The Good Stuff

I was splashing, spinning in spiraling circles, watching the waves appear and feeling the pulse of the water around me. The mud underneath my feet crawled in between my toes, and sunk slightly the longer I kept myself planted, looking out into the blue skies of Carolina. The summer sun beat down on my freckled cheeks and I ignored my mother’s calling to come in for a ham and cheese sandwich and another round of sunscreen.

I ignored her, smug with my 13-year-old confidence, sure I knew everything, sure I didn’t need another layer to protect me from this August day. Instead, I’d spend my time here in this lake, dreaming about all the good stuff.

About that faithful day when I would ditch my cutoff jeans and messy braids for a more sophisticated lifestyle. About the time when I would pack my bags just as soon as I grabbed that degree, and head to that city I loved so much. The good stuff would be when I landed somewhere on that island, whose pictures decorated every room I’ve ever had, that island where dreams, magazines and handsome boys are made of. Where that good stuff is — those things and people and experiences and adventures I could picture in my head while laying underneath the endless web of stars or in that Georgia clay mud, wondering when I’d ever get there. When my words would be available for the world to read, when I’d write more than teen advice columns for the local paper, when I’d make a name for myself in that glistening, beautiful and unforgiving city. That’s where all the good stuff was, if I could just make it happen.

The good stuff was out there waiting and I was stuck in its anticipation, too young to have it, too bold to forget it.

I had similar thoughts this past week, as I found myself in the same place, looking at the same view, feeling miles away and like nothing had changed all at the same time. Except now, I trade ham and cheese for a rum and a coke, and I carefully reapply sunscreen, wanting less-leather like skin as I age, instead of working on my temporary tan. I didn’t flail around or spend every second submerged until I was pruny. Instead, I sprawled out on a float we’ve had for ten years, planted my sunglasses and let myself float.

And though I’m nearly 12 years older, and I do in fact have an address in the city where the good stuff is — I found myself staring up at the blue and white, daydreaming about the better stuff. The great stuff I haven’t had yet.

Like a man who needs no prodding or reminder to be captivated by me. Or one that is more of a possibility, and less emotionally unavailable. Or at least one that I can stand past a handful of dates. I thought about the good stuff out there, somewhere — like an apartment all on my own with the pup, where I can come and go as I please, do as I feel and never have to keep up a cleaning schedule or figure out who owes me what for electricity. The good stuff where I don’t have to look at the prices on the menu before I look at ingredients, or when I can invest in a wardrobe that is more about quality than quantity. The good stuff where my bylines appear in publications I highly admire, the good stuff when I figure out what exactly I want to do with my life and which way I want to go. The good stuff where travel is less of something to work toward and more something I do because the mood strikes and the money magically appears. The good stuff where I put on a white dress and feel that sense of peace, and yes, thrill, that there actually is someone out there worth waiting for. And dating to find. The good stuff where that smiling, cooing baby on the train is mine.

I have found such good stuff in my life, things that I wouldn’t trade, but more often than not, I find myself continuously forgetting how good it really is.

Until I look away from the sky and into what’s happening – my parents, married 28 years and dancing without any music at all on the boat, with chipped paint. And a motor that doesn’t always work. Or running through a country trail with my 50-something mother who is trying her best to keep up with me and we run straight through a pack of young, beautiful deer that stare right at us before leaping away. Or while fishing with my father, who wants nothing more than to spend time with me, a rainbow stretches the length of the lake, reminding me to never give up on that precious little thing called hope. Or watching my dog overcome her fear of water and jump into the lake, freeing herself from her city roots and embracing parts of nature she’s never seen. Or when I see a dear friend I haven’t actually spoken to in years strikes up conversation and we pick up right where we left off. Or sitting in my childhood bedroom of the lake house, remembering the first kisses, the first encounters, the first sips of terribly sweet wine coolers, I first discovered in this place.

There might always be better things ahead of us than before us. There might be moments and days to come that we can never prepare for, never wish hard enough for to create. There might be stuff that seems so incredible we can’t wait to see it or feel it or touch it or make it real. But if you’re always looking for what’s better, if you’re always searching for what’s next or what will be or could be or should be, you’ll lose what you’re supposed to be enjoying.

You’ll miss out on all the good stuff.

Because the good stuff happens every second of every day in surprising and ordinary ways. And you can only really savor it if you stop looking ahead, and start looking around you. Start realizing when all the good stuff you’re looking for is already pretty great. And more importantly, already happening.

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Finding My Way Back to Me

Wrapped up in the warmth of moment you know doesn’t come around very often, I closed my eyes and listened to the gentle crashing of the waves.

My best friend was breathing deeply next to me, slowly falling into the slumber the comes so easy when you’ve spent the day absorbing the sun and the fun of a place that’s not your home and relishing in the whirlwind of a few days that came and went faster than either of us thought they would. I felt the sand blow up against my sunburnt calves and the subtle spray of the ocean barely touching my skin, and I exhaled the biggest breath I have in what feels like forever.

I opened my eyes and tried to count the seemingly endless stars above me – their tapestry fascinating me and reminding me of the Southern upbringing I’m continuously thankful for. Their flicker and gaze didn’t remind me of the city I love – in fact, I hadn’t missed much about New York in the last five days. My Mexican oasis with my dearest friend in Manhattan had arrived at the most serendipitous time and more than anything else, it got me away from the constant rush and pressure of a life that yes, I created, but also, I was exhausted of. As difficult as it is to look out from underneath my rose-colored glasses and to unravel the picturesque story I’ve depicted of my grand escape from North Carolina to find success in the Big Apple – the reality of my life isn’t always so, well, peachy.

Over the last few months, I’ve not only grown frustrated and tired, wondering – and worrying – that my day-to-day would always be unfulfilling and unoriginal. Taking the same subway to the same place and back to the same apartment, walking a pup for probably the thousandth time, going on yet another boring date that might result in a kiss I’ll be sorry I wasted lipstick on. While I’m one of the rare breeds who does enjoy the challenge and stress of my job – when last Thursday rolled around and M and I’s flight to Mexico was about to take flight – I took great pleasure in turning off my Blackberry.

But, laying there in that cabana bed at 9 at night, equally exhausted and entirely at ease, full of food that wasn’t great and drinks that were, I didn’t concentrate on those negative thoughts I have let consume my focus lately. I didn’t think about the mess of my apartment or my mind. Or my heart. I didn’t think about turning 25 in September and the fear that another two years will come and go without another love to call my own since Mr. P. I didn’t think of him either. I didn’t think of my lack of savings or idea of my next steps or my next changes or my next choices. I didn’t think of my constant need to boost my own confidence and stop comparing myself to other ladies. I didn’t think about being good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or resilient enough – or anything enough.

Instead, I felt my eyes well up with tears with so much thanks for everything I’ve been taking for granted.

For every last blessing I haven’t been counting, for every wish that I once had that has actually, truly and sometimes incredibly, has come true. For the best friends, like M, who remind me of the beauty in everything, and especially in patience. For the paychecks that make living in New York possible from a job – a career – that supports and encourages me. For the love of a little dog that keeps me warm at night and smiling on the street at 7 a.m., without makeup, without any care at all. For the love I’ve been lucky to experience — even if it has washed away like the tide in front of me, I do know that the tide always comes back. For the apartment that keeps me cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s not, and the friendly folks who make me cleaner than I really am. For this blog that lets me express everything I can never verbalize in any manner that makes sense. For the family who may be very far away, but never that far from my heart.

For this five-day escape that made me realize how much I needed to get away from the city…. and also from myself.

This vacation was what I needed, even if I didn’t expect it to be as luxurious or wonderful as it turned out to be. I had not only needed the company of someone who knows me, who forgives me, who reminds me to relax (and take more tequila shots) – but I had needed to let go of it all. I needed those waves – and those margaritas – to wash away my funk. To cleanse me of my selfish attitude, of my bitter thoughts, of my fears that have no place in the back or the front of my mind. I had needed the sun to warm my heart up again – to remind it of what it feels like to be free and though imperfect (and maybe a little scarred), still vibrant, still full of the love that makes me…. me. I had needed space to recognize the gifts I’ve been given, the people who make me whole, the hope that makes me feel alive.

And underneath that moonlight, talking about nothing at all, I felt that hope come back to me. I felt my faith rekindle and my soul bubble with happiness. As we walked away to our beautiful home-away-from-home (complete with an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi!), I said a little prayer to remember this tiny piece of time. To remember the release I can give myself, to remember how to let go of the bad and feel the good again. To remember to breathe.

Because even though vacations (sadly) can’t last forever and like all important things, moments pass and change, just like friendships, just like your hopes and dreams, just like the best (and strongest) of loves – if you’re able to let yourself learn and let go, then you’re able to do anything. If you’re able to find gratitude in everything and anything, then you can always be under that cascading drapery of stars, you can always hear the calm and sudden rush of the ocean, you can always feel the sun on your back, you can always feel the comfort of the people you love near you.

You can always find your way back to yourself, even if you’ve been missing for a long time.

My City, My Calling

Packing to return from North Carolina back to the big ol’ city, Mr. Possibility and I discovered two things: we’re coming back with far more than what we came with and our belt buckles are a tad bit tight. If there are any stereotypes about the South that are actually true (and I’ll admit they’re true) it’s that everything is buttery, baked, fried, and flat-out delicious.

Even so, it’s not exactly a cuisine that’s good for you. And while we were in the South, we didn’t hold back: grits and shrimp, biscuits with gravy, toast with jam and honey, Dairy Queen, Dolly’s Ice Cream, Tastee Freeze, steaks, potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, fatty bacon that doesn’t need oil in the pan, Lobster Mac N’ Cheese, beer, wine, Tequila (him, not me), candy, sweet tea (he didn’t hate it), strawberry shortcake, and I’m ashamed to say there is more I’m not listing out of embarsament.

So, as I sit here, writing this blog before my midnight self-inflicted deadline, bloated and amazed I was able to eat a dozen or so shrimp after attending a childhood friend’s lovely wedding as Mr. Possibility is in a food-induced coma in the next room, I find myself dreaming, yet again of New York.

Back to my Cobb Salads with non-fat dressing, happy hours with skinny-girl drinks and my favorite wine, healthy stir-fry, and avocados. Plus my near-daily runs taking in the energy of the city and feeling the weight of my chest rise and fall with each breath. Back to brunches and my friends, shopping at a discount, working at a magazine, and being able to go anywhere I want by raising my hand and smiling, not worrying about a DD or back-country roads that love license checks.

Oh sweet North Carolina, you are many wonderful things that I’ve enjoyed sharing with a wonderful dude who charmed my friends and family, but you just don’t hold a candle to my New York. You each have your own qualities and it would be nice for the North to Meet the South occasionally, but when I think about being happy and the place I’m the happiest, it isn’t here anymore.

My group of friends have changed, but I’ll never forget the bonds I’ve cultivated here, with people that no matter how much time goes by, it’s so easy to reconnect. What I want out of life has changed along with my ideas about the right age for growing up and doing adult-like things like mortgages and marriages, but I couldn’t be more ecstatic for those who are blessed to find their love at young ages. My day-to-day is continuously changing and is hardly ever the same thing, and the best thing about New York is the possibility. And no, not Mr. Possibility, but just possibilities in general.

New York seems endless with opportunities: to go, to do, to be, to achieve, to find, to cherish, to love, to live, to learn, to know, to teach, to want. Whatever it is, whoever you are, whatever you want, whatever you need, wherever you want to go – the city has it and if it doesn’t, it can find it for you. The quietness of North Carolina is lovely but I miss the rush. I miss the noise. I miss the push. I miss the bustle. I miss the intensity. I miss the excitement. I miss the thought that everything is within my reach. Everything is close-by.

And now, as I publish and sign-off, the best of all is close-by: my calling, my city, my New York. See you tomorrow – and I may even bring the Northerner back with me. Though he seems to enjoy the South “pretty darn well, y’all.” (His words, not mine)

Lindsay New York

I always thought I’d be afraid of flying. I’m not sure why exactly – I’ve never feared heights and I’ve used every opportunity I could to try things that go fast: like jet skis, speedboats and sportscars. I went bungee jumping and have plans to go sky diving this summer – but yet, the first time I flew (to NYC from NC for my summer internship in 2008), I was disappointed when my tummy didn’t do flip flops at takeoff.

I thought “having a tiny fear of flying” sounded cool for some reason. Much in the same way I thought having a somewhat good singing voice would make me one of the many hopefuls for American Idol, though if we’re real honest, I only sound halfway decent in the shower and in the car, only in the company of myself. (Though Mr. Possibility tells me I have a “sweet’ singing voice and can hold a tune, but if you heard him sing, you wouldn’t trust his recommendation).

I guess I wanted to be known for something. Be the girl who did this or felt this way or had this kind of talent. For whatever reason, it’s appealing to me to have a title – “My friend Lindsay, she’s this incredible artist. You should see what she paints” or “God, my girlfriend, Lindsay, she’s so adorable when she flies, she grabs my hand and squeezes her eyes so tight, she can barely open them when the seatbelt light goes out.”

But no, I never really thought I was anything all that special. Sure, I have preferences and specified interests: I love puppies, not cats; I hate pickles, but I’ll eat them fried; I coo at babies and can’t stand cauliflower, not based on its taste, but because I think it looks like broccoli gone bad. I stand like a flamingo when my legs are tired and though it isn’t the most becoming quality, it is best I stay away from cheese at all costs. I love mayonnaise on pretzels, it is almost physically impossible for me not to date a guy I can’t sport sky-high heels with, and I’m addicted to all things Italian: men, food, wine, you name it.

Growing up, though, none of these things never quite mattered. But then I moved to New York and I started visiting the South for vacations and holidays, I realized that I actually do have something special about me. I am rather unique and my friend E was the one who predicted my out-shining quality. You see, I’m fromNew York now, not from North Carolina.

Each time I come home, someone – a friend, family member or parent – doesn’t introduce me as Lindsay anymore, but as “Lindsay. FromNew York.” Now really, I’m not Northern and I really don’t want to be. In fact, when I first met Mr. Possibility, I thought he had a speech impediment because his accent was so thick. But even though I don’t mispronounce “car”, I’m not the biggest fan of bagels, and I don’t curse every other word, when I return home, I suddenly become a New Yorker, though the city doesn’t endorse me yet.

Apparently it’s such an anomaly for a blue-eyed, freckled petite little miss to transplant herself from pearls and babies to resumes and stilettos, that as soon as I changed my address and my voter registration, I became Lindsay New York.

But ya know what, as outlandish as it is, I don’t mind. I have always wanted to be known for something and if that something happens to be my admiration of NYC, that’s not a bad trait to claim. I guess when you’ve loved something for decades, it does become part of your DNA. It does become part of what makes you, you. It does become the thing you miss, even when you’re lying in your childhood bed watching your possibility chat with your dad over beers.

Where you’re from may be the thing that makes up the pieces of who you are, the bundles of lessons and dreams that give you morals and ideas – but it’s the place you go, the people you meet, and the stories you tell from that place and the person you bring home that change you. It’s what makes up your future. And maybe it’s not as interesting as a killer voice or as endearing as someone who is afraid of climbing, but it’s me.

You know, me, Lindsay New York.

A Real Relationship

I’m a pretty relaxed traveler. I don’t over pack but I pack enough. I’m not afraid of missing my flight but I’m perpetually way too early. I don’t set my plans in stone but I always have a general idea of what I’d like to do. Most of the traveling and exploring I’ve done, I’ve done alone, so globe or stateside trotting with someone else is just about the only thing that makes me a little nervous.

Mr. Possibility and I have been through a lot together and I’ve known him almost the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, making the process of learning to love myself, with or without a guy that much more complicated. I was specific when I started this journey that I wasn’t going to make any rules and I wasn’t going to stop dating if someone happened to fall into my life that I was interested in. Most literally, I just about fell into Mr. Possibility’s lap on that sunny afternoon nearly nine months ago.

And here we are today, preparing for our first trip together, attempting to put the past behind us and set out into the adventure that is a relationship. I haven’t been in one for a while and the last one (Mr. Idea) wasn’t exactly sunshine-and-roses, but with Mr. possibility, it was nearly impossible (pun intended) to not give it a go. There’s something about connecting with someone on such a personal basis that even if there wasn’t chemistry or passion or sex or all of the above, you’d still like who they were as a person, all other things aside. That’s Mr. Possibility for you – a good guy. A guy who gets me, who makes me laugh, who doesn’t try to hold me back, who encourages my dreams and is pretty dependable.

He is many wonderful things or he wouldn’t be with me – but one thing that he’s not is organized. I’m not the cleanest person in the world, trust me. Neither is he and that not-so-winning combination has caused some sticky situations in the past. But when it comes to preparing to go away or getting my affairs in order before leaving home for a week, I start to think ahead…well, ahead. Mr. Possibility doesn’t quite think in the same way, or rather if he does, he’s far more relaxed about it then I am.

I’ve had my suitcase packed for two days, an idea of what time we have to get up to be there in enough time, and our itinerary, including our rental car information and flight schedule printed. I’ve packed magazines I’ve been dying to read (and one for him), formulated a few blog posts so I wouldn’t have to stress on vacation (but I’m bringing my laptop, can’t help myself), and came up with a list of things I want to do. Mr. Possibility, on the other hand, didn’t start packing until right now, is stopping by a friend’s birthday party when we have a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow, and I’m finishing up laundry so he’ll have everything he needs.

Needless to say, perhaps, there’s been a little tension.

A big part of a relationship is compromise and accepting someone’s idiosyncrasies. I know I have ridiculous traits and I also know he has his, but if we can both learn to relax, to take a step back, and remember why we care – instead of what annoys the hell out of us – then we have a chance at a great trip and at a great partnership. I probably packed too many shoes and will be a little flustered if I don’t get to see some of the things I want to see, and Mr. Possibility could run away screaming from me if I ask him one more time if he has everything he needs – but I take him for him. He takes me for me. It’s not perfect and it’s not supposed to be, but it is life and this is a real relationship. We can’t escape reality, even if we are going on vacation.

I’m still coming to terms with giving up the single status but I’m excited about taking a trip with a man. Even if he happens to be the sort of man who is standing in front of me, asking which tie goes the best with the suit he wants to bring and neither of his options match at all. Did I mention we’re leaving ten hours? And his suitcase is empty?

Sigh.