The Reinvention Begins

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Ever have a song stuck in your head like an ear worm.  Right now for me it is ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go” from The Clash. I have spent the past 20+ years running away from my home, thinking life would be better outside of the small rural town I grew up in.  Sure, it’s been amazing. I have built a life, a career, made great friends across the country, found and lost the love of my life, and worked my way to success in NYC, the toughest and most competitive city in the country, yet, something is missing.  I guess I’ve known it all along, but have been closed off to it. That’s how we go through life isn’t it?  Seeing what we want to see, until we’re ready to open ourselves up to the truth.

The journey of self reflection is never easy but it is rewarding. I’ve done a lot of thinking recently and I’ve found that I’ve been waiting for things to choose me in life, not me choosing them. Sure, I’ve had to make the decision to go with what’s been thrown at me, but I’ve never sought out something I really wanted.

The more I think about that one question, the more I realize I have never really known what I want, except to be in love, but women aren’t supposed to say that. It’s weak and simple minded, we are supposed to be independent, self sufficient and equal to a man, put our career first and worry about the rest later. But when is later? After the next promotion? The next job? The next move? Before long you’re looking in the mirror wondering where your 30’s and half of your 40’s went and how you’re going to find love before the wrinkles really set in!

I fell into my career and it was a great fit. I threw myself into the job constantly pushing myself to grow, change, evolve and be the best I could be and it worked. I was in my early 30’s and on top of the world, I won an Emmy, I had a great boyfriend this was it! It was finally my time!!  Then the bottom dropped out. The man I had fallen in love with died, and I felt the only thing I had to lean on was the job. Once again, I threw myself into it because it’s what I knew. It was a safe place. I could hide from the pain of my broken heart for a few hours a day, and before long I was numb.  I had lost my passion for the job, living life, and finding love again.

5 years later I would move to NYC and learn to embrace life again, in the greatest city in the world, but once again I’m throwing myself into work, and once again I’m not happy. It seems pretty obvious when you write it out, but it has been eluding me for a decade.

In life, you meet people along the way that change your perspective.  Some are acquaintances, others know you better than you know yourself, but all of them bring something interesting to the table, if you listen and pay attention.

I recently met up with a college sorority sister and she said something that stuck with me. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was essentially ‘isn’t it time you put something else first?’ She’s right! I don’t have a fighting chance at finding love if I can’t make it a priority and I can’t make it a priority when I’m burned out, overworked and stressed out.

So I sit here mapping out the next phase, creating the second half, trying to determine what I want and how I’m going to get it, while maintaining my independence and integrity. What do I want to do with my life! Say that out loud.  It’s liberating and terrifying at the same time!!  And once you figure it out, how do you do it?!

Lucky for me I have some great friends, like Oprah! Super Soul Sunday has become my Sunday Funday; the books ‘Do What You Are’ and ‘The Pathfinder’ are my roadmap and I’ve got Sharpies and a sketch pad to highlight my goals on this journey to the ultimate destination…. happiness and love!

I believe both start at home, the place I never thought I’d return, yet somehow it seems to be calling me back.  Like an old friend, warm and familiar, where I can be myself and people ‘get’ me.  Who knows? The next song that may be playing over and over in my head could be John Mellencamp ‘Small Town’.

Bring it on universe!!!  I’m ready!!!

Dating in the digital age

Exhausting, that’s how I would describe jumping back into the dating pool again.  Sure, I’ve dipped my toes in the water over the past few years, but there has always been something preventing me from diving in head first. Perhaps it was intuition.

A few years ago my cats were sick and required a lot of attention (insert crazy cat lady joke here), last year it was my father who unfortunately did not make it and a dear friend who also lost her battle with cancer.  All of those things required me to give all of myself emotionally and left nothing in the tank for anyone else.

Flash forward a few months and I’m back!  After casually dating a man that I shared an amazing connection with, but wasn’t ready for me I’m ready to get what I deserve.  At least I think it’s what I want. I often wrestle with the idea of marriage and a long term commitment.  I do want that in my life, but am I really ready for it?  When I fall into it and it feels right I’m perfectly fine with it, but the thought of it on it’s own is overwhelming but what’s a girl to do?  You can’t win if you don’t play… so I’m playing!

I have downloaded every dating app I can find and for the past 10 days I have been hitting them hard, trying different approaches, different pictures, different guys and here’s what I’ve found.  This is utterly exhausting and if you want to do it right, it could be a full time job!

Here’s a brief breakdown of my thoughts on the apps and sites as they relate to NYC.

Happ’n – I love the synchronistic approach of this one. As New Yorkers we are constantly bombarded with stimulation so we keep our heads down, focus and go on our way. But how many potential matches are we not seeing? A lot apparently!  I have matched with several men on this one, yet no one seems to be terribly concerned about actually connecting. Like most, there has to be a mutual match before you can connect and there are plenty of those but there is no real ‘connecting’ happening (see how I did that) as far as I can see, and that leads me to Bumble.

Bumble puts women in the drivers seat, but you know what they say about women drivers. Kidding!!  Or am I?  I’m not sure we’re made out for this.  With Bumble, as with all the apps, you both have to match before you can communicate.  The difference here is the woman has to initiate the conversation and she only has 24 hours to do it.  It’s great in theory because it prevents the ‘match game’ that creates a connection but never sees results, BUT you have to get the guys to respond and I haven’t quite figured that out yet.  In the past 2 days I’ve had 15 matches and 2 replies. Before you get all judgy on me take a step back. I’m super light hearted, fun and casual and I’m not leading with a boring line like ‘how’s your day?’. I have taken the time to create a quick question about something in their profile or pictures to initiate a response. Come on, I’m a journalist I know how to get people to talk… but not here. Crickets! Ok, so how about a site marketing to singles really looking for a relationship? Yep, you guessed it… eHarmony.

eHarmony can be a great tool for a lot of singles, but it’s not for me. If you have not had the pleasure of making it to your 40’s yet, let me explain something to you. There is a large gap between the men, yet there are so many similarities. I know it sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth but stay with me here.  Almost all of the men say they are passionate about their kids.  I get it, I would expect that, but isn’t there something else? When everyone says the same thing it’s hard to get a gauge of what sets them apart.  And there’s not much there that sets them apart, except the physical.  Uhm, yeah. This is the land of have’s and have nots. I’ve seen men in their early 40’s who look 60, and 55 year olds who look like they are in their late 30’s.  There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.  As if finding a needle in a haystack isn’t hard enough, now I’m looking for a unicorn too? Sorting through dozens of profiles with similar responses to maybe find one that is interesting, only to find out they are 4’10” is not cool.  True story.  Not to mention the overwhelming response when you join. It’s a bit like blood in shark infested waters, and that leads me to Coffee Meets Bagel.

Coffee Meets Bagel has mastered the art of selectivity. They send 1 match at noon every day, but in order to compete with other more gluttonous apps they have started sending a still manageable 4-6.  They have also incorporated similar aspects of some of the other apps in order to increase connections.  There is a limited time to communicate, which can be extended and in my experience this one has the best rate of return.  The men seem to be genuinely interested, and there is communication.

Hinge is another I have used in the past, but it seems to be just that.  A has been.  It connects you with friends of your Facebook friends, sort of like an online party.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any quality matches there in a few weeks so it is officially deleted.  As with all apps there is an ebb and flow and this one seems to be done as far as I can tell.

I have also given Match a try but am putting it aside for the moment.  No need to pay for too many sites, and since I have tried it before I thought I would do something different.  OK Cupid and Tinder also seem to be popular at some point they may be on the radar but for now my hands are full (and so is the memory on my phone).

If you made it to the end of this, congratulations you may have lasted longer than my online dating history.  On the off chance I have the mental stamina to continue, pickup lines are welcome.  How do men do this?

 

 

Looking back to move forward

I’m back.  There’s nothing quite like a birthday to help you re-evaluate your life and get back on track and this recent birthday did just that, like a nice slap in the face and that’s why I’m here.

Ten years ago I didn’t know it but I had just met the love of my life and we were newly dating. To say the last decade has been a roller coaster is an understatement. We dated for three years before he died and I lost the future I thought we had together. Since then I’ve been trying to put my life back together one baby step at a time. I made it through the grieving process and 5 and a half years later took a leap of faith and moved to New York to reset the compass and start the next chapter.

So here I am, 9 months later in the first few hours of my birthday and that’s when things got interesting.  I had just finished working an 11 hour shift which carried over into the first few hours of my birthday.  Because of my new hours, I knew I would start and end this birthday at work, so I just told myself to suck it up and move on.  When I left the office building at 1:40am it was raining so I decided to forgo the subway and hail a cab.  If only it were that easy.  After three failed attempts, one of which included the driver stopping asking me where I was going and then driving away, I gave up and headed to the Times Square station.

During my time there I learned something most New Yorkers don’t know, they actually clean the subway.  It may only happen once a year but the power washer was out flooding the hallway, with water trickling down the stairs and onto the platform where I was waiting.  Not the loveliest of experiences but I found a place to stand where I could avoid the water and buried my face in my phone to avoid seeing whatever is in the subway at 140am.

After about 20 minutes of waiting I finally pulled my head out of my phone and that’s when I realized my train likely wasn’t coming any time soon. Partially because of the worker standing on the subway track… and the sign that said my train is running express, which means it’s not going to get me close to my apartment.  Great.  Back to the original plan, try to get a cab… Again.

As I was leaving. feeling defeated, exhausted and depressed about the start of my first birthday in this magical city I looked over and saw a familiar face.  I couldn’t quite place her at first, so I looked away and then did a double take.  And that’s when I realized it was the cleaning lady from my office.  We smiled and waved to each other and both went on our separate ways.  Perfect.  The first friendly face I see on my actual birthday is the cleaning lady.  Isn’t there a saying about that?  Whatever you’re doing on your birthday or whoever you are with you will be with all year?  Great. My social circle has been reduced to the cleaning crew.

I shook it off and darted up the stairs in hopes she was my lucky charm and sure enough she was.  There were about 4 cabs at the light and one of them motioned for me to get in.  Yes! I was on my way things were looking up!  I promptly hopped in and got settled, gave the driver my cross streets and we were off.  Then I heard something I hadn’t heard in decades… Debbie Gibson singing “Only In My Dreams”.  I was a bit dumbfounded, isn’t it 2014?  Why was this song playing?  Was it in my head, and if it was… WHY?  The song eventually changed to something current but I had to question what it all meant.

How far back have I gone in my quest to move forward in life?

I’m currently working the hours and a shift I worked 20 years ago when I started my career and my friend is the cleaning lady who speaks limited English!  And why after working 20 years in this business am I settling for starting and ending my birthday at work with little time in between.

Adding to it all, just a week ago I was doing the same thing… working… instead of honoring a life cut short, the anniversary of my loves death. That is not how I want to live my life. We are only given so much time on this earth and it’s time for me to pay attention to MY life. And so begins the latest journey, full of introspection, tough questions, hard answers, and difficult decisions.

Day 1: I’m officially 40

It’s finally here.  Today is the day.  I am officially in my 40’s.

After a weekend full of events and no sleep I knew today would need to be low key, so I rented a poolside cabana and invited a few of the besties to spend the day relaxing with me.

The Pixie told our cabana boy it was my birthday, and he asked if today was actually the day and I had to pause.

I’ve had so many celebrations, and I’ve gotten so used to saying it’s tomorrow, or it’s Sunday that it took me off guard.

‘Yes, oh yeah, today is the birthday’

It was perfect.  We all sat around the table, exhausted and nearly staring into space.  We couldn’t figure out if we were still drunk or tired or maybe a combination of both.

We kept trying different combinations of drinks, and food to try to pull us out of the exhaustion.  Beer, caffeine, mimosas, food, noting seemed to work.

After it was all said and done I headed home to come down and relax from the weekend’s events.

I physically couldn’t do any more, not even go to dinner.

Looking back on the last 10 years I’m left knowing I have grown into a different person and one I really like.  Not that I didn’t like the 30 year old version of me, but this version is more refined with more wisdom and a greater appreciation for just about everything.

So many friends have touched my life, and I’m learning I have done the same for them.  What an amazing and wonderful experience.  I am so very fortunate I can’t even express it in words.  It’s like winning the friendship lottery.

I’m looking forward to taking these fabulous friends, some new, and some old with me through the next 4o years.

Day 2: The big party

It was time to head home from our very quick wine tasting adventure, and in some respects I wished it didn’t have to end.

There is something about a good group of gal pals that can make a trip that much better.

Before we left town we stopped at Randal’s Restaurant for breakfast, before it was over the owner… and head chef… Randal was out at our table getting his picture taken with me for my birthday.  Funny stuff!

Before long I was relaxing on my couch for a little while getting ready for the big night.  The party of the decade… for me at least.

As 430 hit the race to turn 40 really began.  Rush to the hotel to check in and drop off the bags, then dart over to drybar to get my hair done, then back to the hotel for quick makeup the dress and then it was out the door.

At one point during the mad rush I found myself almost nauseous and I had no idea why.  This is the biggest event I have ever done for myself.

Once I walked into the restaurant I immediately calmed down.  One by one, people started to arrive.  What an amazing evening, I was surrounded by all the people I love and it was happy.

Before long I saw champagne being handed out, the Sweetheart gave the toast and I was teary.  I can’t express to you how lucky I feel to have such amazing friends.

Following the toast, was the cake and then a special gift from my close group of friends.

The BFF, Spa Girl, Pixie, Coffee Fairy, Sunshine, Perky, Sweetheart, the Cheerleader and a few others had pooled their money to give me an airline gift card…. what?!  Who gets treated like this?

I am so lucky and blessed I couldn’t have asked for a better evening, but it wasn’t over.

The dance floor proved to be a weird experience all evening.  Sweetheart kept dragging me out there, and I didn’t mind.  I love live music and I love to dance so it was perfect.

The first time we went out a young, short guy came up and asked if I was married.  I was so confused, it was such a random question to ask, then I realized I was wearing a tiny crown.

‘oh no… I’m 40’  uh… not exactly the best response I was later told.  He told me my dress was sexy and I looked 25.  So the dance floor wasn’t half bad.  Before long I repeated the conversation with another guy in the same group, it really was kind of crazy.

Our second trip to the dance floor ended with the band asking me to come up on stage.  What?!  I played along and had a good time.

It’s so funny 5 years ago I would have been mortified, embarrassed and would have crawled into a hole or just been so stubborn I wouldn’t have made it to the stage.  So maybe there is something about 40 that makes you comfortable in your own skin.

After my stage debut I was told the surprises were over.  Although I was told the same thing before the band. but it was all good.

By the time the night was over we were back on the dance floor a 3rd time with a group of Canadian businessmen.  What a strange turn of events.

But hands down the best birthday I’ve ever had.  There is something to be said for giving up control.  I had no expectations, and wasn’t stressed about planning what an amazing concept!  Wow there really is wisdom with age!

Day 3: Staring Down 40-Fest begins

After work I rushed home to meet the girls so we can start out on the first leg of the Staring Down 40-Fest… wine tasting.

The Spa Girl, and the Pixie, met at my house, we packed up the Encourager’s car and headed over to pick up the BFF…. and we were off.

It was a short hour and a half drive, up the mountain.  We turned off the interstate on a quiet winding road, and the immediate reaction was that we were about to embark on an adventure reminiscent of a horror movie.

At least the reaction from a few of the girls, small winding roads are where I’m from, so it felt very comfortable to me.

The Spa Girl led us in the right direction, she kept saying she was smelling the wine…. aaahhh a girl after my own heart.

We hit the first winery and grabbed a ‘flight’, then we each grabbed a glass and sat down to enjoy a delicious cheese and meat platter.

Then it was off to the next winery… time was ticking away… and there was wine to drink.  We decided to make a stop and get some food in our bellies before downing more vino and it was a good call.

Harry’s Hideaway was our spot, we walked in to the restaurant and told the gal doing the seating we had 5 people.  Her response… ‘we don’t have room for 5 people’, and then we looked around.

The restaurant had a total of 4 tables in it, but she was happy to help us out by putting some tables together outside.

Many many stories came out during dinner and before long I realized why Adel had put us outside… we were the rowdy bunch.

Cars pulled up and the passengers knew it too.  A few even commented about us being ‘banished’, but we didn’t care.

Before long we had to hit the road and get to the next tasting room, to continue our rowdiness and we did not disappoint.

At the next tasting room we promptly got another ‘flight’, and we found out our host was also having a birthday, just a few days after mine.

We grabbed Yahtzee and started to play, a few little girls there with their parents were intrigued by the grown up versions of themselves.

They came over to our table and watched us, we befriended them, and before long we were all out on the dance floor rocking out to Justin Bieber played by the tasting room DJ.

And that’s when it turned south.  The Encourager is a bit crazy with the camera so she asked us to do a Charlie’s Angel pose, ok no problem… that’s cool we can do that.

After the Angels photo shoot, she ordered us to lay on the floor.  What?!  We all looked at her like she was nuts, but eventually one by one we all laid down on the floor.

We had no idea what the vision was but we certainly followed directions.  She wanted all of our heads in a circle but there wasn’t enough room so we ended up being a pile of women, with arms and legs wrapped around each other laying on the floor of a tasting room.  Nice.

I was sandwiched by the Pixie and the BFF, and I heard the Pixie say ‘the BFF’s foot is in my coochie’ and I couldn’t take it.  I was laughing so hard I was crying.

The best… or maybe worst part of it all is that we weren’t even drunk!  Sure we were happy, because otherwise we wouldn’t have followed the silly directions.

When we finally managed to pull myself up off the floor, I surprisingly found a random bobby pin in my hair… how does that happen?

I didn’t want to know.

What an amazing first start to the big weekend.  I can’t wait for the rest of it, to see what happens!

Day 4: Relinquish control for happy times

Today started with an email in my inbox that read ‘Reminder: Your turning 40!’  Uh.. yeah… I know!

It was a reminder email for the party, but it was a bit of a shock to see so straight forward.

I went on with my day, which was a continuation of my red carpet treatment for my big weekend of parties.

Today… my first ever spray tan, which seemed harmless enough.

Never mind that I had to strip down to nearly nothing in front of a complete stranger in a tiny room and let her spray me in places very few have seen.

The entire time I kept thinking to myself ‘this is ridiculous’, the things we do for the sake of beauty.  The voice in my head started to drown out the gal doing my tan.

She was rattling off care instructions worthy of a cashmere sweater…. rinse tonight… wash tomorrow but only with a mild soap ‘NO fragrance or alcohol!’, don’t shave for 3 days, pat dry, don’t wash your hands… what?!

The list went on and on, there were so many rules I couldn’t keep up with them.  Then… she told me my cats may want to lick the spray tan off me!

What in the world did I get myself into?  Am I going to wake up in the middle of the night with the 2 little guys going to town on my arms?  I determined the whole thing is very strange, but worth doing for special occasions.

There is absolutely no way this is something I could ever do on a regular basis… it’s too high maintenance.

On the drive home from work I decided I’m happy about the weekend festivities, and I realize why this year is different.

Because I gave up control of it, so I have no expectations in my head.  Whatever happens will be great because I don’t have it all worked out.  How in the world did it take me 40 years to figure this out?!

Crazy!  40 may not be so bad after all!

The birthday cards are starting to roll in too.  Today I got one from my mom and dad, filled with beautiful sentiments.  You know your parents love you but it’s so nice to hear they are proud of the woman I have become.

It’s definitely my turn to have another good birthday, and I’m certainly due… bring it on!