog I needed to write that I had been putting off, the apartment that needed cleaning, the weekend plans that needed confirming, the bills that needed paying, and the groceries that needed buying. And the Mr. Possibility that needed me to stop by to see him off before he flies, yet again, overseas, for an unknown amount of time.

Oh, well then. Maybe that makes sense. Of course, the departure of a someone who is becoming something may cause a little distress, I thought. But what if I don’t want it to? What if it scares me to care?

I never intended for things to progress with Mr. Possibility and I – but they have. In one of those slow, easy, and far from simple ways that we all think we want, but when it happens, the picture doesn’t come out as great as the shot we had in our head. Or at least a little less sepia and black and white, and more daylight or without flash. The desire and unintentional intentions aside – I’ve found myself here. And it’s here that I find myself sappy on a Wednesday afternoon, waiting for the day to end so I can see a special someone off to the airport, while I sincerely hope for a flight delay.

Unwilling to admit that Mr. Possibility’s absence  would mean something to me, I powered through the rest of work, even crossing off some tasks I don’t enjoy doing to distract from my wave of longing. Sure enough, the clock struck six and off I was to Brooklyn, battling hail storms and tourists along the way.

When I burst into the door, I almost stumbled into his luggage, and he greeted me with a big smile before pulling me into his embrace. This move is signature of most men – making us disappear into their sometimes hairy and sometimes still stuck in preadolescence chest – and yet, when Mr. Possibility took me in, I felt something different.

I felt my heart sink.

At this point, I’m extremely frustrated that I’m upset, so I make a careful move to wiggle away and as I do so, lightning flashes and thunder makes an unforgiving entrance. Further annoyed the weather continues to mock my emotions on this particular day, I ask how I can help and head to the sink to rinse dishes (something I think I got from my mom, who cleans when she’s feeling uncomfortable or restless). After a few hours of talking about the trip, tying up loose ends, cleaning, and chatting away, Mr. Possibility insisted I at the very least, ride with him to the subway so I wouldn’t have to walk in the snow that was now highlighted across the sidewalks. Though I don’t appreciate being instructed, I picked high-heeled ankle boots as footwear, and didn’t want to ruin them. Or you know, slip and break my neck.

After finally saying our temporary good-bye, with my heart simmering, I stepped directly into a puddle that went well past the boots I was so concerned about damaging. In the slippery slush, I tiptoed to catch my ticket home, and like the person who stubbed their toe in the morning, I cursed in a way my grandmother would blush over.

It wasn’t until my nearly-hour commute back to the Upper West that I finally came to terms with the sadness I was battling all day. And those terms were far less complicated than what I was making them: I’m scared. Why was I worried about his new short or extended international stint? Like anyone would be, I was afraid of history repeating itself – and well, I like the dude, so of course, I’ll miss him. But more than that, after all this work to build a foundation of trust, I had stomped all over it, all day long. I had chosen to forgive him, my friends had decided to forgive me for giving him a second chance, and that was that. You can’t go back on forgiveness or you should have never granted it to begin with. And if his traveling leads to traveling in areas I’d rather not know about – then I’ll gladly accept the rightfully deserving title of fool.

Letting go of yesterday, learning to live (and love) yourself in today, and not being intimidated by a future single or with someone else means learning to take everything day-by-day. A bad day won’t repeat itself if you’re able to change your mindset before calling it a night. A great day may not be as bright the following day, just like love may not always be as close as it was a few hours earlier. But we can’t pray for those flight delays or for time to stop moving in its unexplainable way that somehow always translates into sense at the end of it.

Because the planes will arrive and they will take flight, along with the wintry weather that’ll yield to spring, and distance that will grow and test the possibility of something with great possibility.