Living slowly

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I think I live a slow-paced life.

I was thinking about this the other morning as I gingerly turned on the radio and looked out the window, surveying the day as it settled over my neighborhood, before putting the kettle on and cracking open a book.

I take a lot of time to breathe things in. I allow myself to get caught up in a moment. Sometimes I will deviate from a task for a long time just so that I can sit and think and process.

I’m learning to be in the moment wherever I am. I try not to think about the next thing that I have to be doing, or the things that I could or should be doing instead. I try not to schedule things too closely together – to give time for things to spill over and take form in whatever way they might naturally do so. If I end up being late for something, I am late. I no longer sit with friends, constantly checking the time, and trying to rush through conversation.

I often refuse plans on Saturday nights just so that I can paint naked in my living room and be with my thoughts. I spend evenings after work cutting vegetables and listening to podcast after podcast as I carefully simmer a fresh pot of soup. It is okay if I fit nothing else into that evening – that evening is all about lovingly making soup.

I do everything until I am satisfied. I no longer believe in rushing through tasks just to get them over. I want to find joy in nearly everything that I do. Sometimes finding joy in tedious tasks means slowing down so that you can breathe, think, and see the small pieces that make you smile and feel satisfied.

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Sometimes I feel like I must be missing out. There is so much in life to experience and to see! When I spend a Saturday night at home painting, I could’ve been at a show or out with friends. I could be cramming so much more into my days, into my minutes! But, I’ve done that before. I’ve been that girl who would only be home long enough to shower and sleep (okay, not even sleep a lot of the time). I’ve been that girl who would go from friend to friend to friend in a day. And it wasn’t for me. It brought me joy in the moment, but overwhelmed me in the end.

I need time to process. I need time to stop and be able to look at the things around me. I need time to be able to appreciate colours and sounds and laughter and the way that my friends exude kindness and sweetness and honesty. I need time to be on the mat doing yoga, listening to my body for as long as it needs me.

I know people who are happy living fast-paced lives. I know people who need little down-time to themselves. I know people who never sit still. I am not one of those people. And that is okay. I find joy in taking things at a slower pace. I find joy in quiet moments. I find joy in small details. I find joy in long pauses between conversation with friends, and in watching my kitties sleep. I find joy in the way my water-colours blend and how my sewing machine moves across fabric. I find joy in my commute to and from work, and in making dinner in the evenings. I find joy in listening to the way that the wind blows or the floor creaks. And I find joy in the more obvious things in life too – in reunion with families, in big celebrations with friends, in seeing live music or going on a hike through nature or traveling to an exciting new city. But, these aren’t the everyday experiences of life.

For the first time in my life, there isn’t much – day to day – that I cannot find joy in. There is little in my life that I intentionally put there that doesn’t bring me joy. In so many ways (but not every way), we control the pace of our lives and we control the joy in our lives.

And so, I enjoy a slow-paced life. Because that is what will bring me joy today.

how to heal a broken heart

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I have gotten dumped plenty of times before. I know how it goes. I know the sudden emptiness, and the days of recovery. I know the adjustment period while you realise that that boy is no longer in your life, even if he may still run through the thoughts that flicker across your mind, or through the air you breathe, or through your daily routines.

Most of the times that I’ve been dumped, it has been by people who I did not truly love. There was the boy from Valentine’s Day for whom I cried in the restaurant about, and felt sad and confused about the next day, but my heart moved on quickly and my mind relaxed as it realised that he was not a true love – never was and never would be.

There was the boyfriend who left me for another girl after 9 months. I knew what he had been doing behind my back. Others were telling me, too. And I would shrug and not mind, because we weren’t truly in love and I lived so freely without him. Eventually we let each other go and there were no hard feelings, no heartache, no questions left unanswered.

There have been sudden break-ups, long & slow break-ups, ugly ones that blew up in a mess, and ones that were full of love and gratitude and feelings of ease. There have also been the ones where the person vanishes and you learn to love yourself even more despite their silence.

And then there have been the ones that have broken my heart.

My last boyfriend, J, is definitely what I would call “my first love.” It was there from the very moment we met – a chemical energy than ran through our veins and connected my conscious with his. And I still love him very much, even though my heart has since healed from him, no longer aching.

It is hard to know when J & I broke up. There was the time from the moment he began using drugs again when he was no longer there. Sometimes I count that as the moment. My heart was broken but I was too distracted by hoping for him to be well again to truly focus on just how broken I was. There was the time he disappeared to rehab without telling me. Two weeks without contact. People would ask if we were still together and my mouth would swell with air and not a single word would come out. And then there was the time when he actually left. Disappeared. That was that. And my heart was truly broken as I was left empty and with so many questions.

How to heal a broken heart?

I spent weeks dreaming about J at night, waking up covered in sweat and tears and not knowing truth from fantasy. All of the time I wanted to be able to tell him all the reasons that I loved him. All the reasons that he was perfect and admirable and fair and sweet and good. And as this was going on, I was also working on improving myself. I was working to gain back the 15 pounds I had lost. I was working to do better at my internship, where I had walked out crying on several occasions in the prior months. I was working to find a job, as I had graduated college just a month before. I was working to repair relationships with the friends who had ostracized me for dating an addict. I was blogging furiously, writing and sharing stories and pictures and trying to find delight once again.

Typically people say that the key to healing a broken heart is distraction. Distract yourself into not thinking about them. Distract yourself into a routine in which their presence is not deeply felt. But I don’t find that this works.

Even some 8 months after we had broken up, I still missed J. My heart was still broken. Even though I thought of him less and my life seemed full, there was always an emptiness inside me.

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who had his heart terribly broken many years ago. He had left the country after it. He had picked up a whole new routine. He made art and new friends and created a whole new life. And he is thriving. But he is still heartbroken and has still not been able to move on.

Distraction is poor advice in the face of a break-up.

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And I am here again. Some four years after meeting J. More than 2 years after breaking up with him. Many many months after speaking with him again. Several months after dating him again, allowing us both to seek closure and realise that being in love with someone does not mean that they are what’s best for you. All this time later, I fell in love again. For a few fleeting months. And now the process starts again – how to heal a broken heart.

I am desperately distracting myself. Painting. Sewing. Reading. Writing. New friends. Traveling. Thinking about new careers, new routines.

But most of the time my heart is bursting for my mouth to be able to talk with him. To tell him how much I love him. To tell him all the reasons why I love him – his eyes and skin; the way he laughs and rubs his hands together with joy; the excitement in his voice when he’s talking about things he loves; when he goes on really long rants about things that don’t actually matter; how perfectly I fit into his arms when he’d hug me, or when I’d fall asleep in them while watching a movie; how I felt safe and secure and like a functioning piece of this beautiful world when I was with him; how I found new excitement for the infinite opportunities and experiences and joys that life has. And I’m at the stage where I still wish that there were mornings when I’d wake up early and watch him sleep. And days when I’d be really busy at work and look down at my phone to see his name on my screen, just asking how I am with a kissing emoji.

And despite all the distractions, I wish that I could be sharing them with him. To be telling him about the things I want to do, professionally. To be telling him about the books I’m reading or the stories I’m writing. And to tell him about some of the bad things too. About the friends I’m having trouble with, the challenges at work I’m facing, the things in my daily life that still frighten me. And I wish that I could still be hearing about all of these things from him, too.

Distraction is not how you heal a broken heart. I don’t know what is. I don’t know what magical thing healed it for me last time – but I know it wasn’t distraction, and I know it wasn’t time. I think it was sharing space and life together once again. It was talking through our hopes for one another. It was seeing how the shadowy corners of addiction still live on in sobriety. It was visualizing all I want for my life and seeing how this person didn’t fit in to even most of it. It was seeing that, despite being four years later, he had not changed – and it was for the worse. And I told him all the things I loved about him. I told him all the reasons that to me, he was perfect, and why we worked and all the potential that he holds. And over time, I could wake without wanting him to be there. I could go through a whole day without thinking about him, or wanting to talk to him, even though I had every opportunity to. And I realised that my heart was healed.

So now I wake each morning wondering how to heal a broken heart. I muse over it on coffee breaks, or when I cannot focus on work. I make it my intention in my yoga practice. And I fall asleep every night hoping that my heart will be healed. How to heal a broken heart?

I want to get married & not have children

I went on a date the other week. I have a “no dating” rule in place while I grieve and try to heal a broken heart, but there was a spark and energy that made me really want to go out with this guy – a flow of cosmic energy from the universe encouraging me to meet him and open up to him.

He was nice. It was a good date and I stayed up well past my bedtime to keep talking with him over cocktails. Although I had moments of wishing that I was with the boy who broke my heart instead, for the most part I was present and lighthearted.

At one point, near the end of the date, he mentioned that he’s looking to get married and have children.

“I want to get married and not have children,” I said. He stuttered a little.

“I definitely want kids,” he replied after brief silence/obvious choking on air wondering what to do next.

We both nodded at each other, understanding.

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There are points during dates where both parties know that this can’t go any further.

There was a time when I was on a date with a guy and he revealed that he was moving out west in a few months.

“Well what the hell are we doing here then?” I retorted, a few cocktails in and obviously very moody about him wasting my time.

There have been dates where men have told me that they’re not looking for a relationship. Those obviously haven’t continued. (I completely cannot understand why you’d be on a date in the first place but that is rant for another time.)

There was also the Friday evening last year where I flatly told my date, after he waxed poetic about smoking weed every day, that I couldn’t date someone who did drugs every day. He decided to argue with me about it, despite my warnings that my ex was a heroin addict and that mood or personality altering drug use isn’t something I want in my life. Eventually I straight-up yelled, near-tears, voice-wavering (he kept talking over me & ignoring my obvious discomfort & pain at the subject), “I am getting up and leaving right now if you don’t drop this.” The waiter came by shortly afterwards and asked us how we were doing. I glared, nostrils flaring. My date said, “That remains to be seen.”

(An aside: That same guy sent me a condescending text later that night as I sat on the couch feeling absolutely shitty about myself, saying that I will never find “Mr. Right” if I close myself off to “new experiences.” Drug use in relationships isn’t a new experience, but thanks for the swell dating advice Mr. Obviously Not Right!)

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There are so many different experiences, values, or goals that someone might hold that just are not compatible. I always like getting them out on the first or second date, before anyone gets too involved. Having kids is a major one. I might at some point want to have children. I might accidentally find myself with children. But I have absolutely no goals or absolute wish to have children, and it isn’t fair to myself or the other person to date someone who very much wants that life experience.

I can’t date someone who is flat out not looking for a relationship, because obviously I am. Luckily this usually comes out on the first or second date – in fact, typically I very willingly bring it up on a first date. (Why are we even on a date if you’re not looking for a relationship or open to that possibility??????? [Beginning of angry rant.])

I can’t date someone who does drugs/drinks every day because I like to live my life in full clarity and free of daily use/dependence, and wish for a companion who shares that same set of values. (Please don’t take personal offense to this – I don’t scorn people who choose to live their lives this way – it simply is not for me.)

And there are other things – travel is a big one. I love to travel and explore and have dated people for whom travel just isn’t a big thing. I get four weeks of paid vacation and it is the best job perk because it makes travel so much more accessible. Exercise and eating reasonably well is another value that I need to share with someone. (That said, I dated a guy who threw my pizza bagels in the garbage and yelled at me for treating my body unwell. Yupp. Too far. Especially as I was on my period.) I am a Christian and need someone who is okay with that – I don’t care about their religious beliefs as long as they don’t mind mine. (The same guy who threw away my pizza bagels – and who dumped me on Valentine’s Day – also would tell me about how garbage my religious beliefs are and that I’m wasting my time and brain-space with religion. Whoo! What a winner of a boyfriend!)

And then there are the obvious ways in which I probably infringe on others’ values or goals. I’m very career-oriented. While relationships (family, friends, & otherwise) always come first, I definitely have career goals and objectives and work hard. I volunteer a lot of my time as well. I will never allow myself to get to the point where work keeps me from having a fulfilling relationship, but I’ve dated people for whom my career & volunteering took up too much of my time.

I also have been told that I struggle to make another person feel needed. I’m a pretty independent woman (or so I’ve been told – I really have no idea how I am more so than anyone else but according to many others, I’m on a whole other level!). I’m hard-headed, fierce about my convictions, know how to care for myself, and enjoy my time alone…and my time individually with friends, away from boyfriend/person I’m dating. I am not looking for a relationship so that I can take on every characteristic, interest, or hobby of the other person…and sometimes I think I’m so independent that I come off as uninterested or non-invested. I retain a lot of balance in my dating life, and I’m sure it’s a balance that doesn’t suit everyone.

I can be really blunt and inappropriate. I’ve had boyfriends tell me that it’s to a degree of embarrassment, and they couldn’t bring me around their friends or family anymore because I obviously cannot control myself (sarcasm on my end….not on theirs). I have a crass sense of humor and tend to say whatever is on my mind. I’m not passive aggressive and I confront things head on, which is not a Minnesotan way of life.

I’m sure I have a dozen other qualities and characteristics that are wholly incompatible with what someone is looking for in a partner. Just ask any of my exes. And I know that I have a handful of things that I cannot be compatible with – some of them listed above. What are the things that deter you?

Checking-In

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I was sick earlier this week and, while taking a photo of a plant in my living room, I decided to prop my camera up on the couch and take some self-portraits. My nose was red and raw, my skin sticky with sweat from fever, and my eyes felt heavy and unable to open all the way. But….I sat down and took some photos of myself, sickly and feeling terrible, anyways.

It had been a long time since I took self-portraits. Just an honest-to-goodness photo of myself. Not a selfie to post on insta or to snap to my friends. Just me-time in front of the camera for no reason other than I can. It was a good time to check-in with myself.

I try to map growth and keep track of the realizations I have about myself. I do this mentally, or in writing, or in conversations with friends. Here are some of the things I’ve been learning, or re-learning, about myself lately:

  • There is a member of my family who I have spent the last 23 years trying desperately to please. And even though I know I do not need someone else’s approval to validate my worth, I seek it from this person anyway. Desperately. And always failing. Even though I know that this person has many issues of their own to work through, I try so hard to please. Earlier this year, I was out for drinks when I told my date, “All my life, I’ve only ever wanted to please [this person].” He looked surprised and then smiled sadly, and I realized that that was the first time I’d ever admitted that truth to myself. So there it is. And I frequently allow myself to break down and cry hysterically because of it, asking myself why I am not enough for that person.
  • Last night a friend with a substance abuse problem called me on the phone to harangue me about everything that he finds wrong with me. This isn’t the first time he has verbally attacked me while drinking. You are so judgmental even though you think you are not. You’re so flippant about dating and don’t actually care about the people you date. You’re always trying to start an argument about every little thing. I cried myself to sleep last night, after texting my co-worker to say, “Even if they are an addict, it still hurts to hear awful things said to you, about you.” Sometimes I let the opinions of my friends, opinions rooted in their insecurities & pain rather than my own flaws, get in the way of how I truly see myself.

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  • I’m heartbroken and pining after a boy right now, even though I get scolded by my friends for doing so. I tried going on a date last week, but got home and was overwhelmed with grief and sadness missing this other boy. He was the second guy I’ve ever loved, and only the second person in my life who I’ve ever wanted to be with. It took me two years to get over my last boyfriend, and now I’m worried that it will be another two years until I’m ready to date again….and probably some time more after that until I find another person who I want to date. It seems like for some people, it is so easy to find someone and fall in love and make life work perfect. To find someone who is willing to make sacrifices for you, just as you are willing for them. I want to find that person, and I wish life wasn’t making it so hard.
  • My friend Lily wrote a piece on her blog today about timing in relationships. I love what Lily has to write about dating, but this one is a concept that I cannot agree with. I’ve never understood – or allowed – stupid reasons for break-ups. Timing is one of those things. If you truly love someone and want to be with them, you find a way to make it work no matter what obstacle is in the way. I live with the staunch belief that relationships – and that includes friendships – are the most important thing in life. When you need help, it isn’t your achievements that come to the rescue. It isn’t the places you’ve been or the jobs you’ve had. It’s your friends. So why do we spend so much of our lives prioritizing stupid things and letting love & relationship get put on the back-burner?
  • I have a business idea that I’m really excited about. I’ve had a streak of creativity as of late and my mind is brimming with ideas of things that I want to do. I came up with a children’s storybook idea for a fun side-project, and am also formulating an idea for a business venture for myself. I love my job so much. But I don’t want to die wondering, “What if I had gone out on a limb for my professional goals? What would it have been like to develop, run, & power my own business?”

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This is where I shamelessly am in life right now. I’m okay admitting to be the girl who cries over stupid things and whose heart is hung up on someone else and who has fears of failure. Although I don’t agree that I actually have the flaws that my one friend says that I do, I know that I have others. And I know that they hold me back and that I need to work on them. So here I am, checking-in, and taking full responsibility for where I’m at right now.

Spanakopita & Gingerbread Houses

The other night as I shuffled around in my freezer trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I found a frozen spanakopita that I had bought at Trader Joe’s. I had forgotten that it was in my freezer, but I remember buying it. A month or so prior, I glanced at it in the frozen food section and my heart softened as I immediately hatched a plan to make dinner for the boy I was dating. I’m Greek, so I was excited to share with him a piece of my (frozen, pre-made) culture. And I could make gyro or maybe even falafel. And perhaps baklava for dessert – I used to make it every year for Christmas, but haven’t for the last couple. I got really excited and my heart was singing at the very thought of the meal I’d make and share with him.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people who I care about – inviting a person over for a home-cooked meal is one of the biggest ways that I show them that they matter to me. There is something so special about sharing my love for someone in the form of a meal that I made for them myself. As a child, I always took pride in whatever thing that I contributed to family meals. For a while, during college, I made a flourless chocolate cake every week for my family, and after I perfected that recipe, I started experimenting with cupcakes.

Wait. But I totally wasn’t blogging about cooking. I swear I wasn’t.

After I discovered the spanakopita in my freezer, I continued making dinner (veggie curry with chicken potstickers). I was overwhelmed with sadness & grief that I was never able to share that meal – and that piece of my heart – with that boy. And I started thinking about all the other little reminders of past relationships that you discover after they’re gone.

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On our second date, my ex, J, and I had bought a gingerbread house kit and put together our own gingerbread house. We had started dating just a couple of weeks before Christmas – in fact, for our first date, he came over and helped me decorate my Christmas tree – and we celebrated our anniversary on Christmas Eve.

We decorated three trees together over the years, but only one gingerbread house. For our second Christmas, I had bought a gingerbread house kit just like the year before. We had plans to put it together, and then he went to rehab five days before Christmas without telling me. I was devastated. I couldn’t bring myself to put together the kit that we had bought. I don’t know what happened to it. I think my mum threw it out one day, realising how sad it made me. Like the spanakopita, it was there, reminding me of some great happiness I had planned, sure that the future would work in my favour.

On our third Christmas together, J asked if we could assemble a gingerbread house like on our first Christmas. We didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to, even though I passed the kits at Trader Joe’s frequently during that month. (Side note: I swear that I do not buy everything at Trader Joe’s. Also know that this is not an advertisement for Trader Joe’s products, or a suggestion that Trader Joe’s is the root of all sadness or the termination of happy futures in relationships.)

As I stood over the stove, frying up veggies and potstickers the other night, I thought about the gingerbread house. And the spanakopita that still sits in my freezer. And I thought about all the other little things that you find along the way that remind you of plans for futures that did not happen.

On Monday, I received a text from a guy I dated 6 years ago (my only ex who I’ve ever wanted to stay in touch with – we were friends first & foremost, and never truly in love). He was cleaning out his garage and found a CD that he had bought for me – MGMT (wow, what ever happened to them????). “I remember buying this at Best Buy – I really liked this CD!” he texted, with a photo of the CD case. It wasn’t so much a plan for a future that fell through, but it was one of those weird little mementos of a time when a relationship felt infinite and all that mattered was creating & sharing happiness with the other person. Sometimes that’s found through a CD from your college years, or a mass-produced gingerbread house that’s sold every year, or even a frozen spinach pie. The future takes form in strange little ways. And so does hope and happiness.

In praise of Charlotte York

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The other night I wanted to watch a mindless movie as I did mindless tasks and mostly let my mind wander (stay tuned to find out how many more times I use the word mind in this post). So, I put on the Sex & the City movie (the first one, for those who care).

I had recently watched the entire TV series for the first time all the way through. And watching it in its entirety and as a wise adult made me question a lot of things (and was also part of my inspiration in starting to blog again).

The root of my questioning laid with the characters. I hated Carrie (I’m sorry). I always remembered her as being a likable character & a stalwart of hard-headed, independent female idealism. No. She’s childish and reprehensible and spends the whole series in the same state of unwillingness to grow. She whines about everything and blames other people for all that goes wrong. Meanwhile, Samantha Jones – who I always thought of as the other favourite – struck me as a background figure who stayed relatively stunted throughout the whole series. As someone who used to view life and live life much like Samantha, I was shocked as to what extent her character belied any true depth. I want to be empowered by Samantha, but at the same time, she’s so one-dimensional and often comes off as callous and heartless. She bucks gender norms but is vilified, in many ways, by lacking depth, humanity, or purpose.

Miranda was fine but she too seemed stunted, rarely learning from mistakes. Does anyone even like Miranda? I always have thought of her as the one no one liked. (Why? Is it the hair? Is it the lack of fashion sense? Is it her pickiness or how she puts work before everything & everyone else…but then, how does Carrie live the life that she does when she hardly even seems to work? But I don’t really want to get into all of this right now. [Okay I do but really, gotta stay on track.])

And then there was Charlotte. At first I found her character boring and easily cast aside. (In fact, before the re-watch, I forgot she even existed.) But then she started to glow. Charlotte had a strong moral center. She was very sure of herself, her abilities, her worth, and what she wants in life, but she was also willing to compromise, admit to her mistakes, and grow. And I also found out that I really needed Charlotte in my life at that moment.

A few months ago I came to the realization that I want to find “my person.” I could say that I want to “settle down” – but I don’t….In fact, I feel very settled in life at the moment and I hate it. I want to find someone who I can adventure with & try new things with & go new places with. I have no interest in settling down. I could say that I want to get married but…that’s a bit down the line for me. Charlotte knew what she wanted and she went out and got it – a husband. (Okay, a husband, a failed marriage, and then another husband.) I found reassurance in this. She didn’t ever lose her character – her strong moral compass, her self-worth, her career, her ability to get shit done, her independence – in her pursuit of a companion. And she also made it very clear that it is totally okay if your goal in life is to get married and be a homemaker. There is no shame in this.

The feminist side of me has always made me feel utterly independent. Like I don’t need a man; I create my own happiness; I enjoy being single more than anything. And this was true for a number of years. This was true until I fell in love for the first time and started realizing that having a companion doesn’t mean forfeiting yourself.

That relationship didn’t work out, and I enjoyed being single again. I focused on my career and advancing myself. If I had met someone, I could have made space in my life for them, but space wasn’t readily available and so I focused on different goals.

And now I’ve gotten to the point where I want that companion and I have made room in my life for one. I want to create my life with someone else now. I ultimately want a companion more than any other thing in life. And that is totally fine. I am no less of a strong, independent career woman because of it. And thanks to Charlotte, I feel totally okay in feeling that way.

(Side note: It is totally okay if you’re like Samantha and you’re not looking for monogamy. My point is that Samantha has what she wants, but her character is poorly constructed to the point where she has no depth in the life she has chosen, which is a poor characterization considering how much outside the status quo her aspirations are. She doesn’t leave much for the viewer to admire or strive for. I say this as someone who very much used to be “a Samantha” and was vilified for it.)

Charlotte proves that life is about getting what you want – and compromising along the way, but never losing yourself in the process – and being happy. I couldn’t help but notice that in the movie, Charlotte is the only one who actually seems happy and fulfilled. She seems so glad in life, and you saw her grow along the way.

I feel like so many people – and I was caught up in this too – view Charlotte as the least interesting character in Sex & the City. She is driven and knows what she wants, which many of us don’t, and she gets what she wants – making her less alluring along the way. But in actuality, I think we should all be taking a page out of Charlotte’s book.

And so, Charlotte helped me admit that it is totally okay if your goal is to find “your person” and get married, or have kids & quit your job if you want to (I don’t – but it’s fine if you do!). What is life if you aren’t getting what you want out of it, including fulfilling relationships, and growing in character along the way. I am a Charlotte, and I have no shame in admitting that. Here’s in praise of Charlotte York and all the other women who stay true to themselves, reach their goals, & never lose their moral compass or sense of self along the way!

From the outside looking in, on addiction

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My ex was an addict. This is not information that should be new or surprising. I’ve blogged about it a lot, and I mention it frequently in passing. He was a heroin addict in recovery when I met him, and he began using again some 6-months after we started dating. 6-months after we had said I love you and established our draw and commitment to each other.

Addiction is everywhere. I know so many people who have lost their loved ones to addiction. I am lucky that J didn’t die. I am lucky that we didn’t have children who he would let down. These are the blessings that we can count.

In my blog that is now non-existent – stories that cannot be brought back – I wrote about how often my support system failed me during this time. I wrote about the desperate emails to his family far away, that often came back in silence, or damning me for interfering, or for caring. “Leave me alone, go get professional help, and move on,” came one from his mother after there was a long period of days without contact with J. I also wrote about crying to friends, or co-workers, or my own family, and being told that I am foolish, or things far much worse.

I pleaded for help, for community, during those months, and was always shut out.

These are stories that I’ve already told. I’m not interested in re-telling them today.

My own family has a history of addiction. My family tree is riddled with it. I would say that it destroyed lives, but we are still here nonetheless so it couldn’t have destroyed everything. My family stands, with the puncture wounds of addiction. But, this is also a story that I’m not interested in telling today.

The one I want to tell is of the aftermath of the trauma of looking at addiction from the outside in.

I have difficulty reading articles about the heroin epidemic, just as much as I have trouble reading articles about the campus rape epidemic. I cry uncontrollably when I see movies depicting drug addiction, specifically heroin. I’ll fall into a deep hole of fear and helplessness for that day. A trigger.

I recently put a caption on an instagram photo in which I depicted one of these triggers. I chose the photo because in it, I felt strong, when the girl writing the words actually felt very small and lost and helpless.

Some of my friends reached out to me, thinking I was talking about the heartbreak and grief of a recent break up. I wasn’t. I had witnessed something that day that triggered feelings of helplessness surrounding addiction.

I walked away from the scene sinking and shaking. I sat in a pew at church wanting to fall on the floor and cry. I eventually called a near-stranger and cried to him in an alleyway. And inside, I felt like that 20 year old girl who was pleading for help and constantly being shut down. Once again I was on the outside looking in on addiction. And anyone who knows what that feels like knows that it feels pretty awful.

But as I cried to this person I barely know, something happened. Instead of being told that I’m foolish, or immature, or I don’t know what I want or what I’m doing or who I love or how I care, I was lifted up.

“I’m so proud of you for what you did,” he told me.

“You have a good handle on the situation.”

“I’m going to call a few more people and see how we can help.”

And then, updates as the day went on. He had pulled together a community of people who all validated my feelings, and me as a person.

Addiction is hard. You feel helpless because an addict is only going to get better if they want to get better. And you feel helpless because the person who you love so dearly is no longer there. And when you feel this helpless, and then are constantly shut down by people who you typically know as your support system…well, it’s bad.

Yesterday as I stood shaking and crying and being transported back to all the nasty things that were said to me and felt by me when I was 20, I asked for help. Because I didn’t know what else to do and I needed help. And I was greeted with love and care and validation. And a community of people who I don’t even know came to my rescue and lifted me up.

To all my friends on the outside looking in, you are not alone. I hope that you can find that community that you need. And if you don’t, know that you can always find one in me.