Peaceful, Easy Feeling

I lay in bed, alone; listening to the rain hit the streets below. It is the middle of the night and the slight light from the tall lamps below peek through the shades, creating squared shadows across the blanket covering me.

He couldn’t sleep, so he retired to the living room to catch up on some paperwork for his job. It isn’t one he cares for or one that brings him happiness, but it dictates the majority of his thoughts and nearly all of his worries. Before he left the bed close to 3 a.m., he rolled over and kissed my forehead, thinking I was asleep and trying to be careful not to wake me.

But I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t been able to for days.

It isn’t him. Everything about what we share is ideal for where we are in this relationship. He is gracious and kind, funny and inviting. He stands by me, and while life may be ripe with complication, there is nothing complicated about the time we spend together. It is fluid, gentle, and unhurried –similar to the way we continue to connect. I’m happy in a way I haven’t been happy in a long time, and for the first time, I haven’t defined myself by my relationship status. I’m proud of myself and committed to investigating all that could be…but something is missing. Something in me, not in us.

I haven’t been able to find peace. I’m not seeking it in his arms or in this bed that I’m laying unaccompanied. I’m not looking for it in my bylines or in my success. I’m not asking my friends how to find it or where true peace comes from or if it is even possible.

But isn’t it possible?

I’ve met those people – those who are just satisfied and content. There is no better word to describe them than peaceful: they exude an energy that is intoxicatingly calming that you crave their company because it puts you at ease. They are the ones who were called a “breath of fresh air” on their elementary report cards, and the ones who were so comfortable being who they are, it made you wondered why you doubt yourself at all. They are the ones in the working world who gracefully cascade through the office in seamless outfits; pairing the most mismatched items into something so beautiful you can’t help but watch them as they walk. And when they talk, their sentences are soft and subtle, not loud enough to hear from far away, but enough to make you lean into them, as to not miss a word.

Peeking out the window, hoping he didn’t come to check on me as I sat in his windowsill, pressed up against the glass with his Ralph Lauren sheets wrapped around me, I wondered how I could become that person. The type of person that doesn’t make excuses for herself, who is calm and confident, collected, and true to herself. Someone who isn’t full of worry and anticipation, who is always hungry for change, and desperate to be more, to be better. Being driven and ambitious has its perks, but it often leaves me disappointed when what I think is mine, doesn’t turn out to be. Or what I work so hard for, doesn’t come to be when I want it to.

If I was more peaceful, maybe I’d accept life for what it was, instead of what I want it to be. I’ve accepted peace can’t be found in any man, including the one I can hear attempting to be quiet, though not succeeding as well as he thinks he is. I’ve accepted it can’t be found in my job, though fulfilling, will never be all that I am, nor should it be.

I keep accepting, but I’m still not sleeping. I keep believing I will find freedom from being too hard on myself or not giving myself enough credit or valuing what I have instead of continuously desiring more, but I’m still anxious.

I keep praying, but I’m not finding my peace. Where are you, peaceful, easy feeling, and why can’t I feel you?

Thank You, Mr. Wrong

As it usually is on Monday mornings, yesterday the downtown train to Chelsea was packed. I’m one to stand near the door and let others grab a seat, a gracious tactic that usually results in a quicker exit and entrance. This quarter past eight in the morning decision landed me squished between an elderly man reading The Times and a pair of matching tourists, complete with fanny packs and “I love NY” shirts and all.

Nearing my stop, my cart started to disperse and as I turned to catch a spot closest to the parting doors, I caught a whiff of an old familiar smell. Unable to keep myself from turning away, I subtly followed the scent to find the trail. A few mini steps clockwise, I came face-to-face with a 15-year-old with shouting headphones, who was not amused by how uncomfortably close I was to his sideways-cap.

Embarrassed, I grinned at him (he didn’t return one to me) and left the subway quickly as I couldn’t keep my head from buzzing with memories Axe Deodorant Spray. Scent is, after all, the strongest sense tied to memory, and for me, that scent will never represent anything or anyone but Mr. Faithful. My very first boyfriend, my puppy love, the man whose heart I shattered, and the dude who I lost my virginity to.

And that same fragrance takes me back to all of those things – laying with belly buttons touching as I wondered if sex would get better; if he was the man I would marry, if I would be the one who ended up with her high school sweetheart; if this was what real love felt like; if I would ever meet anyone I felt as strongly about. If it got better than this.

But if I could have reassured  my 15-year-old self about how much I had to look forward to and how much love I was actually capable of giving and receiving, I would have never worried. I would have enjoyed those moments of innocence, toes dipping into the warm lake at twilight, gleaming into the eyes of a guy, who three years later, would be far removed from my life.

Because in those hot summer nights and the cold winter evenings we spent together as two kids, feeling what we thought was love for the first time –we were each other’s right person. If you would have asked me a few months into our relationship – maybe up to the first year, even – I would have told you I’d go the rest of my life smelling that Axe spray every morning and be perfectly content.

Or when Mr. Fire introduced me to gnocchi – something that always reminds me of him when I see it at the grocery store – in his tiny kitchen in our tiny college town. Dancing  (and sliding) in our socks to Dave Matthews, laughing, sipping wine we were too young to buy, and our hearts racing in anticipation of the love we hadn’t made yet. With those wild eyes that always seemed to get me – he rubbed his nose against mine, scooped me into his arms, spun me around, and dipped me toward the ground, playfully asking: “Do you trust me?” In that instant – I would have proclaimed to the whole world I would trust him with my everything, would have given him anything, and would have said whatever I needed to say to stay in his grasp forever.

In thinking about this ever-elusive Mr. Right character – I’ve thought about all the guys who didn’t fit the bill. All of the ones I loved or the dudes he didn’t fall for me as fiercely as I intended them too, and all of the suckers in between.

Because while Mr. Curls, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Fling, Mr. Idea, Mr. Disappear, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Rebound all have names specific to my experience with them – their ultimate titles are all the same: Mr. Wrong. Even if at one time, they had the opportunity be Mr. Right or were Mr. Right Now when they stood by my side.

I’m not convinced there is only one right companion for every person, but I do think it’s important to remember the guys who weren’t right. The Mr. Wrongs, after all, will never be completely gone – because if they were, then what would have we gained from their love – or lack of? Would we be able to understand what works for us and what doesn’t? What it takes for someone to be what we need and what will never measure up to fulfill us?

How can we know when it’s right if we don’t know what it feels like when it’s not?

The Mr. Wrongs ended up not to be the men I decided to lead with, but they all served their purpose. I’ve learned the lessons I’ve decided they’ve taught me and with all of them, I’ve released the “what could have been” thoughts that always attach themselves when love goes astray. I’m not interested in rekindling any flame that’s burnt out, bur rather excited about what’s next.

Because if history truly does repeat itself, then I’m lucky. I’m blessed to be strong enough to overcome heartache, to choose what I need over what I want, and to be loved by a few incredible men. And though at the time, I didn’t always realize what was waiting for me is better than what I’ve felt before – I know it now. And without dating, loving, losing, and leaving the Mr. Wrongs, I would never have the confidence that a Mr. Right – or maybe a few Mr. Rights – await for me in the days, the months, and the years to come.

It is sometimes those unanswered prayers that are answered against what we thought we longed for, those memories that were once bittersweet but are not just fond, and those men who were right at one time – that teach us more than the one who ends up being right, right now. They may have broken our hearts or steered us in the wrong direction or we could have stepped all over them on the way to our own happiness and personal gains – but without them, we wouldn’t be one step closer to finding the love that doesn’t bite the dust.

So, thank you Mr. Wrongs – for a lot of things, but mainly, for being wrong.

The Plane Will Take Flight

There’s an old story about a person who wakes up to a blaring alarm clock, stubs his/her toe on the bedpost, runs into the chair haphazardly displaced in the middle of the living room, and steps into the shower, only to find the hot water is not-so-hot. And though this person has only been awake a matter of minutes, the rest of their day will follow in the same format: profanity hidden under deep, exhausted and frustrated sighs of angst.

And nothing about this 24-hour period will be rectifiable. Everything is unquestionably shot to hell and while it may be the only March 23, 2011 that will ever be, to me –damned it be.

 

I didn’t stub or bump into anything and the shower held up to its steamy standards – but I woke up yesterday in a panic, due to an odd dream. I won’t go into details because I’m still not sure what I think and the fact that my mind can conjure such ironic concepts and scenarios without my consciousness is rather freaky. Anyways – a moment before my cell phone attempted to wake me, I shot up in bed, eyes wide-open, and hoped I didn’t wake the possibility who was possibly still sleeping next to me.

Thirty minutes later at the unforgiving eighth hour, I rushed to catch the train and found myself appalled at the weather New York was entertaining. I mean, less than a week ago I had effortlessly eaten dinner outside in a wrap dress without a sweater and without pantyhose. But now, as I ascended from above ground to the underground metro maze, I watched the sleet, hail, and snow mix disappear out the window and thought the only word to describe the day’s conditions was disgusting.

Though work was at its normal, dependable pace, and the magazine’s press due date on Friday is quickly approaching, I didn’t find myself stressed. Something about working on a deadline actually gets me working harder than I normally do (probably why journalism is a great career for me), and when everyone else is buzzing with productivity, it makes it easier to stay focused.

However, as the hours passed, I noticed my downward mood. No matter how many positive things happened or how my soul felt a certain sense of happiness – I couldn’t shake an overwhelming feeling of sadness. You know – one of those emotions you can’t deny and derives from a place that makes everything else tender? Right in the pit of my gut and the center of my heart was a pang of awful ache that matched the weather stirring outside.

As I looked up the proper way to spell canceled (if you’re curious, it can have one “L” or two, it is a preference thing), I wondered what was wrong with me. I’m not expecting a visitor I never excitedly invite (unless I’m worried it won’t come, that is), tensions aren’t tight between me and anyone else, and while I haven’t slept as much as I’d like, I wasn’t exhausted.

So why the gloom and doom?

Concerned with my concerns, I first focused my thoughts and then listened to them. I went through my never-ending to-do list that is needed for work, the blog I needed to write that I had been putting off, the apartment that needed cleaning, the weekend plans that needed confirming, the bills that needed paying, and the groceries that needed buying. And the Mr. Possibility that needed me to stop by to see him off before he flies, yet again, overseas, for an unknown amount of time.

Oh, well then. Maybe that makes sense. Of course, the departure of a someone who is becoming something may cause a little distress, I thought. But what if I don’t want it to? What if it scares me to care?

I never intended for things to progress with Mr. Possibility and I – but they have. In one of those slow, easy, and far from simple ways that we all think we want, but when it happens, the picture doesn’t come out as great as the shot we had in our head. Or at least a little less sepia and black and white, and more daylight or without flash. The desire and unintentional intentions aside – I’ve found myself here. And it’s here that I find myself sappy on a Wednesday afternoon, waiting for the day to end so I can see a special someone off to the airport, while I sincerely hope for a flight delay.

Unwilling to admit that Mr. Possibility’s absence  would mean something to me, I powered through the rest of work, even crossing off some tasks I don’t enjoy doing to distract from my wave of longing. Sure enough, the clock struck six and off I was to Brooklyn, battling hail storms and tourists along the way.

When I burst into the door, I almost stumbled into his luggage, and he greeted me with a big smile before pulling me into his embrace. This move is signature of most men – making us disappear into their sometimes hairy and sometimes still stuck in preadolescence chest – and yet, when Mr. Possibility took me in, I felt something different.

I felt my heart sink.

At this point, I’m extremely frustrated that I’m upset, so I make a careful move to wiggle away and as I do so, lightning flashes and thunder makes an unforgiving entrance. Further annoyed the weather continues to mock my emotions on this particular day, I ask how I can help and head to the sink to rinse dishes (something I think I got from my mom, who cleans when she’s feeling uncomfortable or restless). After a few hours of talking about the trip, tying up loose ends, cleaning, and chatting away, Mr. Possibility insisted I at the very least, ride with him to the subway so I wouldn’t have to walk in the snow that was now highlighted across the sidewalks. Though I don’t appreciate being instructed, I picked high-heeled ankle boots as footwear, and didn’t want to ruin them. Or you know, slip and break my neck.

After finally saying our temporary good-bye, with my heart simmering, I stepped directly into a puddle that went well past the boots I was so concerned about damaging. In the slippery slush, I tiptoed to catch my ticket home, and like the person who stubbed their toe in the morning, I cursed in a way my grandmother would blush over.

It wasn’t until my nearly-hour commute back to the Upper West that I finally came to terms with the sadness I was battling all day. And those terms were far less complicated than what I was making them: I’m scared. Why was I worried about his new short or extended international stint? Like anyone would be, I was afraid of history repeating itself – and well, I like the dude, so of course, I’ll miss him. But more than that, after all this work to build a foundation of trust, I had stomped all over it, all day long. I had chosen to forgive him, my friends had decided to forgive me for giving him a second chance, and that was that. You can’t go back on forgiveness or you should have never granted it to begin with. And if his traveling leads to traveling in areas I’d rather not know about – then I’ll gladly accept the rightfully deserving title of fool.

Letting go of yesterday, learning to live (and love) yourself in today, and not being intimidated by a future single or with someone else means learning to take everything day-by-day. A bad day won’t repeat itself if you’re able to change your mindset before calling it a night. A great day may not be as bright the following day, just like love may not always be as close as it was a few hours earlier. But we can’t pray for those flight delays or for time to stop moving in its unexplainable way that somehow always translates into sense at the end of it.

Because the planes will arrive and they will take flight, along with the wintry weather that’ll yield to spring, and distance that will grow and test the possibility of something with great possibility.

 

 

And the Storm Will Rise

There are certain things people say that you’ll never forget: the first time a man tells you he loves you (even if he’s merely a boy at the time), when someone ridicules you publicly, or when you have a heart-to-heart with your mom, not as your mother, but as your friend. I remember each of these moments in my own life, but if someone were to ask me my favorite, most memorable phrase anyone ever said to me, it’d be:

“Well you’re like a Southern summer storm in the middle of August, aren’t ya, now?”

I can’t tell you the woman’s name, but it was a friend-of-a-friend at some family reunion I attended in North Carolina when I was 17. Having only been in my presence for about ten minutes, this older lady decked out in pearls and with nails so perfectly manicured you’d think she lived in a salon, literally nailed who I am in fifteen words.

For those of you who have not had the privilege to experience a thunderstorm in the Southern region of the United States – I hope you do someday. They are beautiful. Out of nowhere, unforgiving gray clouds encircle the endless sky, enticing bursts of sound and light in every direction. The rain with a scent so intoxicating, so vibrant you yearn to step outside to inhale as deeply as you can. But, if you’re educated by the ways of the countryside, you dare not step off of your porch, but allow the storm to capture your attention from afar. Leaving the security of your steps would be quite risky and with the aging Oak trees swaying helplessly in the sweeping winds, you can only imagine what they could do to you, the barefoot and sticky with sweat observer you are.

And then, almost as easily as the storm came, it leaves. Its noise, its electricity, its saturation, and its perfume trail off into a space beyond the Blue Ridge mountaintops you’ve never crossed. It is only then, when the branches rest from their dancing, the daffodils face the sun as it breaks through the clouds, that the real beauty reveals itself.

As everything comes back to life and still at the same time, and the color returns to the fields and the atmosphere…an echoing silence that’s as vivid and consuming as any sound on the Earth, captures the Southern afternoon. It’s simply quiet.

Perhaps the lady didn’t know what she was saying to me when she called me a summer storm, but something tells me that with her accent and the way she sipped her sweet tea – she did. When a relationship comes to a close, when a man leaves me before I’m ready to be left, when I don’t hear from a guy who I was convinced was intrigued by me, or when I feel like I failed at something I thought I deserved, I hear her words ringing loud and clear in my head.

Am I really as messy as a summer storm? Or is love the storm we all chase after, but never quite catch?

When I’m falling in love, I see myself enveloped in a tornado, shaking around aggressively, feeling the rush of lust wash away all of my fears, all of my insecurities, and capture me in a breeze I can’t (and don’t want to) fight. Instead of hiding behind a door, I dodge through it. I tease the storm with my laughter, with my ever-believing, ever-childlike spirit, and I feel unbreakable, unstoppable, and full of a fire I know could never be drowned with rainfall.

Until of course, I hear the thunder.

Or it shakes the ground so violently that mud splashes up against my calves. And lighting strikes a breathless few feet away from me, and though they say it never strikes twice, I start to remember what it’s like to feel the sting of heartbreak, to have that feeling in places you didn’t know existed that tells you “It’s over. It’s just so over.”

And like the same sweet child who ran to escape the unexpected summer rain and the disaster that often followed it, I dive back into my safe place with my hair and my cheeks damp, my mascara creating paintings on my face, and as if I wasn’t soaked enough – I cry. As if I wasn’t messy from the outside free-for-all I just came from, I shield my eyes with my grimy-hands, smearing the wetness even deeper. So deep it feels like it becomes ingrained in my blood and pours out of the hole that I hoped wouldn’t be put in my heart…again.

When I love, I love intensely. I love powerfully and profoundly. I make no excuses for how I feel and I give away pieces I should probably keep to myself – but I do it willingly. I do it with the rush of a hurricane, the destruction of a tsunami, and the intensity of a volcano erupting.

And I do it over and over again. With each and every single man who is lucky enough to be loved by the likes of a Southern summer storm.

In going through this journey, as raging and unpredictable as it seems to be, I thought I may lose some of my splendor. Some of that unyielding optimism that makes me believe my Mr. Right (who may be a Mr. Northern Storm, perhaps) exists, of that passion that helps me string together words and fight my way out of any disaster. I thought maybe, that tailwind that so many men, so many friends, so many people have often said they get mesmerized by…would leave with the addiction.

But then I realized, the best part of the storm isn’t the storm itself, but the calm that follows it. As much as a mess in a dress I am at times, especially when I’m drowning in a flood of new love, being a little cyclone means I find my peace eventually. I accept that no voyage, where it be one I travel alone or with a first (or fifth) mate, is ever safe from rocky waters. That while the storm will always rise, it will also fall – and it is there, you test your lungs and your legs out for size. And with the same strength that made the winds blow, the rain fall, and the leaves rattle and shake in all of the relationships I’ve experienced, I’ve been just as sturdy to stand after they were over.

To stop being a hot mess for a hot minute. To ring the water out of my hair and wipe away the stains on my knees, in between my toes, and on my fingertips. To step out of the drenched clothes and slip into something dry and warm. To open that backdoor and feel the summer breeze float through my ringlets.

And let myself inhale not only the end of the storm, but the colorful promise illuminating the sky. The one that makes you remember no matter how much hell a storm gives you or how much hell you are – there is always something waiting in the horizons you can’t see, in the cityscapes you always wished were in your view, but never quite were.

That somehow, no matter how detrimental the raging waters or how threatening the daunting clouds were – we’d never trade them for anything. Because without the storm, we can’t appreciate the sweet stillness that comes with the sun.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is making Valentine’s Day more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.

Flirting With Fire

Growing up as a fireman’s daughter, I was taught to steer clear of many things. Open flames, matches, fireplaces, ovens, and campfires, along with anything flammable. My father warned that fire, when it runs wild and uncontrollably, can destroy all in its tailwind.

And in those worse case scenarios, where flames engulf people – it could leave their skin, their touch, their feelings…numb.

As a child, the reality that if I played with fire and couldn’t stop it from growing, then I’d run the risk of not being able to feel my fingers was terrifying. Or maybe my toes, if they got too close to our woodstove. Or my elbow, if I accidentally dipped it in boiling water. Though I was (and still am, really) fascinated with the beauty of orange embers circling the air, I was very cautious and careful with how closely I teased their enticing flames.

But then, as all children do, I grew up.

And instead of literal blazes, the fire that I not only flirted with, but ignited and kept alive, was more in the form of men. These men, who at times lit up my life, and then also extinguished my hopes – were a lot more difficult to resist than the fires I was attracted to a decade before.

Maybe I should have known better and listened to my father, but I ended up proving him right. Sometimes, when you get too close to dangerous warmth and it burns you, a part of your heart and a fragment of your soul, feels like it dies. There have been moments, weeks, months, and even years, if I’m honest – where I was convinced the connection I had with one man, would never be sparked again in another. That because I was burned, I had these scars, these wounds I was still licking – and my heart wasn’t capable of allowing someone else in. Or my body wasn’t ready to make magic with another guy, until the ashes from the previous one were lost in the breeze.

But to have that passion and the velocity that can only come from intensity, is it worth flirting with fire? Is it worth risking the numbness we have all felt and we all fear? Is there a reason they don’t offer “grown-up” fire safety classes?

My newest co-worker, H, is what most people would identify as firery. She is brazen, bold, and when she walks into the office, she makes it known. She sits behind me and throughout the day, I hear her sales calls where she makes jokes with clients, and I’m constantly giggling at her energy. She has a way of lighting up the room – even on a Monday, and that’s saying a lot.

Last week, this firecracker pranced in and declared that she was jealous. One of her male friends had introduced her to his new girlfriend at a benefit they were attending, and at the point where she was to reach for his gal’s hand, she found herself dumbstruck and for a reason she’s yet to determine, she felt the green envy monster creeping its way out. Now, maybe this means she has feelings for her friend that she didn’t notice previously or she wasn’t prepared to know he was taken, regardless; experiencing jealousy wasn’t a bad thing for her – but a good thing.

With excited expressions and gestures, she said “I haven’t felt jealous in such a long time! I had forgotten what it felt like to feel like this…and it feels so good to feel something.”

At first, I was a little confused by the statement – as every dating book and article in any magazine I’ve read advises us to steer clear from envy, but then I thought about it. And I realized that after being numb or closed off from relationships or hiding from the opportunity for something more, there comes a point where we realize, we can feel again. Often times, when we’re not even trying or looking for it.

While physical flames that run rampant and uncontainable through forests and tend to piss Smoky the Bear off are irreversible, the fires we build with men we love can be destructive, but not permanent.

Sometimes, all it takes is a second, a glance, an encounter, or a simple brush against your hand – for you to recognize those third-degree burns, maybe weren’t so third-degree after all. That maybe, the band-aid can be taken off and you don’t need to run yourself under cold water, trying to put out the burning around your heart. Because perhaps, without realizing, you’ve healed yourself.

A large part of this journey and why I decided to embark on it in the first place was that I knew I needed to let go. Since I started dating at 15, there were (and admittedly still are), lesions from lost-love that I couldn’t let mend. Places in my heart and in my attitude that were scorched from the many men who I thought would love me endlessly, and merely turned out to be just another chapter in the book I don’t know the ending of.  And the saddest part about it was that I wasn’t even interested in repairing the burns. Somehow, my battle wounds gave me comfort as much as they gave me pain. In some respect, using the excuse that “I’m just numb” to any relationship, to any possible love, protected me from taking a chance. And if I did happen to go out on that limb and it broke, I could simply claim, “Well, this is just what happens to me. I find the fire, but it always gets put out.

Well – not anymore.

Because now, I know I can feel. And I know I can be burned. But more importantly – I know I can survive. Just because passion can grow and then wither away in an instant, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth feeling it in the first place. Nor, can anyone, regardless of the burn degree or how widely the fire spreads – be forever numb from the flames.

No matter how hard we try or fast we run or how careful we are above our stoves or while making s’mores – the fire will always catch up to us. And if we’re lucky, we know that maybe fire isn’t such a bad thing but more so, a friend. Perhaps if we allow it to glow, first inside of us, giving us the courage to blaze new trails alone – one day, the love we’ll find – in ourselves or with a man, could be powerful enough that we stop being afraid of the flames. And maybe flirt with them, just one more time.

P.S. If you’ve linked to Confessions of a Love Addict, let Lindsay know for the “Support” page. Email her.