Love as Self Discovery

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I can’t believe it, but somehow in the past 5 years I’ve become a champion for relationships. I have gone from being, let’s admit it, a bit of an ice queen, to someone who genuinely believes in the value of love. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely gone off the deep end… I am still very much on the fence about the institution of marriage… but I’ve become a believer in the value of loving someone very deeply and for loving when you can.

I am someone who gets afraid of caring about people very easily. It gives them control and since I am controlling, that makes me nervous. Trusting someone with your heart, your past, and your present is a big deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it is also not something to avoid. Meeting someone, loving someone, and even losing someone are self-defining moments. They help to mold us in areas that we can’t mold alone.

Just as traveling alone, sitting in a restaurant alone, and living alone are great markers of being at peace with yourself (you enjoy your own company as much as anyone else’s), sharing your precious time with another soul is a great marker of how giving you are. And balancing the two? Well, you’ve hit the self discovery jackpot, my friend.

Loving someone requires you to let your guard down and share flaws while at the same time accepting another person with all of their flaws. Love is really a great equalizer when it’s done right. It can put your arrogance in check (holy crap I AM flawed) but also open your eyes to just how patient you can be (holy crap I CAN listen to country music). Yes, I realize I just used country music as a flaw there, but stick with me.

It is for these reasons that I am such an advocate for dating, trying some people out, and seeing where it all goes. Does it absolutely suck when it falls apart? Yep, it does. Have I gone through that many times in my life? Yep, I have. Am I better for it? I like to think so. Failed relationships are great to learn from and also put you in a hyper aware state of who you are, what your actions mean, and where you are going. It’s painful but does wonders for pulling you back into the moment.

This all seems obvious to my readers who come from pre-Millennial generations. Of course loving someone helps you to grow, you say. Of course building relationships is good for you, you laugh. I know but take a minute to view it from a perspective of a group of people who were not only raised during the peak divorce years but also an insane technology boom where we grew attached to devices because, in many ways, they were easier to understand and get along with than our peers. That is some isolating stuff.

I also know that being young in general, no matter what year you were born, is a very selfish time. So as I emerge from my selfish years and simultaneously remove my Millennial-colored glasses, I am finding the importance of making relationships (both romantic and platonic) a priority in my life. Like creating a home, they require more than just a weekly clean. They require, design, thought, care and they need to be lived in.

PS – Why is it so scary to press publish on a blog about love?

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Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

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To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

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I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

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I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

I’m in Love with Brandon from LUSH

Going to take a quick detour from my usual blog posts centered around living your best life, and writing your best stuff, and eating your best food, to announce that I have a crush on the man that makes my face lotion.

If you aren’t a Lushie (someone obsessed with Lush products) you probably don’t know that all of the organic, vegan products that this store carries are handmade. Yes, a store that sells face wash and hard soaps has a cult following and we have named ourselves. Get over it, that’s not the point of this!

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To prove that the products are handmade, each one bears the sticker with the name and a cartoon of the person who made it. If you shop there enough you will have repeats; actually you’ll have repeats more often than you would think. This is such a nice touch because you feel like you get to know them.

Brandon is by far the cutest Lush product maker and I can just tell by his subtle ear gauge, nineties chin-only beard and charmingly uncomfortable smile that he’s the type of guy to buy a girl flowers but then follow-up by taking her to a concert for an obscure Ska band or what’s left of Blink-182. He believes in the vegan products he makes and would probably shame me for all the pepperoni I eat, but deep down he means well, and will even indulge in some ice cream from time to time.

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How cute is this man?!

This man pops up on so many of my products I am starting to wonder if we’re meant to be together. Should I be ordering a custom plug for his ear so it arrives in time for Christmas? Does he celebrate Christmas? So many thoughts when really all I should be doing is washing my face and going to bed… and oh yeah, texting my actual real life boyfriend. (Who will totally be cool with this because I am normally pretty stable and funny and nice and I’ve brainwashed him…)

But really, who is this adorable man? Where does he live? WHO ARE YOU MAKER OF 9-5 and Celestial?! He’s by far my favorite product maker and if the sales people at Lush weren’t so aggressively helpful, I would always seek out his face when buying my vegan face goods. He’s that dreamy!

I went as far to Google “Brandon from Lush” to make sure I’m not missing some cult phenomenon. But there were only two returns, and those were reviews, not love letters. So the playing field is wide open…

I’m just wondering when he can come over and teach me how to make my own damn face wash. Leads on Brandon appreciated…

A New Borough & Drive Renewed

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Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

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Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.

Food for Healing

Lets JamA lot of old pain bubbled up this month, mostly stemming from my rent being raised and my scramble to find a new home. I’m still looking, but not as passionately as I should be. It is one of those rare moments that I am faced with decisions I’d rather avoid and hide from. It seems so much easier to pretend that it’s not happening and that I don’t have to make a decision that will so greatly impact my life. It’s hard living in a city where your home can be thrown into complete flux. It makes you feel imbalanced. And very alone.

Strangely, as a result, I find myself spending more time alone. I didn’t notice it until days passed and I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my dog. I wasn’t working on projects either. Just sitting, thinking, reading (maybe). I am what you would call listless and what for me is a rarity. I feel my fire put out and I am worried it isn’t just the apartment thing anymore but a host of other things, all simmering just below surface. What they are, I’m not sure, but my desire to do anything other than worry about where I will live, has been quelled. I do not, in any sense, feel like myself.

So where did I go?

More importantly, how do I come back?

Over this same course of time I’ve been thinking very hard about what I want to write. Have you ever seen a writer who doesn’t have a genre, a home, a comfortable place? It’s embarrassing, frankly. I’ve been trying to teach myself to listen and look for opportunities where I would normally ignore them. What I heard a couple of times was the same question, “Why don’t you ever write about food?” Which is funny since I spend 80% of my time thinking about food in one capacity or another. I am either hungry, researching restaurants, ordering groceries, reading about trends, or eating.

It had never once occurred to me to write about food in a serious way. I think in the back of my head I just assumed that food writing was for people that were chefs, or former chefs, or food critics with insane palates. I guess I never thought about letting just a simple passion manifest itself in such a way.

As I mulled this over I also considered how I stopped cooking (really cooking) this time last year. While I’ve been marinating in limbo I didn’t realize I had stopped cooking or baking. That a year had gone by without any attention paid to one of my favorite pastimes. I used to cook full, intricate, and delicious meal 3-4 nights a week. I’d bake. I’d scheme. I’d eat. A year has passed of so-so meals, tried and true recipes. Flavorless turkey burgers and bowls of cereal. I lost the thrill I had for cooking. It went away with the close of a long relationship.

I let it leave the baggage and take my cooking away. My heart breaks to even write this knowing that I drowned out an important part of me because someone else used to play a part in it. Here I was thinking that I was fine but I erased something important to me because it reminded me of something sad. I wasn’t that strong after all.

So here I am, a year later and prepared to face some weird food demons. But it will be interesting and (maybe exciting) to reconnect with a former version of myself. I also can not wait to share whatever fun things I find along the way with you. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks but I keep hearing that when things get tough is when the magic happens.