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.

A Single Girl Struggles (But Stands)

In New York, there are certain areas of the city that residents stay away from: mainly those ending in “square.” Near Macy’s and the Empire State Building at Madison Square, and with all the shining lights and smelly streets in Times Square, just to name two. Once you see certain things once, there is no need to return, unless you have a guest visiting who has never seen them– and then as a New Yorker (no matter how long you’ve actually lived here), you feel a moral obligation to show them the sights.

While during the winter season, it could be argued Bryant Park is one of those areas to steer clear of with the Trump Ice Skating Rink and little shops – for me, it is a part of town that’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because it featured the many timeless houses of couture for decades during Fashion Week or because it is home to the New York Public Library, or maybe because I used to spend Tuesday afternoons listening to a children’s choir and drinking coffee from a local vendor – but Bryant Park, even when it’s crowded with tourists and shoppers, is absolutely beautiful.

As I usually do on Sundays, I spent a large portion of this past Sunday afternoon writing, applying to freelancing positions (base salary just doesn’t cut it!), and coming up with new ideas. It is a time of the week where my obligations are not pressing and I can take a breather to do what landed me in this city in the first place: dreaming. And so, I ventured to my park, set up shop in one of my favorite cafes, appropriately stole Wifi, and went to town.

Two hours, a chicken soup, and hot tea later, I gathered my laptop, bundled up and eagerly went to walk around the park, even if I had to brave the cold. As I crossed the street, prepared to get the same rush of energy I always do – I was hit with a wave of sadness.

You know, that feeling that makes your heart heavy, knocks the air out of you (and not because it’s less than 30 degrees), and you get this almost uncontrollable urge to burst into tears? I tried to brush the odd feeling aside and continue embracing one of my favorite Manhattan scenes, but after about five minutes, I couldn’t take it and knew that if I didn’t catch the train home, I would be that girl on the street, sobbing, and attracting unnecessary attention.

By the time I finally made it to the 100s and into my apartment, I sat down on my bed and let myself cry. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t expected, and it came without a reason. Once the weight lifted off my heart and I felt sturdy enough to stand, I gathered the pieces together and tried to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.

I couldn’t blame it on the menstrual menaces, it didn’t come from an old familiar longing to be with a man, it wasn’t the result of a bad fight with a friend or the loss of a loved one. Really, I had an incredible weekend and up until my Kate Spade boots touched upon the park, I was in a delightful, hopeful mood.

So what happened?

Unsure of what was going on with me and fighting the need to be weak, I escaped to the Internet to take my mind off of my unexplained breakdown – and there it was, waiting in my Gmail, the solution to my regression: an email from Mr. Possibility.

This message wasn’t a bad one, nor have we really repaired anything since he explored other possibilities. We still talk, we’re still friends, and I have no plans to cut him out of my life. But what I realized was – I hadn’t really let myself get upset about what happened.

Regardless if it was merited or not, if either of us wanted a relationship, commitment or exclusivity, or if I had a right to be sad– I was. However, because I am on this journey to standing up for myself, choosing myself before attempting to woo a man into the role of boyfriend, and letting go of these self-defeating thoughts, I thought I needed to be strong. Not just for me, but for the women (and men?) who were walking down this road with me, too.

But that’s the thing about paths, sometimes you need to sit down and rest, sometimes you step on a rock or twist your ankle, or you run out of momentum, and there you are, at a fork in the road, wondering which way is the best route to take. While tenacity and self-love may be the ultimate goal, knowing that it’s okay to be imperfect, to cry when you feel pain, and allow yourself to fall apart when you need it – are all steps along the way.

Maybe I hadn’t realized it at the time, but Bryant Park was part of one of our really memorable dates. He took me ice skating, which really involved waiting in line for an ungodly amount of time and then being nearly knocked down by speeding 12 year olds, while Mr. Possibility and I stood (yes, stood, not skated) in awe of how fast they could go. We laughed, held hands, and I watched his cheeks go from his normal Irish-inspired-white to rosy. It was right around this time that I realized he wasn’t just some guy I was seeing or some guy that would be fleeting from my life in a moment’s notice…but that maybe, just maybe, he was a possibility for something more someday.

I’m not quite sure what I think now, but I realized that by remaining tough in front of all of my friends and on the pages of this blog, I wasn’t being honest with myself. Sure, I’m not broken down. I’m not destroyed. I’m not eating chocolate chip cookie dough like its going out of style. I’m not throwing away everything he ever gave me or deleting emails or writing his name for the entire world to see (nor would I ever about anyone). I’m not beating myself up or blaming myself or thinking his curiosity is due to me.

But I am human.

And though I’m diligently working at finding serenity in my single self, I did meet someone who I could imagine a relationship with down the road. Even though I’ve made great strides in this journey and I did take a dive into unchartered waters, I ended up with most of my hopes drowned. Even though I’m not at a place where I want a relationship, I never wanted my trust to be broken before anything had time to blossom. Even though I never considered him my end-all-be-all and I approached the dating scene with a new-and-improved point of view, what could-be turned out to be something that’s currently-not.

Even though I picked me, he didn’t pick me. And for that Sunday, I let myself feel it, let it out, and let it go. Showing and experiencing weakness doesn’t mean the enthusiasm behind the “recovery” goes a few notches down, it just means that tears are sometimes the trail that leads to peace.

Plus, the best thing about being knocked down and falling (either to a heart break or in love), is that you get to be a single gal who stands up, dusts herself off, and struts her way towards something new, confident in the company of herself and knowing that at times she may stumble and she may plummet, but she will never stay down for long.

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos for my new page,Addicts Unite. If you’d like to submit a photo of you reading the blog with a link back to your blog/Twitter, please email Lindsay!

A Single Snowflake and a Single Girl

Yesterday morning, as I frantically hurried out of my apartment to catch the train that probably had already left, I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as my face hit the outside air.

It smelled cold.

Now, for some this distinctive scent doesn’t mean much, but for this Southern girl it brings back a whirlwind of loving, romantic memories and hopes. I’ve fallen in love in all different seasons, but there seems to be something unique about the days that transcend November through March.

While everything that nature bore is withering, something more inviting is always growing inside the buildings that protect us from all the conditions beyond the front door. People are gathered together around something – a fireplace, a Christmas tree, o’dourves and champagne, or a table. And regardless if it is literal warmth – there is something about winter that illuminates electricity. Somehow, when it’s cold outside, there is no better place to be than as close as possible to those you love.

In year’s past, I remember being in my one-bedroom, peering out to the falling snow, wondering when I would have the chance to be hand-in-hand with a man who adored me. I could imagine him, whoever he may be, with this passionate look in his eyes, smiling back at me as I picked up a handful of snow, ready to play with him, and instead, he knocks it out of my hand, wraps his arms around me and steals a kiss. And this Mr., in my dreams, will view me as the single most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and he will not be able to control his fervor to touch me, to be part of an essence that only belongs to me. And he would be thankful that we’re sharing the simplicity of snow, rosy-cheeks, and hot chocolate together.  Cheesy and completely idealistic? Absolutely. Desirable? Utterly.

Will it happen this season for me? Probably not. But for a reason unknown to me and possibly credited to this blog and journey – I’m okay with it. And not just okay, really, but happy and satisfied.

Like the seasons change, so much of life is an ever-cyclic transition. I’m going through so many firsts the longer I live here: from the first time I about died from the summer heat, to seeing Fall arrive in every brilliantly-colored leaf and wrap-sweater, to seeing trees light up and candy canes line the street corners.

Soon, I’ll feel the first flake fall from the New York City skyline–and for the longest time, I always dreamt of experiencing that moment, that silence that only comes with snow…with a man. But somehow, my feelings have changed. I’ve decided that if I’m not alone when the atmosphere breathes what I used to call “cotton from the clouds” – then the moment will be ruined.

Because as I’ve discovered being a single woman and learning to embrace the solitude that comes with that title – there are some instances where being alone can bring just as much magic (if not more) than being with someone else. And especially if that other person isn’t the person that you really do want to share such a cherished memory with. Sometimes, you’d rather just be a single girl with your single snowflake.

I have so much to do, so much to see, so many places to go, mistakes to make, books to read, articles to write, jobs to accept, plans to break, rules to dispose, and I can’t have every single little thing I’ve wanted in Manhattan within the first year I get here. If that was so, the city that never sleeps would lose its luster. If I can make it here so easily, where would the challenge and mystery be?

I look forward to a winter season that I don’t make lonely or depressing due to my singledom and I’m crossing fingers and toes that when I do see snow for the first time, I will get to be just in the company of myself. Does this mean that I’ll forget those wishes and dreams of romance on the ice or under the gray ambiance? Of course not.

When I see couples kissing in front of NYC landmarks that I’ve always idolized as inexcusably romantic in the winter like Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, and so on – a small part of me still aches.

But instead of entertaining the longing, I’ve recently learned to dwell in the possibility.

In the opportunities that I’ve been able to take, the blessings that I’ve been lucky enough to experience, and the love that I’ve shared with some pretty incredible men. And without a doubt, the relationship I’m developing with me, myself, and I, and with this dream city that is finally my reality.

And one day, there will be a man who stands by my side in the sweltering days of summer, in the crispness of fall, and the blistering yet beautiful days of winter. Just because he isn’t here, I know my life isn’t to be put on hold. It isn’t to be spent lingering. I’m not to be a lady in waiting.

But a lady in the embracing, a lady who opens her eyes as wide as she opens her heart – to not only the snow and cold that’ll flush her face, but to the self-love that’s flourishing…and to the love who is surely on his way.

Skating Around Love

Since I started this blog, nearly a month and a half ago, I’ve made a lot of progress. I have learned how to not only recognize but to alter negative habits into good ones. I’ve learned how to realistically and lovingly talk to myself, and more so, accept myself for who I am –even the messy parts.

I’ve also become a lot stronger and my word choice when talking to myself (promise I’m not crazy), has become more encouraging than self-defeating. Instead of being jealous of couples, I’ve learned to be happy for them and to smile at the sight of love. Instead of thinking with a never-ever attitude, I’ve started to use a more one-day-at-a-time mentality.

But, like any good addict who is a teensy-bit obsessed, I have vices that come up. Even when you think you’re doing a good job of swaying your feelings and thoughts to be healthier –something pops up and throws you off of your pretty little recovering high horse.

For me, all it took was seeing the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center yesterday.

Since I had a meeting near the Rock yesterday, my friend Mr. Unavailable and I met for a quick lunch. As I was waiting for him to come down from his office, I turned around and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the skaters.

Now, for those of you who may not know me personally (although if you read this blog, you know a lot) – I’ve always been in love with New York. And for me, everything right, beautiful, and worthy in this world is on this tiny, but boisterous island. Sights in New York bring me more joy than any man ever has come close to bringing.

Because of this 15-year-city-crush, I’ve developed quite a few romantic notions about what my love life would be like once I moved here. So far, all of them have been proven dramatically wrong, but of course, I’m learning to keep my hopes and my head held high.

But no amount of self-encouraging and doting could compare to the weight in my heart and the lump in my throat when I saw Rockefeller Center. In an instant, all of these ideas I’ve built up in my head about the skating rink came flooding back:

Skating (or rather attempting to) with an attractive man with our cheeks rosy from the cold, the movement, and the flirty anticipation. Starting to stumble and being caught by him as we laugh at how ridiculous we both look. And that moment when he reaches out for my hand and we have that look, the look that says “this could be something.”

And with those thoughts, other things about the winter season and the city started coming to mind: It’s going to start snowing soon and when I see that first snowfall, I’ll want to be kissed. I’ll want to experience it with someone…right? And who will be there? Probably no one.

Christmas isn’t far away and I always feel extra lonely when it’s the holiday season and everyone is getting special/personalized gifts from their loves and I get the same zip-up hoodie from my grandma that I’ve unwrapped for years. And the dreaded dinner where everyone is in pairs and I sit alone, the awkward one without any cute story to tell, cheek to kiss, or secret glance to share.

And just look at those skaters….that was supposed to be me this year. Wasn’t 2010 supposed to be the year I got everything I ever wanted?

In the midst of this, Mr. Unavailable came up, stood next to me and asked, “Whacha lookin’ at?” Of course, I smiled and replied, “Just always dreamt of it and here it is.” With enough struggles of his own, I didn’t include the rest of my ridiculousness as he (as a Queens native) showed me around the area to get a good look, and in quiet reflection, I dreamt about everything I have had planned for this silly little rink.

After our lunch and my meeting, I thought about how much I freaked out in that moment looking at Rockefeller and wondered why it bothered me so much to see something I’ve loved and looked forward to seeing in person for a decade. I mean, I even have a Christmas decoration that’s of skaters at Rockefeller Center! Frankly, the more I thought about it, the more I became really disappointed in myself and extremely frustrated.

Why does it bother me? Why does it matter? Why is it, that even after all this work, I just can’t let go? Why does seeing such a beautiful site irk me so badly? Why does it literally make my heart race and cause tears to well up in my eyesseconds before I meet an attractive man (yeah, he’s unavailable, but he’s still cute)?

Does the fact that it gets to me, mean I’m not actually progressing, but just skating around my issues? Skating around my desire for love, pretending it doesn’t exist? Am I really approaching this as I should and need to? Am I doing something wrong…or am I just human?

So having these romantic notions –good or bad? I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I hate that it hurts to think about them, especially with all the work I’m putting into not hurting. Am I always going to have these notions? Of course. But I don’t want them to be painful or disruptive to my day, my confidence, or my life. Will I stop wanting these things? Probably not, but I hope I can accept not having them.

I think maybe it’s time to take myself out on another datefar away from those skaters. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I see the Christmas tree all lit up. Although, Mr. Unavailable did mention an ‘in’ he had….we’ll see.

Click here for photo credit.