Me, Myself, and My Shadows

I’m usually not forgetful. Really, I’m one of those odd characters who remarkably recalls something that happened six years ago in a fleeting moment. But yesterday – I could not have been more absent-minded.

I won’t make excuses, but this week has been superbly busy. One of our biggest issues of the year is in the making, our office is moving to a new location next week, I’m on the mad search for a new apartment, I’m running daily, attending a happy hour or two, Skyping with Mr. Possibility extremely early or late my time or his, and you know, this, writing daily blog posts. Not to mention some Twittering, Facebooking, Tumbling, and when I’m lucky, maybe getting seven hours of sleep.

I’m not complaining – I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed to have a life that’s full, that’s ever-evolving, that’s full of the best things a city could offer: great friends and grand adventures. Nevertheless, sometimes with so much going on and residing in a place that encourages less rest, hard work, and more play – I’ve found myself a little off my A-game recently.

Case in point, after work and after viewing yet another vacancy on the Upper West Side, I made my way to the gym, excited about releasing all of my stress with a healthy four-miler. When I arrived, I was happy to see a moderately-empty place and a treadmill readily available for me. I rushed to the locker room to change so no one would take my coveted machine before I had time to dress down and throw my hair up. After putting on my running shorts, I discovered not only had I forgotten a sports bra, but also a hair tie and socks. For a successful, focused sprint, all three of these items are necessary – even if the ladies aren’t exactly luscious, they do deserve and need support.

Frustrated with my forgetfulness, I did a few reps to relieve stress on the abs, arm, and leg machines, and then decided I was brave enough to brave the semi-chilly weather outside. After dropping off my gym bag and Longchamp at my temporary apartment, I hit the pavement…well, running, of course.

Though the sound of my own feet beating the road matching the beat of the music usually soothes me and clears my head, last night, I just couldn’t get the rhythm. I wasn’t losing my breath, but I also wasn’t finding my clarity. Out of my zone and continuously burying myself further into my worrying fit, I felt someone behind me. Suddenly on guard and wondering if it was possible to be unsafe at what I consider an early hour, 8:30, I quickened my pace without glancing behind. Though it was only a few seconds, the moment that passed seemed to be in slow motion, but as I turned the corner, I realized the shadowing I noticed was not an intruder, but just my own shadow.

Somehow, on the edge of the park where I was running, the way the street lamps mixed with buildings hovering above caused me to not only have one dark reflection, but three: one behind me (what I saw), one to my left, and one in front of me. I’m sure this has happened to me a dozen times without my recognition, but on Central Park West in that experience, I couldn’t help but watch my threesome of shadows come together as the light changed as I moved.

Symbolically, I felt like I was witnessing my past, my present, and my future mold into what those things make up: me.

Twenty minutes later, walking back to my apartment and stopping for a much-needed Greek yogurt (current food obsession), I thought about how much of what causes me anxiety or worry is stressing about the things I can’t change. And most of those headaches have to do with wondering what will happen in times I’ve yet to experience. Like on May 1 when I move to an unknown location or when Mr. Possibility settles in New York for an extended period of time, after several bouts of traveling. Or where my byline will appear six months, a year from now, or the networking event I’m attending in a few weeks. And then my forehead scrunches up in such a way I’m sure I’ll have wrinkles there one day (we’re ignoring the fact I already sorta do) -I struggle with letting go of what was. Like the friendships that just aren’t the same anymore or the people I should call more, but don’t. Or the battle I have to apologize for pain I caused years ago, when in reality, the wounds are healed, and if not scared over, they’re most likely disappeared forever.

But worse than wrestling with all the places I’ve been and all the places I hope to go, I often forget to value the place I am today. Though I remind myself (and I’m often told) that the only path leading to peace is not really a paved road at all, but the spot I’m standing – I’m often too busy running away from it to realize its beauty. I’m too scared of the past sneaking up on me, too concerned with where I’m going, that I rarely see how all of the pieces come together, effortlessly, in their own way and right, without much trouble at all.

I don’t really believe there is a way to fully release our experiences, nor do I think it is healthy. We must take from our own educational past to continue to grow, and we must have something to go toward, if we’re going to get anywhere. But without accepting, and dare I say, loving the person we are right now- the past and the future don’t matter.

A few steps before my front door, on the phone with my mom, I stopped in the middle of my block, and took note of the shadow before me. Wildly stretched longer than I’ll ever be or would ever care to be, I saw the shape of my body. Without any distinctive features or coloring at all, I didn’t resemble myself – but I knew the street reflection was me.

It was me, myself, and my shadows. With the most important of the trio not the shades of dark and light surrounding my feet, but the part that was real. The part that would still be, even when I walk inside, and leave the rest behind.

This is Me & This is What I Need

While I’ve always known New York is the city that never sleeps, I was somehow under the illusion that its inhabitants do. However, if the last two weeks are any indication of how my street-slicker life is turning out to be, then it looks like I may be learning to function on a few hours rest for the time I pen New York, NY on my return labels.

From the time the clock struck 7 am, letting me know it was time to greet the energy populating outside, until the moment I burst into my apartment, sat down my bag, and collapsed into bed – I was on the go. To and from work. Staying later to close the magazine and arriving early to ensure I crossed all my T’s and dotted all my I’s. Going to this happy hour and that gallery opening. Visiting people in Brooklyn and beyond. Entertaining out-of-town friends I hadn’t seen in ages. Freelancing. This breath-of-fresh-air of a blog that keeps me going, when nothing else does. Figuring out where my heart is, but keeping my mind in tow. New dates with new men. Even newer friends. Movies and networking, dining and wining, and of course, even more writing.

I’ve been waiting for my New York life to start feeling like an actual, functioning, and prospering existence that’s full of friends, outings, experiences, and thriving conversations – and I feel like I’m finally getting there. It’s taken some difficult days that sometimes may get the best of me, but through it all – I’ve never doubted that eventually, skyscrapers would seem more like home than mountaintops. New York has this effortlessway of renewing my spirit and reminding me that the opportunities for me are endless and attainable, if I just remember to keep one thing in check no matter how busy I get or who becomes a main character in my life. And that wildly complicated and perfectly simple thing…is me.

And while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my schedule being shaken and stirred – the thing that’s made the recipe a bit off is forgetting to take care of my own simple, day-to-day needs.

In my sudden influx of events and adventures, I noticed my mood gradually get worse. By the time Saturday evening rolled around and I had yet to really get a great night’s sleep, tidy up my apartment, or sit around in my sweatpants – I became flat-out bitchy. And along with my intolerableness, I started analyzing myself and worse, putting pressure and asking questions about what I was doing with my life. I started breaking out, which made me resort back to old ways of piling on way too much makeup. Thus, I started to feel less secure, not to mention with my busy schedule, the gym has been out of the question, so I was not feeling like my fit self, either. And when my apartment was merely used to shower and sleep for two weeks, the heap of dirty clothes kept growing, without an end in sight – leaving me with all of those garments we keep, but never want to wear. Admittedly, I may have worn the same pair of socks two days in a row and did all I could to keep that thought out of my mind throughout round-two.

Apart from doubting my appearance and feeling overall just plain exhausted, I also became paraded with worries about everything from my career, my finances to my dating life, and this space: Am I doing enough? Am I working to the best of my ability? Is my job happy with me? Am I going on enough dates? Should I even be going on dates at all? What if I fall in love with someone in the next few months – will that go against the recovery? Will I still be able to love myself in the middle of a full-fledged relationship? Am I there yet?  Do I even know where I’m going? Am I still on the right path with myself? Am I doing the right things? Making the right decisions? Am I saving enough money? Am I spending too much on going out and not enough preparing for my new apartment in May?

What the hell am I doing??

Like the infamous pile of spaghetti, all covered in cheese, once my meatball of confidence rolled off my sturdy table – all was lost. As much as I’m a girl who goes, I’m also a woman who needs alone time to collect my thoughts and find my personal center of clarity. I’ve discovered, in my most recent rampage, that when I forget about the basic necessities that keep me sane – sleeping, running, eating a huge bowl of cereal while watching trashy television in my fuzzy bathrobe – any bit of negativity in me bubbles its way up to the surface.

Until I took away my isolated liberty, I never realized how much I really cherished those hours of seclusion. The time when I’m only in the company of myself.

And so yesterday, instead of accepting an invite to dinner or heading out to mingle at a networking gala downtown, I left work on time and went to find the me I had lost in the last fourteen days. Running four miles was difficult, but it has never hurt so good or made my lungs feel clearer. I enjoyed a decaf espresso with my laundry and cleaning duties, and I caught up on the daily reads I had been neglecting. I soaked my feet and wore a face masque. I called my mom and then retired my phone for the evening. I replied to personal emails I had let pile up. I went invisible on Gchat and closed Facebook and ceased tweeting on Twitter.

I looked at myself in the mirror, saw all of the imperfections I had been focusing on for days – newly formed zits, hair that despareately needs to be trimmed, skin that’s paler than the leftover snow on the streets, and elbows severely thirsty for hydration. And instead of spewing out words of degradation and attempting to fix all that I thought was ugly or wrong, I stopped and made a decision.

A choice to believe that at whatever point my journey is at or approaching, or how many things I want to change or I’m unsure about – this is my life. This is my body. This is how I look. This is my apartment. This is my job. This is my savings accountant. This is my date for the evening. This is my blog. This is my city. This is my home. This is my exhaustion taking over. This is my spirit that will get me through. This is now. This is what it is. This, whatever this is at whatever moment this takes me to, is mine.

This is me and I have to decide what I need.

And while they may say it’s never too late to be the person you wanted to be, it’s also never too early to accept and listen to yourself. Or to realize that sometimes, the best thing you ever do…is absolutely nothing.

Something To Talk About

New York may attract the dreamers and the artists who express in every medium imaginable – but it also harbors and encourages the nosy.

Those of us who consider people-watching a pastime. Who have mastered the art of appearing engaged reading the Monday edition of The Times, when we’re actually eavesdropping on a riveting conversation three seats down. Those of us who can be entertained by the very best and the absolute worse displays of human emotion, affection, and self-destruction. Those of us who find ourselves inspired by strangers as much (if not more so) as we do from those we actually know the names of.

For a journalist and a woman who is easily combustible when given fodder for intriguing content – I picked the best city to live in. I may argue it picked me, but nevertheless,  though I love strutting to the rhythm of my powerhouse iTunes playlist while navigating the streets, I find myself removing the buds to tune-in to conversations I wasn’t invited to be part of.

Maybe it’s because of this blog or the universe’s way of encouraging my quest to self-love, but lately, the name of the eavesdropping game has been men. Or rather, women obsessing to a ridiculous degree about the guys who are, are not, could be, should be, or will be in (or out of) their lives.

Case in point, a few night ago I was changing in the locker room of my gym, when I overheard two girls discussing a dude one of them had met at a bar the weekend before. The girl was so distracted by going through each and every single detail about what he texted, how much time was between those messages, and what she thought he meant by them, that by the time she finished explaining everything, her friend had already changed into workout attire. She then realized she was behind her buddy and frantically started pulling off her work clothes to catch up. Obviously contemplating what her friend should wear as she waited for her to get ready, the other gal instructed, “Well, since you met him at kind of a trendy, clubby, flashy place, and you were dressed up – that’s how you should be when you get dinner tomorrow.” The girl with the dude and the date, stopped pulling up her sweatpants and with intense emotion said, “I know! I’m so stressed out that he’ll see me and think ‘Oh my God, that’s not who I met the other night.’ I really need to stop by H&M after this and pick out something. Or maybe you have something – are we still the same bra size? He’s taking me to some place downtown that I Googled, looked on New York magazine’s site, and on Menupages – so I think I have the scene figured out.”

Her friend placed her hand on her hip, tilted her head and matter-of-factly said, “You just never know, though. Ya know?” To which the girl nodded and replied, “I know. It’s going to be a disaster and I’m going to screw it up, I just know it. I always do.” By this point, I had been stretching my legs for far too long to hear their conversation and needed to literally run -but as I turned to look behind me, the scene of the girl stuck with me: athletic pants, an edgy sweater, two socks, and one running shoe on – gazing up at her friend in complete distress over a guy she’d met once.

Once.

Now, I started this blog for this very reason. I was that girl. If I’m honest I was far worse than that girl, if you get right down to it. My obsessions were intense and borderline-psycho. When I met a new man and he did actually call, email, text, Facebook, Tweet, or some other technological option of getting in touch with someone – I became instantly smitten. I lingered on his every last word, romanticized the way we met, came up with reasons why it must be fate, and tried to imagine what it’d be like to be his lady. Even if I didn’t quite remember what he looked like, what he did for a living, or if there was a spark – the fact that he was interested in me, meant I needed to make sure he stayed that way. And what better way to keep someone intrigued then to figure out the perfect thing to say, do, act, and seem like, so that the reason he decided to contact me in the beginning, would only continue.

And for the few first dates that turned into something more, regardless if they became boyfriends or flings – the obsession with talking about boys didn’t come to a stop…but only intensified. No matter what I had going on, what great adventures I was attempting, what strides I made in my career – I always defaulted to discussions about the man in my life. Or the one I wanted to be in my life.

In the spirit of honesty, I’m still not cured from being that girl. Like this weekend when a group of gals all-but had an intervention with me concerning what I felt about Mr. Possibility (hence yesterday’s post). Of course I appreciated and listened to their concerns, asked for their opinions, and described certain parts of my something-relationship with him in complete detail, my feelings were different. Unlike guys in the past, Mr. Possibility’s presence doesn’t rule all of my conversations. I tend to believe that if there weren’t any complications, he’d probably be mentioned a lot less. Regardless – that night, as I went on and on, played Devil’s advocate, tuned into their viewpoints, and tried to believe the most rational reasoning, I found myself exhausted of the conversation. I could hear the ridiculousness in my voice and the way I was putting myself down, going around in circles, and frankly – not having any sort of compelling conversation because I was lost in my own obsessive delusions. At that point in time, in those hours spent drinking and catching-up with my friends – why was I wasting my time talking about a man who was across several oceans?

Wouldn’t I rather know about their lives? About the half-marathon one gal is running and how she wants to be running buddies? About how one found the absoulte perfect job that would fulfill her dreams? Or how one managed to help bring a book she edited to the best-seller’s list? Or just about the cool recipe they came up with? And wouldn’t they rather know something more about me…then a damn boy?

Surely, we want to know these things about our friends and they want to celebrate in our success and be there for us in our trials, but somehow – the topic of men always seems to be far more intriguing. In that night alone, we compared our crazy sex and ex stories (which sometimes tend to be one-in-the-same) talked about what we wanted the very most at that moment – and two responded with “A man! It’s cold!

Guys can be quite confusing, engaging, and incredibly entertaining – but don’t we have something more to talk about than them? Something that’s more meaningful, more interesting, more beneficial to our lives and our personal growth? Something that showcases who were are as individuals, the women we’re growing into, and the battles we’ve fought to get to where we are?

Of course – but do we always want to talk about those things?

Really, discussing relationships, no matter if we agree or disagree with them, want one or not, or have ever been in or fallen out of love- make us realize that we’re not alone. If we say these worries out loud, if we give them life by putting them in words, if we catch a raised-eyebrow or an understanding glance from our best friend -then we know that it’s okay to feel these things, it’s okay to be obsessive sometimes, it’s okay to not be the best player at this game of love.

It’s okay that at times, the only thing we want to talk about, even when we know we shouldn’t or when we know it makes us sound insecure or addicted – is the relationship we hope to find. Maybe we’re projecting what we want on strangers, getting way ahead of ourselves, and reading into details we don’t need to analyze.

Or maybe, giving them, or us, something to talk about, means saying the things you always hold back for fear of how they’ll make you appear. When in reality, they don’t make you that girl, an immature woman, or a non-recovering love addict – they just make you human.

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The Company of Confidence

For a few years now, running has been my way to escape from all the worries, the distractions, the sadness, the anxiety – and just go. To jam up Gaga and Fergie and feel the heat of the pavement on my soles.

Maybe it’s because I feel like a hamster on a revolving wheel being cooped up inside or the new gaggle of New Year’s resolution-ers who are determined to lose 10 pounds by Cupid’s Day – but lately, my daily run has been so monotonous. By the time I hit mile three, I’m ready to hop off and get back to my apartment – and not because I’m tired or out of breath, but because I’m just bored.

This has happened before and it is usually the time when I jack up the speed, switch to the elliptical or the bike for a few weeks, add in an extra mile, or sign up for some additional Pilates classes.  As a person who lives for the next challenge and can’t imagine not moving forward in her life – it is incredibly hard for me to take a back seat to anything or to ever just relax.

Including love.

Aside from Mr. Possibility (and now Mr. Rescue), when I met a guy – I dove right into the middle of everything. I looked for certain qualities, I took note of “signs”, I paraded him with questions and imagined everything from our wedding date, our names together, and how he would drop down on one knee. Before I even kissed a guy, I had him figured out in my head and placed these enormous expectations on what I thought the relationship would be. When I started seeing red flags arise, I would turn a blind eye, excuse the behavior and just “see what happens next” before I made any rash decisions. I forgave their pasts, no matter how ridiculous and I vowed to be the girl who changed everything in their life. Who fixed their troubles, who stood strong and reliable, and hoped to become this girl who entered their life and made it better.

Before I even really, truly, knew who the man was – as a person, not a romantic partner – I let myself fall completely in love with the idea of what could be with them. Now, I took this to extreme lengths with Mr. Idea, (hence his name) – but if I’m being honest about the “exact nature of my wrongs” in terms of love addiction, I think I’ve done this with every man I’ve ever known. Even ones I didn’t date longer than a week in college.

And then inevitably, at some point, it would all get to be too much. Those red flags would become less like fabric blowing in the wind and turn into screeching, violently scarlet lights surrounded by orange caution cones, begging me to just walk away. Yet, when I reached the point of turning on my toes and getting away from Mr. So-Not-Right-For-Me, and I hesitated, allowing him to be the one to end the courtship – I was hurt. My confidence became shattered, along with my viewpoints of relationships.

This pattern, as ugly and self-defeating as it is, has been pretty consistent with every Mr who has captured my interest. Instead of allowing myself time and room to really understand who I was dealing with or who I was truly kissing on the corner of Broadway or having drinks with downtown, I let my thirst for companionship, for love, for a consistent relationship take over my ability to form actual opinions and think realistically.

I allowed my fear of being alone, of being single, of not being good enough for a relationship, or my inability to keep a “good man” around to be at the forefront of my mind. No wonder I blamed myself for everything, no wonder I got myself to a plateau where I had to overcome what I coined “love addiction” through an intense journey that tests me every single day. No wonder I ended up crying in the corner of my tub, the day after my last birthday because I got myself in such a devastating state.

Because I didn’t stop. I just kept going. Even when I was bored, even when I knew it was wrong, even when I knew it wouldn’t work out one day, even when I was tired and nothing was changing – I kept running right back into the arms of someone who never deserved my embrace to begin with. Just like I switch to an elliptical to change up the pace, I would try to steer the man or the dating process in a better direction to ward off any negativity, or take on more work than the dude, so he wouldn’t feel overburdened.  I resumed responsibility for all of the things that were mine…and all of those that weren’t.

Even with Mr. Possibility (who continues to look less and less like his name) and new guys I meet, I have to remind myself to breathe, to pace myself, to not push myself to where I can’t even enjoy the next relationship because the last one banged me up so badly.

Finding self-love through this journey isn’t just about making myself a better person so I can find Mr. Right. It isn’t about going back through all of my old relationships and figuring out what I learned. It isn’t about preaching my viewpoints or spreading the message of independence.

It’s about finally being able to rest assured.

To have faith in myself so I don’t settle for less than I deserve, because I know that regardless if I get married or not, I have confidence in who I am and am proud of the decisions I’ve made. To listen to my gut when it tells me to hold back or to slow down or to think before I leap. To enjoy my life, with all of its uncertainties and complications, and stop waiting for it to begin, instead of just living it. To keep my eyes focused on today instead of worrying myself into a frenzy about several years from now.

But most importantly – it’s about getting back up in the race, clearing my head and my heart, and taking one huge breath, knowing that even if I feel stuck in a rut or like I’m not making progress, it’s my right, my responsibility to do what’s best for me.

And at times, the smartest thing a gal can do is accept the red flag…and run as fast as she can in the other direction. Even if that road is one she’ll have to take alone. After all, the company of confidence is much better than the company of a coward.

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Distracted by Distractions

Almost every day of the week, I go for a run.

It is my time of the day to relax, to center, and to just be completely alone. Sure, there are always women running near me, but they don’t matter: I zone out everything else and focus on escaping. I haven’t always been a runner and I choose not to do marathons (I’ll do a 5K if begged) because I don’t want to ruin the pleasure and serenity of my only quiet time in one of the busiest cities in the world.

Most of the time, my runs are relatively easy and I lose track of time as I’m releasing stress, pounds, and that stop at Papaya Dog the other night (Damn you hot dog and french fries!). Other times, I catch myself gasping for breath, counting down the seconds until I reach a certain mileage, and overall just miserable.

It’s when I’m about ready to push the “Quick Stop” button that I mentally take a step back. I turn off my iPod, I flip my cell phone over, and I start listening to my breath. I count to five as I inhale, and then ten as I exhale. I feel my chest rising up and down and just like that – I find my stride and I’m ready to take on a few more miles with that runner’s high you don’t think is possible until you experience it.

By concentrating on my breathing and allowing my focus to turn inward instead of getting caught up in music and possible text messages – I eliminate every interruption.

But in life –interuptions are plenty, especially when you’re trying to learn to find peace in your singleness. They come in the form of handsome strangers who shower us with compliments or friends who we wish would be more. Sometimes, they are in quick goodnight kisses that may turn to second-thoughts in the morning. And always, these attention-stealers are only momentary. They give us our short fix for a slight period of time before we’re left alone and back to battling our fears and our love obsession.

Even knowing this -is it ever possible to cut out every distraction that keeps us from focusing on what’s most important? And in this journey, do I need to rid myself of any current potential disruptions so I can sincerely, full-heartedly put my energy, my breath, and my spirit into finding this confidence?

At the gym yesterday, as I was constantly checking my phone, and racking my brain to say what to a certain someone who has made his way into my heart and into my life – I realized he was not only disrupting my run, but my process. I’ve known him almost as long as this blog has been active and in that period, I’ve had him to depend on to reassure me, give me attention, and keep me satisfied with the instant gratification I’ve missed.

So by having him in my life, am I running away from problems and being led by distractions, or sincerely stepping up to the plate to face them?

Having this guy who is at an arm’s reach and yet completely unavailable emotionally is a huge issue – and one I need to admit. He has been nothing but brutally honest with me and I’m thankful that if I did decide to get mixed up with a man, it’s a sincere one – but, yet, I’ve allowed my mood to be dictated by him.

Is this taking a step back? Possibly. But in the past, I never realized my actions and corrected them, so to me, it’s still progress. Yes, I’ve checked my phone. Yes, I’ve done things and acted in ways that are out of my character and moral boundaries. Yes, I’ve wished and hoped that something in our “platonic” friendship would morph into other feelings.

But in my heart of hearts, in the deepest corners of my soul, in the back of my mind that I try to avoid, and in my breath that is catching up with me – I know I need to start focusing on me. On my journey. On my progress. On the me I sincerely want to become – a me that doesn’t freak out and isn’t obsessive and is okay in her single shoes, no matter how long she walks in them.

So do I cut him out? Do I stop going on dates? Do I stop the flirting? Do I write him off in my long list of almost-but-never-really-boyfriends?

Nah.

I just stop giving him attention. I stop allowing him to be the center of my thoughts at times. I stop letting myself get caught up in something that’s not meant to be. I stop the confusion before it becomes painful. I slow down. I put away my phone. I smile at myself in the mirror. Tell myself what I have to offer without needing him to reaffirm it. Give myself a break. Forgive myself. I move forward with confidence and with gentleness. I relax and let myself step back from my actions and revaluate.

And most importantly, I breathe.

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