There is SO Much Love in the World

On Thanksgiving – and always – I feel so incredibly blessed for this little life of mine. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be living in one of my favorite parts of New York, working at a job that I really love, writing for a dozen or so magazines and have an incredible group of friends, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Sometimes I want to pinch myself that nearly everything I’ve wanted has worked itself out… beautifully. Surprisingly.

Perfectly how it was supposed to.

Now of course, there are things I’d like and things I dream of. There are Thanksgivings I imagine with my one-day man, and there are certain visions and luxuries I’d like to be my reality one day, but in this moment, sitting in my PJs with Christmas music playing, my pup at my feet and my roommate cooking in the kitchen, I’d say life is pretty damn good right now.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me just how much love there is in this world. There is SO much, I can’t ever explain.

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I’ve Been Thinking About London Lately…

I’ve been thinking about London lately.

10641206_10101298736723288_9213425912969176741_nAbout how easy it was to get around the city, even with it’s hushed voices and last-calls at 1 a.m., instead of 4. I’ve been thinking about how the men were such gentleman, wishing me a good day and commenting on how ‘quite lovely, quite everything, quite was’ in their darling accents that stupidly remind me of Hugh Grant. I’ve been thinking about how even though I tried to have an afternoon delight in Kensington at lunchtime with a tall, handsome character I met in Shoreditch the night before – he refrained. I’ve been considering the echoes in my head from all the women who complained – over their cigarettes and their pimms – that the men are far too serious, that they want relationships too soon, that they just bore of them ‘quite quickly, I’m afraid.’ I’ve been thinking that maybe, a British man might be what I’ve been looking for, after all.

I’ve been thinking about Paris lately.

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It’s Hard to Stay Single

I watched the smoke fade into the streetlamp, delicately – seductively – making it’s way from the lips of a stranger, only to disappear into the night. It was colder than I expected and I was weaker than I imagined, downing uncountable glasses of wine at this fine establishment in Paris.

Le Parigot? Le Pearle? Le something.

I couldn’t remember the name and they didn’t have it posted anywhere I could see from my window seat, covered up almost completely in my pashmina from Chinatown, waiting for the silence to be filled up with conversation. My mom examined her hands idly, while skirting eye-contact with me and drinking red wine (my favorite, her least).

I gave her a brave smile and tried to ignore the embarrassment swelling from the pit of my stomach so big that I felt suffocated. The bar was too small. The bartenders were looking at our table. I didn’t have anything to focus on but those cigarette-smoking French women standing outside, laughing about something I would never know about.

It’s okay to cry, honey, my mom whispered, reaching out to hold my fisted hand. It’s healthy, even.

In Paris, mom? In a lovely bar in an amazing city when I’m on an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip with my mother? I responded, bitterly. It’s okay to cry now? When I have so much to be thankful for and I should be so happy?

Well, aren’t you happy?  She asked cautiously – I’m sure she was waiting for me to explode.

The question was simple: happiness? And though I had asked myself the same thing many, many times before, I’m not sure I ever considered the answer as thoroughly as I did then, miles and miles away from my city, far, far away from the life I built. I felt foreign here, distanced from the stresses and the worries that I harbor in New York. I didn’t think about money or career, I didn’t focus on running or staying healthy, I didn’t care about who I was dating or if I was putting myself out there.

In Paris – and yes, in Rome, too – I was just existing.

I was savoring. I was in awe of everything I saw and nearly everyone I met. The food tasted richer, the wine was better, the views were incomparable. Every single second of every single day, I focused on what was happening right then – not what was next, not what it meant, not what it would be – but just what it was.

So why was I crying? I wondered, overwhelmed by a mix of exhaustion, alcohol and intrigue. How could I not be happy in this very moment?

I am happy, I started, slowly. I’m probably happier now than I’ve been in years. But no matter how far away I go or what I’m doing, it’s still there. It still finds a way to creep into my thoughts.

What does? she asked as she motioned for another half-bottle of wine. Mothers really do know best: when their 25-year-old daughters are sort of having a breakdown in a café, ask for more wine.

My fear of being alone, I said firmly.

We both let the words settle there in the very tiny space between us, listening to the other patrons speak in a language we didn’t know, listening to the sound of a bike bell speed down the road, listening to the heaviness of the words and how they sounded when spoken out loud.

But aren’t you more afraid of settling? she smiled at me.

It was that all-knowing grin – the one she only has when she knows she has said something right. When she has broken the barrier of my overindulging emotions and given me a realistic perspective that I (let’s face it: desperately) needed. The wine arrived and as she poured, she continued:

I’m proud of you for that Linds. It isn’t easy to stay single, just like it isn’t easy to find someone worth the work of a relationship. But even though you’ve been lonely and you’ve had some pretty bad dating experiences, and it’s been hard, you have still stuck up for yourself and held out for what you want. And in that, you’ve stood up for love.

I wasn’t crying anymore and I didn’t feel the need to for the remainder of the trip. In fact, the fear that follows me most everywhere started to feel less important, less ambient. It was one of the kindest things that someone has ever said to me – and something that surprised me with its truth:

It is hard to stay single.

It doesn’t seem like it when you’re dating and trying to locate at least one man who actually wants the same thing that you do. It doesn’t seem like it when you’re swiping left and right, replying to messages and trying not to analyze hidden meanings behind mostly meaningless text messages. It doesn’t seem like it when you haven’t had sex in months (and months), and it doesn’t seem like it when you’d give anything – everything! – just to have someone to come home to who loves you unconditionally (and isn’t a fury white pup). The frustration and the fatigue of being single can feel harder than being in a relationship – but in reality…

…being single is a choice. And staying single is difficult to do. Settling, however – that’s easy.

There are more than enough men who would be my boyfriend if I wanted one that badly – but I don’t want just any guy. I’m not looking for someone to pass time with. I’m not in the market for something so casual that it’s forgettable. I’m not in such a rush to be in love that I rush past my standards and forget about what being in love really means and truly requires.

So even if the fear of being alone feels heavy on certain days – and yes, even in Paris – I know that holding out is better than settling into something that ultimately, won’t be worth it.

And if I forget it from time-to-time – as I know I will – there is my mother who will never forget to remind me (just as I’m reminding all of you). As she said when we hugged good-bye, with tears in both of our eyes, after 10 non-stop days together traveling through Europe:

Don’t you settle. He’s a comin’. He’s on his way. I promise.

It might take him a while – but ya know what? I can wait.

 

La Donna E L’ombrello

Even though I booked a trip to Paris and to Rome, in all honesty – I was far more excited about visiting Italy than I was to see France. Not only because mostly everyone warned me that Parisians were rude to Americans, but my ever-growing love affair with everything-Italian (it’s food, it’s colors, it’s language, it’s men) made me more enticed with Roma than ole’ Parie.

So you could imagine my surprise when after a flight from Paris to Milan and then Milan to Rome, a train ride from Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci airport to our hotel – I tried to hide the fact that I missed Paris.

Our hotel in Paris had been pristine and easily accessible, while our Roman pad was off the beaten path and due to the train traffic, we couldn’t keep our beautiful Italian doors open at night. The metro had been seamless in Paris – much nicer and easier than NYC’s subways – but with only two paths to take in Rome, we navigated mostly everything by foot (which wouldn’t have been a big deal, if we weren’t 6 days into our trip and covered in blisters). The streets of Paris were clean and every turn we took, we saw a new beautiful building, while in Rome, trash was scattered about everywhere and peddlers sold anything they could get their hands on.

But after settling in to our hotel in Rome, I vowed to give it a chance and my mother did the same, we had come all this way to Italy and we had both always wanted to go, and so onward we went. The sweet clerk gave us short-cut directions to pass by shopping and end up at a gorgeous church before eating locally. We happily went on our way, and though we had mostly encountered kind, helpful people in Paris (who wanted to hear all about New York City), the Romans we met were unfortunately (and astonishingly)…

…very rude.

While trying on shoes or clothes, the Roman women would look us up and down before rolling their eyes and saying something we couldn’t translate. When waiting in line to gain admission, a hustler who received a “No grazie” with a smile from me, responded with, “Stupid American.” And after we walked around in circles, trying to find the said short-cut that we shortly forgot, we tried to stop by a restaurant, but were shoved into a windowless (and rather smelly) basement dining room. When we asked if we could sit outside instead, the owner turned his nose to us and walked away.

It had only been a few hours in Rome, and already, with sore feet and weakened spirits, we felt like ordering room service and buying a bottle of vino instead of going about town…

until we stumbled across a hidden, dark bar on the corner or a street we didn’t recognize. Exhausted, I suggested we go in to get some dinner (it was nearly 10 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten since 1 p.m.) and some wine (obviously) before calling a cab.

We were prepared to be greeted with bitterness from the bartender, but instead, we met Davide. (For the rest of our trip, we would reference him as the “Archangel Davide” who rescued Rome for us.)

As we sat down and ordered the special (a panini and a glass of wine for 6 euro), Davide came over to explain the map that we couldn’t read to get back to our place (probably because our hotel wasn’t actually on it!). And then, after we expressed our difficult day (after such ease in Paris), he mapped out our three days for us, giving tips on places to go away from tourists and how to avoid being scammed because we were American.

And then we started talking about New York – a city that he’s always wanted to live in. I told him about my life and this blog, how I was able to gain a solid footing and make friends, what parts of towns I like and don’t, and encouraged him to reach out to me if he needed any help whatsoever.

(By the way, 30-year-old Archangel Davide was one of the most attractive men I’ve ever laid eyes on.)

He went to tend to other customers here and there, but always came back and sat with my mom and I, talking about Rome and New York, and with every sip, I found him just a bit more irresistible.

I really like the paintings you have here, I told him, gesturing to the one above my head.

My friends and I used to have another bar called ‘La Donna E L’ombrello,’ named after a local artist who uses that as his signature, Archangel Davide said, pointing to each of the paintings in the bar.

What does that translate to? I asked, only able to pick up ‘La donna’ (woman) from my Italian classes.

‘The woman with the umbrella’, he places a woman in each of his paintings holding an umbrella, you always have to look to find it, he said.

My mom and I beamed, laughing of the irony of my own nickname as the girl with the umbrella before I released myself from underneath it and re-designed this blog. There was no doubt in either of our minds’ that we were meant to get lost and find this establishment.

Because of Archangel Davide’s advice, the rest of our trip was truly incredible: gorgeous views and gardens, churches that are literally awe-inspiring, incredible food and paths that didn’t confuse us. By our last day, we both had fallen in love with Rome, and promised to return to Italy again to see other parts like Venice, Florence, Pisa, and of course Tuscany – where Archangel Davide has a home.

As we walked home that first night from Davide’s bar, we stumbled across an entrance covered in wisteria – a flower you see all over Rome. The scent was intoxicating and we both stopped to take it in, feeling tipsy and mesmerized by the beauty. I hopped up on a ledge (thank you red wine courage) and picked two pieces that we kept in our hotel room to fill it with fragrance. And as one of my gifts to myself, I bought a print from a local artist of a door frame in Piazza Navona, covered in wisteria. It reminded me of my mother and I’s experience in Italy: the door to the home is closed, but window above it is open.

Sometimes you have to stumble around and have opportunities taken away before you find what you were supposed to find all along. And of course, it’s never quite about the destination or crossing things off your list, instead it’s about the experience, and the adventures, the people, the lessons you meet and learn along the way. Rome wasn’t at all what I expected it to be – but I’m so glad I took the chance and followed my heart (and passport) to explore it.

And by the way, Archangel Davide added me on Facebook. And is hoping to visit New York this year.

 

I’ll Be in Paris in 86 Days

In the middle of a rather slow workday a few months ago, I suddenly got this insane inclination that I absolutely could not itch:

need to go to Europe in 2014.

One of my only regrets from college is not taking the advantage to study abroad. I was in one hell of a hurry to get that sparkling journalism degree, complete every internship I could and take the first one-way flight I could to New York. And though it all did work out, I used every last penny (earned and found) on moving to this brilliant city and building my life here. Nearly four years later, I still love the zip code I call home but I’ve managed to save enough money to see what else is out there.

And so, after a very obsessive crunching of numbers and a few weeks of watching the prices rise and fall on flights, I booked it. I had every intention of going to Paris and Rome by myself, exploring the ancient streets, sipping wine and gorging myself with stinky, incredible cheeses but my mom had another idea:

She wanted to join me.

While it feels like a big deal for me to travel across the Atlantic for the very first time, it’s even more exciting for my 50-something mother whose always wanted to see this big ole’ world.

But before I can catch that red eye out of JFK and wake up in Paris (ahh!!) there are a few things I want to improve:

Back to the Veggies
I was so excited that I finished my first half-marathon in October that I completely stopped training and started to eat whatever I wanted to celebrate… for like three months. Whoops. My friend M and I are doing the Women’s Health Six-Week Weight Loss Plan together starting today, along with a 4M in February and a 15K in March. And my friend N (and Mrs Healthy Ever After blogger) is helping me to make smarter choices with eating. If I’m going to overdo the carbs in Paris and Rome (and rightfully so), I want to slim a bit before I arrive.

Ciao Bella, Finally!
Way back at the start of 2011 (yes, 2011!), I wrote a blog about wanting to learn Italian. I have no real reason for my love of the language but it’s engrained in me. I love going to Little Italy – as cheesy and overpriced as it is – and just hearing families bicker and chat. I walk through Eataly every time I drop Lucy off at her groomer’s that’s close by, imagining I can afford a $75 bottle of imported truffle oil. So, I’m taking the plunge: I signed up for Italian lessons that start January 30. I’m nervous but so very excited. (And if you’re wondering, mom is buying French tapes to listen to so we know how to at least order wine in Paris… vine rouge, right?)

Save Just a Bit More
I’m actually rather good at saving money, it’s something I learned from my dad who made me put 10% of my babysitting money in a personal savings account since I was 10 (much to my annoyance). But there are ways that I’m incredibly frivolous: buying lunch, taking cabs when I don’t actually need them but my feet hurt (or it’s negative 10 degree outside, thank you very much, New York), my grande skinny vanilla cappuccino every morning at $4.84 a pop (but they taste.so.good)… I’d rather spend money experiencing Europe than maintaining bad spending habits.

Cuddling Lucy
I’m going to be away from my baby pup (who is almost two!) for 10 whole days. It’s the longest we will be apart since I adopted her from that West Village pet store and I’m might freak out. Just a little bit.

I’m not sure what Paris and Rome have in store for me – but I’m proud of myself for following my instincts. If your heart says grab a bag and go get a baguette and sit in front of the Eiffel Tower… you listen. 

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! Learn more here. Submit here