Why I Suck at Being Surprised

I'm probably the last person on earth to have a surprise party. Why? Because I suck at being surprised. I'm suspicious and snoopy, qualities I inherited from my mother. As a kid, I took my annual sneak peek tour of  my Christmas gifts in my mom's messy closet, and of course denied it every single time. I perfected my  pretend look of surprise when I'd open a gift that I knew I was getting.

As much as I think surprises in the abstract are fun, I really don't like them all that much when I know one is coming.  It's impossible for me to say, "Oh, a surprise! How fun. I guess I'll wait around and see what it is." My desire to figure it out ahead of time turns into a psychosis.

One Christmas I suspected my mom had gotten me a puppy (she had), and everyone in my family was in on it, except for me. I hated that feeling of being left out, even though a totally awesome thing was waiting on the other side. It's probably in part a function of being the youngest and only girl, but I hate feeling left out of whatever is going on, even if it's for me.

Weird, huh? I can manage to complain about having someone plan me something awesome. I'm such a jerk sometimes.

Needless to say, this time of the year is the WORST for someone with my snooping tendencies because now that I'm no longer five-years-old, it seems completely unacceptable to snoop around the house, looking for gifts. It doesn't mean I don't want to; it's just that now I feel totally ashamed of myself and the guilt keeps me from doing so...most of the time.

Not only do I have Christmas gifts just sitting there under the tree, taunting me, but I also have a late January surprise weekend that Carolina Man is planning. He told me about it at the end of November, and now I'm driving both him and me batty with questions about it. Sometimes he just says, "If you really want to know, I'll tell you," to which I respond with a whiny, "Noooooo! I want it to be a surprise."

Seriously, you can't please this girl.

I'll just have to suck it up, wait a few more days (or weeks), and realize that the wait will be worth it.

A Cure for the (nearly almost over) Holiday Blues

I'm not sure how it's possible that my favorite day of the year is during the absolute worst time of the year. Seriously, last night I fell asleep at 8 pm with the lights still on because apparently my body begins shutting down at promptly 5:45 pm when the sun has ditched us for the day. Bastard sun.

I have to face the fact that as much as I love "the holidays," they really consist of a bunch of normal days where it's cold and dark and there are no presents to be opened. And this year, a lot of "the holidays" will be spent driving up and down I-95. And then what's after the holidays? The most godawful months of the year: January, the absolute worst month of the year, followed by the runner up for "Worst Month of the Year," February.

Are you ready for me to STFU yet? I am. And what better way to STFU about the post-holiday blues than a trip to...


Playa del Carmen, Mexico!!!


Yep, Feb. 13-18th Carolina Man and I will be frying our skin and gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffets.

The best part is that summer clothes are SUPER ON SALE right now. Below are just a few items I've purchased this week, all for less than $225 total.


Things I'm Glad Weren't True

As my relationship with Carolina Man continues to grow better and better each day, I've been thinking about the advice, concerns, and questions I got from the people in my life--the ones who love me the most and the ones who just like to give unsolicited advice about relationships, which includes pretty much everyone and I put myself in that category as well.

From the well-meaning to the mean-spirited, I've gotten a lot of advice about how to do all of this, and while some of it was helpful, a lot of it turned out to be mostly untrue. I'm not saying that these snippets of advice are untrue for everyone, but they weren't true for me and they may not be true for you either. 

1. You'll find love when you're not looking for it. 
Finding a partner was something I felt like I was always doing, almost in an OCD way at times. It seemed like every attractive man I passed was a potential date, and I started looking for wedding bands right away. It was a pretty strange way of experiencing the world, mostly because it made me feel insane. 

When I met Carolina Man, my ring-finger obsession had waned a bit, but I was still very much thinking about my life and how I wanted a partner. Being crystal clear about my wants and desires actually was part of what attracted CM to me in the first place. 

My truth: I found love where I wasn't expecting it. 

2. You need to be ok with being alone before you're ready for a relationship. 
Looking for love and being happy with yourself are not mutually exclusive. Self-acceptance is about being satisfied with who you are, not necessarily your circumstances. In fact, it's in part about being able to discern the two. As in, just because life's shitty at times doesn't make me a shitty person. The problem comes when you want any relationship just for the sake of having one rather than one that's a good fit. 

When I met CM, I was taking good care of myself and working on the inner critic bullshit. That upped my self-awareness and helped me be in tune with what was going on internally. 

My truth: I needed to be self-aware of my feelings and desires before I was ready for a relationship. 

3. Don't date more than 10 years older.
Confession: no one said this to me. I said it to myself! I set up this arbitrary decade limit for how old I'd date. I thought there would be no way I could relate to someone older than my oldest brother who's 37. When I was online dating, I immediately eliminated anyone older than that. 

But CM is hardly an old man! I do have fun picking at him that when he graduated high school I was just going into kindergarten, but in all honesty, he's young at heart, goofy, and keeps me laughing. That's way more important than how many birthdays he's had. 

My truth: Don't make age a non-negotiable. 

Life is unpredictable. We can go through it trying to avoid hardship and heartache, but in the end, we get hurt anyway. So, why not just take the chance? 

Sick Central

Oh, the beauty of a relationship. You share everything, including your germs. We've been quarantined since last Thursday when I returned from my final (!!!!!) work trip of the year with a killer cold. Not anything spectacular or exotic; just an asshole of a cold that knocked me on my butt big time. Carolina Man was still on work travel himself when my throat started getting that nasty swollen feeling and I knew I was down for the count. In a totally uncharacteristic move, I cancelled my weekend gig in Oklahoma, and holed up in our house, Kleenex in hand.

I have to say, it's pretty damn nice to have someone there to take care of you when you're sick. I wouldn't say I'm an overly demanding patient--I don't need lots of stuff, like homemade soup or a particular kind of cough drop. I just need sympathy. A lot of it. And Carolina Man did not disappoint on that front.

But wouldn't you know it, I passed along my crud to my lovely partner, and now he's sick with bronchitis for the second time in two months. Poor thing! He totally wins the "Who's cough is the phlegmiest " contest. In fact, he's still asleep right now.

Thank God we can just stay home and watch Christmas specials for as long as we need to until the holidays really kick in. As unpleasant as it's been to be sick, it's definitely a lot better being sick together.

Revisiting the Past...and Leaving it There

Midway through my penultimate business trip of 2011 (ONLY ONE MORE WEEK OF TRAVEL! YAY!) I gave a talk at my grad school. It's a school. In Connecticut. Ok, it's Yale. Now normally I don't give details about myself away like that, but I bring it up because Yale is in the midst of a huge investigation for the way that they handle (or in many cases don't handle) sexual harassment on campus. And I bring up the investigation because I was someone whom the system failed. I won't go into details because it isn't important. But, it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life--not only the incident itself, but the process of handling it officially through the school.

I swear to God, my grad school had more corners than any other building ever created. You can't walk for more than a few steps before having to turn a corner. And when you're trying to avoid certain people, it's incredibly anxiety-provoking to have to turn a dozen corners to get from point A to point B. It got to be so bad that eventually I left school for a month before returning to finish my final semester. And I made my presence on campus as minimal as possible. For someone who'd been active in student life, it was a blow to my sense of self to disengage so abruptly.

Since moving away from Connecticut, I have stepped onto campus twice. The first was for my friend L's wedding, which was in the summertime when the school is mostly empty. The second was last week. I'd done a talk at Drew Seminary in New Jersey and was staying with an old friend in Connecticut before leaving for Ohio for another talk. I'd had one of my colleagues contact me about doing a talk, and I figured, what could it hurt? It's another thing for me to report back to our funder, and since I was already going to be in town, it was potentially a good use of what would otherwise have been down time.

I imagined what it would be like to run into my perpetrator. Or the people on the committee who heard every word about the incident. Or anyone who would trigger that anxiety in me. The turnover in grad school is so fast, I hardly recognized a face. It felt weird, to be a stranger in a place I'd spent three long, difficult years. I passed by the hall of class photographs, finding my picture. My eyes looked dead. In fact, a lot of the photos from those years are like that.

I must've been surrounded by some kind of grace that day because I was spared any of these potentially awkward run-ins. It helped me to focus on why I was there--to talk with students about what's next for them, how they can do great things in the world to help others, to encourage them that life post-Yale can be amazing. I met with a few old friends still in the area, and much to my surprise had a really great day. Who would've thought?

Walking out of the school, I felt a huge sense of relief. I'd been back, I'd done my thing, and I was ok. I'm stronger now than I was then. And I'm thankful to be leaving that place behind...again.

Mom is taking the leap!

Do you all remember when I told you how my mom had reconnected with her high school boyfriend? She acted like it was no big thing, but then over time she revealed that they were talking every single day on the phone. And that he wanted to meet her.

I was really afraid she wasn't going to go for it. She was so hurt by her divorce from my dad. All I want for her is to be happy, in whatever form is best for her. But, I hated the idea of her being alone for her golden years.

So, she and Mr. High School Boyfriend are meeting next weekend! I'm trying to play it totally cool because I don't want her to wig out. But inside I am cheering like crazy! Who knows what will come of this, but the fact that my mom is going for it is totally amazing.

Here's to potential love at the most unexpected times!

Friend Dating

You know what's just as challenging to find as a man you want to have babies with? Finding a friend that will put up with you gushing about him.

Yep, I'm ISO of some NC friends. And that means awkward friend dates. On Wednesday night I met up with a cool woman I'd emailed with about work stuff. Unlike my romantic dating life, I actually got to be the one asking out, and I was super happy when she agreed. Yay, potential friend!

The time was fine, although at one point I was wondering when our food was going to show up. I felt like I carried a lot of the conversation, asking questions and filling in what I perceived to be awkward silences. (I blame that on being extraordinarily extroverted.) And, I ate all of the food on my plate, not because I wanted it but because it was something to do.

I'm probably making this sound a lot more painful than it was. We had a good time and we have a lot in common. I think there will be future friend dates. But, after only two "dates," we don't really know each other. And no matter how much I want to have a close friend here in NC, she and I weren't going to go back to her place and watch YouTube videos together like Katie and I used to do.

Sigh. Living in a new place is tough. It's difficult for me to remember what it felt like when I moved to DC. I'm sure I felt similarly. But, when I think about DC, what I remember are the friends I had at the end of my time there, not the loneliness I felt at the beginning.

Just like back when I was single my brain used to say over and over, "You're never going to meet a man. You're never going to get married," my brain is now telling me, "You're never going to have friends in NC." Not really helpful to have bullshit like that swirling around in my head. So, I've got to keep putting myself out there, going out on friend dates, and believe that somewhere out there will be a friend that'll I really click with.

Things Purchased This Week


  • Puppy collar and leash (pink, of course)
  • Puppy food bowls (heart-shaped with "Princess" written at the bottom)
  • Puppy all-natural food
  • Puppy natural treats
  • Puppy training treats
  • Puppy stuffed pig
  • Puppy Kong toy
  • Puppy Greenies
  • Puppy Hide-a-Squirrel
  • Puppy food holder
  • Puppy shampoo
  • Puppy brush
  • Puppy flea comb
  • Puppy rounded grooming scissors
This pup is taking over our life. And our finances. 

We Love Lucy



Meet the newest member of our family, Lucy the Shih Tzu! We are very proud parents.

The Sass is Back

I'm a Southern woman, born and raised. This surprises a lot of people I meet primarily because A) I don't have the accent and B) I like to say fuck a lot. This wasn't always the case. Back in high school, I was a Bible Belter, goody two-shoes like most of my friends.

That all started to change ironically when I went to divinity school in Connecticut. People were abrasive and direct, which at first I found rude but then came to appreciate. There was no bullshit. Sure, I missed the friendliness of saying 'hi' to people on the street, but then again, there were so many pedestrians I could've spent my entire walk to campus greeting strangers. Instead I learned to look inward and found quiet and stillness.

I also developed quite a bit of attitude. Since my birth, my mom had taught me the passive aggressive ways of southern culture--that you ignore cat calls and kill rude people with kindness. As it turns out, these are not particularly satisfying strategies for dealing with assholes. I always felt disempowered and wished I'd been quicker with my tongue.

At some point, things shifted. I started with a few mouthy comebacks to men who would whistle or say something inappropriate to me on the street. One night I was coming home from CVS when a man in a truck said, "Hey there, sexy." I walked a few steps and yelled back, "Why don't you shut the fuck up!?" He probably thought I was a crazy bitch, but I felt this awesome rush of adrenaline and felt proud that I'd managed to make him, well, shut the fuck up.

Now after six years of living elsewhere, I'm back in the South and experiencing severe reverse culture shock. It first struck me when I went to a Zumba class at the gym and realized I was the most gyrating one in the class (something that NEVER would have happened in DC). I've changed and I'm not sure I can adopt the southern lady thing again.

The other day, Carolina Man and I were out playing bocce and throwing a frisbee at the park. A man walked by us, and remembering that I was in the South, I made eye contact and said hello. He replied, "You know, you really should use your arm more and your wrist less."

And without even thinking, I retorted with annoyance in my voice, "Thanks, but I didn't ask you." It wasn't rude exactly, but it was direct and it sent a clear message that I didn't appreciate his unsolicited advice about my frisbee throwing ability.

My mom probably would've died with embarrassment if she'd heard me say that. She would have preferred I'd feigned politeness or even gratitude, and then talked behind his back. Instead I said what I felt. And it felt pretty awesome!

Carolina Man said, "And that's why I love you."

Meeting His Momma

Good thing I'm heading back to the airport today. It's been nearly two weeks since I've flown anywhere, and I was beginning to feel deprived.

But, this time it's not a work trip (yay). And, I won't be flying alone (double yay)! Carolina Man and I are heading to Alabama to spend the weekend with his mom and some of his other relatives. I haven't given the trip much thought. I've become entirely too lackadaisical about travel. If I let my usual type-A personality run amok when I was about to go somewhere, I'd never be able to accomplish anything else. For me, the thinking about a trip doesn't set in until I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to pack, which so far hasn't happened. I'm thinking I'll give myself an hour before we have to leave.

As much as Carolina Man has reassured me that his mom is thrilled to meet me, I can't help but feel somewhat anxious about it. You'll recall that I haven't exactly had the best of luck with significant others' mothers (especially when they are nosy, know-it-all bitches, not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular). And while I got along great with his dad and his brother, meeting the mom is always the scariest part about meeting someone's family.

So, I'm doing my best not to over-think it, to trust what CM has said--that his mom is laid back and easy to get along with. And I'll just do my best to be myself, flaws and all.

Carolina Man's Birthday Week Recap

Carolina Man celebrated a big birthday last week, and since it was also our first together, I decided to make his birthday extra special by making a game out of his gifts. I created my own version of Dirty Minds with each present having three dirty-sounding clues that would lead CM to his gift. Like, "Press me up against something thick and juicy" and "I love you to hold my rear end" for the tomato knife I'd gotten him. Most of the gifts were small things, but it was fun creating a game out of it. I gave him a gift a day during his birthday week, with a couple extra ones on his actual birthday.

It's amazing how having a thoughtful partner makes me want to be more thoughtful. Even more that that, knowing how appreciative he is of the effort I put into it makes me want to make every occasion that special.

There's a fine line there, though. Both CM and I tend to be others-focused. Most of the time that's a good thing. We consider what other people are feeling and experiencing. But for me, it can definitely go overboard, and it was nearing that with this birthday. I felt so much internal pressure to wow him, to make his birthday perfect that I ended up putting a financial strain on myself. I kept feeling like I could do more and more, never knowing when I'd done enough. I suppose there's still some insecurity there about this relationship being as good and solid as it feels, and so I feel the need to overcompensate.

The best part is I could tell CM all of this. We talked through it all, even going back into birthdays past and recalling the thoughtlessness of our former partners. And it created even more closeness to talk about those insecurities rather than to act as if they weren't there. I'm very grateful for that openness we share.

Ketchup and Kisses

Maybe cleaning out the fridge isn't the biggest or most accurate test of a healthy relationship, but I will say there's something to be said about pulling out umpteen bottles of salad dressing that expired in 2006 and laughing the whole time you're doing it.

I'm one of those people who ignores messes up until a certain point, but once my eyes have focused in on a particular shelf or space with a certain level of scrutiny, I can't help myself from dropping whatever I'm doing and attacking it, trash bag and paper towels in hand. For example, the other week I was getting something out of a cupboard in the kitchen when I noticed a dried glob of tomato sauce caked on there. I got out a cleaning cloth and went to town. For three hours.

The same kind of thing happened when I opened up the fridge. And then the freezer. And the pantry. CM and I started pitching stuff left and right. I can't get over how non-territorial he is with this stuff. I love that we're both anti-hoarding. There wasn't a single item that I wanted to throw out that he wanted to keep. By the end of it, all we had left were some caffeine-free Diet Cokes and some freezer pops, but that fridge looked good.

The thing is, we spend most of our lives throwing out the trash, cleaning up messes, doing the laundry. And it's fantastic that we not only the same approaches to these things, but that we find disgusting expired food products kind of hilarious. I never knew you could enjoy doing something that's kind of gross.

It's those moments of living life together that make me feel so good about my move here. It's giving us the chance to really get to know one another on a level we never would have if I'd stayed in DC. And I'm really grateful for the daily life experiences we're having together.

Living Together Separately

I've got a list of blog topics all prepared in my head, and yet the break-neck speed of the last three weeks has kept me from doing much about it. Yesterday I left NC at 6 am for a day of meetings and catching up with DC blogger amigas Date Me, D.C.! (with whom I'd just spent an awesome weekend), Sassy Marmalade, Bless Your Heart, and A Single Girl before heading back to NC at 10 pm. This morning was basically the same, only this time Carolina Man was the one heading out of town. Bleary-eyed, we did the exact same early morning kiss good-bye we'd done yesterday.

A lot of people have asked me how it's going living here. I've said that it's going really well, which it is. But I also don't feel like I have of time under my belt to say with confidence that it's going as well as I feel like it is. This has been our timeline thus far:

Aug 20--Move Day
Aug 24-28--Work trip to Ohio
Aug 31--CM's dad and brother arrive
Sept 2-4--CM, dad, and brother go to beach
Sept 6--Dad, brother go home; I go to DC
Sept 7-8--CM goes to Philadelphia

In short, we have hardly spent any time together alone at our house. Nothing about my schedule has changed, and he's just as busy as I am. I'd mapped all of this out before I moved and said, "We need to realize that just because NC will my home base doesn't mean we'll be together all the time." It's been especially tough on me when CM is gone because I haven't exactly had much time to make friends, so I end up doing a lot solo, which is tough on an extrovert like me. I know I'll make friends--I always do. But living in a new place is tough, no matter how good the circumstances are. And it's been even tougher to have spent so much of the transition apart.

In making travel plans for work, I'd never really had to consider someone else. I was fine with booking trips back-to-back, running myself into the ground repeatedly, and taking a random day off in the middle of the week to catch up on sleep. But being in a relationship is different. I've got to become more discriminating when it comes to offering up my weekends because when we miss a weekend together, there's no time to be lazy and just enjoy each other's company.

So, I can't wait for this weekend when we'll both be here and can get some quality time together. We need it.

Buena Vis(t)a

"Open it, open it!" Carolina Man said as he drove us to the gym, a healthy habit we were already cultivating on our second day of living together.

The single piece of mail we'd gotten that day had been an envelope from Capitol One. I'd raved to CM about my rewards AmEx and how I'd already spent enough to earn serious bucks off a trip--a honeymoon, maybe? Since he was just using his debit card, he figured he'd join the credit card rewards fun and earn some buck-age along the way.

We'd been in lots of conversations about our finances--how much we each had in savings, how much we wanted to spend together, and...how much we could set aside each month for a wedding. Thankfully we're not starting from scratch, but we aren't into A) doing it on the cheap B) counting on our families to help (though they might) or C) doing it in the far, far distant future. That means the more we can save, the better.

I thought it was kind of weird that he wanted me to open up his credit card envelope, but I figured he was just excited about having a new card and his hands were occupied with the driving.

But then, when I opened up the letter inside, I saw the card. It had a picture on it. A picture of us from our mini-vacation to the beach. We were in our bathing suits, lips locked, with a gorgeous blue sky and ocean behind us. A buena vista Visa.

It was the sweetest, most unexpected gesture. To me, it said, "I love this woman and I want everyone to know. I want everyone to see."

This guy's for real. I mean, my picture is on his credit card.

DC to NC

I spent my last night in DC trudging through a torrential downpour to my going away party, which was awesome, only to return to two inches of water on the floor of my bedroom closet. Thank God Carolina Man and I had already packed all my stuff up into the cars--just a few hours before the rain fell I'd had all my linens, clothes, and books packed on the floor of the closet. I took it as a final "F*** you" from DC.

But no, the water on the floor was in fact the penultimate DC middle finger. The last would be the extra hour and a half it took for us to get from DC to Richmond. There's nothing worse than desperately wanting to get somewhere and have all the traffic gods crap on you. But eventually, we got here, unpacked the cars, and passed out from exhaustion.

The last few days have been awesome and exhilarating, weird and strange, relaxed and comfortable, stressful and tense. It's been the roller-coaster of feelings and emotions that we anticipated it would be, and we've just done our best to talk through it all. As we were falling asleep last night, I asked CM, "Do you think we have more issues than most couples do?" He said, "I think we have as many issues as any other couples. The difference is that we aren't afraid to name them when they come up."

In so many ways, CM and I are still getting to know each other. We have similar issues and insecurities, but the situations that trigger them are so unique to each of us. In time, we'll learn more about those and will have a better understanding of why the other reacts a certain way. I love that we can talk openly about our hurts and pain from the past.

It's easy for me in some ways to feel like CM has always been in my life. I have nearly forgotten what it was like to spend every night alone and to have no one to snuggle up next to in the morning. I have to remind myself of how much has changed in such a short period of time. More time than I could have anticipated, it just feels normal. Being with CM feels like home.

The Lasts

Yesterday was my last therapy session with C. After a journey of nearly a year and a half, it was bittersweet to say good-bye and thank her for facilitating a lot of hard work and growth. She, like my blog readers, has been along for the bumpy ride of heartache, depression, confusion, new hope, growth, and now, love. Carolina Man came with me to the session, which was a lovely way of tying it all together.

My room is mostly packed, to the point that I can't find anything I need and I've only got those random tidbits like a soap dish and a pile of magazines to deal with. It's crazy to think that in just a few days I'll be starting a new life, not leaving behind my current one entirely but starting a new chapter.

I'm leaving without the slightest tinge of doubt about my decision. I can't imagine a better feeling.

I'm Going Home!

Home to Georgia. As Carolina Man pointed out, when I say "home" there are several different places I could mean:

  1. Georgia
  2. North Carolina
  3. DC
This time it's 1. I haven't been home to visit my mom, brother, and nephew since Christmas (!). Granted, they could come visit me if they wanted to (my mom has only been up here once since I moved to DC over two years ago), but I recognize I'm more accustomed to flying and don't have the space to accommodate guests right now (although that will change once I'm at home #2). 

I spent the weekend getting as much packing and work done as I could, so I could enjoy the week away. I ended up only getting about five hours of not very restful sleep (dreams of getting shot in the head--lovely!) but I woke up feeling excited about having a week to relax and soak up the sun on Amelia Island, FL.

Then, when I get back, Carolina Man comes to DC, we pack up the car, and head to NC! I can't believe all of this is happening. And I can't wait.

Dancing to...NC!

This probably won't come as much of a shock to you who have been reading along the last few months, but Carolina Man and I have decided it's time to end this long-distance nonsense and live in the same place. So, I'm packing up my things and moving to Cary in... 16 DAYS!

I've wanted to move to NC for over a year now, and since I can keep my current job and I don't even have to break a lease, there's never been a better time to try it out. I'm excited and stressed and nervous and happy and sad about it all at once.

So, I'll be busy the next few weeks trying to get my life in order. I couldn't be happier about the decision. As much as I'll miss my friends in DC, I know I'm ready to start my new life with Carolina Man.

A Purging Ritual

After a much overdue catch-up session with Katie, complete with jumbo margaritas, I decided it was time to purge my life of all things ex related. I was pretty far along in the process to begin with--I'd gotten it all into a single box, tucked away underneath my bed. But, I hadn't taken that final step of actually getting rid of all of it. So last night, I went through and pitched every card, picture, and memento into a big black garbage bag.

It's not hard for me to understand why I wanted to hang onto that stuff. I'm a very sentimental person. I've kept every birthday card ever given to me.  I think that's in part due to being the third child in my family at which point my parents were pretty sick and tired of documenting their kids' every move. There isn't even a picture of me from the day I was born! So, I've taken it upon myself to keep things that are special and hold meaning.

After the break-up, I'd stuffed all of our memories into a boyfriend box and sealed it up just like I had with my exes from high school and college. I thought maybe one day I'd want to show my kids or something. But, that seems kind of ridiculous with this last relationship. It was too deep of a hurt, too disappointing. Why would I ever want to be reminded of that again?

I felt a little tug at my heart as I threw away the best pieces of us, but I know deep down it was the right thing. I know that those few highlights don't represent the real relationship we had--the distrust, the secrets, the dysfunction. Keeping them would have made me question the truth that I know--that he wasn't the right person for me.

I feel lighter.

Beach Getaway

It had been a long time since I'd been to the beach with a boy I loved, and my weekend getaway with Carolina Man could not have come too soon. I spent the late-night, four-hour drive down to his house complaining about how tired I was and how sucky my week had been. You could say I was being a bit of a baby, but he knew exactly what to do: listen, say "I'm sorry" and wait for it to pass, which it did as soon as I realized I was just a few hours away from being in his arms.As exhausted as we both were, we stayed up until four in the morning, getting reacquainted with each other, which was just delightful.

The heat wave put a damper on our departure because the car was so hot for the first 20 minutes or so we'd both broken out into a serious sweat. But once we got going and the car cooled down, we started singing along to James Taylor and feeling relaxed. We spent nearly all of the weekend catching up on sleep, eating indulgent food, and taking long walks on the beach. It was absolutely perfect.

I love how we are on similar pages when it comes to spending leisure time. Part of us felt like we should be spending more time out on the sand, but then we realized, this is vacation and we can do whatever the fuck we want. If we want to sleep until 10 and then go back to sleep at 3 in the afternoon, then we should do just that. There's no sense in adding stress to what's supposed to be mandatory relaxation.

I was sad to leave the beach, but that couldn't put a damper on my excitement to get back home to our new king-size bed and our luxurious new bedding from Restoration Hardware. And, I realized that I just called his house "home."

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Life is so good right now that I'm hesitant to complain about the sucky nature of this week. But, it was sucky. I was in the middle of nowhere Ohio for work with not a single person in my age group in sight. I slept in a dorm, ate crappy cafeteria food, and listened to boring lectures for six days. And, the whole trip started on a sour note when my flight was canceled and the airline lost my bag.

But, it's over! I am at the Dayton airport, waiting for a flight back to DC (please, God, let it be on time!) so that I can jump in the car and make the four-hour drive back to North Carolina. Carolina Man and I are heading to the beach tomorrow for a much needed getaway. He's promised to indulge and pamper me, complete with providing a bell I can ring at any time. I suspect there might even be a present waiting for me when I arrive late tonight.

All I want to do is get there. This has seriously been the longest week I've had in recent memory. It feels like time slowed to a halt as soon as I landed in Ohio. Even though I miss Carolina Man terribly when I'm in DC, the pace of life is so much faster there I don't feel it quite as much. But in the middle of nowhere Ohio? Torture.

I know I'm going to be tired on my drive, so I've been caffeinating myself as much as possible and have a playlist of Celine songs (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do) to belt out to to keep me alert. Oh, and we discovered a little app called HeyTell that's like voice instant messanger and is probably the best thing ever. Next to chocolate. And coffee. And actually being together in person. But still, it's really freaking awesome.

This last stretch of time is going to be painful. But when I get there and feel him next to me and get to fall asleep in our new bed, all the waiting will be forgotten. I can't wait.

Too Good to Be True?

At 4:45 today I was annoyed to get a call from my project's funder, asking if we could push our last minute meeting (which they had called) back by another half hour. Just last week I'd managed to squeeze in their request, and now they were asking me to change it at the very last moment. I was irritated, to say the least. 

That is, until they said they wanted to offer us full funding for another year. And that if we wanted more funding just to ask for it. They have it for us, and they want us to "think big."

What. The. Fuck. 

This is unheard of. Funders don't just call you up and say, "Hey, we'd like to give you some money. You don't have to fill out any forms. You aren't competing with anyone else for it. We'd just like to offer you job security for another twelve months."

Seriously. What. The. Fuck.

Granted, I've worked my ass off for the last 18 months, and we've done really excellent work. I'm not surprised that we got additional funding at all. What I am surprised about is we didn't even have to ask.

This is blowing my mind. How is it that all of these good things are happening to me, and I'm not even having to ask for them? They are just happening. Without my help. Without my pleading. Without my die-hard determination to get what I want.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop. Surely things can't be this good. I'd grown so accustomed to things being shitty that this sudden turnaround seems way too good to be true. After I said this to my boss several times today, she said, "You've got to stop saying that." And I realized, it was just the fear talking.

Maybe things really can be this good, at least for awhile. 

From a Distance

"I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it. "


Hopefully you recognize the absurdity above as a quote from the 1979 Steve Martin classic The Jerk. It's become a frequent reference for Carolina Man and me. First, in a silly way, it encapsulates the feeling of having known each other longer much longer than we have in actuality. Second, it pokes fun at the anguish we feel in being apart, no matter how relatively short the time. It's tough for me even to consider this a real long-distance relationship when he's just a four-hour drive away, and we've already managed to see each other twice since our first weekend together in Ohio (and I'll be going back to North Carolina on Thursday night!) In the past I've done the long-distance thing over continents and time zones, but this feels different. I can't imagine getting used to being apart, nor do I want to get to that place. 


Even with Skype and texting and email and cell phones, nothing comes close to being with someone in person. So much is lost when there's physical space separating you. Carolina Man brings up this distant feeling every now and then, and there's sadness that comes with it for both of us. That's especially true on a day like today, when he's having a lazy Sunday and I'm stuck in a tiny town in Ohio for work with nothing on my agenda today except perhaps a trip to the drugstore, only to alleviate some of the boredom. I think, "Why can't we just be together?" It feels like torture.


But it's almost a sweet torture,  both the agonizing longing for him and the ecstatic feeling of relief when I do see him again. I can hardly remember my life before him now, what it was like for something or someone else to be filling up all the spaces he holds in my mind and heart. I love that I'm still amazed at what's happening, that we haven't yet settled into daily life with one another. I love that he's the first thought I have when I wake up and the last thought I have as I fall asleep. And I will continue to count the days until I see my love again. 

Reflecting Back, Visioning the Future

I wrote the following on March 25, 2010, just a few days after SCL and I broke up. I sealed the seven pages of journaling into an envelope and dated it March 25, 2011. I read it a few months ago and then didn't think about it again. But when I was with Carolina Man this week, something he said reminded me of this passage. I shared it with him last night and I want to share part of it with you now.
When I'm honest with myself, I realize that the reason I could not even picture SCL proposing to me was not because I was so excited about all of it. It wasn't jitters or other fun feelings of anticipation. It was that deep down I didn't believe he would actually do it. I held it up as this blessed moment when he finally, finally, FINALLY would show me love in a truly selfless way. Wow. When I write that out, I realize how truly fucked up that was.
I can't control what others think, how they love or don't love, if and when they decide to enter or exit my life. But I can work to turn the love I so easily give outwardly toward myself. I can show myself love, care for myself, be satisfied with myself. I will have to learn to do this, but I am able to learn it and I desire to learn it. I want to feel and know that I am a complete person, truly loved and valued, and deserving of nothing less than being truly loved by others.
On the subway I was daydreaming about how somewhere in the world, there's a man with a broken heart, a man who was ready to give his heart but not to the right woman, who is hurting just like me, believing he'd just lost his one opportunity for love. And I dream that he's figuring all this out, learning to move forward, growing into himself, preparing for a time when he'll be ready to love again. We'll meet, we'll flirt, we'll feel all those feeling of spark and passion and new love. We'll realize that we can love again and we'll learn to allow ourselves to do just that. We'll be open, honest, and communicate. We'll eventually find ourselves on the same page. We'll want, but not need, one another. And we'll begin to understand it better--the past, the heartache, the pain, the difficulty. It'll make sense in a new way. 
I didn't know anything about Carolina Man at the time. It wouldn't be until August 24, 2010 that I'd even hear about him. And it wasn't until December 4, 2010 that we met. And it wasn't until June 26, 2011 that we kissed the first time. But deep down, I felt that when the time was right, I'd meet the man I imagined in my mind. And I believe with all my heart that he's it.



Back to the Grind

I'm back at my own place, wishing I could still be with Carolina Man but thankful for the time we had together and that we'll see each other at the end of next week. (God bless my job flexibility.) I actually have to go on a work trip tomorrow, so I'm trying to think of it not as needing to return to DC but rather fulfilling my work obligations in the way I would have to no matter where I'm living.

I feel tired and overwhelmed by the return of the normal busyness of daily life. So often my life feels like an endless cycle of pulling dirty clothes out of a suitcase, washing them, and throwing them right back in for the next trip. They never even make it back into the closet! I kind of relate to George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, except I wouldn't go so far as to say I prefer to live on the road. It's more that I can understand the empty feeling of returning to a place that doesn't feel quite like home.

I said this in my post the other day, but I feel at home in North Carolina. And, I really felt at home with Carolina Man. He, just like his home, exudes a warmth, a sense of welcome. I never felt like I was intruding on his space because he never made me feel like I was.

Probably my favorite moments were when we went out shopping for a new king bed for his master bedroom--mattress, headboard/footboard, and bedding. We had a similar aesthetic and gravitated to the same things. Ultimately, it's his bed and I would have deferred to him if we disagreed, but we didn't. It was one of those practical things we were doing together as a couple, but it was strangely bonding. I texted my friend L, "We are shopping for furniture. I love dating a grown up!"

I love being in this honeymoon stage, knowing it won't last but soaking up every second. And I can't wait to fall asleep next to him again.


Feels Like Home

As I crossed the North Carolina state line early yesterday morning, I instantly felt like I was home. There's something about this state that just makes my heart feel like singing. Ever since I started at Davidson College in 2001, I have felt a strong sense of belonging here. It holds so many special memories, not to mention special people, for me. I feel like I breathe more deeply here.

I felt a similar sense of peace when I was, strangely enough, in Malawi. I hadn't expected to go so far away from home only to experience a deeper sense of belonging and connection than I ever did in DC. One night our team was out eating dinner at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Malawi when I happened to look up into the night sky. I'd never seen anything so breathtaking--the stars so bright and dense. I've never looked at the sky the same way since I got back.

The moment I walked through the door when I got back to DC, I felt that sense of peace disintegrate. The influx of email and phone calls and conference calls overpowered my newly found quietness. "I've got to learn to replicate that sense of quiet," I thought. I began slowly to push out the noise--turning off my email indicator on my phone, putting the computer to sleep by 8 pm, not going to sleep with the TV on. But, I wanted more than just quiet. I wanted connection, community, family.

Being here in North Carolina with Carolina Man, in his beautiful house by the lake, I feel that sense of connection, that sense of peace I thought I'd have to travel to the other side of the world to feel again. I experience myself and the world around me differently here. It's something I think I'd like to get used to.

Too Excited to Sleep

It's not even 5 am, but I am dressed and ready to go to North Carolina! I'll be hanging with Carolina Man until Thursday. Can't wait to see him and spend more time together. Wish us luck!

The Logic Behind the Love

I love Carolina Man. I do. Maybe that seems a bit on the fast side, but there's no denying that's what I feel. I've never felt this way about anyone, not even my long-term boyfriends. With everything happening so quickly, it's easy for me to begin to question if I'm just being swept up into the intensity of it all and losing all sense of reality about him. So, to help reassure myself (and maybe some of my readers) I thought I'd set aside the giddiness and explore some of the logic behind why Carolina Man is my perfect match.

We have honest, open communication about our past, present, and future. Carolina Man is an open book. Never once have I asked him a question that he refused to answer, even if the topic made him upset or angry. We still have a lot to learn about each other, but with the openness we already have, there's no bullshit. There's no hiding pain or mistakes. There's no glossing over the difficulty of living in different places, and what it means when we decide we want to change that. And there's no hesitation in discussing the future and what we want as a couple (yes, we've discussed babies). Each time we work through something, I feel more and more confident that we'll be able to address any issue that comes up and work on it. Last night I was feeling really angry about the idea of having to pick up my life and move, and he just listened compassionately until the anger defused. I got off the phone feeling a hundred times better than before we talked.

We were set up by two people who love us deeply. I'm so grateful that Carolina Man and I didn't have the typical beginning--an awkward dinner date and subsequent wondering if he was ever going to call. We had the absolutely perfect occasion to get to know one another, orchestrated by his dad and my boss. Before we even met each other, we had the confidence of two very important people that we were well-suited for each other, and it's just served as further affirmation of the chemistry and click we feel.

We both want to live in North Carolina. Even before I met him, I was talking about moving to the Research Triangle area (Durham/Chapel Hill/Raleigh) because I have family there and it has potential work opportunities for me in the future. It's a 6 hour drive from home and it's a 2 hour drive from my college where I still have lots of friends. I told him last night, if he lived in Michigan or something, I might not be so inclined to pick up my life and move there, but seeing as how he already lives in the place I've wanted to move back to for a year, it's a no brainer. That doesn't mean leaving DC will be easy. I have a life and friends here, and I will have to do the hard work of rebuilding a network when I decide to move. But, I feel like when I do move, it'll be permanent and it'll be worth investing time and energy into creating the life that I want.

We've been disappointed in similar ways in the past and know what we want from our partners. Our past relationships had similar dynamics--our partners not living up the potential we saw in them, no honest communication, no willingness to work on issues. We share similar hurts, and having that common experience makes us all the more grateful for the contrast in our interactions. We don't want to spend too much time making comparisons, but it is helpful to say, "I've had dysfunction, and I'm grateful that this is healthy."

So, despite the emotional giddiness of it all, we have a core there that won't fade over time. And I'm confident it's going to carry us through a lifelong partnership.

Do You Trust Me?

I've been trying to put myself in my friends' shoes with regard to Carolina Man, but it's really been a struggle. I get the fact that for those who care for me most, what's most important to them is that I not suffer needless heartache again. They've warned me against moving too fast, urging me to be cautious (though when I ask "what does that mean?" they can't tell me) and to get to know him better before I make any big decisions.

But last night I ran out of patience. I was talking to my very best friend, and I snapped at her when she told me to be careful. "What does that even mean?" I snarled. And when I mentioned moving to North Carolina, she said, "Well, you'd be moving into your own place, right?" Earlier in the week when I told my good friend from college about how strong my feelings for Carolina Man are, he rolled  his eyes and said, "You always do this." Always do this? It hurt to have my happiness cast aside as hopeless romanticism, as just another leap into the abyss of future disappointment. It was almost as if he was saying, "Haven't you learned by now?"

I want to scream, "You don't even know him! How can you judge someone you've never even met? And for God's sake people, can't you fucking trust me on this one?" 


I was nearly in tears when I picked up the phone and called the most trustworthy voice of reason in my life, my mom. I told her how frustrated I was feeling about my friends' doubting reactions to my newfound  happiness. "I know they want what's best for me, but why can't they just trust me on this?"

And this is why my mom rocks so much. She said, "Sweet girl, I have known you your whole life. I've always told you that when you met the right person, you would know instantly. I have never heard you talk about anyone the way you've talked about Carolina Man. And I trust you."

She said many more helpful, affirming things about my maturity and self-awareness, but what meant most to me in our talk was that she said she trusted me to know that this is right.

I want my friends to fall in love with Carolina Man. I'm hopeful that once they meet him and see us interact, they will. But, at the same time, my confidence in our relationship is based primarily in my own gut feelings and experience of him. My top priority is ensuring we have as much time as possible to get to know each other and experience each other in different settings, which is why I'll be driving down to North Carolina for five days this week. I can't wait.

Trust me on this one, friends. I know quality when I see it. And in time, I'm certain you'll see it, too.

In Session: Exploring Infatuation

In preparation for my weekly therapy session with C, I was journaling about everything that had happened since I saw her the week before, and I contemplated what I felt comfortable sharing. I realized I was considering filtering myself. With my therapist. The person I pay big bucks to listen to me. That seemed like something worth bringing up.

I started the session by saying, "I really want to share with you everything that's going on with Carolina Man, but I'm afraid of what you'll think." Really, I'm afraid of what everyone will think. The few friends I've told about him are excited for me but understandably protective. They've seen me get hurt and don't want me to go through it again. Part of it is that other than my boss, I don't have anyone in my life who's met him, so they haven't seen for themselves what a great connection we have. Other than on the blog, I haven't gushed much because I don't want to feel like I have to justify the strength and certainty of my feelings this early.

And like the professional that she is, she responded with the perfect thing: "I hear what you're saying, but I'm not really interested in what other people think about it. I'm really curious what you're thinking about all of it." I got a huge smile on my face and the gushing began. "I'm so happy. I've never felt this way about anyone before. He's such a good match for me. I would move to North Carolina tomorrow if I could." She just beamed and said how thrilled she was for me.

We began to pick apart and examine the hesitation on my end with telling others about the new man in my life. "I'm afraid that they're going to think I'm just acting on emotions, on infatuation," I said. "What's so wrong with being infatuated?" she asked. Good point.

"I don't think infatuation is the state of mind I want to be in to be making big life decisions," I said. "I'm so used to being rational and logical that the idea of acting on a feeling, even as strong as this, is difficult for me to think about."

We looked at infatuation extensively. She explained that it's the normal, healthy beginning stage of a relationship, and while it isn't sustainable, it's an indicator of the important click we need to feel with our partner. The problem is when people think that infatuation is supposed to last forever and when things settle into the daily calm of normal life, they think the relationship has soured.

I've talked with C about my relationship non-negotiables over the last year and a half, and she could see that he meets them all. It was helpful to have that reflected back to me. One that she pointed out that I hadn't considered before is my need to know where I stand with my partner. The other guys I've dated have expressed interest and affection, but didn't want to clarify what we were to each other. With Carolina Man, I don't have to question that at all. He's been so forthright about his intentions for us and his vision of a life together. I love that about him.

I left the therapy session feeling relieved and affirmed for where I am in the moment--totally, completely head over heels in love.

I'm not sure what happened to yesterday's post. It's missing! Anyone else having problems with blogger today?

Taken

Last night after talking, Carolina Man sent me an email that said, "How are you not taken?  How am I this lucky?  When am I going to wake up from this dream?"

I'm not taken because I've been waiting for him to come into my life. He's so secure in who he is, and that in turn encourages me to be my authentic self. While we haven't known each other long, I can say in complete confidence that the parts of me he has seen have been the real me. 

He has two of the essential things I was looking for: emotional maturity and the willingness (and in his case, also the ability) to communicate what he's thinking and feeling. These are my non-negotiables and he's got them. 

I could hardly sleep last night because I was so excited about him getting here today, showing him my life here and getting to know him better. Just a few more hours! 

Giddy

Carolina Man is coming to visit me this weekend! Last night he asked me what plans I had for the 4th. Seeing as how I live in, you know, the nation's capitol, it was kind of embarrassing to admit the only thing I had on my plate was dog sitting. I thought he was just making small talk until I realized, "Oh wait, he could come visit. It's a long weekend!"

And so, that's what we're going to do. He's driving up here just as soon as he can on Friday (he said, "It'll be tough for me not to jump in the car at 6 am") and we're going to have time for just the two of us. No boss, no dad, just he and I.

I can't wait.

Everything is About to Change

This weekend was like a dream. Part of me still wonders if it happened at all. Could it really be this easy? Could I have actually found someone with whom I have a real connection?

I spent four glorious days with my boss L, her husband, and his son. There was some definite build-up and anticipation going into it; L had been talking about this guy for nearly a year, and I felt sheepish about being set up. But, the awkwardness melted as soon as he made me laugh the first time.

I've never laughed so much. And I didn't realize until then how important it is to laugh with someone--and how I never really did that with my ex. It was then that I realized I'd been settling for something less than I deserved. He had brought me down; being with him made me feel less like myself.

Now I feel like I'm floating. I'm scared and excited. But more than anything, I am feeling closer to my real self than I have in months. And I can't wait to see him again.


A Note to the Ex

Seriously? No, seriously? You couldn't even take two seconds to send me an email to say "happy birthday"? You know how important birthdays are to me. And I spent yours with you this year.

I've got to find a way to stop being disappointed by you. I have to take you off the list of people who matter to me. But in the meantime, I have to admit that you've really hurt my feelings. And I still want my things back.

28

Today's my 28th birthday! So to celebrate, here are 28 awesome things that have happened this year.

1. I met my BFF Katie.
2. I went to California for the first (and second) time.
3. I got to go into the United Nations.
3. I met Geena Davis and made her laugh.
4. I hooked up with a beautiful man at the beach.
5. I got a raise.
6. I moved into a room with a whirlpool tub.
7. I traveled the US with women from Kenya and Sierra Leone.
8. I lost 20 pounds and 2 dress sizes.
9. I took a much needed break from online dating.
10. I spent New Year's with my childhood best friend.
11. I started a women's faith & spirituality group.
12. I turned down a board position I didn't have time for.
13. I joined a new gym and discovered Zumba.
14. I WENT TO MALAWI!!! (Last year on my birthday, I said, "Maybe my job will take me 6000 miles away." I wasn't quite right--it actually took me 7902 miles away!)
15. I discovered Birchbox.
16. I maxed out my IRA contribution.
17. I went to my 5-year college reunion.
18. I bought myself an iMac.
19. I danced on stage at the Kennedy Center.
20. I successfully gave up alcohol for Lent.
21. I got one of my bishops to agree to meet with a member of Congress on women's health matters.
22. I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time.
23. I published one of my liturgical pieces in a book.
24. I went back to church.
25. I joined a Bocce team and we won our first season!
26. I gave up watching wedding shows.
27. I performed Cee Lo's "F*** You" at karaoke more times than I can count.
28.  I learned that I am enough.

(un)Committed

Sitting in the Houston airport after a 36 hour jaunt to California, waiting for our respective connections, my boss and I were discussing my current state of unhappiness as it relates to my ex. I told her how much I hated his lack of honesty in our relationship, and especially how he would act as if he were withholding information in order to protect me. It would usually be along the lines of "I didn't want to upset you." I resented how he used me as his excuse for being cowardly.

She responded with the following: "The problem is that he was never really committed to your relationship." 

I simultaneously wanted to slap her and burst into tears. Fortunately, I did neither. But I realized in that moment something much deeper than the hurt of a love lost was going on. What was it about what she had just said that made me react so strongly? What nerve had she touched that in an instant made me feel as if I'd come unraveled? 

What she'd said was more or less a factual statement about our relationship. I'd been prepared to stick it out, and SCL walked out when things got hard. He never even tried to work on our problems--and that was his problem. So, why did it feel like a reflection on me that he gave up?  

I felt like I wasn't worth fighting for. I wasn't worth the effort of trying. I was dispensable. Traded in for something better. Tossed aside. Forgotten. 

As a child, I watched my father walk in and out of my life three different times, the last time for good. I thought that if I could just do or say the right thing, he would realize what a shitty father he'd been and would apologize. I would labor over long letters to him, telling him everything I felt and how he'd wronged me. Never once did he apologize. Never once did he admit that he'd given up. And I was left disappointed. 

Kids shouldn't have to earn the love of their parents. They certainly shouldn't have to earn an apology. I never should have felt like I had to convince my father to be a supportive presence in my life. Finally, I just gave up on him. He'd already given up on me years before.

My ex is just the lens through which I have been examining a pain that goes much deeper. It isn't about him; he isn't the root of it. He's still in the forefront of my mind, but in time that will fade, I hope. But the deeper pain won't unless I start admitting it's there. 

Reclaiming Our Humanity

What happens when we claim our right to be fully human? Everyone benefits. Even those who feel superior, who demean and discount us, benefit when we claim our full humanity.When we refuse to accept degrading conditions and behaviors, those in power no longer have a target for their oppressive acts.  Even if they want to continue in their old ways, we don’t let them.  Our refusal gives them the opportunity to explore new, more humane behaviors.  They may not choose to change, but as we stand up for ourselves, we give them the chance to be more fully human as well.  When we are courageous enough to honor ourselves, we offer everyone else their humanity.
It's a wonderful realization--claiming our vocation to be fully human is the way we extend love to all others. As such, it is the ultimate gesture of love.

Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future 

Precisely

 "FUCK! i'm in my twenties" 

Burnout

That's what I'm pretty sure I'm experiencing. I don't feel like I can give 100% to anyone or anything. I just want to lie in bed in my dark room all day.

The frustrating thing is I can't even tell if this medicine I'm taking is starting to work because my circumstances have been so all over the place since I began it about four weeks ago. While I was in Malawi, I felt great, relaxed, at peace. Then as soon as I walked through the door, I felt the rush of stress return. And then the SCL thing fucked everything up. Then I left for another week of hectic work travel.

My prayers have shifted from wanting everything to be good, to wanting everything to be neutral, to wanting everything to be not totally fucked up for a few weeks so I can see if this medicine is kicking in.

Seriously, universe, cut me some slack.

Can I Stop Wanting What I Want?

What I want more than anything is to stop wanting what I want. If only I could say with sincerity that I am satisfied with my life as it is, that the good things about it are enough for me, and that anything else--a relationship, children, money--would be a bonus.

Being in a partnership and having a family are central to the vision I have for my life, so how do I go about not wanting them? The way some people talk about love, the simple wanting of something in this arena, much less striving for it even, means that we probably won't find it.

"It'll come to you when you're not looking for it."

I can't force myself to quit looking for something I desire. It'd be like like trying to ignore the rumbling of an empty stomach or the sandpaper feeling of a parched throat. I might be able to distract myself momentarily, but the idea of satiation is never going to escape me.

I like the idea of being satisfied within myself, but I have no idea how to go about it.

When I first started taking voice lessons, I was in heaven. I loved the practice, I loved trying new exercises, and I was in love with the idea that it was just a matter of time before I perfected my art. Then at some point I crossed the threshold of blissful ignorance to the painful realization of understanding how much I didn't know and how much I couldn't do, and not having any cultivated any real skill yet, I fell into a place of frustration.

That's how I feel now. I know how much I have to learn about being at peace with myself, but I have no idea how to go about achieving it. But, if like with my voice, I can manage to push through this period of despair, I do believe I'll learn something important, something to take with me through this journey that will help.

The Plot

She won't call it a set up, but that's exactly what it is.

The first time my supervisor L talked to me about her stepson was last September. I had just gone through my second break-up with SCL and had begun dating Dr. Nutrition a few weeks earlier. She described him as the funniest person and the best listener she'd ever met. And he was newly single.

When L threw a surprise retirement party for her husband back in December, she'd been sure that the stepson and I had the opportunity to spend some time together. She was right; he was funny. I couldn't tell about the good listener part as we only spent a few minutes together, but I got a good feeling from him. He lives in North Carolina, and when I mentioned I was thinking about moving there, he told me to let him know if I went through with it, and that he'd be my friend.

I pretty much thought was the end of that. I'd eventually decided to stick it out in DC and try to put a new life together there. It wasn't going to do me any good to fantasize about a life in NC, especially not with a man I didn't really know. But then last week on our way to Malawi, L asked if I wanted to come spend the last weekend in June with them while her husband's son was visiting.

Whenever she talks about him, I get this embarrassed grin on my face. I'm flattered that she thinks we'd made a good match. And I absolutely love the idea of potentially being in their family. Obviously that's not enough to constitute a relationship, but it's certainly not a bad place to start. Already having a loving relationship with potential future-in-laws puts me in a better position than I ever was dating SCL, whose parents treated me incredibly unfairly.


Despite all the potential good things that could come of this, there are a lot of potential not-so-good things, too. First of all, it's sort of mixing romance with work. Second, I'm still raw from what happened last week. I'm not sure I'm in the place to give someone new a chance. But after thinking it over (and L assuring me there was no pressure), I decided that it's not that big of a risk. If nothing else, it'll be a weekend of home-cooked meals and peach mojitos. So, what the hell? I got a ticket and we'll see what happens.

One other interesting thing about this guy: I have dated and/or had a crush on every Gospel writer name...except for one. A few years ago, I decided I'd eventually meet a man with the final name and marry him. And the stepson just happens to have that name. 

A Hot Mistake

I've been at Lake Eerie for work the last several days, and like most of the country, it's been hotter than hell. My meetings have been in an open-air auditorium, and I've literally had to peel the back of my shirt from the back of my stadium seat each time I had to stand up to get more water. Despite being a church gathering, I resorted to wearing my least conservative clothes--short shorts and tank top that shows my bra straps--because I just couldn't stand it otherwise.

What about the heat warning made me think taking a nice long run at 5 pm yesterday sounded like a good idea is beyond me. But off I went, into the blazing sun with no water bottle but tons of determination. I ran along the lake for a few miles, getting a few strange looks from people who had only stepped quickly into the heat to get their mail or water their parched lawn. Determined to get in a good workout, I kept on pounding the boiling pavement.

At some point I noticed that I wasn't really sweating...and that I was getting the chills. In 100 degree weather. That started to freak me out, so I slowed my gait down to a light jog and turned around to head back to my hotel. I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a water fountain, but thankfully it didn't disappoint and I drank for several minutes straight, resulting in a serious case of water belly. When I eventually made my way back, I stumbled into my room dizzy, exhausted, and nauseated.

I am stubborn as shit. I can throw myself into a mind-over-matter mentality, no matter how bad the matter is telling me to stop whatever it is I'm doing. And I think the same is true of my relationship with my ex. I was determined to keep running down that path, no matter how much pain or suffering it caused.

Today when I woke up, the heat had broken, and it was a cool, overcast morning. The perfect running weather.

The heat will break. I just have to wait until it does, and then go for it.

Enough

I think I've ranted about most, if not all, of the things I needed to about running into the ex and his new girl (aka The Obsession). It was the long time comin' final nail in the coffin of our dead relationship. As much as it fucking hurts, there's nowhere to go but forward because I'm sure as hell not staying in the same place.

I'm not sure at what point in our relationship I handed him the keys to my happiness and never asked for them back. But, I want them back. I want it all back.

The inner critic--the little bastard who lives in our head and shouts nasty things to us all day--has been having a fucking field day with this situation. He's been yelling at me non-stop since Thursday night, and basically, I'm ready for him to shut the fuck up. Enough already.

Truth is, I'll never know what went on in my ex's head or what his situation is now or how things could've been different if I'd held back more or asked for less or learned to live in a state of complacency rather than asking for what I wanted. I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure this thing out, but what kind of life would that be?

Is it possible not to take to heart the fact that you weren't what someone else wanted? And not just anyone else, but the person you loved the most? Just who I was wasn't enough for him. Shouldn't that turn me off instead of making me feel like I should have just been someone else? I'm trying to move away from the latter and into the former. Because damn it, I am enough. I can't let his acceptance, or lack thereof, serve as the measuring stick of my worthiness as a human being.

Enough, inner critic. Enough, ex-boyfriend. Enough already. Because I am enough.

What I Wanted

I wanted to be the one to be move on and have a new partner before he did. It only seemed fair after I'd had my heart broken to be the one to mend first. I threw myself back out there, started dating and even fell for a few of the assholes I encountered. Somehow he can live essentially as a recluse and get a new girlfriend.

I wanted him to be lonely and miserable because of it. Instead I was there for him, letting him string me along as I spoke sugar-coated lies of false hope to myself that maybe now that the circumstances were different, he'd realize that we belonged together.

It's not that I want him back. I don't, at least for the most part. I'm just pissed that he gets the girl, and I get nothing.

What I want now is to forget him, to remove every trace of him from my memory, to extract every dream of a life with him from my mind. To quit torturing myself over him and what I could have done differently, to stop replaying Thursday's confrontation in my head.

I want out of this sinking hole. I want something to start making sense to me. The pain of this will never go away completely, I don't think. But I want something to click for me, something that reinforces that this was never the life I was supposed to live.

I want to meet someone who reassures me that my ex wasn't the best I'd ever get.

The Accusation

"You're trying to manipulate me." 

That was the ex's response to me crying that I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.

For the record, I wasn't. I would never imagine saying something that serious to someone just to hurt them or scare them. What I said was how I felt in that moment, but he couldn't understand that.

About three weeks ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I'd been having what my therapist called "depressive episodes" for over six months. These episodes were irregular and usually sparked by some trauma (usually having to do with the ex), but no matter the reason for them, the feeling they brought was the same each time: despair that nothing will ever get better.

With the help of my therapist and my own strong will, I managed to claw my way out of these trenches with exercise, eating well, journaling, spending time with friends, etc., but each time another one hit and I was hurled back into the valley, my energy to pull myself out again felt more and more depleted, and my faith in the universe diminished.

The episodes began happening at shorter intervals, every few weeks. Finally I couldn't take it anymore. I sobbed to my therapist that I couldn't keep doing this over and over again. The next day I had an appointment with my primary care provider to discuss starting a medication to help me deal.

I rattled off the things I had tried to help myself out of this: exercise, meditation, good diet, regular therapy sessions, journaling, vitamin D supplements, self-help books, distractions. But nothing was was working anymore. I felt helpless.

"In all my time working here, I've never seen anyone try as hard as you have to help yourself out of depression," the doctor said gently. "You aren't giving up. You're sick, and it isn't your fault." I started crying; I felt so relieved to hear someone else say that what I was going through wasn't something a normal person could endure on her own. I started on Lexapro the following day. The doctor said it could take up to a month to begin working. So far I haven't experienced any relief, just fatigue and a few lost pounds. But I'm putting my faith in  the pills; it's the best I've got at the moment.

The Idea of You

I understand on an intellectual level that I what I actually miss about my ex is mostly the idea of him. I miss the hodgepodge of two years' worth of good memories I've welded together and repackaged to myself as "our relationship." Truthfully, while we certainly had many good times together, more often than not I had a lingering suspicion that caused me to doubt my standing with him. Turns out it was founded in the thing I feared the most--there was someone else.

But on a visceral level, my whole being longs for him now more than ever. I long for him to feel something other than disgust towards me. I'd rather him lash out than ignore me like he's doing now. Every second of silence sends me deeper into my psychological ravine.

I wish I could hate him. I wish seeing him with the girl he always loved more made me despise him. Even more so, I wish I could feel nothing more than indifference towards him. Like the way he looked at me the other night. Some shock was in his eyes, but no trace of  hurt, anger, or guilt. Just a look of, "Why the hell do I have to deal with you right now?"

I saw the potential in him. And that is what I cannot seem to let go of--believing in a better version of himself. He may accuse me of many things, but what he should not dare question was my deep faith in him. I strove to be encouraging of his desires, even when he told me about the girl. I remember telling him, "You have three options with her. Cut her out, learn to be her friend, or go for it."

I never imagined he'd actually choose the last option. He was my heart, and I was his stand-in. He strung me along and treated me unfairly, and now he gets the girl? I used to believe that this heartache meant something better was on the way. But now that just feels like a lie I've been telling myself.

He ruined me.

For just a moment I wish I could force him to feel the weight and the depth and the seriousness of the pain he's caused me. It would probably break him to feel something that strongly. I know that despite my not leaving bed yesterday or even brushing my teeth that somehow I am the stronger one. I'm not forced to compartmentalize my emotions. I somehow bear them even when I feel like I can't.

He told me nothing he could say would satisfy me. No, nothing he could say would put the pieces of me back together that he broke over and over again. He ruined me.

He referred to the "problems" we had. If he thinks that anything other than his inability to be transparent with me was the root of our issues, then he is deluded beyond my comprehension. We would have either broken up sooner, minimizing the pain on my end, or we would have been able to work through it.

I have re-played our confrontation in my mind a thousand times. I'm glad I didn't yell at her, as much as I wanted to. I imagine slapping him with the force of my entire being--and I wonder if given the chance if I really would. If I really could hit the cheek I used to kiss with deep love and affection. Physical pain seems like the only harm I could cause him. He looked at me with no guilt or shame in his eyes--just indifference and disconnection.

My life is a cosmic joke.

Clinging to the Edge

Jet-lagged beyond exhaustion, I stumbled down the five blocks to the park in my neighborhood. I'd just essentially sleepwalked off the Ethiopian Airlines flight early that morning after the more than twenty-four journey back to the United States from Malawi. Determined to jump start my circadian rhythm and uphold my typical "good girl" standards, I joined my Bocce team for the playoff games at what felt like one in the morning to my confused, aching body.

There are so many "if only"s running through my brain, like on an iPod playlist on shuffle and repeat.  If only we'd played on a different court. Or if I'd only decided to give into the jet leg and fell asleep at 3 pm EST. Then maybe I wouldn't have seen him.

I recognized the sandals he was wearing, the ones he bought for our trip to St. Lucia where we'd spent a week in each other's arms. We'd spend the days soaking in the sun and drinking cocktails, and spent the nights making love in the moonlight rising in between the Pitons.

Now instead of me, she was with him. The girl who captured his heart nearly ten years ago. The one I'd never live up to. The one he longed for as I struggled to make him love me. I watched as they walked arm in arm across the grass, carrying a picnic and a blanket. Something we used to do back when I used to think he loved me. And then I saw him kiss her.

As I walked towards them, I saw that he was wearing the jeans I'd bought him for Christmas our first year of dating. They'd faded significantly from the indigo blue they were when I bought them. When we lived together I did our laundry, and  I always took care to wash them inside out and hung them to dry. Tender and gentle, even with the clothes he wore.

I shocked them, I know. But my confrontation could have never delivered the kind of continuous punch to the gut I was experiencing. When my mom reflects on her divorce from my father, she'll often say, "Everything I feared would happen....happened." Here was my biggest fear happening--he had moved on before I had. He has the girl he'd always wanted. And I have nothing.

How do you cling to the edge when there's nothing there to dig your fingers into?

Good Day Sunshine

Well, not in DC. It's rainy, gross, and not going to break 60 degrees today. But, I've still got a smile on my face because where I'm going on vacation on Friday, the forecast is this:


Have you ever seen more perfect weather? I can't wait to get my beach on with some of my favorite ladies in the world.

Wondering how classy of a place this is? It happens to be the home of...


That's right, a mullet throwing contest. Packing for this trip might be a challenge, seeing as how I'm lacking in jean cut-offs.

Flor-Bama, here we come!

Jagged Little Pills

With just three weeks and a few days standing between me and my trip to Malawi, the preparations are in full swing. I spent nearly 2 hours on the phone with my boss this morning, planning our 3-hour seminar on health, healing, and wholeness for the community of Mzuzu. We'll be engaging local health advocates and of course, the attendees will drive the conversation. We're really just going to be there to help facilitate a conversation. But, what an opportunity.

I had a moral crisis about this trip a few weeks ago. I was standing in line at the Target pharmacy with a prescription for Malarone, a very good anti-malaria pill. My right arm was covered in bandages from injections--tetanus booster, Hepatitis A, and typhoid. The travel clinic didn't take insurance, so I'd put the $300 bill on my AmEx. The Malarone pills cost more than $100 for a 14-day supply. Again, I swiped the AmEx, and made sure to put the receipt in a safe place--not because I'd be filing an insurance claim, hoping I'd get some if back, but because my work would be reimbursing me in full. I'd simply code the injections and pills to my "travel account" on my next check requisition form.

When the pharmacist handed me the bottle of little white pills, it hit me: damn, that's some privilege there. Just a phone call to a doctor's office, a Metro ride, and an AmEx got me a prescription to prevent a disease that kills 2 people every minute. And even though I don't have to pay for it myself, I could if I needed to.

I'm still not quite sure what to do with this guilt. I know that not taking the pills does not do me--or anyone else for that matter--any good--no sense in me acquiring a disease and having to seek medical attention while I'm there. That's why I've been doing all of my routine check-ups and getting in good shape before I leave; I want to be completely and totally there to experience it all at my best. But, it's the fact that I have access to quality care and others do not that's got me in a metaphorical headlock.

So, let's do something. $10 buys a bed net to protect a family from the disease. You can go visit Imagine No Malaria to donate. I'm going there now.