There must be someone…

To the friends who think my lack of relationships is my downfall,

There’s been an incident on my mind this week that I’ve really wanted to share, but needed time to think through what I really wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I mean isn’t that what writing is really all about?  (Disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing against people who are married and want to get married. You do you!)

This week I was talking to a friend of mine–okay maybe more of an acquaintance since it’s been years since we last talked–and we were in the thralls of catching up when, of course, relationships came up.  More specifically, my lack thereof…

We were reminiscing on my past relationships, because let me tell you, they’re quite entertaining.  As the laughing subsided, though, this acquaintance threw down the question I knew was coming because it’s always inevitable when I’m catching up with someone, especially if they’re engaged, married, or expecting…

“You’re such a catch Nicole… why have you stayed single for so long?  There must be someone.”

Let me just make very freakin’ clear… I hate this string of sentences and how people tend to put that janky emphasis on the word “someone.”   In my opinion, it’s problematic for a multitude of reasons and the resulting conversation is never a fun one. Any conversation that follows is usually awkward, confrontational, or just lame.  To avoid any of these outcomes for this particular conversation, I tried to laugh it off, give one of my usual sarcastic remarks, and change the subject to avoid the conversation I’ve had so many times before.

This time, though, she was not letting up.  Pushy is the best adjective that comes to mind.  As I predicted, the resulting conversation went the confrontational route.  She tried selling me on all of the amazingness that is marriage.  All these positives and benefits I’ve heard time and time again… All things I am quite cynical of… for good reasons (but that’s a story for another time).

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m pretty opposed to the idea of marriage.  I like the idea of having a bomb ass party to celebrate a forever relationship, but I just can’t get behind turning something that’s supposed to be magical into a contractual and legal agreement.  I just can’t get behind the language and formality of it.  (There’s a bit more to this than just that, but again that’s a story for another time.)

This belief of mine makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  I understand that it’s a different way of thinking and seeing the world, but come awnnnnn I could believe in SO much worse.  But let’s get back to this conversation…

So she’s pushing marriage down my throat.  I’m being told how much happier I’d be.  How much better life gets.  How much more valuable the world becomes when you marry someone.  Thank GOD this conversation was happening over the phone because I could not contain my eye rolling.  Like, really?? Marrying someone is going to do ALL that for me?  A signed piece of paper contractually binding me to someone is going to revolutionize my whole life?  Hmmm… I’m calling bullshit.  Let me see the research and statistics behind those statements, please.

So I finally gave her the response I had been repressing to be courteous, but enough was enough..

“I really think we put this concept of marriage on this crazy pedestal.  Getting married doesn’t do all that… being in a kickass relationship does!  Just because I don’t believe in marriage does not mean that I don’t believe in being with someone forever.  I am all about faith and commitment.  I do believe that love exists.  Why do I need to marry someone to love them forever.  How does that ceremony and contract in any way change my affection for that person?  It doesn’t.  It’s a show of love, sure… but I can show that love in so many other ways that are way cheaper and way less stressful.  Just because I don’t believe in marriage doesn’t mean I don’t want to find someone to live out my days with.  The two aren’t mutually exclusive.  We live in a world where too many people believe in polarities.  It’s all or nothing.  Just because I may not want to marry someone doesn’t mean I’m not going to give them my all.  And, not getting married doesn’t make that relationship nothing.”

Well, that one caught her off guard…

After a relatively long and awkward pause, she finally responded with, “Well, I never thought of it that way…” Andddd I had thought, finally someone gets it!  Sadly, she followed this line up directly with, “But come on!  It’s marriage!  Every girl wants to get married.”

Insert ridiculous eye roll. Once again, can you show me the research behind that statement? Last I checked, I’m a girl… and I don’t…

I don’t get why it’s so difficult for some people to wrap their head around this.  Was there a time where I used to fantasize about my future husband? Of course.  Do I have a Pinterest board dedicated to a wedding celebration?  Duh.  Do I think one day it may happen?  Maybe.  But, I’m not obsessing over it.  I don’t think it makes or breaks a relationship.  Just because I don’t want to be married doesn’t mean I want to be alone.  I don’t have to choose one or the other.  That just isn’t how the world works.  I’m not afraid to love and be loved.  I don’t resent the idea. Am I skeptical at times, sure… who hasn’t been?  Do I wanna find some ridiculous, kindhearted, and handsome dude to live out my days with? For sure.  I want to share those laughs.  Those experiences.  Those memories.  I want a family.  But why does that all have to be tied to a marriage.  In a world of “progress” why are so many people so strongly tethered to this archaic tradition?

Love doesn’t need a binding contract.  Love needs a smile and hearty laugh.  Love needs an open heart and open mind.  Love needs someone who will make you laugh until your body aches.  Love needs someone who will make you laugh when your heart aches.  Love needs trust.  Love needs adventure and excitement.

Now I am no expert in love.  Believe me, my relationship passport would make some people cringe, laugh, cry, and just say, “what the actual fuck.”  But it also isn’t my first time at the rodeo.  Love may need something different depending on who you are.  But this is just what I need.  It is my life after all.

For me, marriage doesn’t equate a happily ever after.  For me, it’s waking up  with someone who makes me laugh.  Six or more dogs chillin’ around us.  Kids asleep in the other room.  Having a wedding and a ring on my left hand doesn’t make or break that.

Now, I will never say never.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll live out a Hallmark Channel original and end up swooning over someone who makes me believe that this contract is worth it.  I sure as hell don’t know God’s plans for me.  But for where I’m at right now… what’s so wrong with loving someone forever, minus the contract.  Love isn’t hinged on that one thing.  Love is a multifaceted, constantly changing concept.  You can’t tell me that not wanting a marriage makes me incapable of love or wrong in some way.

Believe me, I can feel.  I can care for someone so deeply that it takes the wind out of me.  I have, and I know I will again.  I don’t need to be constantly dating for that to happen, though.  I’m young, I’m happy, and I enjoy my life as I slowly begin to figure it all out.  Don’t try to make my life feel in adequate in some way just because I don’t want or believe in the same things as you.

Yes, there is someone.  Maybe not right now.  Maybe I’ve already met them and have no idea.  Maybe they’ll come my way in the least opportune moment.  Maybe they won’t come for years and years.  Who the hell knows?  Definitely not me.  But why on Earth do I need to fill my days with a “someone” to get to this concept of marriage and the happily ever after.  We all sit and complain about not having enough time… it’s because we put our time in the wrong places.  I refuse to do that. I was a serial dater in college and I refuse to go back to that.  It was empty.  I felt nothing.  It was stressful and an absolute waste of time.  None of those poor schmucks were my forever (and I say poor schmucks because those poor guys had to deal with me at probably my worst).  So why waste my time with meaningless relationships?  I’m a busy lady.  I’ve got shit to do and lives to change.  I’m not gonna hop from 2 month relationship to 2 month relationship to achieve the goal of wearing a white dress and signing a paper that’s supposed to represent forever.

When it’s right, it’ll be right.  I’ll know.  The universe and its Creator will make it happen.  And when it does, watch the fuck out world.  We won’t be a conventional couple, but man will we rock the shit out of life and love.

Let me live the life I love and eventually I’ll find the one whose love changes me.  Challenges me.  Strengthens me.  Makes me come alive in ways I haven’t yet.   Until then, I’m just gonna keep laughing my way through my days, adopting dogs, drinking whiskey, and hiking through breathtaking landscapes.  Because in the end, this is my life and not yours.  If this is my best life, than let me live it.  If marriage is your best life, than live it.  But, let’s not waste time trying to convince each other that our best life is the only way for everyone to live a good life.

Sincerely,

Your chronically single, yet amazingly happy #chillestgirlalive

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No one is meant to be “handled”

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This post is going to be a more poetic approach to a topic I’ve covered, but bothers me enough to talk about it twice.  I came across the above picture scrolling through some social media outlet–probably Instagram or Pinterest.  It hit me… hard and deep in my soul.  I loved it so much I ended up screenshotting it and sending it to about 5 of my soul sisters.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever been told you were “too much.”  Too much emotion wrapped into one being.  Too much cussing coming out of your mouth for a lady (which is just bullshit by the way.)  Too much body and booty to fit into society’s favorite size.  Too much sarcasm for healthy conversation.  Too much of yourself making other people uncomfortable.  Since you can’t see me, I’ll just tell you that I’m raising both hands… and both legs… while still typing–impressive, I know.  Oh shit, was that too much bragging?  Damn.

Before I continue, I know this is a statement that plagues both women and men.  Shit, I’ve definitely been guilty of telling a man or two that he was “too much” of something.  Guilty. Guilty.  Guilty.  But, disclaimer, I’m a woman.  For that reason, and that reason alone I will be writing from a woman’s perspective.  As a non-man, I can’t write from a male perspective.  Sorry, if that seems one sided, but I refuse to write about something unless I can speak from my own knowledge and experience.  That being said, time to move on.

I’ve had my heart “broken” more than enough times by this statement.  It’s an easy and cliche way to break up with someone or cut someone loose, almost as bad as “it’s not you, it’s me.”  YEAH, OKAYYYYY.  Whenever I was told this, I would spend countless amounts of time trying to figure out which part of me was too much.  Which part of me I needed to or could tone down to find and keep “love.”  SO much time wasted. There’s a beautiful thing about finding yourself in your twenties.  You come to a lot of brilliant realizations at an age young enough to end up thriving for the rest of your amazing life…

One day, I can’t tell you exactly when… Maybe it was after the 1,217,346th time I was told something about me was too much… I realized that was just not true.  I have never been too much.  I have always been the perfect amount of me and I continue to grow into even more me as I find more and more pieces of myself in new experiences and reflections.  Never have I been too much.  Unfortunately, I’ve met more than enough people who just weren’t enough.  Now, I don’t mean this as a diss or a slander.  Being not enough is in no way a bad thing even though it sounds that way.  In my opinion, if you’re not enough then you simply haven’t found the you that you’re supposed to be yet.  Or, another possibility… not being enough for me doesn’t mean you’re not going to be more than enough for someone else.  We just weren’t the right level of “enough” for each other.  And that, I can live with.

What I can’t get behind is someone ever telling someone else that they are too much of anything.  If we do that we are discouraging people from exploring gifts that they need to be sharing with the world.  We have way too many people living within their experiential means, meekly, and going through the motions daily.  What we need are more people who are willing to be unapologetically themselves, sharing the gifts they were granted with the world, and living their passion as euphorically as possible.

I have a theory–far fetched–but fuck it.  What if, everyone stopped holding back begrudgingly and started releasing all of their too muchness with the world happily?  So many people spend so much time calculating each and every thing they do, I feel like they forget to just breathe and live.  That’s just stressful.  If we do what I’m suggesting, would the world be a better place?  Would we all be happier?  Less stressed?  Hell, I don’t know for sure, but probably.  I’m only a twenty something year old trying to chase happiness and die old with 18 dogs by my side one day.  #lifegoals I know! It’s just a theory.  I know ever since I’ve stopped being worried about being too much I’ve been significantly happier.  That could just be me.  Boom.  World peace.  Just figured that shit out in one afternoon!  You’re welcome beauty pageant contestants every where.

Back to too muchness, though.  I think this is a phrase we just need to try and remove from our vocabulary as much as we can.  We can’t remove it completely, because sometimes we just need to say there is too much of something in the world.  Too much darkness and nonsensical harm.  Too much poverty.  Too much flawed legislature within our political system.  Too much salt in your food (which I sadly did to my meal prepped dinner for this week).

What I shouldn’t hear, though, is a man telling me he doesn’t want to go on a second date with me because he thinks that I’m just “too much woman for him to handle.”  Well, buddy… your loss.  First of all, now you don’t get the wonderful experience of my hilarious presence in your life.  Second of all, I am not meant to be handled.

Handle (verb) meaning (1) to feel or manipulate with your hands or (2) to manage.

No one will ever handle me.  EVER.  I am not a thing to manipulate or manage.  I have handled my damn self for quite a few years now and I’d say I’m doing more than okay.  Independence is my strong suit and I don’t need or want any man to come and handle me.

Rather, what I want over being handled is to be treated the way men treat food.  No, not in the sense of being salivated over like a piece of meat.  That’s just wrong and many women live with that disgusting experience every day–I know I do.

Rather, what I mean is I want my personality to be sipped and favored like a fine wine.  I want my intricacies to be appreciated like whiskey.  I want my rough edges to be the bitter lemon that alone leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but when mixed with the rest of your life becomes the flavor in your tea that makes it all come together and makes you feel better.  I want my quirkiness to be welcomed like your morning cup of coffee.  I want my overpowering flavors to be the part of your recipe that brings everything together.  I want my too muchness to inspire you to try something new.

Too much shouldn’t send you running for the hills.  It should make you curious, excited, adventurous, intrigued, and most of all left in awe.  We live in a world where “being yourself” is celebrated to an extent.  Once you’ve reached society’s tipping point of “uniqueness” you’re asked to conform.  If someone is too much we should celebrate them.  They’ve made it past the endless obstacles and hurdles life puts us through trying to convince us that conforming is best.  Their too much survived, no matter how many assassins were sent to destroy it.  Celebrate the too much.  Embrace it.  Savor it.

I don’t fear being too much.  What I fear is a life lived conforming to not enoughness.   I fear losing the me that I’ve found, to become the me that the world wants me to be.  It’s so easy to tone yourself down,  but you are doing no one a favor in doing this.  Be yourself.  Unapologetically and completely.  Don’t know who you are?  Search, explore, wander until you find it.  Try new things, read until you drop, meet as many new and different people as you can.  Do all of this and more until you find the you that is too much.

With happiness in my heart,

Your resident “too much” girl

All I said was, “No, thank you…”

Dear guys who can’t handle being let down at the bar,

A week or two ago, I had a long week and on my way home on a Friday I realized I really didn’t feel like being home just yet.  I wasn’t feeling healthy or cute enough to go to my usual spot so I decided to just pop into PKWY Tavern since its on my way home and not at all out of the way.  Plus, they have bomb Southern Chicken Sliders and so many amazing beer options–a girl can’t go wrong with fried chicken and beer.  It was pretty early in the day and I didn’t plan on being there long so I didn’t bother convincing anyone to go with me.  Cue sad lonely music for the girl alone at the bar.

Just kidding! I actually love going out alone and don’t mind being the solo girl at the bar at all.  I’m a pretty social person, so I tend to make friends pretty much anywhere I go.  So many great stories have come from me just hangin’ at a bar and making friends on my own.

So here I am, minding my own business with my beer and sliders.  I start talking about teaching with this older couple next to me and we’re having a great conversation.  I’m enjoying myself.  Until…

…mid sentence some guy steps in between myself and the couple and pretty much commands, “I’m buying you a drink!!!” 

Now, don’t get me wrong… I love free booze as much as the next girl, but I’ve had some really negative and some even dangerous situations that all started with a guy buying me a drink and then not getting what he thought was proper repayment afterwards.  Since I was alone, and not at my usual spot where the staff looks out for me, I decided to avoid a potentially sticky situation.  So, I responded as politely as I could with, “Thanks so much, but I’m actually okay.  I’ve got a full glass!  Thank you for the offer, though.”  And then tried to lean over to look around him and continue my conversation with the couple.

Well, as you could probably predict our interaction didn’t just end there… even though it should have.  As I leaned forward, so did he.  Our conversation continued as followed:

Him: Don’t be boring.  Just let me get you a drink.

Me: (calmly ignoring the fact that he just called me boring…) I’m really okay.  But, again, thank you!

Him: What the fuck?!  I just want to buy you a beer.  What’s your goddamn problem?

Me: I’m sorry you think I have a problem.  I really don’t.  I just have a full beer and don’t want another one.  (Wait… did I really just apologize to his rude ass AND give him a reason for not wanting a drink?) 

Him: Christ.  What is the problem with chicks these days?  Even the fat girls won’t let guys buy them drinks anymore!!

Me:  Excuse me?  Did you just call me fat?

Him: Well… No use being nice to you now… yeah, you’re definitely not a fucking model or anything.

Me: (all of my patience gone at this point) I’m over this bullshit.  Dude, have you seen yourself?  You’re no Ryan Reynolds yourself…

Him: (Clearly butt hurt) Woah!!! No need to be a bitch! Go fuck yourself.

Me: In the two minutes you’ve interacted with me, you’ve managed to call me boring, fat, and a bitch.  All because I didn’t want you to buy me a drink?  You’re a real charmer you know that?  Get over yourself and learn how to leave a girl alone when she turns you down.  I will happily go fuck myself… it’ll probably be more pleasurable than fucking you.

(Okay, I know that last part was unnecessary, but COME AWNNNNNNN he deserved it…) 

My burst of courage that gave me the strength to say all that slowly dissipated as he stared me down silently and tension rose.  I’ve only seen that kind of anger and aggression in a man’s eyes a few times in my life and I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about what he would do next.

As I shifted in my spot uncomfortably, the husband of the couple I had been talking to earlier finally cut in and said, “Sir, just leave her alone.  You go your way and enjoy the rest of your evening and she’ll go hers.  This is unnecessary.  You’ve said enough.”  I genuinely thought from the look on his face that this asshat was going to punch an elderly gentleman.  Rather, he turned back to me and said, “Enjoy your night alone you fat bitch,” and then pushed my FULL beer over so that it spilled and made a mess everywhere.

I’m not sure what made me more angry… the fact that he called me a fat bitch or that he spilled my full beer.

Now, I need to clarify some things to make sure I cover all my bases here.  As far as I could tell, he was not drunk.  It was only 4:30 in the afternoon, and as a former bartender, I’m pretty good at telling when people are fucked up–it was my job to do that back in the day.  Also, how did not a single one of the 3 bartenders on staff (two of which were basically right in front of me) cut in and say something?  Finally, this guy was no Prince Charming. He was about 5 foot 8 and if I had to guesstimate he probably weighed about 250-280 pounds.  (To be clear, I am not height or weight prejudiced, but I want to paint a clear picture of the situation here.) So really, who is he to call me fat?  He was definitely way fluffier than is healthy.

So many problems with this whole situation I don’t even know where to start! How about with the weight thing?  I get it… I’ve gained some stress weight in the last few months, but I am by no means obese.  I’m a little chubbier than I’d like to be, sure, but I’m working on it.  So how is it that this short, overweight asshole is okay with calling me fat, but ridiculously offended when I turn that same comment right back on him?  Compared to him I might as well have been Miranda fucking Kerr.  And, why on Earth, as a badass, intelligent, funny, and all around awesome lady, am I still so self conscious about being called out for my weight?  (Okay, I’m done trying to compensate for his comment by complimenting myself.)  Seriously, though, how am I letting this asshole’s comment still bother me?  Is it a female thing?  Is it just me personally trying to get over past demons and experiences?  Is my confidence still not where I thought it was?

How did turning down a drink turn into a battle of the disses?  Why do some men get so defensive when a girl says no?  No means no, doesn’t it?  How is that still not clear in 2017?  How as an independent woman do I still feel uncomfortable at a bar no matter what I do?  I said no to the drink to avoid an uncomfortable situation and somehow STILL ended up in an uncomfortable situation.  How are men still reacting with such fury when a woman doesn’t express desire?

News flash: Its the twenty-first fucking century.  I am by no means  required to humor you just to make you feel good about yourself.  I was nice enough given the situation.  If I don’t want your attention, I should feel safe and comfortable telling you so and you should be able to handle that and move on.

I know, I know… his comments and actions say more about his issues than mine, but still.  Really, dude?  Boring, fat, and bitch.  That is your response to, “no thank you…”  How can a person say with an honest, straight face that safe spaces exist for women?  Someone please tell me how I am supposed to feel safe?  What if that old couple hadn’t been with me at the bar?  What if they weren’t kind enough to walk me to my car, “just in case?”  What if?  

When I shared this story, some people have said I’m overreacting.  Some people have said that I shouldn’t have said what I said in the first place.  But, what about him?  Why is there a guttural response to chastise me, but not look at what he said?  What he did?  Why do I have to be SO careful, when even all of the care in the world doesn’t guarantee my security?

What is wrong with some of you men out there?    

Now, if you know me at all, you know I don’t believe in generalizations of any kind.  So yes, I understand, acknowledge, and agree that not all men are like that.  I know so many guys who are far from anything like this asshat.  But, from my experience there are way more guys like him than not.

What’s a girl to do?  Say yes to the drink and risk getting stuck with “expectations?” Or, say no to the drink and risk being publicly chastised and deal with a man’s rage?  What was my safe option there?  Apparently, there isn’t one anymore.

So to all my men out there who can’t handle a loss or a let down… get over yourself.  Not every chick is going to be drooling over you.  But one day, as long as you’re not an aggressive dickhead, I promise you’ll meet the one that loves you even if you did call a random chick a fat bitch in your past.  Until then, just leave me alone when I tell you I don’t want a drink and let me enjoy my evening.

Sincerely,

Your slightly chubby, but still awesome #chillestgirlalive

 

 

When did being good become a bad thing?

There have been a plethora of topics spinning around in my brain and being stuck at home, sick and useless is giving me the time I rarely have to write.  After my last particularly vulnerable piece, I feel the need to balance out with a more empowering and badass set of thoughts.  (The fact that I feel the need to balance out vulnerability with machismo is a topic itself I could address, but I’ll save that for another day.)  So here goes…

To everyone who tells me I’m too intimidating to approach,

That is a comment I get relatively frequently that many of you mean as a compliment, but it really frustrates and baffles me.  As a pretty long term single lady, most of you will always ask me why I don’t date someone or try to convince me to let you fix me up with someone.  That always leads to the inevitable conversation of whether I’m putting myself out there.   Whether I’m trying to meet someone or not.  What I’m looking for.  The whole shebang.

I try to explain myself to you to the best of my ability and it always leads to the same final comments…

I say, “I’m not necessarily avidly searching for someone, but I definitely put myself out there.  I try to make opportunities, I just don’t really ever get approached.  Or, when I do it only lasts for a short time and we never seal the deal.” 

Without fail, 9 times out of 10, you respond, “Interesting.  Well, you are kind of intimidating…”

And then the conversation trails off after I make a strange face and we change the topic.

“Well, you are kind of intimidating…”

I’m sorry… what?

I know most of you see that comment as a compliment.  To you, intimidating means I’m kinda awesome in some way, which makes people nervous to come up to me.  I get that, and I can understand where you’re coming from.  I’ve been hearing this for years.

That being said, I can’t necessarily agree.  So it is now somehow my fault that I’m not even being approached?  Being successful (which is what I’m assuming makes me intimidating) is my downfall?

So, let me get this straight?  The fact that I’m working my ass off to be my best self, to be a badass, and to leave a ridiculous legacy is now part of what is holding me back in starting the steps to meeting someone, beginning a family, and exploring options for the next level of my life?   I just can’t get behind that.

I can’t get behind the idea that I have to make myself smaller and less to meet someone.  If I do that than I’m not starting a relationship honestly.  More importantly, I’m not being honest with myself.  I refuse to get behind an idea that says a woman needs to tone herself down to make a man feel better about himself… good enough to then approach her.

Please, tell me which part of me is too much? Is my humor too strong?  In turn is my laugh to booming?  Is my intelligence what sends you shrinking into yourself?  Is it my style?  Is it my confidence in my faith and beliefs?  Or, is it all of it together?  Am I–as a whole–what makes you feel like not enough to approach me in a bar?  At the dog park?  In the grocery store?

What part of me is too much?  And why is that a problem for you?  Why is someone being their best selves and living their fullest lives throwing you off so much?

I’m a pretty laid back person.  I’m ridiculously easy to get along with.  Yes, I was raised to try my best at everything I do, but shouldn’t that be something that impresses you, rather than sends you running for the hills?

I have worked my ass off to become an impressive person.  I have earned the right to brag a bit because it’s taken a lot of work and perseverance to get to where I am.  So as I sit here in my pride, you’re telling me that my accomplishments are what are holding me back?  That just isn’t right.

If you can’t approach me because I’m too much for you, then do me a favor and stay away.  I get it… it takes a lot of nerve and courage to walk up to a stranger and take a shot.  Lord knows I freak out when I try to approach someone.  But, the difference is, I know that’s on me.  It is my lack of confidence that holds me back from going up to someone.  My own self doubt still holding me back.  I don’t blame it on the other person.  I don’t say they’re too much of something, I acknowledge this is the part of me that’s not enough and needs some work.  I acknowledge it’s on me and not you. Hey, I’m not perfect.  Never said I was.

So, please don’t diminish all of my positive qualities by equating them to my pitfall in trying to meet someone.  What that does is make me look at all the good in myself in a negative way, and I refuse to do that.

Isn’t that what we do as a society, though.  Get insecure when we perceive people as better than us and in turn try to make them insecure about themselves.  Well, I refuse to perpetuate that cycle.  I’m not going to feel like shit about my accomplishments because they make you uncomfortable.  That is just childish, detrimental, and unhealthy.  Embrace me or don’t, but don’t use my successes as your excuse for not making a move.  Rather, use that as a time to reflect on what that says about you.

Sincerely,

Your quint-lingual, master’s degree holding, faithful, socially conscious bar hopper

The Hide and Seek of Grief

Grief… you sneaky bastard.  I’ll get to you in a second.

Today, I woke up feeling a little groggy.  I thought nothing of it since I had been at the tail end of a cold for a few days.  At lunch, I could feel my whole body temperature rising and by the time I got home and in bed, my body was on fire.  Something you should know about me… I’m a whiny bitch when I’m sick.  Which is pretty comical seeing as I’m one of the most independent badasses the rest of the time.

Being sick is nothing new to me. As a teacher, my immune system is slowly building resilience, but when you teach 102 fifth graders every day and interact with hundreds of other youngins, you’re bound to catch something eventually.  So here I am.  Whining… bitching.. to myself… to my dogs… via text to my friends.  I was trying everything:  DayQuil, vitamins galore, immune boosters, tea, honey, lemon.  None of it was doing anything.  So I decided to at least unwind with a bath.  (I love baths and I also thought a hot bath might help me sweat out whatever I caught and break my temperature.)

And just like that, grief was waiting for me in the bathtub.  I didn’t see him as I turned on the water and put my book on the ledge.  He must have been hiding between the shower curtains.  I didn’t see him as I lit my candles, put down my water, and pushed back the shower curtain.  He must have jumped behind the toilet.  I didn’t see him as I poured in my bath salts and bath foam and slowly sank into the scalding hot water.

That’s the thing about grief.  He’s a master of disguise.  He can fit into the tightest of spots and hide in some of the most obvious places–places we’d never think to look.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “Time heals all wounds.”  Well, I’m here to tell you once and for all… That is bullshit.  Time does not heal all wounds.  Time simply makes our pain and grief sneakier.  Time forces us to hide our pain because it is only socially acceptable to be “sad” for a certain amount of time before it becomes “obsessive” or “depressing.”  Time is grief’s sidekick… Kind of like Batman and Robin, but less focused on the greater good and more focused on finding you in a moment of weakness.

Grief never leaves us.  The loss of a loved one is the kind of pain that sticks around.  Slowly ebbing in and out to remind you of your loss at the most inopportune times.  (For those of my readers and friends who are unaware, I lost my mom/best friend/ hero/ everything to cancer in February of 2013.)  I miss my mom… every day.  Most days, though, I am able to keep that loss in the back of my mind.  I function with grief slowly lurking behind–out of sight and out mind.  For the most part, I’m actually a very positive person.  I love to smile and laugh.  I can even forget most days that grief even exists.

And then there are days like today…

Whiny and bitchy and in a scalding hot bath tub trying anything and everything to get better.  I looked around and saw nothing but my pups on my bed in the other room.  I thought I was alone.  As I sunk into the water so that it covered my shoulders, I realized that wasn’t so.  I was not alone.  Just like that, memories came flooding in.  As the hot water engulfed me, I remembered the warm embrace my mom would wrap me up in whenever I was sick, no matter how old I was.  I remembered her singing to me as she brought me tea and soup that I always burned my mouth on (which is actually why I can’t eat or drink anything too hot anymore… burned one too many times).  Her face came into my mind like I had seen it just a few minutes ago.  Her perfect smile and laugh.  The voice that I used to look forward to talking to every day–multiple times a day.  They say that a person’s voice is the first thing you forget… it’s true.  There are many nights I’ve tried to remember my moms voice and couldn’t.  Today, though, it came to me like no time had passed.  All I could do was text my friend, “…all I want is ginger ale and a mom.

Just like that I began to sob.  Like I did as a toddler when I got some of my first shots and I screamed at the doctor’s office, “MOMMY!  PLEASE DON’T EVER BRING ME BACK TO BROWN DOCTOR!!!!!”  Like I did the first time I got made fun of for a plethora of reasons in school and learned I was the polar opposite of the cool kid in my catholic elementary school.  Like I did the first time a guy broke my heart in the scummiest of ways.  Like I did my freshman year of college when I got a double ear infection and they both popped as my mom drove me home from my doctor’s appointment.  Like I did as my brother walked me in his arms to put the final rose and a Finding Nemo stuffed animal on my mom’s casket.  All but one of those times, my mom was there… embracing me… loving me… and putting me above all else.  The one time she wasn’t, my brother had her covered and I’ll forever be grateful for that.

Time doesn’t heal shit.  Time just helps us hide whatever we’re feeling.  Or, in some cases, helps us forget what we’re feeling.  But grief?  Grief is special.  Grief is something time will never heal.  The loss of a loved one, especially one so near and dear to us, never leaves us.  It is on our brains… always.

Please, don’t take this as a complaint post or a rant.  I have such loving friends who have been constantly checking in on me and offering to bring me things.  I am eternally grateful for that kind of love.  But, I can’t stand the illusion that time will heal all wounds when grief is so easily lurking in the simplest of actions and the simplest of triggered memories.

There is no love like a mother’s.  The person who puts you above everything else.  The person who loves you no matter how many times you break curfew, come home drunk, or let your faults outweigh you strengths.  The person who reminds you that you are still beautiful even when every kid is making fun of your glasses, long legs, and everything in between.  The person who puts your life above theirs.  I miss having that person in my life.  My aunts and family did a fantastic job of stepping in when I lost my mom.  My friends show me SO much love and positivity.  But all of those people have people they would put before me.  Their own children, grandchildren, significant others.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t put those people first, but I do miss having someone who did that for me.  I miss being first.  I miss being worried about and yelled at out of concern.  I miss my mom.  I miss that kind of love.  It can’t be recreated and it can’t be faked.   It’s one of a kind.  

I will forever wake up with a grateful heart and positive attitude because I am so ridiculously blessed!  I have so many amazing memories with my mom.  I have an ohana that has my back through pretty much everything.  I have friends who are just utterly amazing.  I have laughed and lived and loved so much in my brief 25 years on this planet.  I have so much love in my life.  But all of that love won’t fill certain wounds.  There are certain pains that stay with us forever.  So, please, do not diminish my loss and pain with something as trivial as, “time heals all wounds.”  Embrace grief.  Embrace the memories.  Embrace the tears.  Embrace it because it is unavoidable.

Absolutely, 100% unavoidable.

It doesn’t have to be our downfall, though.  And that, my friends, is the beautiful optimism that always follows close behind grief’s sneaky hiding places.  Our pain can become so much more.  Optimism and grief… They are two ends of a spectrum playing an endless game of Marco Polo and those of us with loss in our lives are just caught in the middle of the pool.

God, Vibes, and the Spaghetti Monster

Just a warning:  This is not my typical post.  This piece is more reflective.  Definitely not one of my usual topics.  Definitely more narrative.  Definitely a little more touchy than normal.  A little more all over the place than my usual writing.  But, I felt called to write it, and I can’t ignore the call!

A lot of people have noticed a change in me recently–including myself.  I’ve been letting stress get to me less.  I’ve been more positive.  I’ve been more focused on what is truly important.  I laugh more.  I smile more.  All around, I’ve just been happier.  Well, when people notice you’re doing better, they want to know how you did it.  I’ve been asked multiple times, in person, text, email, messenger, you name it, I’ve heard it over a dozen times: “You really seem happier… how’d you do it?”

Well, there is no easy answer to that question.  Or, I should say there is no one step fix I can offer.  It has been a process.  It has taken time.  It has taken work.  I’ve fucked up multiple times along the way.  This time, though, I didn’t give up or give in.  And there is definitely something specific I have to thank for that resilience.  There are lots of little pieces and lots of little facets to this new and endlessly improving person I’m becoming.  But, there is one thing I know has helped every step of the way: Faith.

Now, I know some people just don’t believe in God.  I feel you.  It’s pretty hard to believe in this apparently non-existent being who pulls off some wild magic tricks.  I mean, the dude pulled off the immaculate conception.  (Funny fact: I remember imagining telling my family I was a virgin if I ever got pregnant and telling them I was the second immaculate conception.  Yeah… not sure how well that would’ve gone over.)  It was his power that resurrected his son after three days.  My personal favorite is our homie, Jesus, turning water to wine.  I wish I could do that!  I would have SO much more money in my savings account.  Although I know it’s hard for some to believe, I do truly think it was my faith that saved my personal journey this time around.  Now, let me tell my story and then support my claim.  Then, you can think whatever you want.  Just let me get out what I need to get out.

I was raised Catholic.  Church every Sunday.  Prayer every night.  I was the master of the procedures.  I knew when to kneel, stand, and what words to utter at the right time.  Hell, my first job was at the church rectory for $4 an hour.  (Child labor laws clearly aren’t a thing in New Jersey!)  I never felt connected to Catholicism, though.  It was just how my mom raised me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the traditions that the Catholic church provided me with.  The only connection I ever felt with my church, though, was communal.  It was a super Polish church that many of my friends went to, so the community was pretty tight.  Much of my family went there too, so many of us would use after church time to catch up on our week and stay connected.  It was great.  That being said, the most important of my church experience was missing–the spiritual connection.  That is, until I went to college.

I went to college at Fordham University.  Fordham is a Jesuit university.  I genuinely did not know that when I accepted my spot at Fordham.  But, this unknown Jesuit aspect of my university quickly became my favorite aspect of my undergrad alma mater.  The Jesuit tenets quickly became my favorite words to live by and I finally began to feel more of that spiritual connection that I had always been missing.  It was better, with its community service and understanding tenets… but, it still wasn’t enough.

My faith quickly slipped when I didn’t have campus ministry or my mom around to remind me to go to church and just believe.  When I first moved to Vegas, church was not a thing.  At all.  I don’t think I went to church in Vegas any Sunday my first two years living here.  I had researched some churches, but never followed through.  Without that previous spiritual connection, I kinda felt like it was a waste to try yet another place.

That is, until this school year.  At the start of the school year, I was yet again complaining about not having a church since that was such a huge part of my upbringing.  Yet again, my school counselor and office manager suggested Central Christian.  It was close to my house.  They both loved it.  I just had to go.  (They had been suggesting Central to me since I started working at my school.)  It still took me some time to go.  I had no out when our office manager had me commit to a church date.  I guess she got tired of me asking and complaining, so on the spot she called her daughter, asked for the experience times, and we made our game plan.  I had no out or excuse this time.  Plus, I love spending time with our office manager so I figured at the very least it’d be a new experience and time with her.

A new experience was putting it mildly.  I had never been to a Christian church… but I had been to church and how different could it be?  Oh, cute, naive Nicole.  For those of you straight Catholics out there like me… Christianity is Catholicism’s super hippie cousin.  I had no idea what I was walking into.

As I’m pulling up, my friend calls me and I’m already in awe because the place is HUGE.  I had never seen any place of worship that big other than in Manhattan.  My friend came to meet me in the front and we went to meet her daughter in our spots.  I walked into the worship space and I shit you not, my first thoughts were, “Where the fuck am I?”  (Classy for in church, I know.)  The whole space was very dimly lit.  There were two giant screens on either side of the front and a stage with a full band set up.  There was a countdown to the start of experience going on the screens and people conversing all over the place.  My traditional Catholic heart was not prepared.

I am a hard person to catch off guard… ask anyone.  As a self-proclaimed empath, I am ridiculously good at reading people and situations and my hot mess of a life has taught me to be prepared for pretty much anything.  This place threw me wayyyyyy off.  It was too late to cut and run.  I love my friend, and the countdown was down to twenty seconds.  That specific experience is a blur, but I do remember having the time of my freaking life.  It was so different in all the right ways.  This post has already derailed way off from where I thought I’d be taking it, so I won’t sit you through all the details of that experience, but it changed me.  I finally felt something I hadn’t ever felt in twenty-something years worth of church going.  I felt communally AND  spiritually connected.  I wanted to go back.  Without my mom or aunt telling me to.  Without a specific holiday looming over my shoulder.  I just wanted to.  I couldn’t wait for the next week!

I’ve been going back to Central on and off (more on than off) ever since then.  I’ll never forget my second experience.  I went alone this time and I literally cried.  During the experience, Central Live sang a song and this was my breaking point.  I gave it all in, right there and right then.  I still remember the specific lyrics that hit me:

“I will call upon the Lord,

for he alone is strong enough to save.

Rise, your shackles are no more

for Jesus Christ has broken every chain.”

I felt called.  I felt a weight lift off of me.  I could write a whole other post about what shackles I needed to be freed from.  Those details aren’t important.  What is important is that I finally felt connected to something greater than me.  And, I think back to any of the times I slipped back into my “dark places” and they were times I let myself slip away from my weekly Central experience.   Times when I stopped feeling connected.

When we’re finally connected to something, we believe in it.  More importantly, we hope in it.  In my opinion, hope is one of the many keys to happiness.  (Here we go, I’m finally getting back to the point where this all started.)  I’m not saying you need to believe in God and Jesus Christ.  What I am saying is you need to believe in something greater than yourself.  It can be God.  It can be Mother Nature.  It can be the Universe.  It can be the Spaghetti Monster.  You can call it whatever the hell you want to call it, it just needs to be bigger than you.  To me, faith is the belief that something larger than you and your life is at work and your trust in that something larger.   No one should ever have dictated for them what that “something” is.  Believe whatever the hell you wanna believe, but believe in something.  I personally run on a solid mixture of Jesus and Vibes.  I shit you not.  My faith is currently rooted in the bible and the vibes you put in the universe.  I don’t think faith needs to be solely rooted in one thing.  We don’t have to be this or that.  Do what works for you.

I do think faith needs to be present, though,  for an ultimate happiness to be permanently present.  When we put all of our faith into the worldly, our faith will be shattered.  There is no doubt about that.  With our faith goes our happiness.  People let us down.  Things let us down.  Places let us down.  I think having faith in something bigger and having the faith that this “something bigger” is working in our favor is huge.  For me it has been at least.

Central closes each mass with a sentence from Romans Chapter 8… “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Substitute God with whatever you want and that statement remains just as powerful.  If you believe in something bigger than yourself AND you believe that it’s working in your favor… how can you be shitty?  If I put out good vibes and I truly believe that these good vibes are going to be returned to me, how can I waste my time with negativity?  Faith is a powerful force.  Where we put our faith is even more important.

Now, like I said, this isn’t an “I wanna convert you to Jesus lovin’ and make you drink drink the koolaid” post.  This post isn’t like most of the others I’ve written.  I still wanted to write it.  My faith is a huge part of my life and my happiness now.  I still laugh at people’s reactions when I tell them I go to church every Sunday.  I get it… I cuss a lot.  I drink a lot.  And I do a lot of other things that my family probably wouldn’t be proud of and doesn’t wanna read about.  I’m a sinner.  Reality check: Who isn’t?  With all of that, I still feel loved.  I still feel secure because I have faith that something bigger than me is working in my favor.  You don’t need to agree with this at all.  It’s just what works for me.  Happiness is composed of hundreds of little facets.  This is just one of mine.

You might scoff at this.  You may be incredulous.  You may be curious.  If there’s been something missing for you, I dare you… try it.  Don’t know where to go or where to start?  I’m here for you.  If you wanna try Central, I’d love to go with you and watch you say “Where the fuck am I?”

Believe or not.  Faith or not.  That’s your choice.  That’s really what happiness comes down to… a choice and a chase.

What’s so wrong with being alone?

But really, what is SO wrong with being alone? The other week I had a really strange experience at the Cheesecake Factory and couldn’t help but ponder this question.  So, let me lay out the scene for you…

I decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory by my house as a sort of “last supper” before starting my five day juice cleanse.  Normally, being a single party, I would just sit at the bar,  but it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t about to waste it sitting inside!  I went to the hostess stand and asked for my table for one–thinking nothing of it.  The host started a great conversation about my tattoos, walked me to my table, and told me to enjoy my meal.  My meal was amazing!  The surrounding company?  Not so much.

As my last supper before a juice cleanse, you can imagine I went to town!  I got myself a few drinks, ordered a few apps, and had more than enough to take home.  Since I had nothing but time to kill as I finished my last drink, I pulled out my planner and started planning my week ahead.  I was totally diggin’ my date with myself.  Throughout my whole time there, though, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being watched.  Now, this wasn’t my paranoia kicking in for once.  There was a party of 4 at the table diagonal from mine that just kept looking over at me, making comments, and giggling.  Well, when slightly noticeable whispers turned to plain awkward and obvious, I decided to just lean towards the table and ask if they needed anything.  The exact conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice you looking my way.  Can I help you with something? 

Them: Oh no! We just couldn’t help but… uh… notice that you are alone? Are you meeting someone?  Did they not show up?  That’s just horrible of them! 

Me: Oh! No! I’m not waiting for anyone. I’m here alone.  I enjoy my own company and wanted a nice meal outside.  But thank you so much for your concern! 

Them: Well, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t have to do things on your own. 

This ended with them slightly scoffing and continuing their quiet remarks while I returned to my planner, book, and most importantly, drink!  As an eternally single, independent lady and once again avid adventurer, I’ve gotten used to doing things alone.  I used to hate it, but I’ve learned to love my time with myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, I just don’t like to be reliant on other people’s schedules.  If I want to do something, I’m going to do it–whether there is someone with me or not.

After hearing their comments, though, I couldn’t help but think, why is there such a social stigma around doing things alone?  Especially for ladies.  Why is it automatically assumed that I’m being stood up when I’m dining alone?  Why shouldn’t a “pretty girl like me” have to do things alone? And why on earth am I being singled out for showing myself some TLC?

What’s so wrong with being alone?

Now, this brief encounter might seem like no big deal and super nonchalant… to the untrained eye, it is.  But being the social and reflection junkie I am, I couldn’t help but notice how socially problematic their judgement and comments were in some ways.  First, there was the assumption I was being stood up and the blatant discomfort they exhibited when I clarified that I was, in fact, intentionally alone.  I can’t help but wonder where their discomfort stems from…  Is it a general lack of exposure to people doing things alone?  Is it their own insecurities in not feeling comfortable enough in their own space to be able to do things alone?  Is it a safety concern that I was a female out alone?  Since I’ll probably never see these people again, I’ll never really know what it was for certain.  But I can’t help but wonder what made them so squeamish and judgmental about a girl taking herself on a date, enjoying her own company, and just straight up enjoying her life.

More problematic than assuming a person out alone was being stood up and then judging them for intentionally being out alone, was the one female’s comment, “Well, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t have to do things on your own.”  Yeah, maybe this is just something people say…. but I just need to make sure I got this right, you’re uncomfortable that I’m out alone, purposefully… but it would be acceptable if I was uglier?  So, you’re saying our outer appearances deem what is acceptable in social settings?  I call bullshit.

If I rob a bank, I don’t care how hot I am, it’s wrong.  That is an accepted norm.  Sure, movies might glorify the hot robbers slightly, but we still as a human population understand that stealing is wrong and against the law.  I don’t care how hot you are, if you get caught, you’re going to jail.  So if physical appearance isn’t a true deciding factor in that social situation, why is it in this one?  Where is the line?  Why are we still using attractiveness to support social claims?  In addition to that, as a supposed “pretty girl” am I expected to never be alone?  Am I supposed to go around with my posse all day err day?  Am I supposed to perpetually be dating someone to fulfill this social norm that pretty girls can’t be alone?  Did I miss the memo about only being complete when there is another person in my life?  When did that shit start?  I’m clearly way behind the times… or are the times behind me?  I know I have some peculiar outlooks on life and society and “social norms,” but shit man, is it truly that fucking progressive to go out to eat alone and enjoy my own company?

It has taken me for-fucking-ever to get to a point where I am comfortable being alone.

Fun fact: (Not many people know this actually…) Growing up, I had severe (and I mean SEVERE) isolaphobia or monophobia–it goes by both names: an extreme or abnormal fear of being alone.  I mean, BAD.  It baffled my mom.  I used to have to sleep with her every night, and I wrapped myself around her like a fucking anaconda to make sure she wouldn’t leave me for work.  I would throw SEVERE tantrums when she left for work.  It broke her heart every day and she told me later in life that she would drive to work crying because she felt so shitty for leaving me and watching me cry from the window.

It still hits me sometimes–twenty years later.  When I was in college, I wasn’t able to sleep in my dorm room if my roommate wasn’t there… I would always “accidentally” fall asleep on the couch those nights… or, I just wouldn’t sleep (can you say all nighters on my laptop or in the library?).  This phobia made certain social situations unbearable.  I first realized I really had to get over this fear when I moved to Las Vegas.  I was going to be living alone, in a new city, where I currently had close to no friends and absolutely no family.  I was (as I so eloquently phrase it) fucked.  My brother got me a dog, which helped.  But I didn’t sleep for weeks.  I spent all my time at work or hosting parties to keep the fear at bay.  I finally gave in and went to see an isolaphobia specialist (yes, those exist) and we started working through this phobia of mine.  Having anxiety is a major detriment to making serious progress, but this is my third year in Vegas and I’m finally seeing the growth.  My time used to be split 90/10 with people and without, now I would say I’m more at a 40/60 balance.  That may not seem like much improvement in two and a half years, but please realize I used to have panic attacks at the idea of having to do grocery shopping alone.  Yes, it was that fucking bad.  (And yes, I now realize how fucking absurd it is to have a panic attack about going grocery shopping alone.)

I think this is why this brief and minor interaction is bothering me so much.  I’ve worked so hard to overcome this shit, and then four random strangers are gonna judge my damn accomplishments.  There are social implications and personal ones in this brief contact with strangers.  I wish I had all of this in my head while it was happening so I could just ask them straight up and get some answers.  Because I would… I wouldn’t care if it made them uncomfortable.

What bothers me most is that for a brief moment, I went back to my deep isolaphobia days.  I went home and actually asked myself, “Well, what was wrong with what I did?  Should I have not gone?  Am I not enough?”  That last one is a question I plagued myself with for years as the result of some fucked up relationships, on and off daddy issues, and just straight up skewed outlooks on life.  I thought I had deleted that last one from my vocabulary.  I guess it just shows how easily our old demons and disasters can come creeping up.  We have to consciously choose that positivity and that light within us–every second of every day.

Am I not enough?  Fuck yeah, I AM enough.  It has taken me years to learn that.  I am so fucking enough, that I’ll go to the Cheesecake Factory alone, order my obscene amount of appetizers, maybe a have a few too many drinks, and enjoy every. fucking. second.

Happily alone,

#chillestgirlalive

Compliments from an avocado loving, messy haired man…

Cue music: Barcelona by Ed Sheeran

Camera pans out from a shopping cart at Whole Foods and goes into a wide screen shot of a blonde, twenty something woman doing her groceries in shorts, a crop top, and a snapback.

Enter a young man–a stranger to our main character–who walks directly to her cart.  Long, messy hair, wearing aviators inside, muscle tank, definitely the kinda guy that loves avocados a little too much.  Attractive, but not our leading lady’s type.

Man: “Excuse me miss?  Hi.  Can I say something that might sound weird, but I promise I don’t mean it to be.”

Me: “Uhhhh…. sure?  Go for it.”

Man: “Again, I don’t mean this to be weird, but I’ve seen you randomly around the store and every time I see you, I laugh or smile.  You are hysterical.  You really seem to be unapologetically yourself.”

Me: “I’m sorry? I don’t understand what you mean…”

Man: “I just mean, you seem so happy and it’s infectious.  You really just are yourself and don’t seem to give a damn what other people think.”

Me: “I gotta say, I’ve never had a stranger say that to me.  You got all of that from randomly seeing me around Whole Foods?”

Man: “Yeah, dude.  I’m not trying to hit on you, I promise.  But you’re really funny.  First of all, you’re literally playing your own music… at a grocery store.  And you dance to it… A LOT.  Like in the aisles while picking your food.  And you’ve smiled at every person you’ve walked by.  And I’ve heard you compliment at least 4 strangers.  And, you’ve started conversations with every employee you’ve walked by–and you’ve left them all smiling or laughing.  At one point, you actually started stretching in the Gluten Free aisle and then laughing at whatever joke you told yourself in your head.  The positivity just radiates off of you.  Your actions show that you genuinely care about people.  And you do whatever you want and don’t care if people are going to see and judge.  The vibes you’re putting out there are awesome.  I just needed to share that, because I believe positivity should be reciprocated with more positivity.  You are seriously, unapologetically you and you don’t hide it.  I don’t see many people do that anymore.  It’s refreshing.”

Okay, I’m done with the script style writing.  This conversation with a stranger was so unique and random, but so descriptive of where I feel my life is at right now, I had to share it.  Only in a hippie lovin’ place like Whole Foods would I find a stranger that would come up to me and say this, but it was everything I needed and more.

I’ve been a new person recently, and it is amazing to hear something like this from a stranger.  Only a few short months ago, a friend and role model was talking to me because she was worried I was suffering from a serious bout of depression.  She was worried by my constant negativity, the cloud stuck over my head, and just worried for my well being in general.  That couldn’t have been more than 3 months ago.  And now, here I am being told by a stranger that my positivity is infectious?  That is wild to me.  But, after reflecting… it really is true.

I can’t really pinpoint when the change happened, or really how, but I know why.  I started focusing on myself and what I needed.  I used to tend to thrive on interactions with other people, and I think I was so wrapped up in the fact that I no longer had much company from friends or family, that I let it turn me into a walking ball of anger and sadness.  I forgot one very important fact–my own company is more than enough.  I learned how to thrive without the constant interaction and reinforcement from my friends.  I learned to love my quirkiness and just let it happen.  If people are going to judge me, that is their prerogative, but if I’m having fun and loving the moment I’m in, does anything else matter? So yeah, I’m weird… and I fucking LOVE my weird.

I will be honest, I hated myself for a while.  I never thought I was good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I wasn’t pretty enough.  I wasn’t funny enough.  I wasn’t working hard enough.  I wasn’t a good enough girlfriend.  I wasn’t a good enough friend.  I wasn’t a good enough sister.  I wasn’t fit enough.  I just wasn’t enough.  Now, I don’t say this because I want a pity party of compliments or anything.  I really fucking don’t.  I actually hate that shit.  I say this because I genuinely thought it was true.

I can’t tell you when it clicked, but at some point I learned to love who I was.  I learned that I was enough for me.  I am happy with myself and the woman I am becoming.   And does anything else matter?  Does it truly matter if I’m not enough for someone else, as long as I’m enough for me? If I’m not enough for someone, then they clearly don’t appreciate my worth.  And, they clearly don’t deserve to be in my life.  I’m finally owning my life.  And with that comes a natural happiness.  A natural joy that forces you to just be yourself–no holding back.  I have never laughed so much in my life, and I can’t imagine going back to being miserable.  I wasted months being miserable when I could’ve been living in joy.

I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m okay being alone.  Being alone used to be a major phobia of mine.  And now, I quite enjoy it.

Now, that shouldn’t be confused with the idea that I want to live a solitary lifestyle.   I still thrive on interactions with others.  I love my girls, I love my friends, I love my family.  It just means I am more selective with whom I choose to share my energy.  Do I miss hanging out with some of my girlfriends who now have hubbies, boos, and busier lives than before?  Of course.  But I can’t focus on the fact that they can’t love me the same way they used.  Rather, I choose to focus on seeing the joy in the way they still love me when they can, the best way they can.  And I substitute self love (and puppy love) where theirs used to be.  Do I sometimes miss the companionship of having a man around?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  But, I’m not going to get into a relationship for the sake of having someone around.  That’s not healthy.  And that was what I was doing before, which is why every single one of my relationships crashed and burned.  Sometimes even exploding in nuclear proportions.

People aren’t selective enough about who they choose to spend their time with and energy on.  As Ed Sheeran says in one of his songs on his new album (clearly I’m a little obsessed with Ed Sheeran), “Human beings are destined to radiate or drain.”  You are truly destined to do one or the other.  Which is it going to be?  I’ve finally chosen to radiate and not drain.  That is a conscious decision that I need to make every day.  It is so easy to slip back into a slump and start complaining and being negative.  But it is so NOT worth it.  At all.

My life feels completely different.  I’ve designed a life where good vibes are the only option.  That started with my own mindset and my own self love.  I know not everyone is there, and everyone gets there at their own pace, but God, do I wish everyone could feel the way I do.  I’m not gloating in joy, I’m just sharing how amazing my life feels now.  Nothing major has changed.  No new job.  Still single.  My dogs are still crazy.  My health is actually in the shitter.  But I’m happy.  Even when I get bad news, I’ve learned to accept it in a way that isn’t going to ruin me and my mood for days. I’m in an interesting place I don’t truly know how to explain.  But, apparently a stranger at Whole Foods can.  Avocado loving, messy haired man, thank you for helping me verbalize what I’ve been feeling for weeks now…

“You are seriously, unapologetically you and you don’t hide it.”

Nor will I ever hide it again.  I will continue to be the girl who plays her own music in the grocery store and dances while picking her gluten free crackers.  I will continue to be the girl who plays the penis game with her girlfriends in any bar we can, no matter how old we get and how inappropriate it might be.  I will continue to be the girl who cries when she needs to, but will do her best to spend double her time laughing and smiling.  I will continue to be the girl who sits on her patio on a beautiful day and writes blog posts.  I will continue to be the girl who flirts with her hot bartender and bullshits with the hysterical bar back–even if the amount of time she spends at “her” bar is probably socially unacceptable.  I will continue to be the girl who teaches while standing on tables and screaming, singing, and dancing.  I will continue to be the girl who cusses a lotta bit too much.  I will continue to be the girl who jams out a little too hard in her car while driving to work.  I will continue to be the girl who dances around her apartment in her underwear with her dogs as her dance partners.  I will continue to be the girl who drinks a little too much whiskey on nights out.  I will continue to be the girl who laughs and smiles her life away.  I will continue to be seriously and unapologetically myself and I won’t hide it.

Sincerely,

A new and improved #chillestgirlalive

 

The problem with sex is…

The problem with sex is that it is never equal–emotionally, socially, or (most problematically) politically.

Now, with such an alluring title, I hope you weren’t expecting some Cosmo style article on positions and strategies.  That is not what this piece is going to be.  Sorry to disappoint, but I promise this will still be worth your read.

Sex and gender cause problems–just watch a season of Sex and the City and you’ll see plenty of examples.  Emotionally everyone is just on different levels with sex.  9 times out of 10 one person cares more than the other.  And the lines get blurred.  Sex complicates… it makes everything a jumbled mess.  I’ve seen relationships–and people–fail, get confused, and crumble all because of sex.  Why does sex hold so much power over our lives?

Simple.  Sex is a power play.

We’ve all seen the movies and sitcoms.  People withholding sex or somehow using it to manipulate, get what they want, or hurt others.  We’ve been bombarded with it in media ever since sex became more mainstream and less taboo.  We’re letting mainstream media blind us, though.  By turning the power play of sex into a comical scene in a movie, they’ve made us forget that sex is being used for more aggressive power plays throughout the world.  We laugh so we forget or fail to notice things that should be intolerable.

Socially sex is ridiculously skewed.  First, and most obviously, there is the age old plight of the player versus the slut.  This one isn’t new to us.  A man has a ton of sex and he is awesome.  A woman has a lot of sex and she is shamed.  How did that rhetoric ever come to be and why for Christ’s sake is it still around?  And that whole idea that women have a lower sex drive than men?  I call bullshit.  I have been in a few relationships where the men had a significantly lower sex drive and the fact that I wanted it made me pushy and needy.  But, when a man wants sex all the time, it is the norm.  Although I can think of a million more examples, I’ll leave you with one more:  Plan B.  No, I’m not talking about my alternate plan in life. (Even though I definitely need to think about that too.) Female contraceptives are so much more expensive, extensive, and more difficult to get.  Have you ever noticed how male contraceptives can be purchased almost anywhere with a relatively reasonable cost.  The female counterparts need to go through some more exhaustive measures.  For us to get some form of female contraceptive, we need a doctor’s appointment, prescription, or to pay a ridiculous amount.  The “simplest” of all our options is the morning after pill.  This pill is usually around $50 a pop and we can’t even use it frequently because it can cause a lot of issues.  Then there is the shame involved in buying them.  I walk into Walgreens.  I go for the pill.  It is one of the only items in this giant plastic security box.  This ensures that I have to have an employee check me out and fumble with the clunky box, rather than being able to conveniently go to self check out and be on my merry way.  I’m told to own my sexuality, but then shamed when I do.  It is modern day, corporate slut shaming.  And it’s absurd.

Owning our sexuality has never been equal.  We claim to be a progressive nation.  Yeah, I’m definitely thankful we don’t have FGM (female genital mutilation), but we really aren’t as progressive as we claim to be.  Socially, it is still only fully acceptable for men to own their sexuality, whereas women get shamed and cast away.  I literally had someone leave a date with me (before it ended) after asking me how many people I’ve had sex with.  Now, I don’t want you to think I have this outrageous number and that’s what caused him to storm off.  For a modern woman, my number is pretty low, actually.  And to add insult to injury, he had shared his number with me moments before.  His number was triple mine.  Fucking TRIPLE.  But, I was the one having too much sex.  What is wrong with our society?  How am I being shamed and left at the dinner table for having one-third the sexual partners that my date had?  How is that still happening in 2017?

I’ll tell you how.  We faked ourselves into thinking that sex was a norm and that we were all on level playing fields.  TV shows like Sex and the City, True Blood, and Game of Thrones with their plethora of sex scenes and full frontal nudity gave people this false sense that sex was becoming more acceptable–for both genders.  The reality of it is that sex is really only more acceptable for men.  Sorry ladies, we’ve been played.

Socially, women are still being shamed, many of us just aren’t seeing the signs.  Even worse, though, (and what honestly scares me more) is that politically, we still aren’t being represented.  It is 2017 and out of 100 senate seats, only 20 are held by women.  Out of 435 seats in the house of representatives, only 84 are held by women.  So, you’re telling me that in America, where 50.8% of the population is made up of women, it is okay for women to only hold 20% of the senate and 19% of the house of representatives? We make up just over half of the population, but we still only represent less than  one third of our nation’s government. Wait, wasn’t our government created and meant to be a representation of the people?  I think we fucked up somewhere.  Or is it just me?

So all of these laws that affect the lives of 50.8% of the population are being created, decided, and upheld by the other 49.2% of the population.  How does that make sense? How can they tell me about birthing, when all they did was the easy part?  How can they tell me about sex contraceptives, when they can get theirs on sale and self checkout–avoiding breaking the bank and their dignity.  How did this happen?  I’ll tell you, because it isn’t a difficult answer, it’s just difficult to swallow…

we let it.

Like a semi-decent relationship we let the relative comfort outweigh the fact that there were major flaws in what was happening.  We chose being content over being equal, because hey, it could be worse.  Well guess what, it is getting worse.  The semi-decent relationship just took a left turn past What-the-fuck Avenue and is cruising down Shitshow Boulevard.  This is the point when the semi-decent relationship is turning to shit and we need to make the choice: Do we stick it out and blow up with it, or de we force a change?  I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t enjoy blowing up.  I prefer change.  I choose change.  This is the point in the relationship where we need to snap back to reality and make the other player get it together.

I get it, don’t hate the player… hate the game.  I do hate the game, but the players have created this systemic issue that makes the game never ending.  There is no final level until the players open their eyes.  Until then, we’ll be stuck at level 7 for the rest of our lives.  I’ve opened my eyes, so yeah, I think I’ve reserved the right to hate the player AND the game.

In a world where everyone is looking for balance in their lives, how can we ever truly find balance until we find equality?

To the man who spit at my feet…

To the man who spit at my feet,

Let me paint you a picture of how my day was going before you entered my life.  I woke up annoyed and confused.  I had gotten a text message from someone that threw off my vibes for the start of the day.  And you should know, I’m all about vibes.  I had been scrolling through social media and came across no shortage of articles telling me about what this new presidency was going to cut.  I was stressed about what that meant for me as a women.  This concern slowly extended for the rights of people all over America–women, children, poor, ethnic, you name it.  With this gloominess hanging over me, I dragged myself out of bed.

By the time I got through my morning routine, I had changed my mood and perspective on the day.  I chose positivity.  I sipped coffee, paid bills, and went through what I had to get done before my girlfriends came over later that day–all with a smile on my face.  I got myself dressed and set out to Costco, home of items in bulk and a fantastic selection of wine.  Now, let’s not forget one important fact… yesterday was the women’s march.  An event that has been in the works for weeks.  Everyone knew it was happening–all around the world.  That should have come as no surprise to you.  But let me try to be understanding.  Maybe you don’t have social media or cable.  Maybe you don’t talk to people who keep up with current events.  Maybe you truly didn’t know the women’s march was happening and our conversation came as a surprise to you.

Although I didn’t march, to show some solidarity with my sisters around the world, I wore a pink hat.  It wasn’t the march pink pussy hat.  It was just a pink snap back that said, “Team Bride.”  It was honestly the only pink thing I own.  While in line to check out with my bulk water and way too many bottles of wine, your wife asked me whether I was getting married.  I giggled, shrugged, and said, “Oh no, just a hat from a bachelorette party for a friend.  I usually only wear it for bachelorettes… I honestly don’t even like the color pink.”  Your wife and I giggled and I thought that was the end of it.  Until, you came into the picture.

“Well, if you don’t like the color pink and you’re clearly not at a bachelorette party, why are you wearing a pink hat?”

“Oh you know, for the cause.”

“What cause?  Girls? Ha ha ha.”

I should’ve known from your sarcastic tone and empty laugh that this was not going to end well.  In my most sweet and polite tone and with a small smile on my face, I responded:

“Actually, yes.  Today is the women’s march on Washington.  I’m not able to participate in the march, so I’m wearing a pink hat in solidarity and to show support.”

“Support what?  You guys have all you need.  I don’t get it.”

“I believe that you truly believe that, but as a woman I can’t help but disagree.  I think there is still a lot of progress that we can make.  There’s always progress to be made.”

And this is where it happened.  Where you took me back to the annoyed and confused state I was in when I woke up.  I don’t know what it was that set you off.  Was it my pink hat?  Was it the word progress?  Whatever it was, you thought that it was appropriate–in the middle of the Costco checkout line–to spit at my feet.  Not only does this show a lack of general manners for a person out in public…  But what’s worse, is your saliva, as it pooled next to my shoe, sent a very clear, very loud message.  I was worthless to you.  I was less than.  I was an empty space to be filled and covered.  Your own action contradicted the words you uttered just moments before.  No, sir.  We do not have all we need.  If we had all we needed you would’ve realized how despicable and unacceptable your spit was.  And, to top it all off, you followed it up with:

“Fuck you and fuck your rights.”

Your poor wife looked ashamed.  I pitied her for loving a man who cared so little about her basic rights.  Did I want to punch you? Of course.  Did I want to kick you in the balls?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  But I’m quick on my feet and I knew had I done that, I would’ve ended up on social media as the “violent protester  who was immature, unintelligent, and quick to anger” and somehow it would’ve been my fault.  Because that’s the world we live in, sir.  Where I go to Costco in a pink hat–no signs, no shouting–just to buy some water and wine and somehow hatred is spewed at me–and the media would make it my fault.  Because I’m young.  Because I’m a woman.  Because I’m an immigrant’s daughter.  There would’ve been some excuse made for you because you were born with a penis and I was born with a vagina.  

Thankfully, the handsome gentleman I had met in the wine aisle was checking out before me and he stepped in, leading to Costco staff kicking you and your tired wife out of their store.  I had to be walked to my car for safety purposes. (No matter how much I said I was fine and pleaded to be left alone.)  You’re 3 minute interaction in my life changed a whole portion of my day and projected me into a new future.  What you probably shrugged off in a matter of minutes, became an ordeal for me.  People asking if I was okay.  People offering their support.  People walking me to my car.  You’re nothing became my something.  

Now, I left that Costco angered, confused, upset, frustrated… you name it and I felt it.  And then, at a red light, as I sipped my iced coffee, I said to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with you Chmura?  You’re gonna let some idiotic douchebag ruin your mood?”  So I didn’t. I went home.  I cleaned. I played loud music and danced.  I drank wine with my GIRLfriends and we talked and laughed.  We talked about work, aspirations, futures, sex… all topics that probably would’ve made you very uncomfortable to hear six powerful and independent women talking about.  But I was happy.  You, even if you thought you did, did not have the power yesterday.  I had the power.  I refused to react to your hatred.  I refused to let you ruin my day.  I refused to let you make me feel inadequate.

But you did inspire me, sir.  You reminded me why I put on that pink hat yesterday.  You reinforced my belief that our fight has not ended.  You proved my point.  You made me think of what I need to do.  You made me create my next action steps.  You made me write this post.

You may have thought that you had the power yesterday, but really, all you did was empower me.

With a fire in my heart,

The girl with the pink hat at Costco