Paint a black hole, blacker…

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What are the ingredients for a bad day? It could be a multitude of things. Time constraints. Children. Money. A nagging spouse. A demanding boss. A professor who sucks at teaching. The list goes on. As humans, were genetically predisposed to feeling the emotional backlash brought on by good days and bad days. That’s life. Not everyday will be peachy, and that’s okay. It teaches us how to adapt to the unpredictable nature of life. It teaches us to tap into our inner strength and exercise more patience, while humbling us all the the while . Whenever a friend calls me complaining of their bad day and what caused it, I lend an ear, offering up some advice. But I never forget to tell them, “It’s in your hands, you can choose to continue wallowing in that black hole or you can look around, remind yourself of all the good surrounding you.” Sometimes this statement is much easier said than done.  But I know it best because it’s something I had to teach myself, working through the tarnish and then though a lot of polishing, learning to practice a more beautiful outlook. To wake the deepest layer of the subconscious and realize that you always had the power to control your emotions better than you thought you did is a most pleasant surprise.

I used to think that if I had a bad day, it was bad because of things that happened that day. Example bad day:

  • Late for class
  • Professor prohibits me from taking quiz because I’m late. Lose points. Great.
  • Lunchtime: they screw up my order. Wow.
  • Someone opens their car door and hits my car in the process. Double wow.
  • Traffic jam on way back to class. Am I really gonna be late again? Damn…
  • Trip on uneven concrete and snap sandal. Win.
  • Go home to find my window is leaking, carpet wet. Sigh…

And while unlucky circumstances are definitely ingredients to a bad day, I soon realized that it was indeed me who made it seem that much worse, starting with my despondent attitude.

So I changed it. Testing myself with regard to controlling my own attitude.

Life’s got plenty of tests waiting for you; self-actualization at its best. Testing your strength.  Testing your patience. Testing your morality. Testing your confidence. Testing your humility. Testing your love. Testing your disposition. Testing, testing, testing. Always seeing just how much we can give of ourselves mentally and physically to trudge on day by day. But the thing I realized through growth, is just how much control we have over the outcome of our day. We can decide for ourselves what kind of day it will be despite those inconvenient curveballs.

Look around, you’ve got your health, your family, your friends, even your loyal pet lab who’s always ecstatic to see you walk through the door. These are small tokens of gratitude that are so often overlooked by many.

We possess more control over the context of our day that we let on. Many people fail to make this connection. They get lost in the negativity that transpired that day and unknowingly sulk in that black hole of unhappiness. Some at their worst do it for days. They become melancholic sloths of listless, emotional apathy. But there’s so much they could do to better their mood. They can choose to let these things envelop them, taken for hostage within that black hole, or they can choose the latter.

I think I’ll choose the latter.

The beauty of living is that each day holds new opportunity, another chance waiting for you to take life by the hand and assess things. So will you continue to wander aimlessly through that black hole and paint it blacker, or will you take control with how you’re feeling? When a slew of negative thoughts comes on, I remind myself of how much beauty there is to life. And there’s beauty even in the negative. It gives us lessons, and without these lessons we would be more inclined to take things for granted, forget an otherwise humble existence and forget about modesty, leading us astray into the self-destruction of our own temperament.

In extreme cases of melancholy, I look to nature for solace. Never underestimate what a quiet walk on a forest trail can do for your thoughts, assisting you in the rationalization of things. Or a solo trip to the beach in the evening, getting lost in the receding tide, filling your lungs with the salty air and defragmenting the day.

And while some would prefer to confide in their friends about whatever went wrong that day, there’s something so welcoming about the environment, having a seemingly open door policy to our emotions. Offering a plethora of wide open spaces where one can vent, daydream, hibernate;  maybe for hours or just a little while.

Next time you feel that black hole coming on, don’t paint it blacker. The beauty to life is that it’s ever changing, evolving and with each new day, commencing some new idea or inviting you to embark on a new task. So take life in stride, take the good with the bad, the ups and downs. It’s all about adaptation.

Limiting TV

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You’ve seen them. People glued to the TV, it’s always on. During the day, during dinnertime, even at night while they’re sleeping. This has been a growing problem in our country. The increasingly high rate of Americans who lead sedentary lifestyles relying on one source of entertainment: television. Americans spend more time in front of the television than any other country in the world. The problem here is not TV, it’s the amount of time spent in front of it.

Now I’m not saying I don’t have a favorite TV show, of course I do. Some of my favorites are Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Real Housewives of New York City. But my life does not revolve around what’s on the boob tube for that day. I don’t follow show schedules, I don’t have any quotes memorized. I don’t know which episode aired last night or what season it is. My entertainment is the outdoors, the world around me. Nature will always have more entertainment to offer than anything on the television screen.

Back in the 1950’s television was a congregational place for the family. It was normal to gather around, switch it on, put a few laughs in during Leave it to Beaver, then hurry on to bed. But aside from television’s ability to stand as a one-man entertaining machine, it also poses many risks with regard to a healthy lifestyle.

1.) Children

Children are amazing creatures. From the time they’re born, as each month passes by, you begin to see attributes and mannerisms, habits, likes and dislikes; their road to development. This paves the way for talents and hobbies, the use of leisure time. Of course, any child needs to have something to do, and occupy those busy hands. Especially boys, they’re always moving around.

The problem is too many parents use the TV as a babysitter. It’s easier to sit your child down in front of the TV than to take him out and interact with him. I’ve seen it too many times. Laziness. It could be a beautiful day outside, and the child stays indoors all day, vegetating in front of the boob tube for hours on end. Although I don’t have any children of my own, for my twenty-eight years I can see the problem with this scenario. A child needs room to grow, room to express themselves. A child has energy, they have to release it somehow (not to mention this will make them sleep better at night). By constantly subjecting the child to endless hours of TV, the parent isn’t doing anything to stimulate the child. The child sits there in a trance, eyes glazed over. He’s not working with his hands, he’s not using his brain to think, he’s not expressing himself creatively, and worst of all, he’s not getting any exercise. Couple this with junk food, and you’ve got your child on the fast track to obesity.

Consider what your child is watching. Is it something educational, that will make him use his developing brain? Programs like Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer are great because they reach out to the child asking for help solving a puzzle, finding a location on a map, identifying objects and colors, and the like. But even these programs should be limited to about a few hours each day. You don’t want a child to rely on the television as their sole source of entertainment.

I think it’s important as a parent to teach your children how to make your own forms of entertainment. Especially in the early stages, when their young minds are so impressionable. Let them play with building blocks, let them paint and draw, challenge them to a board game, let them run around all day outside so they can smell the fresh air. Let them gain an appreciation for nature, for animals, opening their eyes to the beauty in the world around them.

2.) Relationships

I know a few couples whose idea of spending time together is in front of the boob tube. There’s nothing wrong with that every now and again, but when it gets to be routine there’s a problem. Because I believe in learning about your mate, communicating, discovering new challenges and experiences together. How can one do that with a television constantly blaring in the background? One couple, who we will refer to as J. and B., are a prime example of the aforementioned. In their early 20’s, they’re young, got their whole lives ahead of them. But they don’t choose to live life. Sometimes I’d stop by for a visit, see what’s new with them. J. and B. would be sitting in their usual position most days- on the sofa, TV front and center. There were times I’d invite B. to go on a walk with me and she’d decline, saying she’s tired. It could be beautiful outside and the girl would rather waste away in front of the boob tube for the day. I think the only place J. and B. ever went out together was the local beach side restaurant not even a mile from their home. I’ve never seen the two take a walk on the beach together, go to the park together, go clubbing together, take a day trip together, go shopping together, nothing. The most I’ve ever seen them do is sit lifelessly engaged in front of the television. Sometimes I wondered what they would do together if they didn’t have a TV. Life would be over as they knew it. They would be completely blindsided as to what to do for entertainment! I’ve never seen a couple so sedentary and okay with it, in my life. At times I felt like yelling out to them, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered! A world outside of your televised one! But, to each their own as they say. I try to understand that maybe that’s what makes them happy. Watching a good show, following the developments in each season. But, I couldn’t help but notice what an unhealthy lifestyle they were both leading. Day to day slothing in front of the TV and ingesting salty, fatty foods. That’s a recipe to make you the next obese American statistic. And who wants to add to that anyway?

3.) Overall health

It’s a universal truth that people who lead sedentary lifestyles are setting themselves up for a  plethora of health risks. Among these, are:

  1. Muscle atrophy- from not exercising the muscles.
  2. Weak cardiovascular- neglecting to exercise the heart leads to weakened arterial passages and slow blood flow, leading to fatigue and lethargy.
  3. Depression- exercise releases those handy endorphins, the feel good chemicals in the brain. Sitting around all day, the brain is understimulated and restless.
  4. Obesity- especially in America, too much leisure time is spent in front of the TV and not indulging in recreational activities.

Now I’m no nutritionist or a doctor, but it’s common sense that exercise and a healthy diet go hand in hand. Myself, I consume a predominantly low-carb diet, full of veggies, salad, beef and chicken. I factor in some whole wheat carbohydrate maybe three times a month. Soda? I gave that up years ago. Not only for its role in tooth decay but also the astronomical amount of sugar and calories. The best thing you could drink is water. And milk. I love milk. Exercise? I keep with a cardio regimen of four miles three to four times a week on the treadmill. I do an average speed of 4.5 mph, in an effort to get my heart rate up, most importantly. I don’t workout just to claim thinness. I workout to reap the mutliple health benefits. Not only am I lowering my risk to developing life threatening diseases, I’m also working my mind, defragmenting the day, letting go of whatever happened and looking forward to tomorrow.

If more Americans adopted a healthier lifestyle containing more fresh foods and less processed, more recreational activity and less TV, we would have an overall healthier country and wouldn’t be viewed by the rest of the world as couch potatoes (sorry, sad but true). Hopefully with the rise of more Americans getting into the gym and watching what they eat, we can turn this statistic around, and also surprise ourselves.

Your kiss is on my list

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These days, looking around, observing other couples while out and about and listening to some of my friends’ relationship issues, I’ve come to know one common theme that’s been buzzing around. That is, life and people, seemingly, have gotten too busy, too wrapped up in the daily bustle of life. Too many people in my social circle are forgetting what it means to be together, to be a couple.

So, what does it mean to you, to be a couple? When you hear the word, what does it conjure up in the mind? Here’s a few common characteristics…

  • Affection
  • Togetherness
  • Partnership
  • Friendship
  • Intimacy

For me, what it means to be a couple is to be in a healthy, balanced relationship with one who…understands and listens to you, enriches your life, you can discover and explore with, understands the balance of personal space and togetherness, someone you never stop learning about as the years pass, and still continues to be a complementary aspect to your life.

I talk about love, lust and infatuation and the mass confusion associated with the three in the post Falling in love & Falling in lust.  What I’ve found lately is that so many people are at a lack of affection and love. Now I’m not one that needs a significant other to be attached to my hip, I enjoy my alone time and have no problem making my own entertainment. However, it seems far too many are stuck in a sort of rut, where, their needs/wants/desires aren’t being met, and some, neglectful to speak up, continue on in their not so happy relationship, and even worse, settle, accepting things as they are.

But, why not make an effort to improve? Life is all about improving; to be your best possible self right? So why don’t some people apply this to their relationships?

Take for instance my friend B. She’s in her early twenties, been with her boyfriend for about one year. The two barely do anything together except for sit in front of the TV and waste away. It could be a beautiful, blue sky day outside, and the two, depressingly enough, will barricade themselves inside, tucked away from the endless possibilities that the day could bring. B. and her boyfriend lead otherwise sedentary lives. Exercise? I don’t think they’ve ever heard of it. Her boyfriend takes his usual position most days, in front of the TV, sitting there for hours on end, watching shows, playing video games…while B., is doing her own thing, but also, very sedentary, gazing lifelessly into her TV, looking aimlessly out the window, with depressed eyes…

When I lend my ear to B. she tells me how she’s somewhat starved for attention, how she wishes she and her significant other spent more time together, did more things together, how she wishes he were more affectionate, how she’s bored with her life and how she’s otherwise…unhappy. And at such a young age, I think, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you girl! Upgrade! But B. is one of those classic examples of the aforementioned couples who are in a rut, where she’s given up speaking up about improving their relationship, she’s just come to accept things how they are, settling.

When I hear this from B., I can’t help but think, what’s being a couple? Sitting around all day, lifelessly engaged in front of the boob tube, no interaction, being oblivious to your partner’s needs and otherwise ignoring your relationship? Or, venturing out to seize the day, doing things together, traveling and exploring, taking on new challenges, enjoying life…even something as simple as a walk together, really hearing what the other has to say can do wonders for a relationship, because it gives you time to just be with each other, away from outside influences, so that one can focus on the other, give their undivided attention, and really listen…

B.’s story was just one of many from people within my little social net. Hearing other relationship woes, I began to evaluate my own relationship, and looking back on the 1.5 years I’ve been together with Martin, was counting my blessings for having such an angel of a man. Of course, I’m not suggesting he’s perfect. No one is. But just listening to various complaints from my girl friends such as…

“My guy never offers to help with the dishes after a meal. I really wish he would.”

“My guy expects me to do the laundry. I don’t even think he knows how to put in a load of clothes.”

“My guy is a slob, doesn’t clean up after himself.”

“My guy never takes me anywhere. We never do anything fun.”

“Trying to get my guy to pay attention to me is a job.”

I heard these and thought, what is wrong with men these days? Hello, it’s 2011! The gender roles of the 1950’s have been seriously relaxed, and the household chores should be shared by both people, not just the female. Luckily, I have never once had to ask Martin to pick up after himself, to do a load of laundry, or to help me clean the kitchen up after dinner. He even makes the bed in the morning. The man just gets it. You know why? Because he has respect for me.

Listening to the various relationship woes, I gathered one commonality; many of my friends’ guys lacked respect in the relationship. Respect for their lady, and all that she does. It’s almost as if they got comfortable with the fact that their girl would take care of the house. Now this could be the fault of the female as well. If you continuously hold out your hand to clean up after them, they will oblige. It’s like raising a little child, you have to make him accountable, not do everything for him. I know that I have never once waited hand and foot on some guy. Responsibilities should be shared and on an equal playing field.

So maybe I was naive, but I thought most guys operated similarly to Martin. Not so. Hearing the complaints made me appreciate Martin even more. The one thing I love most about Martin and I is that we are always moving, never idle. Of course at times, with work, school and the obligations of life, sometimes, it’s nice to relax and just watch the clouds roll by. But most days, we’re always on some kind of a journey, whether to a local bakery for a sweet, to the beach for a nice 3 mile walk, to local historical spots to reflect and ponder life back then, to a swanky night spot for a drink and good conversation, to a friend’s house for some laughs, or the occasional trip to South Florida (we love Miami). We’re always on the move. And we’re always learning about each other because we take the time to do things together, as a couple. I found it odd some of my friends didn’t partake in the same loveliness that I was.

But did it mean they were unhappy? Maybe they were comfortable in their own little world, the way of things as they knew it. Everyone has their own definition of happiness and fulfillment. Now, I was definitely guilty of judging my friends’ relationships from time to time, taking notes on them like some marriage counselor…I saw things they could do differently, or do better. My only hang up was, why settle? What is the definition of settling? Accepting things as they are, with no ambition to improve. I just saw settling as a…way of giving up. Why were some of my friends giving up? This is the predecessor to the panged relationship rut. If no one speaks up, things continue on as they are. If no one fights for change or compromise, things become more lackluster. It’s the gradual demise to any relationship. Any good partner will listen to your thoughts, needs and desires and heed these because they care about you. Any partner that does not, well, there’s your first clue to upgrade.

I guess from my own observation that I realized, anymore, far too many people forget what it is to be a good partner, to be in good character for oneself and their significant other. I also realized that far too many, accept things as ‘normal’ because they’re too afraid to speak up for some glimmer of improvement. Instead they go on, settling for the current state of things, getting comfortable with the inadequacies within their own relationship. And that’s just so sad to me; life is all about improving, cultivating one’s own sense of happiness, if you’re not happy, speak up! I’ve never been afraid to speak up, never been afraid of some confrontation. Of course, there’s a way it should be done, but, the power of speaking up is, laying the facts out on the table, straightforward; expressing your wishes/needs/wants/desires. I’ve always held true to, If you don’t speak up, nothing will change.

With this being said, at times I felt somewhat pitiful for my girlfriends who ceased to speak up about the various loopholes in their relationships, but then on the flip-side, I did not feel sorry. Some days, on the other end of the telephone, listening to some sob story about a boyfriend, I couldn’t help but think, But you stay around, so you tolerate it, so don’t complain. It wasn’t that I’m not being a good friend but, you can’t feel sorry for people who continue to stay in an unfulfilled relationship. They are the only ones who possess the power to change. And if they can’t do that, then, their own sorrow is harvested by themselves. With no ambition to change or improve, they have no one to blame but themselves for tolerating deficiencies within their relationship. When it comes to being a good friend, I’m one who will tell you when you’re messing up and will tell you when you’re doing good. I’m brutally honest. I’m not one who will congratulate and praise when it’s clear as day things aren’t right.

So, what does a girl do? She offers up her advice when needed, listens, and hopes for a new day of improvement and progress for each of her friends as they new day arises. Cheers to relationships. Interesting, aren’t they?

Is this what falling in love feels like?

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Martin & I- Fort Matanzas, FL

So I don’t know what’s come over me within the last two months. A definite intensity of feelings for my man…not that my feelings were never genuine before, but, as stated in earlier posts about love and relationships, I am not one to fall easily.

Maybe it’s been the nature of our conflicting schedules lately. Martin’s been working a rigorous seven days a week, most days a grueling 15 hour shift. He typically rises at 7:30 am, out the door before 9:00, doesn’t return until 11:30 or midnight. But it was never like this before. Of course, the man worked but it wasn’t like he lived there. We still had time for us, going to dinner or for a walk on the beach, or just taking an afternoon nap, holding each other for hours. And the ironic thing is, I never understood those women who constantly begged for their man to come home, complaining that he worked too much, that he was never around, for her, for their family…I always thought, what are they complaining about, someone’s gotta pay the bills and put food on the table. But now, I’m starting to catch on to what all those women were singing in sorrow about. I’ve really begun missing him- a lot.

And I never thought I would. I have no problem with solitude; in fact, I’m one who really loves my alone time. But lately, even if I fill my time doing things I love (listening to music, crafts, drawing, shopping, being outdoors, blogging) , running my errands (bank, grocery store, paying bills) I still feel my heart wandering out to him, searching for his gentle, aromatic touch.

When I think of the reasons why I miss him, there’s many. One being my roommates. I don’t click with them. We’re just not clickable. I’m clean and tidy, they’re not. I hate slobs, hate laziness. I like to go outside, travel, explore my surroundings, they would rather sit and be lifeless in front of  television and video games all day. I cook fresh, they cook microwavable, processed crap. I like fresh air rolling through the house, they’d rather shut all the windows like it’s some barricaded fortress of stagnant air. I’ve been here in this ‘Big Brother’ type living situation since September, and I will say, it’s been hard. I’ve bitten my tongue more times than I could count on both hands. They’re okay people, just not my kind of people, if you will. So most days if Martin isn’t here, I’ll go seize the day myself, taking spontaneous trips with my camera, or go walk along the beach, go visit my mom, some friends, or some days, I’ll sit in my room, antisocial, looking at the ocean from my deck, looking at it for some kind of release…

Second reason being my schedule. Martin and I work completely different schedules. Although not the first couple in the world to grapple with this, it is indeed, testing. Because I work at a bar and grille, I am up until 3:30 am…typically not rising to see the morning light until 10:30/11:00. And if I’m really tired, 12:00. Some nights, I’ll come home and see Martin deep asleep curled up on one side, I kiss him gently on the cheek, caressing his shoulder, he wakes and looks at me, kisses me then falls back into slumber land. And the same routine for him in the morning. I, deep asleep, in the early hours of the morning when he’s waking up, most days have no memory of him kissing me before he leaves for work. He can tell me he left me ten kisses on my cheek, most of the time it’s not registering. So most days during the week, the only time we really spend together is when there’s enough time to meet up on his lunch break or when we’re both asleep, next to each other. Most weeks, we only have Sunday for a day together. How did it come to one day together? I guess I used to be spoiled with how often I got to see my babe. But this is life, ever-changing…

Third reason being that I’ve begun feeling like I really need him around, which, is a big one for me. I’m not one who needs anybody. I’ve always been fine on my own, enjoying my space (I lived on my own for 3 years before moving to Florida). But, there is a definite light that doesn’t shine when Martin isn’t around. There’s a void, a void that has grown wider and deeper with time, as my feelings have grown stronger for him, so does the feeling of need. This, not to be confused with needy. I am not one of these. There’s days that go by where I don’t talk to him for 7 hours…but I know that’s because he’s busy. I’m not one of these women who’s blowing up his phone with text messages and calls, prying to find out what he’s doing. When he’s free, he’ll call me. But a need in terms of, his love and care. A need for togetherness with him. A feeling of fulfillment…

Martin walking along the beach...

So, with a surge of new and somewhat foreign feelings taking over within the last two months, I’m listening to my intuition. It’s telling me that I’ve got to hold on to this man, this amazingly different, gentle, respectful, peaceful, wonder of a man. Martin is incomparable to any other guy I’ve met, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a true diamond in the rough. Of course, not without his problems, like us all, he’s imperfect. But the thing I admire most about him is, even in the most imperfect of times, in the most trying of times, when the ugly face of negativity stacks up his cards against you, Martin still knows how to wake up, enjoy the sunrise, and appreciate the beautiful day ahead. He’s a true optimist at best…and he’s taught me so many lessons and I don’t think he even realizes it.

Martin & I- Orlando 2010

He’s taught me to not focus on the negative. I at times, have a habit of dwelling on the negative, the bad things that happened that day, to the point where, it wrecks my whole day. Observing how Martin ever so carefully chooses his mood and his attitude for the day, has made me realize, how much life I’m wasting when I focus on negative energy like that for long periods of time.

He’s taught me how to sacrifice, and to live a simpler life. On one of our first few dates, I remember Martin asking me, what do I expect from a man? I told him some of my standards (respect, trust, loyalty, friendship and spontaneity, good listener), but he wasn’t looking for any of those. What he was getting closer to was, living quarters. He asked me where I sleep. I said on my bed, where else? He replied with the fact that he doesn’t sleep on a bed, in fact, he doesn’t even own one. He sleeps on the floor. At first, I laughed, not understanding why anyone would choose to sleep on a hard, cold floor. But as the months went by, I learned more about him, he explained the days of which he spent in China at university, studying Sport and Chinese language. It was there where, for a few years of his life, he became accustomed to a very simple way of life. Sleeping on wooden boards, surrounded by mosquito nets, and for a toilet, well, the place to relieve yourself was nothing more than a hole cut in the ground. No stall; no privacy.

He’s taught me how to appreciate the differences in people, and not be judgmental. Martin is a man who is very well traveled. He’s been all over the world (most of Europe, China, Peru and the United States). He can speak a few different languages (English, Czech, Mandarin, Cantonese). Through his travels, he’s gained a sense of humility, that the world is much bigger than just him and the way of life that he knows. Martin has helped me to realize that just because I think something is the norm, is not how the rest of the world views it. Maybe something that Americans think is normal and a part of daily life, people in other parts of the world may not understand, they might even think its weird. I try not to be judgmental, but at times, I catch myself. I’m guilty of pointing and staring at things or people that make me scratch my head and wonder, what the… But I’ve gotten better with maturity and time. Now I’ve come to realize, each has their own life, their own individuality. And what’s life about? To cultivate a sense of well being, and happiness. So do what makes you happy, don’t worry about what others think.

He’s shown me what true companionship means. Martin encompasses all of what it means to be a great partner. He’s a great friend and delicate lover. He lends an available ear whenever I’ve got some great news or some depressing news. He’s my adventure partner. We’re always on the go, doing something with the day, whether it’s a spontaneous drive, trip to the beach, a nature walk,or catching the sunset in photos. We both know how to enjoy life, to really live life. Martin never lacks in affection. He’s secretly emotional, he’s not one to show his emotions on his sleeve, he’s more reserved and hidden, but, when it comes to love, isn’t afraid to show a simple loving gesture, such as a kiss on the cheek, a gentle arm around the waist or a prolonged embrace, for as long as I need it.

He’s always encouraging me to do better, to never give up, whether the challenge lie in school, work or just daily life. Sometimes he helps me to look inside myself and realize my own strength. He reminds me that life isn’t handed to us easily, it’s a constant uphill battle, and that you should welcome that, everyday.

Dinner on a beautiful November day...

He’s a man that I never tire of learning about, and things just keep getting better as our relationship grows. I couldn’t be happier…

Falling in Love & Falling in Lust…

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I am not a girl who tackles the subject of love easily. Not because of some repeat bad experiences, but, because I proceed with caution when it comes to love. I’ve never been one to mutter those three words easily. If I love somebody, I really love them. If I don’t, I do not say those three words. This mindset is responsible for breaking a few hearts along the way…there were guys I dated who whispered those three little words to me, and I wouldn’t reciprocate. They would say, “You don’t feel that way too?” And me, being my sometimes too-honest self, would reply, “No, sorry I’m just not there yet.” In fact, sometimes I asked myself, would I ever be there yet? Was it such a bad thing if I wasn’t? Absolutely not.

This set myself apart from schoolmates in high school. Trotting to class everyday, this gave a good opportunity for people watching. I would observe some of the girls drooling over their jock boyfriends, hands intertwined, practically glued to the hip; walking to class in these big, oversized Letter jackets with names like, Nicholson, Taylor, Baker as some strange way of claiming property. I on the other hand, never really advertised whom I was dating. If the subject came up, would I answer? Yes, of course. But I wasn’t the type who needed to be in love, on some desperate search for togetherness and longing. I was never afraid to be alone, to be single. I wasn’t the type who constantly needed somebody on speed dial. I was fine on my own.

I remember some of the lunchtime conversations in high school, sometimes the subject of love would come up. Everyone would share their opinions about it; mine was always the most interesting. When I would tell them that I hadn’t fallen in love, my classmates gave me a baffled stare like,  How so? But I always maintained; never one to succumb to peer pressure. Just because some of my friends had jumped on the teeny-bopper love train, didn’t mean I had to rush to find some Joe to be arm candy for. If my friends were happy and in love, that was great, but I never felt like I had to follow.

Besides, for only being a Senior in high school, at times I felt like I was ahead of the pack, in terms of maturity. I would look at my classmates and wonder, do they really know what love is? Or is it just more lust, an I need you- I want you- I can’t live without you- You’re my soul mate type of romance? As with most high school relationships, many of them don’t last. I could see right through so many of my classmate’s relationships. Just observing from a far, I could point out the obvious issues within them, and shaking my head, said, Yea, good luck with that. My classmates fell in and out of love like they changed their underwear. Girls that were jealous; boys that were insecure; boys who were controlling; girls who were jealous, and vice-versa. It all was a big comical promenade to me, watching my peers grapple with the stresses of a relationship. Some of them tried to deal with it in a mature way, but many, didn’t know how, because we were all still maturing…

I found that many people, from high school, on into college, and beyond, were either people who were truly in love, or people who were in lust. What might this mean, you ask? A person who’s in lust, is someone who, by my definition, is so desperate for love and what embodies it, that they seek to find a person with whom, they mold into their one and only, their sweetheart, their forevermore…they build the person up to be what they envision as a soul mate, an ideal partner, possibly marriage material. And then, BOOM! reality hits, something went wrong, the feeling’s not there anymore, there’s tension, and all of your hopes and dreams for that relationship that lasted a mere month or two, have now shattered onto the ground.

I pride myself on not being a person who’s in lust. Since I’ve always been a person who treads the waters of love and romance with caution, I know in my heart, that when I  love someone, I really love them- because the feeling of love doesn’t wash over me easily. I’m a more picky/choosy one when it comes to letting my feelings out of the closet. Although not afraid to get in touch with those warm, fuzzy moments, I know when I’m really feeling someone, and when I’m really not.

Honesty is the best policy, to not sugarcoat. I’ve always been brutally honest, I probably get that from my strict Italian upbringing. My parents were a no-bullshit set. They would call it out when you were screwing up and praise you when you were doing right. This molded me into who I am current day, and I apply this to many dates and relationships, starting back in high school. I always looked at high school as a time of self-discovery. But does that self-discovery cease when you graduate high school? No. The journey to find oneself continues on into your twenties and on into adulthood. Life is nothing but a constant journey, that’s what makes it so rich, even in it’s ups and downs. If life were in an constant upswing, it would be boring. We would not be challenged enough. We would get tired of the easy win.

I found this to be true when it comes to love.

Love means many different things to many people, so with each person having their own definition of love and what it means to be loved, it’s hard not to come off as biased. However, when I meet women who say, “It’s been three months and I love my man. He’s my everything.” I have to laugh. How does someone become your everything in a three month timespan? Hello, lust and infatuation. I’m not suggesting that the possibility of falling into love quickly is nonexistent. It happens. But I believe many people get wrapped up in the idea of being in love. Although not in love themselves, the idea, what it means to be in love, all of which encompasses the ideal, consumes them…and they, even after a mere three months, believe they’re in love too… à la lust.

As said before, I’m not someone who falls in love quickly. I can count the number of times I’ve said I love you on one hand. I am one who, at first, enjoys the freshness of a new relationship, the unknown, the mystery of trying to get to know someone. But, I don’t dive headfirst and get all wrapped up in a needy, desperate conglomeration. I’m one who appreciates space in a relationship. I’ve never understood these types who need to be together 24/7…why? While togetherness is a necessary ingredient to any relationship, time apart is just as important. When you’re apart, you embrace yourself, learn about yourself, take time to indulge in things you like to do. For me, that’s walking on the beach alone, taking a spontaneous drive alone, eating alone, photography, crafts, painting. Also, time apart is necessary to appreciate the person in your life even more. When we feel that certain emptiness, that void, that our better half is gone, it forces us to reflect on that person, and remember what we love about them in the first place. People who don’t value space often have trouble in the relationship. Why? Because with no room for personal space leaves no room for self-expression. People become stifled, suffocated. They rebel more against the person reaching out to them, like some caged, feral animal. I realized this early on, back in high school; like I said before, I felt like I was ahead of the pack maturity-wise.

I’m one who falls in love gradually with time. For me, a connection become deeper, stronger, and more meaningful with each month and year that flips by on the calendar. The photo collection with each other grows, picture frames become abundant on the shelf. You learn more about each other, sometimes good things, sometimes not so good things. Any relationship takes time. Getting to know someone takes time. Getting to love someone takes time.

Love develops a lot better when it is not rushed, when it unfolds naturally, under the layers, revealing its true self. I’ve never understood people who hurry everything, hurry their emotions, hurry the togetherness, hurry the feeling to be loved. Why not just let it happen as it will? Take it as it comes? These people often come off as too eager, too desperate to be loved and to give love, and as a result, often push away potentially good mates. I pride myself as one who, from youth, always enjoyed my solitude, so, as a result, even if I really liked a boy, never rushed things, I just took things as they came. Of course, I was excited for the next date and the future of the unknown but, I never built giant grandiose expectations in my head…like one friend of mine, we will call him M.

M. is a divorced father of two who’s trying to get back into the dating game. Although hard, walking from a marriage of four years, he’s managed to attract quite a slew of attractive women in their late twenties to mid-thirties, with the help of such internet dating sites as eHarmony and Match.com. As a friend, I’ve always lent my ear for advice to M. when it comes to dating, listening to his experiences about women who either, lit up his life for a short while, or fizzled out before he knew it. Over the last year, reflecting on our conversations of romantic guidance, I’ve come to realize: M. is too eager. All the women he’s attracted have seemingly all, fled. Much in the same fashion might I add. I remember the most recent romantic interest, M. muttered I love you to after only knowing her roughly four weeks. Later, things fell apart, she stopped returning his calls and texts, and she disappeared into the internet dating loop again. When he told me this, my first question to him was…

“Well, did she reciprocate?”

His answer, “Well, yea, but I could tell she was a bit uneasy…”

“Well, no wonder M.! You’ve only known her four weeks? You probably scared her off! There’s nothing wrong with showing raw emotion, but sometimes, some things, are better left unsaid, especially until you’re sure how the person on the other hand will handle it.”

M. went on about how he thought they had this magnetic chemistry, how she had laughed at his jokes, how they could talk for hours on the phone, how they had texted sweet nothings throughout the day, how he never experienced something so powerful in such a short amount of time. He thought, he thought, he thought…Me, being a trustworthy, honest friend told him straight up…”You’re too eager M. And I say this, not trying to hurt your feelings, but because, I feel if you don’t hear it, it will hinder you from finding someone really great and worthwhile.”

M. was one of those aforementioned types discussed above, one who falls in lust. He’s in love with the idea of being in love. He wants love so bad and to be loved so bad, the poor lad comes off overeager, too willing to please, too available…and he ends up getting snuffed out like a cigarette. M. and I talk every now and again, and each time, I make sure I’ve got ample time on the telephone to listen to his latest dating adventure and offer up my advice. But, really, that’s all I can do. Advise. I can’t make M. change, he’s gotta change. You have to be the change you want to see, right?

So, love. Ah, the one thing most sought after in this life. It’s one of the basic human needs. Without it, most stumble aimlessly through life chasing it, some believe they’ve got it, but are unsure, and a few lucky ones, actually have got it, grow deeper and deeper in love and continue to learn about each other as the years pass. There’s a favorite quote of mine, I was attracted to it because of the message it holds. It captures the essence of what I define love to be…

The most wonderful of all things in life, I believe, is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a glowing depth, beauty, and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing, it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident.

-Hugh Walpole Sr.

Can you tip-toe around my feelings?

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Emotions are a part of life, but they can't overtake you...

I have a friend, we will call refer to her as L. in this post. L. is a nice girl, friendly, wants to be liked and be likable. She’s your typical ‘people pleaser.’ In her perfect world, everyone gets along, there’s no disagreements or tension, and it’s all gravy. She’s not like me, as I’m more of a realist. I realize that some people will mesh well, others not so much. People will compliment you, and also tell you when you’re acting like a fool. Some people will like you, and others will not. It’s okay if you agree not to agree. You don’t have to be friends with everybody. You don’t have to follow the crowd, you can embark on your own path. So, in this regard, L. and I were different.

Of course, I would like everyone in the world to get along too, but it’s not the way of life. Growing is about forming your own opinions, relating to people and colliding with people, disagreeing and agreeing. Hearing what others have to say, even, if it’s not what you want to hear. This is where L. falters, pathetically.

The girl can’t take criticism or any negative comment. I’ve never seen someone so sensitive in my adult life. She’s 23 years old, but has the temperament of a 6 year old. L. was the kind of girl who, you almost had to be careful with your words, because she was tears-prone, meaning, emotionally fragile. This was hard for me because, I’m blunt and honest, something I get from my Italian family. My family would tell you when you were doing good, and when you were screwing up. Direct, to the point. Growing up, there were times where it did hurt me on occasion, but now, looking back, so thankful they did that, because they fortified me with a tough skin, and a determination to push myself  to always do better. Not to settle.

With L., there were times she’d call me, on her way home from work, crying on the phone…

L.- “My boss made me cry today…”

Me- “Why, what happened?”

L.- “She said I wasn’t performing up to speed, for how long I’ve been at the bank, I should be more efficient…and I try so hard…”

I sat on the other end of the phone for a minute, reflecting on what she had just said. The boss made you cry? No, you made yourself cry. You let yourself get consumed by a critique from your boss, which brought on a slew of tears. Really? Grow some tough skin, girl. Now I’m not suggesting that I’ve never broke down into tears, of course I have. Sometimes, due to the pressures of life, work, school, financial obligations, taking care of a home, children, and everything else in between…it’s enough to make someone run around like a chicken with its head cut off. But that’s more stress related. My friend L. here, had such a thin, fragile emotional shell that she rendered herself practically incapable of being able to handle the not-so-peachy side of life.

Me- “Well, take it with a grain of salt. Nothing to get all upset about; it’s constructive criticism. You’re not always going to get praise. A boss, like a parent, should tell you when something isn’t up to par, or if there’s room for improvement. That’s life.”

L.- “I know, I know, it’s just I try so hard at my job to do well I guess it just upsets me when I hear I’m not doing as well as I should.”

Me- “Yes, but if we were told all the time how good we were doing, even if something wasn’t up to par, then how would we ever know that it could be better, that it could be improved? That’s why it’s necessary to hear the negative from time to time, so we can grow from that and learn.”

After this small friend to friend counseling session, I hung up the phone. Geez, I thought. Some people…just live in their own little fabricated world where they think everything should be peaches. Well, newsflash! It’s not! That’s life people! If you can’t take the heat, get out, so to speak. If life was full of people praising us and telling us that yes, you do look great in those pants (even when you really looked fat) it would be a horrible world. We as a species, would be walking around naively assuming that everything is dipped in sugar and people are generally nice. No, not so. Life is full of setbacks, tough decisions, trying moments in which our strength is measured, and uncomfortable situations in which our composure is tested. This is how we grow as a person. If life were easy and candy-coated, it wouldn’t be as interesting. We would get bored with the familiarity of pleasantness.

Looking at my friend L., I just want to shake her and say, toughen up! It’s life, it happens. There’s times where my advice gets through to her but then other times, where it goes through one ear and out the other. When it comes down to it, a friend, coworker nor a family member can change you. They can guide, but you have to change you. Be the change you want to see.

Babies being baby makers: Since when is it cool to be knocked up and on welfare?

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No, this is not what I aspire to be...

I’ve recently become annoyed with the state of the media these days, namely, in print. Aside from catching the occasional episode of Anthony Bourdain or Seinfeld, I don’t watch a lot of TV, but it seems like every time I’m waiting in the grocery line, scanning the magazine covers, there’s always something about that stupid, waste of a TV show “16 and Pregnant”.

Now I’ve never seen one episode, and I purposely neglect to. The show follows various teen moms, some with their man and some without, and documents their daily lives, from the baby, to the relationship drama some have, to the daily struggles of juggling a baby and academics. Now I can’t help but think, why would someone care about some young girl, not even graduated from high school yet, and watch her grapple through life trying to be some responsible adult? It truly amazes me that magazines like OK!, Life & Style, and US would fill their publications up with such nonsense. And it’s not only in the magazines, it’s everywhere. In the mall, in the grocery store, at theme parks. I see these young girls toting around their babies like they’re some prize winning achievement of life. Newsflash girls: It’s not hot, and it’s definitely not admirable to be a young mom with no money, no education and in more than half the cases, without a man.

I’m 26 years old and I have no desire to procreate anytime soon. Bring on the contraception! I’m unlike many of the people I graduated with, many of whom are now married and have become parents. I’m in no hurry to have a child; there’s too many things I want to experience in life, too much territory begging to be chartered, and a lot of growing room to do when it comes to my career choice and educational goals. I’m all for procreating with someone you’re in love with, in a solid relationship with and whom has a stable financial outlook. But since when did it become something intriguing to be young, penniless, pregnant and alone? And the bigger question: why all the media attention to it?

I’ve never been one of those women who meticulously plan out their life, in terms of some unrealistic chronological timeline. You know the ones…

“I wanna get married around 21,22…”

“By 25 I want to have two kids. A boy and a girl.”

“By 30 I want to have at least one more.”

And not to forget that naive adage, “We’ll be together forever.” Ugh…

I’m not putting down someone’s individual dreams and goals. I’m just being realistic. I often find that the people who conjure up these big, grand ideas of how they want their life to fall into place, are almost always let down. Why? Well, because it’s this simple…you can’t outline your life. Life happens. You have to roll with the wave, adapt to the changes, and assimilate. So what if you’re not married in your early twenties? What’s the rush? Your twenties are a time of self-discovery, of coming into your own. Enjoy it. I know I’ve grown considerably from the time I was 21 to present. And I don’t understand this rush to get pregnant. It’s a known fact that most women are fertile well into their forties. Not that I want to wait that long to have a child, but it’s just a reminder. I don’t have a problem with procreation, I have a problem with women who aren’t ready for the parenting part. Sure it’s all exciting to be pregnant and get the nursery ready, but, the reality is…anyone can be pregnant. Not everyone knows just how to be a good parent. And this is part of my hang up with this whole babies having babies ordeal. When you’re in high school, even when you’re a freshman in college, you’re still developing. You’re still discovering what the world is about, what you are about, where you stand on certain issues. I’m not suggesting young mothers are incapable of being good parents, but what I mean is when you’re that young, you haven’t had enough experience to come full circle on life. You’re still learning. So my question is, do they even know what being a parent means?

When you birth a baby, that’s forever. Suddenly, your life isn’t about you anymore, it’s about that baby (or should be, anyway). As on that “16 and Pregnant” show, some of the girls are seen going out, drinking, partying, flirting with other guys other than their baby’s daddy (hate that term), desperate on the search for ones who won’t run from a girl with a baby on her hip. Okay, I’m sorry but once you give birth, it’s time to slow it down a bit. This is the sacrifice you’ve given. And although it’s totally believable that every new parent will get exhausted from time to time, primarily, your time should be given to that baby, 100%. And if these young moms aren’t ready to do that, then they’re not ready for the selflessness that’s part of becoming a mother.

Once you’re a mother, you’re not only tied to that baby for life, but also to the baby’s daddy (hate that term) or mama. And while it’s a warm, fuzzy notion to assume that everybody will be happily ever after, reality suggests it doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t understand the idea of hurrying up and marrying when you’re pregnant. I think that’s the worst thing you could do.

Although I’m not promoting having a child out of wedlock, if it’s a known fact that your relationship is rocky, do you really think it’s going get better with a marriage certificate? I’m all for having shared parental rights and raising a child separately if the couple is indeed not right for each other. If you get married, and in 4 years, divorce, this sets the stage for a whole other slew of obligations: child support, spousal support, divorce costs. No bueno.

Many unwed young mothers lack health insurance, and even if some carry insurance, some plans don’t cover labor & delivery. And what about opening savings accounts for your child, or investing in some savings bonds for your child? If you already don’t have any money how are you to provide for a better future for them? So not only are you pregnant, but you’re also setting yourself up for a lifetime of struggle, starting with the huge medical bills. Who wants that? Surely not me.

An acquaintance of mine, who we’ll refer to as B., recently found out she’s expecting. She’s 21, has no college under her belt, but makes decent money as a dental assistant. She has no car, relies on her man to chaffeur her around town. And let’s just say, the time they spend together is somewhat dull. I rarely see the two go out and do anything, no day trips, no fun in the sun, no gallivanting around, doing ‘couple’ things. Sometimes I wondered if she purposely became pregnant to pull him in closer. They’d rather sit and waste away in front of the TV. Bizarre. Anyway, her other friends are all excited for her pregnancy, but I find myself being the lone, unexcited one. It’s not that I’m jealous or anything of the sort, but rather, I guess I look at it from a more logical point of view. What I see is this: a young girl, totally unaware of the world, somewhat sheltered of what else is out there. A girl who has no money, no health insurance, and is totally and completely dependent upon her man. This worries me…while everyone else is talking baby clothes, nursery items, and possible name choices, I sit back and ponder how fragile a situation this is. If I were in her shoes, I’d be freaking out. I surely wouldn’t be flashing my WIC card around. She applied for Medicaid and is now compiling a huge paper mountain of bills from her OB/GYN visits, none of which she can pay for. So this leaves me wondering, does she contemplate the volatility of her situation? Or was I the only one thinking about all this logically?  I just couldn’t get all giddy about her pregnancy because there were so many things stacked up against her. All I could think of was how much she didn’t need this pregnancy. And this is an ongoing theme with so many young moms out there. Regardless of the reason, so many bring babies into the world when they’re not ready-emotionally, financially, etc. All I could think was, if you’re having trouble affording yourself, how the hell are you going to afford a child? It’s just my opinion that one should procreate when they’re at a point in their life where they’ve done enough self-discovery to know who they are, to have a moral compass, and, to some degree, hold a stable career. True, even the busiest career minded people aren’t always ready for a baby, but surely a stable financial situation makes the transition from single to parent a whole lot smoother.

This has always been an issue I could go for hours and hours about, I think my recent sightings of young 17, 18, 19, 20 somethings strolling around with their babies made the issue creep back into my head… this ends my rant, applause for contraception and some planning!

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