The North Meets the South

Surrounded by a green wonderland, mountaintops flirting with the bubbly clouds, and the sweet Southern sunshine turning my office-colored skin a simple shade of pink, I stopped rowing and I listened. In my kayak, caked in mud and refusing to remain idle even in a non-existent current, I felt the motion below and heard the songs of birds in the trees and watched the dragonflies swarm near me. A few feet above, a fish bubbled to the top of the river hoping for food, and a yard or so behind me were my parents and Mr. Possibility. I had purposefully rowed far ahead, going with the pull of the water so I could have a moment to myself. A moment for…

…quiet.

I’ve always taken the serenity of my hometown for granted – especially the old dirt roads that learned to ride a bike and then a car on. I never took time to lay in my bed and watch the Oak trees blow in the wind or notice how the lines in my mother’s face fill in the sun. Or how my dad’s skin glistens at the height of day, scarred and beautiful from hard physical labor and fire fighting. I never saw the ironic peace that comes from mud squeezed in between your toes or a trusting butterfly that lands on your arm as you move.

It’s funny then, how each time I’ve returned to the South for a visit since I traded tractors for subways, I’m told how much more calm I am. That I’m more relaxed. That I’m quieter. While I’ve transformed in many ways, I don’t really think I’ve eased up – if that was the case, I would never make in Manhattan. However, I do think I appreciate North Carolina far more than I did when I lived here. As they say, you don’t really know what you have until it leaves or you leave it.

And so when I come home, when I sit down my bags and I don’t have to think about my metro, keeping my wallet close, walking with ambition and confidence, budgeting money and carrying my god-awful heavy laundry bags a block or two, I release it all. I do relax. I do become quieter because I’m not forced to speak or to hustle-and-bustle with the best and the worse. When I’m home, I  conquer what I always hope to do from time-to-time in New York – I master the art of just being.

It’s not just in the physical sense either, but it’s a mental unwind, too. I don’t worry as much, I don’t overthink, I don’t think about my weekend plans or wonder who is doing what and if I want to go. I don’t question if I’m spending the night with Mr. P or if he’s staying with me or how we’ll survive in an un-air-conditioned room for a night.

Of course I shouldn’t worry about such things while I’m on vacation – though if we’re honest, if I was truly on vacation, would I be writing this blog? Let’s hope not. But if I could capture the sweetness of the quiet I find here and bring just a little bit (under three ounces so I don’t have to pay $25) to New York – maybe I would be more peaceful. Maybe I would let things go easier, maybe I wouldn’t hesitate in my decisions but have a warmth about them, maybe I’d actually have a tan instead of spending far too much time indoors. Maybe I’d find less reasons to be angry and frustrated and more reasons to be happy and thankful. Maybe I’d spend more time enjoying right now this minute, this afternoon, this day, and stop fretting that tomorrow will work out how I’ve planned it to.

If the fierceness of the North met the sweetness of the South – what would happen? Is that what I am? A little bit of both, with one growing exponentially and one waiting in the wings of yesterday? I’m not a Southern Belle and I’m not a Manhattanite – so who am I? And how do I keep both part of the me I’m becoming?

Freedom From Myself

I’ve spent months upon months blogging about love. I’ve spent an unforgivable amount of time thinking about relationships in general. My own obsession with all things romantic, rose-colored and happily-ever-after approved is the reason I started this blog. I wanted to stop basing so much of my own happiness on if I was loved by a man or not. I wanted to stop fretting over getting married, on if there was something wrong with me that made men leave me or be continuously unavailable. I wanted to be able to have sex without having to think if that decision made me less of a lady.

Basically, I wanted to free myself…from myself.

I saw this whole world outside of my own mentality and boundaries. A city that begged me to play, to explore, to dream, and to do. To take my life in my hands without worrying if I had another hand to hold. Did I really need the balance of someone else to keep my sturdy, or could it be possible that I can be just fine, with just me?

What I’ve found through daily memoirs and a growing base of loving followers is that I’m not alone. I’m not the only young woman who has waited anxiously by the phone or had more guys break up with her than she ended things with. I’ve discovered I’m not as ridiculous as I once imagined and that sometimes, people get so caught up in your life, without knowing you, that they draw inaccurate conclusions. You can’t blame them though – writing and blogging is meant to drive opinions. I’ve learned that if you publish your intimate, personal details, those you were intimate and personal with will be affected, and they probably will contact you because of it. And the one your with, well it is possible he is subjected to just as much ridicule as you are.

But the beauty of this blog is that while I’m on Step 8, in a lot of ways I think I’ve made it further than I thought I would. Maybe I can give credit to New York or to having a big girl job that demands my attention. It could be that time really is the magical cure that solves all issues of the heart and mind or perhaps it’s just that like all things full of life, change is natural and healthy. Over the last nine months (yes, can you believe it?!), I’ve freed myself from some very limiting thoughts. Much to my surprise and maybe to the delight of others, I’ve now developed new perspectives and opinions I didn’t have less than a year go.

Just to name a few:

I’m Too Young for “I Do”

Since I started this blog, my best friend L took a trip to the courthouse and is now officially a Mrs. I’ve watched my Facebook friends post engagement and wedding photos, publish statuses about their “hubbies” and their babys-to-be. It used to be that such albums and sentiments would drive me crazy. I used to have this gut-wrenching fear that if I didn’t get married by 25, then all hope was lost. That’s how old my mother was and by Southern standards, that’s actually pretty old. But it isn’t like that in New York. In fact, if someone is married under 27, it’s quite odd. And children before 30? Forget it. Divorce statistics are higher down South and multiple marriages more frequent. I’d rather follow the lead of the North and wait until I really know myself, until I am established and happy in my career and by myself, before I promise my life to anyone. I mean, if I spend the rest of my day-to-days with the same person until I die…what’s the rush?

I’m Not Afraid of the Birds and the Bees

I haven’t slept around ever. I used to think that to have mind-blowing, earth-shattering, give-The-Rabbit-a-run-for-his-money orgasms, I needed to be madly in love. Though I haven’t experienced a one-night stand or sex with a complete stranger – I’m no longer against it. I have several friends in the city who are liberated with their sexuality and as they chronicle their escapades, I find a seed of jealously start to grow. I used to think it was really important to keep my number low so that one day, when I met whoever it was that I was going to marry, he wouldn’t think bad of me for exploring other options. But the thing is, my sexual history (as long as I’m healthy) is not the business of my husband. And the only standards I need to live up to are my own. This doesn’t mean I want to start galavanting about Manhattan, shagging with a different man every night, it just means I don’t think women should be judged by who they decide to sleep with. Or how many they decide to sleep with. Having high standards doesn’t always mean saying “No” – it can mean knowing when to say “Yes” to the right person…and not making excuses if you mix up right and wrong from time to time. After all, do men ever need to make excuses when they’re bachelors?

I love me.

Well, most of the time anyway. The point of this journey was never to meet a Mr. Possibility or to find the answer to all of my problems. It wasn’t supposed to change the person I am or my little quirks. I just wanted to learn to love myself -and who knew it would take over 200 posts (and counting) to start to get there? And who knew to love yourself, you’d need to free yourself, too?

My Never-Ending Story

I like my men tall, charming, and successful. I’m not picky about industry, though the majority of the dudes I’ve been involved with have been in the business sector. I’ve dated American and foreign, and a month younger than me to ten years my senior. I’ve fallen for a man in a minute, while some have had to grow on me. They have all been different in the matters that matter, but they have one distinctive common quality:

They’re all storytellers.

Some of them took this trait to the extreme – telling little white lies instead of entertaining tidbits, but most just had the art of captivating me with their tales. With inviting body language, energetic hand gestures, and wildly vivid eyes that change as the story continues – I’ve always had a knack for picking men who have factual (or at least I hope) anecdotes and want to tell me about them. The attraction I have to a storyteller may be due to my career or the fact that I try to listen more than I speak, but I think it could even be more juvenile than that. As simplistic as it may seem – I just like stories.

As a child, I became so fascinated with storybooks  and reading that I eventually started writing my own. They were bound with string and detailed the adventures of my childhood pets, Wilma and Indiana (after Indiana Jones, of course). Or about day-to-day errands, vacations, or what I learned in school. Though my life has changed since I was seven years old, I haven’t stopped cataloging what I experience or how I feel – it is the reason I have dozens of diaries and the reason this blog exists. So maybe a storyteller attracts another storyteller – even if the way they express their affairs differs.

Nevertheless, while the loves of my life have been talented in giving the whole story and always in a little-over-the-top way, I have always had trouble with one part of storytelling.

The ending.

Every writer, every speaker, every anything that delivers a message must have some sort of conclusion in mind. We all enjoy the beginning, the obstacles, the intrigue, and the passion that goes in the rising plot – but the question is always, what happened? Or how does it all come together? Does the guy get the girl? Does the girl find that man she thought she wouldn’t find? Does the lady land the job she wants? Does the man find something to bring him happiness that’s not his career? Did he cheat again? Did she forgive him? Does she die of some unknown disease? Does he get out of the tangled web of destruction? Do they live happily ever after?

No story is complete without an ending – or is it? Is there really such a thing as an ending at all?

In the next few months, my life will be changing, as I’ve observed it does in continuous three-month cycles. The start of May I will move into a new apartment – though because it is a New York market, I’ll have no idea where exactly I’ll be until a week before. Mr. Possibility will return yet again from a stint overseas and the plot we’re writing in our interesting story will continue to thicken as time and talks progress. I will travel extensively this summer with projected international trips and a homecoming to the South to attend my first of five weddings this year. And then there will eventually be an end to this blog. I’ve set a goal for a year of writing daily – which would make my last post on September 19.

Maybe with all of these transitions happening -leaving an apartment I loved, the final return of a man I adore, going on those trips I always lusted after, and knowing there will be a day without Confessions of a Love Addict – I’ve been thinking about endings. They say all good things come to a close – but I’d like to think that actually things really do last forever. And not in the sense that with each ending comes a beginning, but that anything that was ever important or significant doesn’t just leave you because it’s presence isn’t as prominent.

All of my storytellers are not acting across from me at the dinner table or sharing my bed as they once did – but I remember their stories. I remember their faces and they way they could make me laugh in all the right places. I remember what it felt like to fall in love with each of them and how it felt to fall out. And those apartments I’ve had over the years – from King Street in North Carolina to Manhattan Avenue in NYC – I remember the addresses. The keys have changed, the people who visited me have too, but there are certain things that never do.

And those are the stories.

Maybe that’s why I find myself as a modern-day historian – as all journalists are – documenting the world and my world as I see it and experience it. Remembering what was is the reason I’m where I am today, and why I’ll make it where I’m going tomorrow. The characters and the analogies adapt to our settings and the verbs that keep us going, but our stories remain. Chronicled in the back of our hearts where we keep the most intimate details, on the URLs of WordPress, or packed in cardboard boxes in our childhood homes – whatever we’ve experienced isn’t just deleted from our histories. It doesn’t end because those stories make us us. They give us the background for our foundations and the flashbacks we constantly entertain and learn from.

So why did I worry about happy endings with each of my storytellers? Why did I think I would have an ending at all? My story, much like the stories of every woman, every man who has ever been, isn’t based on the final sentence on the final page of the countless novels that make up my journey. It’s not about the moment when everything is concluded and decided, or when my future husband and I tell our story of how we met or got married or had children. Or when I achieved the corner office or the byline that I sought after. Or how the pieces finally came together and that was that.

Because my story is ever evolving, ever-changing, and never-ending. And it certainly isn’t concerned with such an ending, when it is only just beginning.

Worse Than Being Alone

At the time in our lives when we met one another, Mr. Idea and I needed one another.

He was in a job that didn’t respect him or give him the opportunities he deserved, and with a severe dislike for driving (especially curvy roads), North Carolina was no place for this native New Yorker. I was struggling to keep myself together my final semester in college, fighting away the fears in the pit of my stomach that I’d never make it where I wanted to be, and saving every nickel and dime that came my way. I had not been given the position at the newspaper I had eyed since I was a freshman, which kept me out of the office I practically lived for the last three years, and on top of wanting out, I somewhat felt like a failure and an outcast from the world that meant everything to me.

And so, Mr. Idea and I leaned on one another.

He reminded me of my talents and ensured that bigger and better things were waiting for me in the days and addresses I couldn’t imagine. I kept him confident that his Southern stay would come to a close and he’d find himself doing more of what he wanted in a place and a company that knew what they had when they had him. In a matter of weeks, we went from strangers who met on a semi-blind date to inseparable. I literally could not imagine my life without him and the way we clung to one another was definitely not healthy, but at the time, it was the only thing that felt right.

But that sense of need that so easily translates into a sense of urgency, kept me back more than it pushed me forward. I was so afraid of losing what I had found – Mr. Idea – that I did anything and everything I could to keep him around. I said all of the right things at the right time. I was never late but not annoyingly early. I supported him and stood by him, even when my heart begged me to question my intentions. I gave him the benefit of a doubt when he would say or do things that weren’t appropriate by my own standards. When he wasn’t interested in sex night after night, I tried not to take it personally and hoped he’d come around.

As our relationship progressed, I watched him turn more and more into someone that I knew I didn’t want to be with. All of the red flags were obvious, the signs were pointing to the exit, and I couldn’t help but wonder what else was out there. But for a while – I didn’t go. I didn’t leave. I didn’t walk away. I remained exactly where I was, miserable and feeling like I lost myself more than I had discovered some great love. But why?

Because it was safe.

When you’re in a relationship, when you finally find that man who isn’t deathly afraid of commitment, and actually wants to call you his and have you call him yours -there is a wave of relief. The guard can come down, the negotiations and convincing can stop. And that feels good. It feels comforting. It feels easy. Especially in my case, at a time when Mr. Idea and I were both unstable, it became a safe harbor, an arena where we could be accepted and not worry about “that part” of our lives, when all of the other parts were jagged.

And so, as many people do, I became comfortable. I knew I had someone there when I needed to be reassured. I knew I had someone to depend on. I knew that even if he wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I had wanted him at one time, and I thought maybe, he could grow into someone I couldn’t live without. I knew that I had prayed for love and I had been sent some sort of love, so why would I throw it away when problems and incompatibility outnumbered the good and the synced? Every time I felt the urge to hit the road, I remembered how difficult it was to be on my own, how much I hated being single, how much I didn’t want to face everything in my life alone – and I’d stay.

It wasn’t until right before I moved to New York that I had a great realization that I wanted to do my journey to the big city on my own. I wanted to say I did it just for myself, by myself, and in the right state of mind. And as much as I loved Mr. Idea and as badly as I wanted something to work out or for him to transform into my Prince Charming, I knew I couldn’t wait for it. No matter how awful being alone felt to me.

And what I found, after months and months of convincing myself I made the right decision about ending things with Mr. Idea, was there are worse things than being alone. One of which is being single in a relationship and having the only purpose of that union to be a bed of comfort, not a bed of joy. I was with Mr. Idea and I was committed, but my heart couldn’t get there because my mind was too worried about messing up the safety I found with him, and in return, I never was myself. And when he started becoming himself, I realized he wasn’t the man I wanted – but his presence kept me from facing the world single. Even if I was already singular as it was.

A few days ago, after a very long healing period for him, he extended a ring of friendship. He doesn’t read this blog (and I don’t blame him), and he doesn’t care to know about my Mr. Possibility – but he did want me to know what I meant to him and what I will always mean to him. In attempting to be a mature adult and explain to him verbally what I’ve discussed in this blog, he said:

“You never needed to be anyone other than yourself – you would have kept me even if you were a wreck – because Linds, you were at times. Or if you decided it wasn’t what you wanted sooner, I would I have forgiven you. Please, don’t ever be anyone other than the special person you are, because it is beautiful and I will always love that about you.”

So even with my charade, even with putting on my happy face to keep my comfort around, I had not fooled him. He had known my intentions in the relationship and what I hoped to gain. He wasn’t oblivious, even if I felt like I was being sly and strategic to keep my safety net around. Maybe he had felt single in our relationship too, or maybe he was at a different point in his life than I was, even if we both were unsteady.

But the thing about being unsteady and wanting to find structure in another person is that the more you look outside yourself to build the frame, the less dependable it will feel. But when you venture out into the shaky world, no matter how shaky you may feel when you’re single, you’ll come to find that while you thought you needed that protection or added support, the one thing you need more than anything else…is yourself.

And one day, you may just find someone who doesn’t need you to be comforted or vice versa, but they simply want you.