Just Dance

Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance, in the middle of the fighting.
Dance, in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.
Struck, the dancers hear a
  tambourine inside them, as a wave turns to foam on its very top, begin.
Maybe you don't hear that tambourine, or the tree leaves clapping time.

Close the ears on your head that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.
There are other things to hear and see:
dance-music, and a brilliant city inside the Soul.

Rumi, The Longing

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Think Again Thursday: Jezebel Takes on Cosmo

So, the posts on Grad-Student Girlfriend have been pretty serious lately with all of the self-reflection I'm attempting to do to figure my weird self out, so I thought I'd take a break from that and share this hilarious gem with you from entitled "Cosmo Has Your Men All Figured Out, Ladies." (Posted below) This is in response to a ridiculous article entitled "Decode How He Holds His Drink" (No, I did not make this shit up!) featured in this month's Cosmo. (When I clicked on the Cosmo article, the side ad asked "Would You Do Him Outside?")

I confess there was a time (probably between ages 15-18) that I used to love reading Cosmo. It felt sort of naughty, carrying around what I thought was something along the lines of the female equivalent of Maxim. It was a sexy magazine because duh, if you were carrying it around, then of course you were getting some. Of course, I was not getting any. I was lucky to get a boy to kiss me at that age.

I'm not sure at what point I decided Cosmo was too wacky to even pass as satire. I think I was disgusted how their "articles" were really just composites of reader "surveys"--readers admitting to strange, impossible, and flat-out bizarre sexual things to please their men. I dumped it, and I'm glad I did.

Cosmo Has Your Man All Figured Out, Ladies

Ladies, here's the deal: every single thing your partner does has a hidden message. I know this to be true, because I've just spent a good 5 minutes browsing Cosmopolitan's recent articles on decoding your man's body language.

Because you should always feel insecure about the status of your relationship, or at least insecure enough to continue buying certain magazines that promise to help you trap and/or keep a man (just like bugs in a jar! Romance!) by participating in asinine rituals like wrapping your underpants in your hair or saying subtle things like, "Ooh! I see you went to the gym today. I'd also like to give your muscles a workout, if you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean? Cosmo said you'd get it. It's innuendo. It's right here on page 97, in between the article about how men only love girls who are fresh faced and natural and the article on how guys love it when you apply 17 layers of foundation and 8 pounds of lipstick in order to be sexy," Cosmo constantly comes out with articles that claim to "decode" the body language of men, letting you know that every single move he makes is, in some way, directly related to his feelings about you.

Today's Cosmo decoding piece aims to let women know what their men are really thinking, based on the way their hold their beers. Bono was wrong, ladies. It is not alright when your man moves in mysterious ways. Thankfully, Cosmo is here to drop truth bombs like this one:
If he grips his long-neck loosely...
Lightly encircling the top of his beer bottle with his thumb and index finger reveals that he's confident. Not only does the relaxed gesture indicate he feels in control of the situation, but it's also a bit of cocky posturing - it gives off the vibe that he's too cool to be concerned with the risk of dropping his beer.
Look at Danny Zuko over here, too cool to worry about dropping his beer! That's totally what's going on. Your dude is standing there, holding on to the neck of his beer and thinking, "Look at me. I'm James fucking Dean, all up on his beer neck and not even giving a fuck if I drop it and look like an idiot in front of everyone. I am too cool for school." That is so accurate. Where is the Nobel Prize for Beer Decoding, and why hasn't it been presented yet?
If he puts his bottle by his chest...
That beverage is like a wall he's putting up. If you notice he's holding it in front of his body, he's feeling too guarded for you to ask him a ton of questions or bring up a serious conversation. Stick to superficial topics - movies, sports, etc. - until he lowers his drink and loosens up.
In other words, it's always a good idea to wait until someone is drunk before you spring the serious convo on them. Just blah blah blah about movies until dude-bro is relaxed, and then hit him with the "Why don't you love me, Thomas?! WHY!?!?" conversation. That will win him over for sure. No drama there. A fine plan for an excellent evening out.

Cosmo also wants you to know about your partner's hands: for instance, if he or she is making an okay sign while talking to you, which is a totally natural hand movement, yeah?, it means that they are, in fact, okay. Happy even! And if they flip you the bird without realizing it, it means they probably want to be flipping you the bird anyway, so you're pretty fucking screwed. But you knew that anyway, right? It's why you're looking through articles like this, desperate to confirm fears that you've probably already had for a long time. Or maybe not! Maybe you're just really into the secret meaning behind someone flipping you off right to your face.

Anyway, because I'm such a believer in analyzing every single physical move someone makes in order to continue questioning a relationship that might already been on shaky ground due to serious trust issues or a general lack of self-esteem and openness, I decided to share a few decoding secrets of my own:

1. When He Sneezes: He is possessed by demons and is expelling them across your household. HOT! Is the mucus yellow or green? If yellow: catch a fellow. If green: flee the scene. If there is no mucus, it might be time to have a talk about where this relationship is heading.

2. He Is Rubbing His Eye: This is his way of intercepting messages from the planet Zorgothrax on their way to Jupiter. Try to impress him by learning Zorgothraxian and then talking dirty with it in the bathroom. Here's a primer: "You're so hot!"="11ZZGRRZGYZ17." Sexxxy!

3. He Scratches His Head: He's cheating on you. Please turn to page 118 for a list of products that will surely recapture his attention.

4. He Picks His Ears: He's just trying to open up the lines of communication. He's listening, and doesn't want any wax to stand in his way. However, should you catch him putting wax back INTO his ears, it might be time to break it off.

5. He Puts A Spoon In The Dishwasher: You're pregnant.
So there you have it! Now go out there and solve as many mysteries as you can, ladies. If you don't decode the signs, surely another savvy lady with ear-picking knowledge will.

Read more:

Don't Wait to Say the Good Stuff

In very weird form, Andrew Cohen, legal analyst for Politics Daily, decided to write an open letter of sorts to his ex-girlfriend...on her wedding day. That's right, on her WEDDING DAY! If you think you can stomach this saccharine and inappropriate display of regret, you can read the whole article entitled "On Her Wedding Day, Saying the Things Left Unsaid" if you'd like. Or I can sum up for you what I think about it.

Basically, it's a passive-aggressive note of regret, articulating all of the ways that he loved this woman, and then "wishing her the best" in her decision to marry someone else. Now if he really meant all of this, wouldn't he have written her a private note rather than post his feelings online? It seems like it's more about him than about her.

But, the question still remains for me: why does it sometimes take something monumentally life-changing, like a death or a marriage, to say the things that should've been said a long time ago? 

The book I'm reading is focused primarily on living in the present moment, having a clear awareness of what we feel and holding whatever it is we are feeling with an open, kind, and warm heart. For me, this is seriously complex because at any given time I feel like I am feeling layer upon layer of feelings, thoughts upon thoughts, and various judgments and criticisms. It can be tricky to hold all of that at once and clearly get a sense of what is going on inside. I can tell this is going to take some practice.

But shifting from living in the present--rather than reliving the past or leaning into the future--necessitates an authenticity that I think I lack a lot of the time. It's really easy for me, like Cohen, to reflect on the past and see it as much simpler and more beautiful. In his proclamation of love, what I hear is "These were the best times in my life, and now they are coming to an end." How sad to be stuck in love.

I hope I never find myself in a situation like this--SCL marrying another woman, and me left feeling like he didn't know much I cared about it. And even worse, not being able to let go of the past and live in the present. In the meantime, I want him to know how much I appreciate him--how he fixed my bike yesterday, how he is patient with my ranting and getting upset, and how he is working to uncover what's going on in his own heart and mind.

And I will spare you all my declaration of love.

Breaking the Trance of Unworthiness

Alright, I confess that this blog has become more about me bitching and moaning about my current state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction than my own personal growth. We all do the best that we can. After a long and unproductive chat with SCL last night (in which he called me clingy--which I cannot completely disagree with), I woke up this morning feeling grouchy. I had a bad dream about our wedding--that we had 15 minutes to get ready, that no one showed up, and SCL picked out really ugly rings for us.

To tell you the truth, I've kind of had enough of this funk. And while this may not be the best place to begin a morning pre-work self-care, that is where I began. It was only this weekend when I finally unpacked my books, so I went searching for one that my college professor bought for me. It's called Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach. Now, if you're not Buddhist, don't be thrown off. I'm not either. But I think there's a lot that the Buddhist traditions have to teach us, especially those of us who are Westerners.

Brach starts off by talking about her own journey through the trance of unworthiness  (in less mystical terms, the feeling that there's something wrong with me) into Radical Acceptance. Maybe it sounds a little hokey, but pretty much everything she says resonates with me. So why not give it a try.

What do SCL and the 84-year-old woman have in common? Me. I was just taking a shower when I thought to myself, "Rather than trying to deal with all of these individual relationships, why not focus on my own insecurity? Each difficult situation brings out some aspect of the same thing within me--that I don't feel worthy."

SCL says I'm clingy sometimes, which I can't deny. I've had the tendency to cling for as long as I can remember. I find one or even several relationships that I decide somehow will reflect my worth and lovableness. Rather than finding that worth within, I look for it in others. And it's so easy to do with a significant other who is supposed to be loving, caring, and supportive. What a fine line between healthy love and unhealthy neediness, and I'm afraid I've crossed it with SCL.

The first step, according to Brach, is to examine the prison I've put myself in. She suggests throughout the day asking, "Do I accept myself as I am?" The goal is not to be able to say "yes" every time (if that were the case, no book would be necessary, right?) but to start examining the thoughts and feelings I have about my entire self. The first time I thought, "I don't like how I feel the tightness of my shorts on my thighs. And I feel lazy for letting myself sleep until 8 this morning." A lot of judgment going on in this head of mine--and that was just one instance! Think about how much energy I am spending being self-critical. I would rather be able to use it on something more life-giving.

I'm really making it a point to read books that challenge me spiritually and personally. Please let me know what some of your favorites are.

Stating What Should Be Obvious

I've been in what has felt like a permanent funk lately, one I've excused as being tired from the move, tired from being gone so much for work, adjusting to this new stage with SCL.

But I was just journaling and it came to me: I miss SCL and I'm unhappy without him. Yes, we see each other often, but we don't share our life in the way that we used to. I miss making coffee together. I miss hearing him take a shower. I miss having a joint bank account and budgeting together. I even miss the laborious task of doing both of our laundry, lugging it down to the basement of our building and walking up and down the stairs to take it out of the wash and into the dryer. I miss having a kitchen together filled with things that belonged to us both.

I don't like living in a random house in a random room with random roommates. I want to live with SCL. 

How do I adjust to this level of dissatisfaction in my relationship? How do I find satisfaction in circumstances that are unsatisfactory to me? I do feel like this, like all things, is for a season and is no way a permanent situation. And I do feel like this is a time when I need to exercise patience with SCL. This is part of being in a partnership.

But I do miss living together a lot. It hurts my heart.

Tell Me How I'm Supposed to Breathe with No Air Conditioning

The power at my house has been out for six hours, and with a room on the second floor and temperatures in the 100s, this place is literally a hot mess. Not to mention I have had the headache of headaches today. Basically it's a clusterfuck, and I am wondering if, when, and where I'm going to be able to get some much needed sleep tonight. Thankfully I have the battery on my netbook and the internet on my phone to provide me a place to bitch about it. 

Earlier in the day it was fine, but now that the lights are out, we're all pretty screwed. My roommate G asked, "Can't you stay with your boyfriend?" Brilliant idea, except that SCL is currently in MD visiting his parents. But, he does have a roommate. Brilliant! I'll just call up SCL, have him check in with his roommate, and I'll be all set with a bed and some AC. 

Or not. SCL's roommate works at the airport and often works until 11 at night. I suspected this might be the case, but feeling sweaty and desperate, I said, "Could you leave him a message to call me when he gets home? I'm pretty desperate at this point." 

Of course I am expecting SCL to say something along the lines of, "Oh, of course. I know how bad you've been feeling all day, so it really would be no trouble for me to leave him a message asking if you could come over." That's what I would say if the tables were turned. SCL's roommate is easy-going, friendly, and accommodating. And oh yeah, it's a fucking emergency situation. Okay, maybe not emergency, but definitely out of the ordinary circumstances. I wouldn't be asking unless I really needed to. 

But no, SCL wouldn't even ask on my behalf. God knows why--I guess he doesn't want to bug his roommate. I am certain that when the roommate finds out what happened, he'll be like, "Why didn't you come over?" I'm half tempted to just camp out over there until his roommate gets home. Needless to say, I am beyond annoyed at SCL and the fucking power not being fixed. 

Why I Shouldn't Let an 84-Year-Old Ho Make Me Cry

I told you all that I'm in the middle of Louisiana, hanging out with a bunch of old ladies. At first I thought I'd arrived on another planet, but now I'm really starting to get to know some of them. And y'all, they are kick-ass...for the most part. My favorite is an 80-year-old woman named Dolores who has been a leader in her community for decades. She funded one of the Lost Boys of Sudan to come to the U.S. She has funded her own summer camps for children to have experiences in the arts. She tells me amazing stories, and I carry her trays in the dining room. She is the best part about being here.

Now all of the grannies aren't as awesome as Miss Dolores. There's another old woman by the name of Emily who is just a pill. She complains, she bitches, she alienates everyone. So, I guess it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when yesterday she offended me BIG TIME. We were at the dinner table with about six other ladies when she decided to tell me that I was overweight--and that I was going to get fatter as I got older.


Everyone (those who could hear, at least) was horrified. And I was embarrassed and pissed. The thing is, this is a ridiculous thing for her to say, regardless of me being overweight or not. But the truth is, I'm not (even though I have insecurities about my body, I know logically that I am NOT overweight.) I weigh the same as I did in high school, and while I'm no skinny bitch, I am at a perfectly healthy weight for my height, thank you very much. (The bitch went on to say that Michelle Obama was overweight, too, if that gives you any indication of her definition). I wish I could've just written her off as some stupid old hag, but instead she'd triggered something in me. As I told her how much she'd hurt my feelings and that she'd basically ruined my day, I began to cry.

Seeing me get upset, this wonderful minister took me out of the dining room and into the hallway to tell me about this lady--that she has a reputation for offending anyone and everyone, and because of that, no one talks to her. She said, "You are not the first--and you won't be the last--person she has offended. But don't let her take your joy from you."

Frankly, all I could think of was going home and not having to be around this woman anymore. She had humiliated me and pissed me off big time. And because she'd touched on something so sensitive, I couldn't just write her off as a crazy old hag. No, it brought up every insecurity I have about my body, which had really nothing to do with her at all.

I want to get to the point where I can recognize other people's words as judgement and reflections on them rather than see them as truths about me. Clearly this woman was insecure about her own image and was projecting it onto me. When I told SCL the story later on, he called her a "random old ho." It made me laugh, him calling an old lady a ho. But the truth is in the "random" part--she is not important in the grand scheme of things. She isn't the reason I'm here, and she certainly doesn't represent all the people here. She's just a sour old lady with an attitude problem.

So, don't let an 84-year-old woman make you cry. Even your grandma. Your joy is yours; don't give it away.

Feeling Guilty about Pain

First, I have FIFTY followers! Woohoo, I cannot believe so many of you are interested in my complicated love life. But you make me feel loved. Thank you, thank you.

Believe it or not, I am traveling yet again, this time to the middle of Louisiana to talk about maternal health with a bunch of old ladies. For real, the median age must something like 75. Some of the women in my group are over 80. I am consequently feeling not much older than a zygote. This is an interesting feeling as most of my DC friends are actually a few years younger than my racing-toward-thirty 27-year-old self. Time for me to get over myself--I am a youngin'.

Being in Louisiana right now is an interesting experience to say the least. I have felt awkward being an outsider at times, not sure how to address the oil spill, the aftermath of Katrina, etc. Do you ask questions or not? Fortunately the women are very open. I've talked with several who lost everything in the hurricane and have managed to get their lives back together, which they give God all the praise for. I see the empty seats at the tables, and I hear that this is the lowest turnout for this event ever. Many people just couldn't afford the trip here. Louisiana sure could use a break. In addition to being surrounded by such loss, I'm also going to lectures on the Sudan. It's a real joy fest over here.

When confronted by the overwhelming hurt of the world, I usually feel paralyzed and then guilty for whatever is going on in my own life that's got me upset. Right now it's feeling anxious over what's going on with SCL. Stacy Morrison talked about this in her book. When she was going through her divorce and one of her friends would complain about some ordinary annoyance--a bad meal, a long commute, etc--the friend would apologize and say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have complained. You have it so much worse."

How can we compare pain? Is it only the ones feeling the most severe forms that are allowed to talk about it and to feel it? Surely not. One person's broken leg doesn't alleviate the sting of another person's stubbed toe. The severity doesn't matter. It all hurts. We shouldn't judge ourselves for feeling it, no matter the degree. Our own experiences of pain are as unique as we are, and yet having felt it does help us to connect with others trudging through life's valleys.

So, I will honor where I am--a young woman trying to figure out her life, struggling to love, and wanting to grow. It's quite alright for me to feel pain about my own life. And it sure does't mean that I can't show compassion to others in the process.

The Good (and Hard) Life

“Life is good. Life is hard. These two truths are unrelated.” Stacy Morrison

I’m not sure why I decided to pick up Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart in One Piece, a memoir about going through a divorce. For someone like me who is trying to piece a broken relationship back together, it certainly wasn’t inspiring to read about the pain and heartache of dissolving a marriage. I struggled to get through it at times, her tales of disaster upon disaster (some divorce-related, others just plain old life-related) which at times sounded a bit on the melodramatic side, even for someone going through hell.

I waded through nearly 200 pages of sadness and misery until her words began to click. I saw much of myself in Morrison as a young woman—focused on pushing, pushing, pushing to a place that she imagined would be safe, secure, and stable. Only after they divorced did she realize she’d left her partner behind.

When SCL and I first started dating and I realized where the relationship was heading, I remember telling my mom how hard I planned to work to make our relationship last. It was like I was armed and ready for the first conflict to arise, so I could tackle it, identify our issues, work through them, and continue forward. I wanted to anticipate every single problem that we would face and be ready to work through it. I was going to make it work no matter what, damnit! I wasn’t going to be one of the statistics about children from divorced parents. I saw my relationship with SCL as something to be conquered rather than cherished.

And what that meant was that in preparing to combat the future problems and issues, I lost sight of the daily joys, the small pleasures, the being together on the couch, the real stuff that made our relationship what it was. I quickly became so engrossed with creating a long-lasting relationship that I forgot to nurture the relationship I had at the time: a young, exciting, vulnerable, unpredictable love.

What I couldn’t prepare for was rupture. In my mind I was already at the altar, making a commitment to SCL, that it hadn’t occurred to me that I had charged ahead of him, leaving him behind. I didn’t realize that he’d wanted to slow down (in part because he had not told me) when all I wanted to do was accelerate to a place where I thought I’d feel safe: a ring on my finger, a public commitment made, and a life bonded together by marriage. I wanted SCL to grow up—to catch up. Then, I thought, I would be content with where we were and could really start living as partners, as a family. Then his parents would accept our relationship as something real. Then I could really love him the way that I want—freely, generously, and without fear.

In the months since SCL broke up and made up, I have found myself in a constant state of anxiety and fear about our coming back together. Am I just setting myself up for more heartache? Have we learned anything in such a short period of time that would really help in beginning again? I fear SCL’s lack of commitment and what that might mean for the future. I tell myself, “If this isn’t forever, then it isn’t worth it.” My love for him has become tainted by fear, which is a hard place for love to reside. Some of the time my love feels more like desperation, like I’m just clinging to what one day I might lose again—ring or no ring.

There is no way to know if these decisions I am making now—to stay with SCL, to be patient with the process, even to live a few blocks away from him—are ¬wise or foolish. But I know they are heartfelt and risky and out of the love, care, and hope I have for him and for our relationship. I want to love without fear of the unknown. I want to give myself to SCL in spite of him having hurt me and how difficult this time has been. I cannot control him, his actions, or his feelings. I cannot dictate how the next month or year or decade will go. But I can be true to myself in how I love and live throughout this good, yet hard time of uncertainty and discovery.

In an Ideal World...

SCL would be:

  • Five years older, done with school, and more grown up
  • More excited and less anxious about making a commitment to me
  • More appreciative of how much I love him and how dedicated I am to being a good partner
I would be:
  • Less fixated on my relationship issues
  • More secure in myself
  • Value my needs as much as I do his
Our relationship would be:
  • More defined
  • Stable
  • Mutually affirming
  • Satisfying for both of us
A woman can dream, right? 

Think Again Thursday: On Compromise

Writing from the lovely Acela train up to attend my beautiful friend L's wedding this weekend. Very exciting! 

I want to spend some time deconstructing and unpacking the whole "don't compromise" bit of advice that I'm sure we've all given, received, doubted, absorbed, or rejected at some point in our lives. During my short relationship "pause" with SCL, I heard this from many well-intentioned friends and loved ones. Of course at that point I was bemoaning how the relationship hadn't been what I wanted (my, how easy it is to say that in the midst of a break-up!), so naturally the response I got was, "He wasn't right for you, and don't compromise what you want in a relationship."

Now, to a certain degree, I do support not compromising on certain things:

  • Key core values (for me that would include feminism, gender equality, and progressive causes)
  • Major life goals (getting/not getting married, having/not having children)
  • Safety (Obvious, but worth stating) 
Essentially, I support not compromising on what makes you a complete whole human being. The problem is that I think our expectations about what it requires for us to achieve satisfaction and a sense of wholeness are seriously skewed and more akin to Disney films than something we can actually reasonably expect to achieve. 

I am the biggest culprit of this. I don't even pretend not to envy my many friends who are in relationships that are on a sure path to marriage. I have wanted this for over a year with SCL. The desire to marry is a core value for me. What is not essential about that is the exact time, place, and details about how that will occur. But over time I had convinced myself that I needed SCL to commit by this time and in this way with this kind of ring. I had talked to myself so much about that I was convinced that it was true

How do I know this isn't true? Because SCL and I together despite a short break-up, not getting engaged, and moving out of our apartment. Granted it hasn't been long since all of this stuff happened, but the fact that we somehow find a way to move through all that crap is an indication to me that we've still got something worth fighting for. And our interactions are more healthy than they ever were when we were talking about rings. He is honest with me about what he wants; I do the same; and we are talking about how to get to a new place where we are both satisfied. 

We can choose not to compromise--to toss aside the relationship that doesn't match up with what we want, when we want it. I could do that with SCL. I've thought about it. I think to myself, "Oh, I just want to find someone older and ready to get married." Maybe that would work out, at least for the time being. But who's to say that this other partner and I would continue to be on the same page for the next five years or ten years or however long? And why in the hell would I turn my back on the person I've loved for two years, who is trying really hard to be the partner I need? 

When we were dealing with the whole couch situation, I was PISSED at SCL. BIG TIME. In a matter of about 15 seconds, I had worked myself up into a fury directed at him. If he hadn't broken up with me, if he hadn't insisted on moving out of our apartment, I would never be living in this new place that was too fucking small for my couch. Therefore, it was SCL's fault that the couch didn't fit, and I wanted to give him hell about it. He finally yelled at me, "Sometimes things don't work out the way we want them to!" Not his fault. Not my fault. Just, c'est la vie. Damn it. It's so much better being able to target my anger at another person. 

I don't want to view my relationship with SCL--the person most precious to me--through a lens of consumerism. I don't want to wake up one day "unsatisfied," assume that this feeling is an indication that something is wrong with the relationship itself (rather than recognizing life's ebb and flow of happiness), convince myself I'm compromising, and walk away from it. I don't want to blame any lacking I feel on my relationship when there simply are times when I will not have what I want, when I want it. 

So, I am compromising. On certain things. Not things that I absolutely need right this second. And I am learning to be alright with being in that place. 

Another Hotel, Another Continental Breakfast, Another Phone Call Fail

For any of you thinking how great it is to travel for work, think again. So far in the 48 hours I've been in Philly, I have seen nothing but the inside of a dim, freezing hotel in the middle of nowhere.  Our hotel is not anywhere near the awesomeness of downtown and my favorite Mexican restaurant--El Vez. My one bit of excitement was last night's dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I wish I was kidding.

Oh, and yesterday's trauma: I made myself go to the gym, and was horrified to find that Fox News was the only thing on the TVs and I was subjected to Glenn Beck as I ran. I don't care what party you come from--that guy is an idiotic douche.

Anyway, the traveling is a strain on me personally (difficult to sleep, eating restaurant food, and long, overly-caffeinated days), and it certainly doesn't help the communication issues that SCL and I have. Neither of us likes talking on the phone, and when we do talk, it's kind of awkward. We both know that we hate the phone, but there aren't that many alternatives--Gchat, email, and Skype are other ones I can think of. It didn't help last night that I was pretty much falling asleep when I called him.

I think one of my problems is I don't want to just have a five minute conversation and then hang up. I want to stay on the damn phone because I want to feel connected to him. So we end up sitting there in silence, our phones up to our ears with nothing to say. And then of course I think there's something wrong because we have nothing to discuss (even though he's been working and I've been trapped in a hotel conference room all day). Back when we were just dating, we used to use Skype and video chat which was pretty fun. I enjoy seeing his face--and it felt like he was just in the other room!

Maybe it would be helpful to see the time apart as a time to recharge--and know that we'll reconnect when I return. But when I know I'm going to be gone for basically two weeks, that seems like it's not quite as sustainable. Luckily he'll be joining me tomorrow for my friend's wedding weekend.

Do any of you travel on a regular basis? How do you stay connected to the ones you love?

Indulge Me, Will You?

I'm out of town for work and a wedding this week, so posting will be briefer for a bit. Stick with me!

The other day I asked SCL if he still thought it was kind of silly that I wanted a "not small" diamond engagement ring. I have fat fingers, sue me! I've mentioned before that this has been a point of contention between us in the past. He said, "Not as much." Ha!

Let's be honest. Diamonds have got some serious baggage. We need only recall Blood Diamond to remember why. SCL and I are in agreement that any rings we get need to be conflict-free. Back when we were looking at rings,  I found this site Brilliant Earth and instantly fell in love: totally conflict-free diamonds, recycled metal, but still way expensive.

So last night as I struggled to fall asleep in my strange hotel room, I got to thinking of alternatives. I'm not a traditional woman; so why would I want a traditional ring? I began googling "alternative engagement rings" when I came upon sapphire rings. Look at this beauty
I'm in love. And it's WAY less expensive than the diamond-center-stone version. So, I think when the time comes (if it ever does), I may mention to SCL that I'd like to look at other stones. You know, sapphires are rarer than diamonds.

Shutting the Door

SCL and I had an exhausting weekend of doing the dreaded move-out cleaning of the apartment, as well as selling our beloved couch. It was an emotionally draining, not to mention physically exhausting, weekend. The whole process of packing up and saying good-bye to the place seemed to take forever. SCL moved out at the beginning of June. Then I had another month before moving myself and then a week after that before we said our final good-byes.

I know it sounds kind of silly to be saying good-bye to a sterile apartment in a generic high rise building, but it was our first home together. I can only hope it won't be our last. And after this weekend, I have more reason to believe that we will build a home together again.

I've talked a lot about my impatience with SCL to say something definitive about our relationship. I've waited what has felt like an eternity for some kind of indication--either way, I just wanted to know. I was getting fed up with his wavering, his non-committal "I don't know"s. But I resisted my urge to blow up and demand answers. I reminded myself that this was a time of transition, that nothing major ought to be decided in the middle of this upheaval. As Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, there are times when we must say to one another, be careful. We need to be very careful about what we say during times of confusion, exhaustion, and distress.

Of course I rarely actually practice this. Last week when the fucking couch wouldn't fit up the goddamn stairs, I cried out, "Now you're going to get what you want--the money for the couch!" Not my most mature moment. But I do try. When I think about it.

Anyway, this is all to say I have done my damndest to keep my mouth shut and let SCL be in his process. And as we packed up the apartment, cleaned every little crevice of the bathroom tile and the kitchen floor, his emotion poured out. We wept together over what we were losing--of what we were both incredibly sad to be letting go of. That was the moment when I least expected a word of comfort, but instead that was what I got.

"This won't be the last time we share a home together." Guess who said this? Not me--SCL. He went on to tell me how these past few months have been incredibly important for him, for gaining perspective on our relationship and readjusting his expectations about what a relationship should be--from a fantasy to the reality that relationships have good times and bad, that we feel good and bad at times, and that all of this is normal and not an indication that there is anything wrong with the relationship itself. "I can picture a life with you," he said.

He can picture a life with me. I cannot even tell you how important it was for him to say this and for me to hear it at that moment. All along I've been thinking that this moving apart was a moving away from a future together--that we were moving backward. I'd been deathly afraid of the day when we finally left our place together because it meant that we had failed, that we were broken and never were going to put ourselves back together.

But I realized in that moment that it didn't have to be that way. SCL told me in no uncertain terms that he viewed this time of living apart as a step forward to making a commitment to each other (my non-scary way of saying "getting married"). He told me that he hadn't been ready to do that a year ago, but he didn't know that until we were in the middle of it. "Next time, "he said, "I want to be ready to do this right."

I brought up my concerns about waiting until he was done with school. Another four years just seemed like too long. He told me that while he's still in coursework, it will be a tough time for him. But once his comprehensive exams are done (probably in another year and a half) he will be in a much better place academically and will have freedom that he doesn't right now. I could tell that he had obviously thought about this extensively. See, even though he wasn't saying much the last few months, he was thinking about us.

As we did our final walk-through--and remembered the bottle of ketchup in the fridge that we'd forgotten--we held each other and shed a few tears. But we walked out together, hand-in-hand. We went back to his new place. He played the piano; I sang. We ate Ben & Jerry's out of the carton and cuddled on the couch.

And I realized, we may have shut the door on our old place, but not on our life together.

Weddings, Weddings Everywhere

And not a single one for me.

For a woman in a complicated relationship, wedding season is a toughie. I've done a bachelorette party. Next week I'll be celebrating my friend L's wedding. Next month I'll be celebrating my friend C's wedding. I get a month off, and then another friend's wedding in October. Not to mention blog friend Nicole just got engaged (yay!). Oh, and last night I boohooed through Bethenny Frankel's wedding on Bethenny Getting Married? Yes, I am a huge emotional dork and reality TV junkie. I own that. Besides the sheer expense of lots of friends getting married (totally worth it, but yikes!), there's the emotional cost of struggling with my own relationship and where it's headed.

The year between having been SCL dating for 6 months and when we'd been dating about a year and a half (when I still believed we were getting engaged soon), I was pretty wedding fixated. One of my favorite wedding daydreams was thinking about our first dance. SCL and I are both ballroom dancers, so I imagined foxtrotting to Frank Sinatra or some other crooner in a beautiful gown, the crowd "oo"ing and "ah"ing at our mad dance skills. I struggled with the right song though. "Our" song is really inappropriate--"PDA (We Just Don't Care)" by John Legend on his Once Again album. It's about getting down in public. Not exactly the kind of song you'd want to play in front of the old folks. Or my big brothers.

See how easily I slipped back into it? For fuck's sake, even just blogging about it puts me back there. I digress.

As I fretted over how I'm going to survive this wedding season, I figured, hey, I'm going to be surrounded by this wedding stuff for the foreseeable future; how do I make the most of it? I've decided to try to examine my own desires to get engaged, have a wedding, and get married. What's really behind this? I'd like to think that it's just that I love SCL and want a "life buddy" as my friend L describes it. But I  think it's more than just that. I think part of it goes deeper to my own lack of self-confidence and self-worth, probably a result of my abandonment issues from having a shit father--some inner lacking that even the most beautiful wedding couldn't satiate.

And the thing is, my head fucking knows this already. Look at my friend going through a divorce. I was her maid of honor--beautiful wedding, beautiful couple, and now look at where they are. They don't even like each other anymore. And look at my own mom--divorced and abandoned by the person she thought she'd love forever. I know it all in my head, but the truth is in my own self-delusion, I think that it won't happen to me. Just like a lethal car accident, lightening strike, breast cancer, or other horrible tragic things. The truth it, any and all of these things very well could happen in my life--a divorce being one of the more likely.

So, what's up with this fixation on marriage? The truth is, I don't know. My friend (at least I like to think we would be friends) Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the beloved Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia) just published a new book called Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. And I am obsessed with it. So obsessed, in fact, that I plan to write many a blog entry about it. Maybe I'll even write about it a chapter at a time because it's that good. I hope you'll stick with me as I work through this very though-provoking book and uncover my own feelings, desires, and beliefs about marriage---and hopefully see what it is I'm really after.

Think Again Thursday: Pick Up Line Fail

Yesterday I was having drinks with a male friend who told me about an incident he'd had on his way back to DC. He was on a train and sitting next to an attractive woman, but he couldn't think of anything to say to strike up a conversation. He asks me, "Would it have been weird if I'd have turned to her and said, 'I've been thinking this whole time of something to say to you, but I can't come up with anything. Do you want to have a drink with me?'"

I think my jaw dropped. I said, "Yes, that would have been TOTALLY awkward! It's too over-thought." In my mind I was thinking whatever happened to "Hi" or a nice smile. I don't know; maybe I'm just too easily weirded out, but if a guy had said something like that to me, I would've been leaping out at the next stop, whether it was mine or not.

What is UP with men thinking women actually like pick-up lines? Has it ever worked on you? Some guys are still hopeful that it will. Check out this charmer from the always astute

I've had a terrible day, and it always makes me happy to see a gorgeous woman smile. Would you smile for me?

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest pet peeves is men telling me to smile. I fucking hate it. You don't know what my day has been like. I don't have to act happy for some random stranger. So why try to turn that into a pick-up line for a potential date? FAIL.

Life isn't orchestrated like pick-up lines. Life is awkward, random, fun, spontaneous, and not smooth. I'd rather have a genuine awkward hello than some line. But if you're looking to make me laugh at you, not to be mistaken with laughing with you, bring on the line. Tell me my name must be Gillette because I'm the best a man can get.*

*I got this one from my fifth grade crush.

Moving from "We" to "Me"

Writing from the public library that is WAY cooler than my upstairs room, which despite a fan and a window AC unit on top of the normal AC is freaking hotter than hot. Well, it is bearable but not as cool as the library. I actually live a few blocks farther from it now than I did before, but I think living with roommates forces me to want to go out of the house rather than enclose myself like in the old place. I hear everyone else going and having their days, and I want one, too! That means I've been hitting the gym, riding my bike in the heat, and getting shit for work done.

In the middle of all of this, I find myself in this weird transition with how to talk about SCL. I had gotten so used to saying "we," which didn't stop much during the short break-up. It's hard now to forget the "we" and start saying "me" (actually it would be "I" but "I" does not rhyme with "we" so I shall say "me" instead.) For example, I was talking to my roommate G about my 4th when SCL and I went up to our old building to watch the Capitol fireworks. Shit, did he notice the "our"? Would he know that we just moved out of an apartment together?

The thing is, I don't want anyone I meet now to even know that SCL and I were living together. I'd be content with them just thinking we are a cute couple living a few blocks away from each other, happy and in love and normal. Why complicate things by saying "our" or "we," a red flag denoting some kind of tension in our relationship?  I'd rather not be reminded of it myself, quite frankly.

I will say it has taken me hardly any time to get used to having my own space, my own room, and my own bathroom. Oh, how I love having my own bathroom. Only one other year in my life have I had my own bathroom, and I had forgotten how nice it is to have everything the way I like it--clean, organized, and full of amazing bath products. I even made sure to pick out all pretty, complementary bottles to use in the shower. I do not miss SCL's stubble in the sink or other grossness that I do not need to describe here. You know what I'm talking about.

I do miss the daily company of SCL--making coffee, talking about the front page of the NYT, sharing that state of sleepiness before going to bed. I do miss the quantity time. I do. But I am anxious to see how this change forces me into myself. I cannot depend on him to be my life anymore. God, I feel like an idiot for even admitting that, but somehow I did allow SCL to become my world and have him be the thing I orbed around. Now without that option, I am having to look at my life and myself in a new way--reclaim the me in my life.

This sounds awfully poetic as I'm writing it, but actually it's just a matter of saying to myself, "Hey self, let's get out of the house and do some shit."

Spreading the Love

Blog award love, that is.

Many thanks to JoJo at Newlywed Adventures for this lovely "Blog with Substance" award! Definiely flattering.

Besides thanking the bestower of the award, the only other rules are:

  1. Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation and experience using five words. SCL and I are complicated.
  2. Pass along to ten other blogs of substance. Ten? How about five?
Kate at thighs and offerings: All things God, spirituality, food, eating disorders...
Chelsea at Chelsea Talks Smack: Homegirl is going through a break-up right now, and I can totally relate.
Stephany at Stephany Writes: Always introspective and thoughtful, and she is amazing at responding to comments!
Tina at Florida Girl Meets the Midwest: She has regular Writer's Workshops that cover every topic you can think of.
Holly Renee at Love Imagine Create: Never afraid to take on the deep stuff head on

Hells to the yeah for blogs of substance and getting awards!

Home Sweet New Home

Well, I made it the three blocks to my new place with all my stuff...except for the couch. Oh my God, this fucking couch. SCL and I tried every which way to get it up the fucking stairs, but it just wouldn't make the narrow turn into my room. I also thought I was going to die about three times as we were trying to get the damn thing to budge and it felt like the whole thing was going to come crashing down on my head. I kept thinking of the Friends episode when Ross yells "Pivot! Pivot!" over and over again.

When I realized it wasn't going to go up in my room, I started bawling like a crazy person. This damn couch had been the symbol of my new grown-up life. I was so excited to finally purchase a piece of real furniture from a store. It made me feel like I was finally past that stage of life when I just accept hand-me-downs and mismatched pieces. Now here I am again, sharing a house and fridge with roommates with mostly borrowed furniture. Oh yeah, and my toilet broke the second day I was here, and I'm not sure when it's going to get fixed.

As we angrily took the fucking couch back to our old apartment, I got more and more irrationally pissed off at SCL. He was the reason I had to move the damn thing in the first place. If he could have just stuck to the plan, we would never have been in this spot in the first place! It's amazing how easy it is to blame him for everything.

He pretty much called me out on my bullshit. He said, "Life doesn't always go the way we want it to, and you are forgetting about all of the good stuff going on in your life." True. I didn't want to admit it but he was right about that. It's just so easy in this situation to blame him for things not going the way I wanted. And I pull out that martyr card in a split second anytime I start feeling sad about how things turned out.

I just have to get over it. Like it or not, this is my life now, so I need to start getting used to it if I don't want to stay in a place of "poor me" forever. Time to just start making a new path and enjoying the many, many good things in my life.

En Route to My New Place (and New Life)

Forgive me for the lack of posting, but I really prefer to write substantial posts and this week just has slipped by with so much going on. I've had both planned and unplanned craziness. Planned: packing and moving (most of the little stuff is moved in, so just furniture left!); planning for two week trip for work and friend's wedding. Unplanned: writing a grant in two days to continue my job for another year, running for office in a local organization (lots of campaigning; meet-and-greets, etc.) The last one sounds like it should've been planned, but I made a last minute decision to run.

But the exciting thing, I am writing this from my new place! I am here for a few hours doing laundry (which I no longer have to pay for by the load!) and getting some of my stuff unpacked. Make that most of my stuff. I've got all my clothes, books, tolietries, and smaller things I could fit in my car, and I've unpacked about 95% of it. Wahoo! I even just took my first shower in my new bathroom, which I scrubbed down for about an hour before I would step inside (boys, learn to clean the bathroom!). And I am feeling more excited about living in a new place.

Last night I stayed over with SCL for the first time. He played the piano for me, which has to be one of my favorite things. For the first time he's really playing for pleasure, for himself. He told me when he was growing up his dad would always criticize his playing, so eventually he just stopped doing it altogether. But now as a grown-up he's picked it back up again, and I can tell it brings him a lot of joy. I know I'm the only person he'll play in front of, which makes it even more special.

Tomorrow is the big move day, and then I'll be more or less moved out of our old apartment. I'm ready to bid it adieu and move on. Time for something new, something fresh, something different. I'm ready.