And Then I Met Him at Bryant Park

It’s too soon, I thought inching my way closer to Bryant Park. Why meet at this park, near this time of the year, when everyone is overflowing with warmth and rosy cheeks? It hasn’t been long enough for me to recover, why am I doing this?

I heard my heels against the pavement and felt my phone vibrating in my pocket — the emails could wait, it was time to face him. I made the decision to go here, I willingly agreed to be on time and bring my best self, and I needed a few moments before walking up the steps. You can do this. You were made to do this. You are beautiful and strong, there is no reason why you can’t smile when you see him. Breathe Lindsay, breathe, I encouraged myself as I turned my head, black-and-red umbrella in hand and caught a glimpse of him. I gasped as my heart sank and then exhaled when I felt the tension break.

He looks great. He looks happy and fresh, shining as brightly as a freshly-pressed suit from Bloomies. Is it possible he looks kinder? Did I never notice that sweetness in his eyes before? Goodness, after all this time, you’d think I would have. I approached him carefully, cursing myself for wearing heels on a rainy day when I just shelled out for a lovely pair of Michael Kors boots that would have been perfect — but I needed to look gorgeous on this night. I had to feel like a better version of myself, I needed to let the parts that weren’t fragile or mending highlight my energy. The first words were awkward and I found myself cautiously grinning, uncomfortable with my choice concerning this encounter. He was understanding of my hesitation and led me through the park gently, as pop-up store clerks greeted me with weary grins on this rainy night. Weather suitable for how I feel, I thought.

But he was different tonight and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Perhaps he was calmer or more collected, less frantic and more together. He was gracious to the tourist, but had the same attitude about him that I first fell in love with. We didn’t talk much as we walked, but rather we observed this park that we mutually adored — both for its beauty and for the memories it brings. For each of us, I think, the visions of those little tables and waving trees in summer and winter, fall and spring, are as brilliant as they are bittersweet, but that’s what relationships weather, seasons of change.

After some wandering through escalating water sprawled on the sidewalks, we decided to do something that’s usually only reserved for drunken nights or moments of complete convenience and hunger: walk through Times Square. Without much to say and wanting to keep the pace quiet through a crowded place, we listened to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as we explored. He was a gentleman and led me through the least trafficked areas while being genial with my umbrella as winds whipped between building tops. With him by my side, even in his silence, I felt relaxed and peaceful, and I wondered why I had been so distant for so long. I couldn’t fight the urge to tell him how sorry I was for being cruel and cold, for not answering calls or listening to my desires because I feared how I would feel afterwards. I confessed that I had often thought of him in those lonely, empty hours inside of my apartment with no roommates around, with no one close by, and that I couldn’t count how many times I nearly hopped the subway to surprise him.

He returned the sentiments – telling of times when he wondered where I was or when I’d return to him. He reminded me of the home we built, the time we spent and the relationship we put so much effort into fostering. We talked about the good times – at that glorious Bryant Park and at Rockefeller Center, on the Highline, walking around Chelsea and the Village and discovering neighborhoods that I’d never known. As he spoke, I started to feel guilty for my absence and for those doubting thoughts – had he really been that bad? Was it his fault? Maybe I had been a little too harsh in this situation. 

Before I could let my emotions get the best of me, I knew I needed to eat – only eating a salad and some cashews for 12-hours doesn’t do this gal’s body good. I offered to buy him pizza at the next 99 cent shop we passed and he gladly accepted the challenge of finding a no-name place in some corner of the wall of some street in the heart of Times Square. When we found it, I giggled at the cliché – here we were, making another impression on one another that neither would be able to forget. Maybe this was a bad idea after all, maybe it is too soon, I wondered as I waited on my mushroom-and-olive slice that definitely broke my new diet. I didn’t care though, I wanted to savor something I love, like pizza and of course, him.

As we walked under the umbrella, finishing our slices and approaching the train, I wondered if this was where the story would end. A brave, brief rendezvous with so much communication, though no one could hear it but us. I craved to be with him more, but my feet hurt and my heart was reluctant to continue an affair that I knew could be difficult to endure. I had allowed him to break my heart before, I had shunned him and been less than forgiving – would anything really change if I kept seeing him? Or maybe I’ve just been listening to all the wrong voices, all the wrong advice, and letting all the wrong people into the places and relationships I value the most.

And then, he wanted to walk me to my door. Considering that required a ride uptown, I questioned his motives. He promised not to come up because surely, he couldn’t – but he just wasn’t ready for the night to end. I was uncertain if the magic of the evening could continue past Central Park, but something inside begged me to take the chance. And so, we caught the train. We read New York magazine and he glowed at the several articles about himself – still arrogant, I thought. Approaching my stop, a warrior for the homeless entered the doors, offering warm food and crackers to those without raincoats or cheese-and-dough filled bellies, a meal for the evening. I thought it was kind until I heard him say he was homeless too, and then I found it inspiring. Without consideration, we gave change and admired the giving and concerned faces of those across from us. The splendor of the season reflected off of their faces and came out as pennies of hope from their pockets.

When the doors opened and we turned our faces up to greet raindrops, we found there were none. I put away my umbrella and walked as slowly as I could, though inside my toes were pinching in their soggy soles. There wasn’t much left to say as we stood in front of my doorway, except for promises to be made. I swore to not let anything come between us again and he swore to continue to give me evenings like this one. I promised to be more forgiving and allow him back into my life, even if I was afraid, and he promised he would always be there, no matter what happened. There was no kiss or hug, just a mutual sense of relief and that undesirable feeling of peace that only he can bring to my soul.

It really had been too long and yet, maybe it was too soon, I concluded as I pushed the 7th floor button. But really, I could never have let Mr. P come between me and him–my New York–for long. Cheap dollar pizza and Bryant Park? My first love has always been this place — and it was time to stop letting memories have anything to do with guys I’ve dated, and let them be about the man, the city, that first stole my heart. 

All I Want for Christmas is Me

There is something about this time of the year that makes everyone, young and old, near and far – want to be less of a “patridge in a pear tree” and rather one of two turtle doves. With less than 12 days left to Christmas – how’s a girl supposed to get through this season without wanting five gold rings (or just a diamond one), a kiss under the mistletoe, and someone to prove to us that really, every kiss does begin with Kay.

Since I started college, and freshman, sophomore, and junior year passed swiftly without a significant other to dote on me during the holiday season – Christmas has served as a nagging reminder that I was (and am) in fact, single. As my friends and their newly found college sweethearts would plan out trips to their respective hometowns (and now are married, by the way), and obsessively describe what they wanted and what they were getting their boyfriend – I silently wished they would all just shut up.

During breaks, I’d work at a retail store at the local mall and constantly watch couples cooing and smiling with their little shopping bags and hand-holding techniques that made me want to gag myself. And of course, at my Southern-inspired Christmas dinner, where at the ripe ol’ age of 20 – I was the strange one who was not only without a boyfriend, but also with no intentions of getting married right after graduation. Nope, I was the crazy misfit who wanted to move far, far away to a scary place called New York City and be a writer. Though they supported me, I’m not sure they ever quite understood.

But this year, this Christmas, this season, something in me is different. In fact – I hadn’t even noticed that I was single for the holidays until a dear friend of mine, K, sought my counsel and said “You know, it is just really hard to be single right now.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been well aware that Christmas is quickly approaching. I’m flying home on Friday to spend some much-needed time with my family and long-lost friends whom I haven’t seen in ages. I’ve toured all the window-displays on Fifth Avenue both with my friend E, and Mr. Possibility. I had front-row tickets to watch the tree at Rockefeller Center light up with Mr. Unavailable. I saw the Rockettes in complete style and everlasting wonder with my friend J, and I’ve walked throughout the city admiring the lights and the peace that seems to come with this time of year. Mr. Possibility took me ice skating and we went to Macy’s to check off gifts on our shopping lists. Right this very second and for the last few weeks, my Pandora “Christmas” station has been getting quite the workout. And most important of all, when that first flake fluttered to the Manhattan ground, I was completely alone and completely in awe.

I’ve embraced Christmas, and without even knowing, I’ve been perfectly content without a boyfriend. I haven’t been putting myself down because for the fourth year in a row, one of my best friends, L, will be my date to our Christmas Eve dinner. I haven’t felt ashamed that I’ll reunite with my extended family and they will probably ask me when I’m getting married. I haven’t wished and hoped and dreamed of being proposed to on Christmas morning (as I used to carefully plan out in my head). I haven’t cursed the smitten couples or the newlyweds who are so excited to spend their very first Christmas together.

But for the longest time, this season was so difficult, so grueling, so sad, so disappointing – because isn’t Christmas or any type of holiday at this time of year – supposed to be about love? About celebrating miracles and hoping for all that is to come? Or trusting that even if you can’t see it, it is out there – waiting to come into your life and shower you with gifts not only under the tree, but also helping you hang ornaments on the top limb.

But really, aren’t all of those ideas applicable to being single? Even when we relate it more about being a pair?

That while we think meeting Mr. Right will be a miracle, the true amazement is that before him, we get this incredible time to just love and concentrate on ourselves. We hope to see our children’s faces light up and ask us about Santa and play with our hubby in the snow – but don’t we also hope that we don’t lose ourselves in a relationship, and that we continue to adore the person we’ll see staring back at us in the mirror, each and every day for the rest of our lives? That sometimes it is so tough to believe there is a light at the end of the single tunnel or a glimmer of positivity in truly, finding peace in being alone – but even if we can’t feel it, we know it is possible, we know it can be ours.

This anticipation of a man to enter, to make the holidays brighter and fuller, to give us little boxes with bows, and to love how we look in our red sweater dresses – tears us up inside. Because really, we fear it will never happen. But instead of doubting the process, doubting the fates, and even worse, doubting ourselves – we miss out on how magical and truly beautiful a Christmas can be without a man. How experiencing flickering lights, parties, and travel can be just as entertaining when we’re out of love.

I don’t feel like I’m waiting on something. I don’t feel like I’m missing something from Christmas or that the universe is depriving me of a companion to make the holidays bearable. But instead, I’m excited. I’m so ready to shout from the rooftops that I’m single and that I’m happy. That I have a life that I created, that the presents you see were bought by only me and my money. That while I’m not kissing under the mistletoe – I haven’t lost hope that one day I will. Besides, it isn’t the number one priority anymore – not at Christmas, not at New Year’s, not at all. Right now, in this moment, in the snow, in the lights– the only thing to focus on is myself and this journey. And I can say with confidence that I disagree with you, Mariah Carey – I don’t want you (whichever man that represents) for Christmas, but all I really want is me.

Tis Christmastime in the city, and my, oh, my is the weather frightful

…but the feeling I have inside is so delightful. It is a feeling of wholeness, of completeness, of security, of magic – that derives from the greatest blessing, the most thoughtful gift, and the most incredible miracle I could ever experience – and that’s celebrating self-love. Celebrating…me.