Yes, You Can

I often find when reading advice columns, what the writer most often seeks is permission.

Is it ok. Is it ok to feel bothered by this behavior after months of gaslighting to the contrary. Is it ok to leave. Is it ok to stay. I like this, does it mean I am broken. Am I weird for being this way, am I the only one.

This is a non-educated guess but judging from the epiphanies I see on social media this is common in therapy as well. Folks contorting themselves into different people, forcing themselves into triggering situations because not being bothered by them is surely something “normal” people do.

Is it ok to not be normal. Is it ok to just…not do this thing normal people do.

It is not lost on me that it is a strange post to be tied to a picture of a crispy-fried sunny-side up egg, but it happened to be my first one in years.

Why?

I detest anything but a completely set white, but I love a runny yolk. And I just discovered it is an Instagram foodie hack to simply…cook the whites first, then gently re-add the yolk.

Is this the most non-normal method of frying an egg I have ever heard of? Absolutely. Did I do just that and gobble it up anyway? Of course. Because I can.

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How to Be Single: Get your own Sh*t

***This entire post is a petty party, so if this is not your thing please scroll on by to the next post for your inspirational message fix.***

While I am not a big jewelry person I do love the occasional ring. Unfortunately, all of the rings I own are either linked to a relationship or look too relationship-y for me to wear without getting the usual run of intrusive questions. So to treat myself after a particularly rough semester I searched for a good right-hand ring.

This is one of the first things I stumbled upon.

 

*rubs temples*

While I’ve written of the pressures to always look “happily single” before, this particular piece of un-married-un-parent life irks me.

I just want my own shit.

I’m tired of being marketed to as an alternative to a “normal” life. It annoys me that mass marketing packages living unmarried or childless as some sort of consolation prize to find the upside in. I want to set every list of “why being single is awesome” on fire. I do not need to counter every parent appreciation hashtag with a childless version, or every engagement photo with the patriarchal downsides of marriage. I have no interest in living life as a half of a sandwich.

My life is my choice, not an accidental crisis.

One of the things I appreciated about being in a relationship was it took a lot of pressure off me to fit everyone in for the holidays. Because it was assumed I was starting my own family, I was given freedom to start my own traditions. It was the one thing I chose to take with me back into unpartnered life as a hard line item. Why should I only be allowed to have a ritual or tradition of my choosing when I had a husband to share it with?

I want my own shit.

I just don’t want it to be the poor man’s version of a couple’s tradition.

 

 

How to Be Single: Step Ya P*ssy Up

I am not an inexhaustible resource. I am not the damn sun. I am not self-sufficient. I need help. I need support. I need someone behind me. I need a push. I need someone that does a bit more than nod when I talk about my future. I am completely ok being alone until that is present…because I can’t support myself alone AND be a supportive partner #AtTheSameDamnTime. If that makes me a [insert derogatory term for autonomous female] I will motherfucking BE.THAT. But what I WON’T be is exhausted trying to hold up two grown-ass people with no support in return.

The words flowed out of me in a manner I’ve yet to replicate (of course, on a post that was not mine), and I realized the subject matter had hit too close to home.

It was time for me to stop looking for a relationship.

(I also realized it was time to stop giving my words away, but that’s an entirely different post)

I have a hard rule that I stop when it isn’t fun anymore, and dating had long past its expiration date for me. I was tired of meeting new people. Tired of “putting myself out there”, waiting to be “picked”. Tired of being “the one before THE ‘one’”. Tired of setting standards for what I “deserve”. Tired of wondering why no one agreed with me. But most of all, I was tired of..being tired, and not really knowing why.

Till of course, I emptied my soul onto a comment section (& hit “publish” when I should have hit “cut & paste”).

I was tired because I was doing too damn much and asking for nothing. I was “showing my woman” to build a case while the only thing my romantic interest had to be was a person I liked, a person of envy. Their existence was enough for me, but I insisted on proving my usefulness to them. This is why I could come up with at least one tangible way I improved upon the life of my paramours but came up with nothing but bad skin on my end. So I unceremoniously tossed my lists and quietly cancelled the search for a significant other. If I was never going to be “enough”, there was nothing left for me to prove. My energy was best spent elsewhere.

But where? What now? What was it that I really wanted?

Noting all the “wants” and things I “deserved” centered on a relationship dynamic led me to two quite embarrassing realizations; one-outside of a relationship, men didn’t actually have a whole lot of stock in my life. I hadn’t viewed them as “people” in a while; capable of contributing to my life, or growth or anything, really-aside from proving to the world that I was a person worthy of choosing. And two-and likely the more important realization-part of the reason their existence was enough while I was doing all this work to prove my usefulness was because I confused envy for attraction, and just did not believe my existence enough reason for a person to be around me.

Truth be told, I am the damn sun. I just didn’t believe it yet.

It was time for a new list, and some new rules. The reason I was so exhausted was because all of my expectations began at a relationship-anything before that the price of admission was virtually free, and I was doing all the lifting to make sure he knew I was “relationship-worthy”. So what was required for my continued presence if relationships were off the table?

I’m going to have to pause here because I haven’t figured out how to expound on the details without breaking my rules of discretion, and because in the future not all of my words will be free. But I will say this; somewhere along the journey of discovering what it was I truly wanted to take away from affairs-casual, committed or otherwise-dating found a way to be fun again. I stopped walking away feeling drained and exhausted from the exchange, as it became more mutual. I stopped believing my worth lied in my usefulness instead of my presence. And most importantly, I became the person I envied.

 

So what about you? What does your “list” look like these days?

 

When to Fold Em, When to Walk Away

The holidays are upon us, and everyone is talking about Love.

New love, renewed love, the power of love, everyone‘s had love on the brain-and the overwhelming majority of it is romantic love. ‘Tis the season, after all. But for some, this is a season of discovering how strong self-love can be-and they learned it by letting go.

One such example is my friend Danielle, who detailed how she recently found the strength to walk away from a picture-perfect fairy-tale in her brave post “Why It’s Okay To Be Wrong: 7 Signs It Was Time To Call Off The Wedding”. For a bit of history, Danni and I became fast e-friends. We laughed over tales of dating mishaps and planned for the future as fabulous single women (I was of course still in my ‘try too hard’ LivingMyLifeLikeItsGolden single phase). Then Danni met “him”.

It was a tale I’d shared more times than I can count; the “second” you stop looking, love finds you-just look at Danielle! All seemed wonderful as she quickly became an even better version of her lovely self; she had a glow about her, she’d started writing more, she posted bikini pictures on vacation, happy with her hard-earned shape. He seemed quietly supportive of her travels and her creative endeavors. When the proposal happened, though it was quick, it was definitely not surprising. Everyone thought it fate, the natural progression of a fairy-tale.

Within the coming months things got quiet over on her end, a pop up here, a complaint of weight gain there. We made plans to hang but it never worked out, which I attributed to the business of wedding planning. Her blog posts slowed but again-weddings are a lot of work! So I thought nothing of the quiet on her end as I got bogged down with life on mine.

While her latest post was not out of left-field (it happens to the best of us) I couldn’t help but think of the times I stayed true to instincts and walked away when everything seemed perfect. Here’s three ways I knew it was time to stop fighting and walk away:

When it isn’t “fun” anymore

I once walked away from a business that seemed to align with my passions at the moment it became profitable. While all seemed well on the outside waking up to it every morning was a chore; it drained all my energy and going through the motions felt heavy. While no endeavor is going to be smooth sailing every day your commitment to your choice should make you feel light-and it hadn’t for a long time. I have a hard rule about walking away when it isn’t “fun” anymore-meaning, when I examine my core feelings about the project they no longer feel “light”-and while no one understood my choice at the time I have no regrets. In the end trusting my instincts proved to be the best choice-as less than a year later the industry declined and my biggest sponsor went out of business-a development that would have ruined me financially.

When my “whys” were all externally motivated

Most of us can relate to staying in a relationship too long-and mine was a doozy. We had one of those relationships that other people hash-tagged-we moved in unison, we finished not only each other’s sentences but each other’s jokes, and everyone who spent time with us said watching us together brought them peace. No one knew we’d been having the same argument regularly for close to a year and I hadn’t slept right in months. I’d gained weight, my skin looked terrible, I’d withdrawn from my creative projects and my friends. I’d stalled because I was taught you just don’t give up on that kind of connection-even if you’d been the only one fighting for a while. But when I looked around none of my reasons for staying had anything to do with me-it was “time”, “what would they think”, I’d look like a fool after wasting my “good years”.  Letting go was the right thing to do-even if at the time it made sense to no one but me-and the subsequent chapter of self-discovery and acceptance have hands-down been the best times of my life.

When I know I did my best, but still got a “no” from the Universe

This one has been the hardest to accept, but the most fruitful. When I decided I was going to go back to college, I had one school in mind. I compiled a portfolio, spend an untold amount of hours on the application and even enrolled in courses a la carte so they could see I was capable of maintaining a stellar GPA at their institution. My application was rejected-twice-before I decided to move on with my life and attend another school. Fast-forward a year and even with a major change I’ve managed to earn accolades every semester and my academic future has more opportunities than ever.

Walking away is never easy, and I’m not an expert so I can’t tell you what to do about the hard choices you have in your life. But what I can tell you is there is life at the other side of your choices. Just these three examples took you through ten years of my life, and I’m still here. So don’t be afraid to trust your gut and step into the unknown, even if it means walking away from a fairy-tale.

How to be Single: Get Your Shit Together

There is a woman on my vision board.

She is a size two, a minimalist with a mostly black wardrobe and a few pops of color. Blue, tan and coral. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning, setting her bare feet on the ground to begin her morning gratitude meditation. Grabbing her journal from the tidy vanity without moving her feet from the floor, she jots down three pages of free thought in 10 minutes. Arising with a clear mind and a thankful outlook, she sets her sights on the day ahead.

Room temperature lemon water is her drink of choice, but not until routine oil-pulling while doing her warm-up stretches. After 45 minutes of exercise with her favorite instructor, she takes a few swigs of green juice and heads for the shower.

Rose water, serums and crème is applied; hair is pulled into a sleek chignon. Sliding into a curve-skimming sheath and ballet flats (her uniform of choice), she heads out into the city.

On time.

Of course.

Her favorite commute routine is the application of eyeliner, because it always draws stares and reminds her hands still hold their youthful precision. She heads into the office, where making people look good with her words gives her purpose. Coffee, fruit and almonds fuel her morning, light meats and vegetables her afternoon.

Depending on the evening you will find her in her kitchen, at the theater or commanding a steakhouse bar table. For easy evenings at home Italian is her favorite, as a simple pasta dish is the easiest to modify for one person.

Because, of course, she lives alone.

An enclave deliberately small enough to discourage extended company, filled with the tiniest amount of things that bring her joy. She has a long-term love a distance away, a worldly man appreciative of what America can offer an ambitious immigrant but un-enamored with the fairy-tale of “America the Great”. They regularly meet over wine at chosen locales, with banter and tales of dating misadventures filling their eve till they fill of themselves. They part, breathless and grateful their distance allows the extended illusion.

She is enviable. She is witty, and fit, and undeniably sexy. She is me.

If I ever get my shit together.

She wakes with me at 6:45 am and asks me why I’ve wasted over an hour of productivity. She stands over my words, wondering why I choose to hand them over to the internet instead of making them my source of income. She examines my waistline, frowning at its current expansion.

She hates my lived-in apartment.

She stares at the blank pages of my journal and asks me what morning will I begin. She sees the doughnut on my desk and wags her finger at the absence of green juice and almonds. She interrupts my moments of joy to remind me that I’d likely be even happier.

If I got my shit together.

For years I have chased her, convinced she was the reason I did not get that job, could not keep that man, would not get as far as I wanted to. I, who loved too hard and lived too messily, paled in comparison. I was never enough.

Somewhere on this odd journey of self-discovery, while learning to love the ache of solitude I looked around at the glorious chaos that was my life and realized this was it. She is me, and I am me. And if I was going to get on with my life, I was going to have to accept the messy, broken bits that came along with it.

I am the woman that loves to apply eyeliner on the train..for the three weeks every year that I care about makeup. My mornings have structure some days, and some days they don’t. I’m never, ever going to entirely give up doughnuts. My minimalism manifests itself everywhere except my wardrobe (okay, and my kitchen. I have far too many fun appliances-but I use them all!). My “brings me joy” meter may be slightly off (as I observe the clutter atop my table). A broken heart never killed me. And by best life is now.

I am never going to have it together 100% of the time. And while she is a lovely thing to aspire to, she is not a source of failure or the reason a person would not stay in my life. Learning to love the messy bits, and finding a tribe that does the same, has brought me more joy than any regimen ever has. This is it. This is me. And right now, I am enough.

Ok, my pores could be smaller…

How to be Single: The Myth of Self-Care

Confession: I don’t believe in “self-care”.

In fact, I think it’s a load of bullshit. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how I got here.

There was a point in my life where I became sick of sex. This was highly inconvenient, as at the time I was involved in a relationship with a man that was born of an electric sexual connection. Sex was our glue, and when we didn’t have it, our cracks would show. But I tried like hell to make it work because I had not yet discovered the revelation called “affairs”, and at some point I was the only one trying.

And I was EXHAUSTED.

I had work. I had my side hustle. I came home and made dinner. Sex was not therapeutic. Sex was not release. Sex just felt like another chore, another person I had to become after a day full of being a worker, a counselor and a pretend housewife. One more person that wanted a piece of me. One more thing I had to do before I could see my pillow. One more thing blocking me from sleep.

What was missing?

HELP, dammit. I had no damn help.

Not one person in my life was meeting me halfway, or picking up the slack, or allowing me a moment to breathe before they requested something from me. None of the things I did were “for” me. Not even the horizontal polka. No one acknowledged that the hours in a day were not infinite and my energy was not an inexhaustible resource. My clients were my responsibility, my man was my responsibility, and I was my responsibility. And there simply were not enough hours in the day to accomplish all three.

That’s all I see when I look at conversations about “self-care”.

Not one damn thing about it sounds attractive to me. If they’re not advertising it as a way to be more efficient in servitude (“put your oxygen mask on first! You’re no good to others if you don’t take care of YOU!”), they’re heaping pressure to either make it instagrammable (no, seriously…search #SelfCare) or shaming for not engaging (“self-care checks”, anyone?). And not ONE person has yet to explain how I’m supposed to find the hours in the day for this magical “self-care” if no one else in my life is volunteering to do all the things I’m not going to get to in order to fit it in.

And who benefits?

Everyone but you.

Everyone who has been let off the hook to be supportive, to take care of themselves, to not rely on you to be everything while you are made to feel guilty for asking for crumbs (because self-care, like self-esteem, is of yo damn self, so don’t ask me for shit). Don’t believe me? Ask yourself when’s the last time you engaged in “self-care” for the sake of SELF and didn’t have to recite a mini pep-talk to get out of the guilt of doing it. Ask yourself the last time you didn’t have to reframe taking time away from others to make it sound better. Ask yourself what your “self-care” even looks like, and if you’ve chided yourself for it not being able to fit in a 1×1 picture box.

Fuck “self-care”. You ever notice there are few popular sites that recommend “self-care tips” to men outside from “get regular check-ups and try to cry every once in a while”? It’s because they call it doing you, and it is not something to apologize for. And “me” is what I do. If I’m the “only” person responsible for “taking care of me”, that time will be subtracted from everyone else. Not stolen, not borrowed, not owed, but consciously taken. Whatever you needed from me you will attend to, by yourself. Not “it will have to wait”… I’m not doing it. I’m not assigning myself delayed double-duty to “allow” the time for self-care just so I can be re-invigorated to the task of taking care of someone else.

Nothing I engage in for the sake of self-enrichment or self-preservation fits within the advertised realm of “self-care”. My self-care looks like turning down events because I’m tired. It’s considering whiskey a food group. It’s telling a man “sorry, I’m not attracted to you” instead of wasting precious minutes concocting a long, padded let-down. It’s turning down that second date. It’s selling a blouse on Poshmark so I can afford to pay for a cleaning service. It’s using “no” with a full-stop at the end. It’s turning off my phone on Saturday night and daring to not be instantly accessible. It’s answering a text at a convenient time for me instead of the convenient time for you. It’s posting a thirst trap because I was feeling myself that day, or posting myself looking a mess cause I was feeling myself that day, too. It’s everything they told me that makes a woman a selfish asshole. And I apologize for nothing.

Fuck “self-care”. That shit was a scam, anyway.

The Gut-Check Part 2: Leaving the Church of Self-Improvement

I’m tired.

Are you tired?

I’m tired for you.

As the new year approaches, my inbox is bombarded with well-meaning authors and bloggers giving tips on how to make this your “best year ever”, how to hit the ground running, how to make you better, fitter, stronger, more stylish, less like the “you” you loathe right now…

…and I just want to sleep.

I should pause here for a moment. I know a post like this during a series like “New Year, Better Me” sounds a bit oxymoronic.  But my entire process is about assessing to make sure I am staying true to my core, making a few tweaks and getting off the hamster-wheel of self-improvement as quickly as possible.

Because, think about it…if you’re always doing something in the quest to be “better” and live your “best life”…when are you actually living life? When are you enough?

In the process of becoming more compassionate with myself I had to do a serious look at the tone of my inner voice and the “who” I was working to be “better” for. And it was not me. My work goals were to impress folk at happy hour. My weight-loss goals were to dispel the idea that I had “fallen off” since my pageant days. My educational goals were to make myself a more attractive mate choice. My blog goals were to “prove” myself a writer. Even my meditation had to be Instagram-worthy! My inner voice was harsh, unforgiving and a constant reminder that “if I didn’t___, I wouldn’t be___”. Ever.

So I decided to opt-out of the hamster-wheel of 24-7 self-improvement, stop trying to “be” and just exist, enough, as I am.

This is not defeat. I have not given up. I have simply made a conscious choice for self-discovery over self-improvement. And it’s been quite the revelation in peace. I found exercise and meditation for the purpose of being more connected to my body and discovering my strength has yielded better results that I ever got trying to “be” a certain size. Working for life goals instead of achievement goals has reduced my anxiety. If it took an impressive resume to convince you to date me I was probably better off not knowing you, anyway. And my inner voice has become more compassionate and reassuring now that it’s no longer assigned the task of reminding me how I was never going to “be” something.

This is by no means an insult to those on their grind. Or even a statement of what you “should” be doing. But I will say this-make sure you pause. Give yourself a chance to bask in your awesome, just as you are. And hopefully, 2016 will find you doing what works for you, just for you.