Overlooking Overdoing It

I have a tendency to over do things. I over think, I over-analyze, I over-obsess, I live my life in an overly manner. I push myself above and beyond, I demand more of myself than I do of anyone else, and I tend to believe I’d rather over-do something than to give little effort.

But the problem with challenging myself and placing pressure on my success, my love life, my appearance, and anything else is that no matter how hard you work, how must trust you develop, or how many miles you run – sometimes, it just isn’t enough. Because unlike my severely independent and control-freak self will tell you, there are so many factors in life that you have no control over.

You can control your efforts, but you can’t control the results. It’s a simple truth but one that’s really difficult to accept. As women, especially the type-A personality that I am, I don’t accept what I perceive as failure well.

By being a person who does things in terms of more and better and faster and stronger – constantly searching to improve myself and my life, when I hit a stumbling block or a bump in the road, I let it go overboard. I start devising the worst case scenario in my head, I go over each word I said, each step I took, each email I sent, each kiss I shared, each everything that could have affected the outcome…and I criticize myself. Instead of encouraging myself to move forward and visualize the opportunities on the horizon, I only see what could have been.

I imagine what the success of the failure would have looked like and fail to see any successes to come.

But if I continue this pattern, I’ll have a long list of all the wrongs and no account of the rights. I won’t see all the progress I’ve made because I’ve been wise enough to find a new chance instead of focusing on the one that was missed. I won’t see the person I’ve grown into because I’ve faced disappointment but not let it get the best of me. I won’t realize when something is remarkable because I’ve seen when something was falling to pieces. I won’t be thankful for what I have if I never watch what I love walk away. I won’t consume the taste of sweetness if I never have to swallow my sour pride.

So what’s the trick to stay onboard instead of going over? What’s a gal to do when the easiest reaction is to overanalyze, over think, and over-exert her emotions to compensate for the pit of pity she can’t shake?

You stop looking to the outside and you go inside.

You reevaluate your priorities. You reestablish what you want and what you need by figuring out the difference between the two. You reenergize your spirit by treating yourself to positive thinking and indulgent compliments paired with sensible criticism.

Because while you’re looking in, you’ll find that all the overtime you put in, all the overtures you made, all the times you felt overlooked, and all the plans you had that may had been over your head, will work themselves out. And while all this worry and frustration won’t be over forever, you’ll find yourself less focused on being more and find peace in being present.

That is, in an overly excited way, of course.

The Bravery of a Fool

There are not many late-night, frantic, and ridiculous phone calls between women discussing the unpredictability of the typically predictable male that don’t involve questions concerning being a fool.

The adages are plentiful – only fools fall in love and everybody plays the fool without an exception to the rule. And the negativity behind this term is not just in a noun, but also a verb – fool me once, shame on you – but fool me twice, shame on me. While women may want to be beautiful and irreplaceable, a vixen, and maybe an officially official girlfriend – one phrase they never like to adopt is being the fool of a man.

Maybe I’m being too cliche in my perspective of this definition. But to me, a fool is someone who knows there is a chance for destruction with a man who has a reputation or has warned you of his troubles, and yet, against any recommendation or any red flag waving in the vast unknown – they willingly pursue and maybe even commit to such a character. Perhaps it is a lack of judgement or an inability to be prudent with those they date or open their legs for – either way, I think it’s a title we’ve all claimed at some point. Most of us, probably well knowing the role we were accepting before we took the stage.

But why would anyone want to be a fool for anyone? Wouldn’t we rather stay logical and collected, calm, and in control of the love we decide to share with only a someone who is willing to offer us the same? Isn’t being in a relationship only worth the wager if you know that while the stakes are high, there are two players playing on an even-playing field?

Call me crazy – but I agree to be in love, you must be a little foolish. It is not an easy task to openly offer up your heart, your emotions, and your hope to a person who may or may not handle such precious things with care. With a simple slip of the mouth, slip of the pants, or slip into a stranger’s bed – a man who you once trusted with your most intimate self could leave you waiting in the wings, covered in not just the dust of his speedy exit, but the residue of his countless lies. Sure,  all of these things are possible and no, they don’t always happen. But they could and they do. If such pain is plausible, we’d have to be irrational to rationalize love. Right?

Or is it that the thinnest line isn’t between faith and fortune. Or between flattery and fumbling.  Or loving and lusting. Or what we want and where we are. Or the beginning and the ending. Or  making love and making the dirty. Or exclusive and free.

But rather – the most blurred connection is between being a fool and being brave.

And if I follow the absurdity of fairytales or the blatant reality of my parent’s example of a relationship that can endure the test of time and health – being brave is the quality that made the dues payable. But to be courageous, one must always be a little asinine, or we wouldn’t realize what we were risking. And really, the largest investment we make in a relationship isn’t even in the person – however dreamy he may be – but the liability is in ourselves.

We must be brave enough to fall in love and absurd enough to trust someone other than ourselves with our most valuable assets. Because once they are out in the open, in front of the court to see and ridicule, there is not always a guarantee that a prince charming will ride our way. More often than not in times that are Millennial instead of Medieval – the knight’s armor is less than shining and more shunning. After all, the fool is not the princess or the lady in waiting or even a maiden of the most prestigious court. This character is rather the one who entertains, the one who hides their own face in an effort to bring joy to the lips of others. But the fool is no fool to her antics or her charm, to her words, or to the price she could pay for being honest or sarcastic. She knows the chance she takes, she knows the pieces that could shatter – but she does it anyways.

Because what we forget about being a fool is that to be one, you must realize your own value. And you have to know that if the crowd doesn’t take to what you present, you know there is safety and shelter in your own care. And in that power comes the ability to accept being a fool and knowing that though we get a wild card to play a prank on a friend on this day each year, there is never a holiday for deceiving ourselves.

Rather – it is something we do constantly, time after time, man after man. We convince ourselves he will be different. That it will be easy and just as we imagined. He will do those things we always wanted him to do. He will surprise us. He will love us unconditionally, if such a love is reasonable. We fool ourselves into falling in love again. And again. We accept the burden it carries when it doesn’t work out as anticipated and we bow to our audience, to the fates who tricked us again, and we go backstage to prepare for the next show.

For the next brave attempt at the foolish ways of love.

The Things a Man Can’t Give Me

After spending an unjustified amount of time on Tumblr one Sunday afternoon, I happened to stumble upon an adorable photo. Of course, I have a certain affinity to this creature (or really any miniature animal), so I quickly updated my Facebook proclaiming I’d like to be the owner of a baby tiger.

Expecting to receive a few comments from my friends who kindly entertain my ridiculousness, I hopped in the shower, determined to get my day started instead of wasting it away in front of a 15″ laptop screen. Twenty minutes and one Beyonce sing-along under the water later, I did what every Gen Y does: tapped my phone back to life because being without it for such a “long” time made me feel disconnected.

On the screen was a new text from the man I was seeing at the time and though we were not serious, I really dug him. He was one of those who always had something interesting to say and never failed to surprise me. This message would prove the latter: Check your email.

Unsure of why he would send something to my email instead of just calling or telling me, I opened up Gmail to find no message from him. Confused, I sent a question mark in response (so explanatory, I know), and he responded with: You wanted a baby tiger, didn’t you? Becoming more perplexed with these cryptic messages and the fact he was stalking my Facebook mid-day, I glanced back at my accountant and noticed an email not from him, but from the WWF. He couldn’t give me an actual baby tiger, but he could adopt one from Africa in my name. And so, he did – just like that. The certificate was sitting proudly a click away and the snuggly and stuffed version came a few weeks later.

So apparently men can give you the nearly extinct animal you mindlessly requested in a status update. And they can leave notes in jean pockets, taped behind a closed door you rarely open, and on your mirror so you never forget how beautiful you are. They can buy you that necklace or that ring you intently gleamed at in the back of Vogue. They can purposefully leave the apartment for the unimportant fact that they’re out of orange juice and you always drink a tall glass each morning.

And when they’re not supplying your tummy or your jewelry box – men can give us many splendored things. When you can feel a man really loves you, it’s powerful. After all, we’ve met the ones who never care at all. Hell – we’ve slept with them. Possibly dated them for six months, just in case something changes. It’s after that disaster we learn to notice when a guy comes along who is all hands-and-feet on deck. We start to think they give us feelings we always say we’ve never felt before, until we do, again. They indulge us in reassurance and constant confidence boosts. They don’t make us wait and they don’t make things harder or faster than what we prefer – unless we ask for it, of course. They support us as equally as we encourage them, and when like grows into love and love into content – they weather the changes because they’d rather stick around than find something simplified elsewhere.

It’s true – men can give us so many things.

But I’m starting to realize there are more things men can’t give me. Partly because they aren’t capable of it, but mostly because I wouldn’t want them to. There are certain parts of my life that I don’t invite a man into and there are pleasures I derive when I’m alone that don’t always match the fulfillment a man returns. There are outings and doings that keep me positive and feeling alive that I’d much rather do without the presence of anyone. There is a cache and a sense of independence that comes from paying everything on my own, shopping at my own accord and saving up for that pair of shoes that even if someone offered, I’d never let them purchase on my behalf. There is a power in knowing nearly every single item in my apartment came from money I made by having a resume I worked hard (and mostly for no pay) to build. There is a satisfaction I get from marching the streets, making eye contact with a stranger or two, and continuing to walk when they get the hint I’ll slow my pace for them – but I don’t.

And without a man, without the consistent reminder that someone in this world at the very least finds you tolerable – you learn how to keep yourself going. You learn the difference between being a constructive critic and being way harder on yourself than anyone else would be. You notice changes in your mood and you become aware of what makes you happy, what tickles your tastebuds, and what disgusts you. You have ways to shed joy and hope into your life that no other person – even the most attractive and engaging ones – could ever replace. You depend on yourself without considering there is a safety net or a body to break your fall. You decide the best answer to your questions aren’t “call mom” or “call Mr. of Right Now” but really are not even an answer at all, they are also a question: Well, what do you want to do?

Those things, no matter how insignificantly silly (like my need of wine in the bathtub while listening to Rhapsody in Blue and reading for the 100th time, Jane Eyre) or superbly worthy (like my need to not have anyone advise me on where my money is going unless I’m paying them – with my money – to instruct me) – are still possible to find when you’re dating a man. Even when you’re madly in love with him.

But you have to fight for them. Because while the dudes can be rather charming and sweet, and give us endearing reminders that we’re loveable, they become one hell of a distraction. Perhaps a beautiful one, but a distraction all the same. I mean, baby tigers may not be a match the baby diamond earrings we scrambled just enough money to buy for ourselves, but which one will mean more to us if the relationship ends? And which is a girl’s best friend (RIP, Liz)?

One of the many troubles of being single is longing for those things we know a man can give us. Those things we’ve found before and have now become afraid are forever lost. But when love takes a chance on you again, you may just find yourself missing those things purposefully just for you, and you only. You may have to keep yourself grounded as you are effortlessly swept away.

Because instead of turning our attention away from me and steering it toward a he the has the potential to become a we- we’ve gotta learn how to have the me, have the he, and have the we, without losing all three.

Meet My Boyfriend

The thing I get asked the most by friends, readers, and fellow bloggers is: How do you write every single day?!

The answer has consistently been rather simple – it is easy. Partly because I consider myself someone who was lucky enough to always know what they were meant to do, and also due to the mere fact that I write about my life. And what else could be more natural to do than recording, dissecting, and describing every-day adventures? Or better yet – what could be more entertaining when those experiences primarily relate to relationships – something that everyone, no matter their demographics, can understand and relate to.

And while I write about personal experiences, most of the ideas that turn into blogs come from outside sources. From eavesdropping on two friends at the gym, by graffiti stained on my building, by a penny I kick across the pavement, by an exchange I witnessed that was only meant for that couple, by something I feel that I can’t explain, by a sighting or a viewing, by an argument or a profession. I try to listen while I linger, ask more questions than I make statements, and try to put myself in the shoes of strangers. Or the ones I know best – after all, fodder is frequent from my friends.

Unsurprisingly, as our pals often know us better than we know ourselves, this is where my claim of fluidity and simplicity in blogging becomes objected. As in the case of my friend J.

On Sunday, over burgers at one of my New York favorites, Corner Bistro, a group of us were catching up, drinking Blue Moons, and taking in more calories than the rest of the week allowed. I met my friend J in a way that can only be described as fate by the Internet –through a Meetup group that I was hesitant to join. However, it turned out producing five of my closest pals in the city, some of which are starting to get to know me pretty well. As J is telling me about her latest dating adventure and how the scene is different than the laid-back and sunny market in California where she’s from, I must have looked at her too hard because she said:

“You’re writing your blog right now in your head, aren’t you?” Stunned she could detect the writing wheels turning, I smiled a 4 p.m.-and-tipsy grin, and asked, “Um, how did you know that?” She took a sip of her wine (not a fan of beer), she laughed and replied, “Well, you know when you really like someone and they bring you happiness, you think about them all the time? Even when other people are talking to you?” I nodded. “That’s kind of what your blog is now. The blog is your boyfriend.”

Interesting.

A relationship, much like a blog, depends constant attention. You have to put in effort to make it work and be understanding when glitches out of your control cause trouble (like WordPress’ meltdown last night). The longer you’re with someone, the more people know about the person you’ve become exclusive with, and the more energy you put toward something – the harder it is to let it go. You become committed and involved, engrossed in what-could-be, and needing to know that person feels the same way. And if you’re anything like me before I started the blog, you become quite obsessed with the man of loving opportunity.

So, is my friend right? Maybe I have made this blog into my boyfriend. Or into an entity outside of myself, even though it’s primarily about me. I’m connected to it, I give it daily attention, I take time out of my schedule to make sure it is functioning, growing, and giving me what I need. But what is it that I need from a blog? If you asked me a few months ago, it would have been similar to my response to what I want from a relationship: something that helps me grow, gives me guidance, and lets me say whatever I want to say, without passing judgment.

However, like every relationship that experiences change with tide, waters have been rough with me and my boyfriend, the blog.

For a while, as much as I was writing about my exciting life, the majority of it was spent at work and at home. The weekends were sometimes full of outings and doings, but I had the energy and the dedication to put into the pages of this blog because it was my main concern and central source of entertainment. But like I’m learning to let love fall lower on my list of priorities, as my life started to become…well, a life – the less time I’ve had to focus on blogging.

My calendar has started to fill up, event invites continue to roll in, my friends rightfully demand my attention and my evenings, I’m running more, I’m planning trips, I’m further investing into the potential return of Mr. Possibility’s possibilities, and above all else, I’m still focusing on me. The 12 Steps continue to help me guide through the emotions that used to throw me. The essence of the blog is still alive in my life, but the availability I used to have to give it love is gone.

So do I stop writing? Do I break up with my boyfriend because he doesn’t fit into the life I’m making for myself? Do I put an end to the love I once found because I’d rather turn my attention to seemingly bigger and better things?

Nope.

Because when a relationship experiences trouble or things outside of the union start to expand and rise, that’s when you test how the connection. The commitment, the loyalty. That’s when you realize that love will never be everything that defines you or all of the things you’re made of. That’s when you remember the relationship that makes it – the one that’s worth all the hassles and frazzles – is the one you can maintain, even when the rest of your life becomes fuller and happier. I can’t make a man – or a blog – my everything. But if I can remember that love is just a part of life and this blog is about my life – the inspiration to pen another post will come just as easy as it once did.

As long as I just live, that is.

The Blackberry on the Bedstand

Like a penny and piece of paper that’s not wasted – a relationship has two sides to it. If it takes two to tango, there is always the guy’s side to what went awry, the lady’s opinion – and then there’s the truth.

While we may never know the real reasons behind why our past loves burnt out or why the connections faded between our current man and his last girl, it isn’t so much a question of what happened after, but what went on, during.

And it’s easy – once all is said and done – and we’ve moved on to brighter and better futures that may have us single or taken, to speculate the past and give it a definite reason. It may be simpler to determine that the girl who laid with a man we’re seeing wasn’t anything like us or wasn’t right for him – hence why she’s not in the picture, and we are. But like it gets the best out of felines, curiosity also has a way of sneaking its way into our minds, too.

I mean, who was the last girl? Is there a way to meet her or know her, without actually doing it? Would we like her if we did? Why do we care who she was or why it ended? Does their past really affect our future? Is this inquisitiveness healthy?

When I went to meet Mr. Possibility after his long stint overseas, he stood waiting patiently on the LIRR platform above me. When he smiled at me, a flash of intensity struck thru my heart in an instant. I knew I missed him but I also wondered what in the world I was walking up to. When we embraced, it was one of those moments out of a trite romance novel, where you rush to one another and the man kisses your forehead, your cheeks, your nose – and all at once, you remember what it felt like before he left.

Following a welcome home party of sorts and an intense conversation, I found myself, again, entangled with him, falling asleep to the sound of our joint breath. When I woke up the next morning, still intertwined with this severely jet-lagged gentleman who was peacefully knocked out, I noticed his Blackberry on my bedstand.

In all of the time he stayed over before, he always placed the contents of his pockets, including his phone and nifty pen he never forgets, right next to where we slept. When I needed to know the time or use a light to navigate the mess that is my apartment, I’d often use his dated 3G to do so.

But this time, as I blinked my eyes open and thought to reach out and determine how much damage those last shots had done, I found myself unable to move. Suddenly, his Blackberry seemed dangerous.

I have never been a gal to go through anyone’s phone – especially a man I’m seeing. I’m private (believe it or not) with my own cell and selective about who I save in my address book, so I’ve respected the same preference with others. I also tend to believe if you go looking for trouble, you will find it. Even if it’s in a picture or a text from three years ago that alludes to something you’d rather not know or something that even matters.

And while it never dawned on me, even that morning, to flip over his phone and parade through it, I also couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

I realized, not for the first time really, but in a profound way – I’m not the first to lay here. I’m not the first to touch that phone or be stored in it. I’m not the first woman he took a picture of, sitting across from him at a café in the Village. I’m not the first texting conversation he’s had for a straight eight-hour period. That Blackberry isn’t just a Blackberry on my bedstand – it’s all of the beds he’s laid in with women I don’t know.

As I’m staring, attempting to muster enough courage to look at the time, he reached across me, kissed the curve of my neck, grabbed the phone and said he couldn’t believe we’ve slept so late. He haphazardly placed the phone back and pulled me closer into him, wondering if I slept well. And with the phone light illuminating my room, I started to wonder about the girls before. Maybe when they say happily ever after, they are referring to the end of dating or the end of previous relationships – but do they ever really go away? Is there truly an after, when you know the before?

If all of the he’s and the she’s we meet make us who we are, then those we date are made up of the same influences. They just come in different forms and with varying faces. But when it comes to love – while I may show and tell, I don’t like to share. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours – even if what’s mine, used to be yours.

Mr. Possibility’s Blackberry may keep every woman he’s known – maybe even the ones he could be exploring – but if I consider them part of the equation, there may be no way to add up parts that lead to love. If we remain stuck in what was, there is no opportunity to create a could be that can be.

However – in the spirit of feminism (or maybe just the matter of female language), it’s best not to condemn the women who once held a man’s heart. Without knowing them, without their angle of their relationship, there is no way to determine the pieces of the puzzle that eventually didn’t fit together for them. In most cases we will never know and it will never matter – but if he loved them and he loves you, there is a good chance you are quite similar. Or that you’re vastly different. Either way, it doesn’t make or break the relationship; it just gives a different perspective to the past. Because maybe, if for whatever backhanded twist of the universe, we did come face-to-face or word-for-word with the woman he was once with, we may find ourselves not only liking the gal, but considering her a friend. After all, if we all have some sort of a type, so do the dudes, even if he doesn’t categorize it that way in his Blackberry.

A phone, for all intents and purposes, keeps our lives together. It makes everything and anything easily accessible, especially with the technology available to those who can afford expensive policies. But what a phone doesn’t hold or isn’t able to access is the life of the person when they are without it. When buttons aren’t dialing, when texts aren’t being sent, when calls aren’t being made.

When the Blackberry is on the bedstand, the man is in the bed. Without his phone, without reaching out to the world outside of the frame that contains you and him. And within the space, within the perimeters that make up a bedroom, lives a relationship (where it be exclusive or not).

And while within reach is every woman he’s loved or the ones he could be with one day, for a moment, a year, or a lifetime – the only one that matters is you. Because eventually, within a few minutes, the light goes out on the berry. The room dims as it was. And it is there, in the dark or in the rays that make up the morning, that you figure out if you’ll be just another number stored away for safe keeping and bittersweet memories. Or the one who remains on speed dial.

Regardless, just like it’s near impossible to not have a cell phone, it is just as improbable for a man to not have a past. The question is – can you accept it? Embrace it? Or will you stare blankly, afraid to know what’s stored in the memory, the database, and the heart of someone who is just within reach.