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Filtering by Tag: dating

And So My Heart Blazes

Amber Adrian

My heart has been broken wide open at least seven times in the past six years.

(Death, miscarriage, breakup, breakup, breakup, et cetera and on into infinity.)

I’m finally doing my best to help my heart stay open, to love for the sake of loving, rather than letting it snap shut when life twists.

I’m not quite sure yet what this requires, but I’m throwing everything I have at it.

So far, it feels amazing. Free. Like a huge weight has been lifted. Like I’m doing what I came here to do - and that’s all that’s required of me.

Because I’m afraid I’ll forget this brave new plan the next time my brain convinces me to fret about my ovaries (because that’s so much fun for everyone), I’m writing this down so I can reference it when I get triggered or when my heart tries to slam shut like a rusty bear trap on some unsuspecting person’s foot.

Because I will most definitely forget how good it felt to say, “I am going to love the next person who steps into my life as purely and relentlessly as I can, no matter how the relationship looks.”

I don’t want to forget how it feels to blaze with love through my texts and social media and every encounter like nothing can hurt me, because nothing can. Or, if it does, I am big enough to see it, feel it, and move through it, love still beating through me without getting clogged up somewhere in my spleen.

Dating from a place of joy and fun rather than need. If I’m walking through life radiating pure love, I don’t need anyone to give it to me. Because I’m fucking bathed in it.

That feels really good.

So I can just show up however I choose to show up in each moment and can allow everyone else to show up how they choose without needing anything specific from them.

While reminding myself to hold my vision of what I really want - the white farmhouse on lots of acres with ducks and baby goats and dogs and a couple of kids running through a fairy forest hung with crystals. My husband building me something in the barn while I write on my laptop in the yard.

Trusting that it will show up perfectly and in the right timing.

Every piece of that image is subject to adjustment, except the life partner o’ mutual adoration / oh-what-luck-that-we-found-each-other and the couple of kids running around. Even the baby goat is negotiable.

(Sort of. We don’t have to own a baby goat, but I will require baby goat access.)*

*Related: My friend Stephanie suggested that maybe her mother would let me FaceTime with her goats and I am wildly excited, to say the least.

So how does this feel? How can I relay this to my future self who will forget?

(Because I am relentlessly human and it feels like we humans spend most of our time trying to remember all the lessons we’ve already learned.)

It feels like possibility. Like I can love everyone who crosses my path without fear. It feels like my heart is a wide open field, rather than a rusty, broken plow I have to hide in the bushes so it doesn’t rip anything to shreds. Or protect so that it can still limp through the grass rather than having to be disassembled and put on the scrap heap.

Really, the best I can do is just keep muttering to myself “Let your heart blaze. Let your heart blaze.”

I don’t know how this is going to go. I don’t know how this is going to unfold for me. But it feels like the right way for me to move through life, because I’ve always known that I’m here to love as much and as best I can, and so why wouldn’t I do that every day to the best of my ability?

So here’s to loving relentlessly, self first, with so much overflow for everyone who crosses my path.

Because the my heart is an ocean metaphor? I don’t know.

Because the my heart is an ocean metaphor? I don’t know.

Why I'm Single

Amber Adrian

“You’re a fighter. Stop fighting everyone and marry the next guy who tells you he loves you.”

…is a thing I was told on a date recently.

I’m not saying he’s wrong. I’m also not prepared to admit he’s right.

But between breaking up with every person I’ve been in a real relationship with since 2008 and a dating strategy I like to call “saving time” and other people term “trying to scare him away”, I’m not sure I can safely write it off.

But it’s not like these guys who told me they loved me were proposing marriage and I was turning them down.

The very genesis of this whole date situation (and said comment I am now overthinking) was me making a joke about fried chicken and him asking me to marry him and me exclaiming, “Hey, that’s my first marriage proposal! Thanks!”

And then we went out and things were said and this remains my first marriage proposal which means I can probably claim the whole premise of his statement was flawed.

SO THERE, RANDOM DUDE I WILL PROBABLY NEVER SEE AGAIN WHO PEERED INTO MY SOUL AND SAW SYDNEY BRISTOW.

I do like to joke that I’m a love warrior.

Mainly because I keep throwing myself into the romance ring to get pummeled.

But maybe I get pummeled because I keep fighting.

What if I laid down whatever metaphorical axe I’m carrying and just … stopped?

What does that even look like?

I realize I’m raising a whole lot of metaphorical questions here that probably don’t have answers, but I’m curious.

It’s possible that I’m single because it just hasn’t been the right time. Or I haven’t met the right person. Or paths just kept unexpectedly diverging.

Or maybe I’m single because I push people away, so they run away, so I can claim it’s their fault instead of mine.

This is a dark train of thought and I will most definitely require a viewing of the Great British Bake-Off and people gently mixing cake batter when I’m done writing this so I don’t descend into a mild depression.

If you’re single when you want a life partner, is it your fault?

If it’s not your fault then is it someone else’s fault?

Or do people end up in partnerships purely by the grace of god?

(I get that people stay in partnerships through work and love and choosing the other person every day, but my problem is getting to the point where any of that is even a possibility.)

I am the x factor in my own life. But does that mean there’s something for me to do, to change? Or do I need to just trust that things will unfold in the right time?

Trusting is really goddamn annoying. Being open is really goddamn annoying. I would like certainty and a guarantee and preferably a date of arrival with a UPS tracking number.

If I had married in my early 30s like I thought I would, there are so many amazing people I never would’ve met.

That said, I think I’m done with the revolving door of dating.

So if anyone knows how to lay down the axe, step off the merry-go-round, and move into a new phase of life, I will happily listen. And if anyone has my UPS tracking number, I will bake you a cake.

Me and Sally, the real love of my life. This may be next year’s Christmas card.

Me and Sally, the real love of my life. This may be next year’s Christmas card.

Love: A Smug Tale Of Resilient Rib Cages

Amber Adrian

“Learning — slowly, slowly — to open up and love when I feel scared, rather than curl up like a threatened porcupine.”

That sentence was written in 2012 as my father was dying. I put his last days on Twitter because it helped anchor me as we floated around the hospital waiting for him to cast off into the next great adventure.

I’m thinking about it now because the anniversary of my father’s death is the day after Thanksgiving and I re-posted the tweets as a “Happy Death Day, Dad! You Were A Good One!” gesture.

Now I keep finding my eyes skimming over that one sentence - and worry that I’m back-sliding.

When we have these experiences, the ones that crack our hearts open, the raw vulnerability feels like it will last. Like this feeling of being broken open will last forever. There’s relief and even joy in it, as everything you’d kept bottled up comes flooding out.

But we rebuild. New experiences come in - like the explosion of three relationships in three years, whoops - and we start adding brick and new spackle to those heart walls.

As humans, we want to feel like we’re on a general upward trajectory. Moving forward, learning the lessons, growing. Onward and upward forever more.

But things just keep happening. Which is the definition of life, I guess.

Life: That Time When Things Kept Happening.

(Quick, someone give me a Pulitzer.)

After the implosion of three relationships in three years, I find myself being careful. Hesitant. Unwilling to blaze in the way I did the last three times.

I don’t want to curl up like a frightened hedgehog, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

How do you continue to open up and love when it feels like the last few times you tried, your rib cage got caved in by a baseball bat?

I know it’s possible. People do it. I’ve done it.

But letting go of the old experiences to allow in the new ones feels scary. Like I’ll forget something important if I do. Like I’ll lose something.

But I don’t want to be that person who lets fear win. Partly because it doesn’t sound like any fun, but mostly because I want to be smug about trampling fear beneath my fuzzy boots.

Love may not win, but smug will.

DEAR LIFE, I WANT TO BE SMUG ABOUT HOW BRAVE AND LOVING I AM. GOT IT? K THANKS.

How do you throw yourself off the cliff again? How do you face down the baseball bat and say TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT! RIB CAGE OF STEEL, BABY!

Since I don’t know the answers, it seems I’ll just have to keep living life, life where things keep happening, and do my best to show up for the life I want rather than quaking at the mercy of things I’m scared of. That’s really all we can do. While taking whatever opportunities to be smug - and happy - that we can wrangle.

This picture doesn’t have much to do with this post, aside from the fact that I adore these women and also my face is a fairly accurate depiction of my feelings on love at the moment.

This picture doesn’t have much to do with this post, aside from the fact that I adore these women and also my face is a fairly accurate depiction of my feelings on love at the moment.

Death to Happily Ever After

Amber Adrian

Happily Ever After has finally been beaten out of me.

It only took forty years and multiple loves, entanglements, mistakes, and Oh-Shit-I’m-Being-Weird-Again situations, but I made it.

It’s not as dire as it may sound to those of us who’ve been raised on Disney movies and romance novels.

The death of Happily Ever After means being able to appreciate each day with someone for what it is, rather than constantly grasping for Is This It? Is this The One? Are there babies and an engagement ring in my future? Will I finally get to update my relationship status on Facebook?

It means enjoying the person for who they are rather than what your relationship might be in the future. It means getting to know someone without mentally redecorating their apartment in case you move in one day.

I don’t think life meant to drag my Happily Ever After into a back alley and shoot it, I think life meant to show me how to surrender. How to take things as they come. How to be present in the moment-to-moment of each experience without regretting the past or grasping for a particular future.

When we love someone, it’s natural to want that love to last forever.

And, really, it does.

If I love you once, I will love you for the duration. A corner of my heart is annexed to you and you get to live there forever, like it or not.

I was joking the other day that I need to expand the physical mass of my heart because it’s running out of corners.

He replied, “Good thing your heart is infinite.”

Our hearts are infinite. There is no limit to the possibilities, up to and including Happily Ever After. Some of us do meet that person and choose to keep showing up and loving them until this mortal coil is shuffled, however imperfect and wounded it feels. Some of us have even mastered enough of this human existence to love with ease and pure joy.

Since I want Happily Right The Eff Now, I’m pulling the plug on Happily Ever After.

Because there is no past, there is no future, and my heart has more corners than I could hope to fill in this lifetime.

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If Your Love Life Is More "WTF?" Than You'd Like to Admit: Hi, Soul Friend!

Amber Adrian

Honestly, all I can really say about my romantic life at this point is: WTF?

After being single for six years and then cycling through three breakups in three years, with a bonus miscarriage just for fun, I got no clue.

(On a date once, someone said, "It seems like you were born to be a wife and mother. So why aren't you?" My head almost exploded all over the bagel shop.) 

That said, I do feel like I’m preparing for something.

I do know that this divine partnership wouldn't be calling me so vehemently and relentlessly if it wasn't part of my path. 

I do feel something big on the horizon, even if I don’t know what - precisely - it is.

If you're feeling this too - fist bump, soul-friend.

While all my guidance is around surrender and prepare and don't-worry-about-the-details-little-miss-wants-to-know-all-the-things, I have gotten that October is going to be a BIG month for those of us on this divine partnership path.

Who knows what that actually means, but it sounds fun, so I’m game.

This morning, it popped in that I should do some group healing and guidance sessions with Mary Magdalene and Jesus on this, because they have that divine partnership thing down. They love this stuff. They live for it. (However multi-dimensional ascended masters can be considered to live for things.) 

So here’s a here’s a healing session Mary Mags and Jesus, to get some clarity, some heart clearing, and hear what they have to say about stepping into divine partnership:

We teach what we need to learn and, oh-my-flying-unicorn-cakes, romantic love and partnership is a big lesson for me.

(So is money! And work! And self-love! I GUESS I'M JUST SUPPOSED TO TEACH EVERYTHING. Haha, sigh.)

We are all balancing between our human selves and our divine selves - this merry ascension process is about merging them into one. Just as the divine partnership path is about balancing our shadow and our light and peering over the precipice and into the sun.

(Or something. I honestly have no idea what I’m talking about.)

(At least my human doesn’t, which is why I’m doing channeled sessions on partnership over the next month, so hopefully my divine self can get my Amber self up to speed and help us all find some light and clarity and peace and excitement around our love lives. If you want to join me, message me here and I’ll give you the details.)

Allowing Fate

Amber Adrian

My last date ended 20 minutes in after he asked "What would happen if you accidentally got pregnant?" and I said "I would want to have it" and he said "I would not want you to have it" so we shook hands and walked back to our cars.

This true ass story perfectly illustrates my current stance on dating. Which is: hahahahahahaNOPE.

Dating was actually going better than it's ever gone before - aside from that random 20-minute misalliance, I've never before been able to basically snap my fingers and have amazing guys pop in like magic.

But, as it turns out, I have zero interest in dating.

I don't want to get to know you. I want to get to know ME.

Even though I just turned 40, I still have so much about the interior of my soul and brain to discover. There's a multi-verse to play in, within me and in the other dimensions. Healings to do, dragons to channel, books to write, coffee to drink, friends to meet, goals to dance with.

So no more playing the numbers game, no more going out with random strangers in the hopes of finding the partner - I am now relying 100% on fate. Maybe fate will deliver, rom-com-style, maybe it won't.

It's amazing how much space in my brain this has freed up. I feel like I'm able to really truly enjoy being single for the first time, possibly ever.

There's nothing to do, nothing to worry about, nothing to strive for.

My future relationship is entirely in the hands of god, the angels, karma, my higher self, destiny or pure unadulterated chance. Whoever makes these decisions, I surrender entirely to you.

In the meantime, I'm going to take singing lessons, work a lot, FaceTime giraffes, dance as I clean my house, write animal stories, drive anywhere I please on weekends, take myself out to fancy meals, get my nails painted wild colors, go out in the city with my girlfriends, lie on my bed and heal the cracks, eat crackers for dinner, and genuinely enjoy the hell out of my life.

paint the town.jpg

My Heart Feels Like Charlie Brown Trying to Kick a Football

Amber Adrian

Plowing forward, filled with hope, leaving the ground with the high of the kick as you look up to the sky ...and then the nausea-inducing spinal trauma of crashing flat into the ground. Yup, my romantic life most accurately resembles Charlie Brown trying to kick a football.

This is mostly my fault. If I try to date out of fear that I'll miss out, or because I'm bored, or because I want the quick hit of validation, or because I think I should, or before I'm completely out of the grieving cycle, that's when I get stood up four times in two weeks by four separate people or end up unraveling a tangled mass of karma. 

So I vow to be more careful a dozen times a week, to guard my heart better. But that’s not really what I want, and I know it. Even when I’m carefully instructing myself to just go ahead and be a different human this time. 

Being in a relationship with me means you occupy a portion of my heart’s real estate and you get to live there for the rest of your life, whether you want to or not. Luckily, my heart is growing bigger every day, so I don't begrudge the space. Construction is ongoing.

So far, three people have annexed a corner of my heart. As much as it hurts in the healing stage, if I love someone enough to assign them a lifelong corner of my left ventricle, how could I pass up that love for as long as it lasts? I can't, and I wouldn't want to, no matter what I tell myself in the getting-over-it process. 

Minor heart fractures do fade. Karmic entanglements do drift right back out again. Melt like ice cream on a hot sidewalk, leaving only a sticky residue to eventually wash away in the rain, the cement no worse off - and maybe even retaining a hint of that invisible sweetness.

But the big cracks, the breakages, those don’t recede as easily.

Two major heartbreaks in one calendar year strike me as more than plenty - and explains all this hard-felt keening and flopping in my ribcage over the past few months. 

(This is what keening and heart flopping looks like.) 

I was wrangling last year's heartbreak around this time in Hawaii. Hey, if you have to get over something, you might as well do it on a tropical island. The big energy of those islands had me rolling through vision after vision of my not-on-this-plane-but-still-very-persistent daughter

As these visions drove saltwater into the cracks to unapologetically bust me wide open, I saw my heart being knit back together with gold light.

Heart breaks open, you put it back together again. With Elmer's glue, if you have to. 

A friend once called me a dating warrior. “You just keep throwing yourself back out there to get trampled.” I'm an enthusiastic warrior, but apparently not a very good one. 

But every time I hurl myself into the ring, my heart does grow bigger. It has to. 

Feeling big clears out big space. Space for unconditional love to flood in naturally, replacing the sadness and the anger and the “here are seven reasons we both royally fucked up” judgment parade marching through my brain in an alarmingly predictable loop.

When the unconditional love starts sweeping everything clean again, the space that lets everyone have their own experience and knows that the love doesn’t go away even if the people do, that’s when I start having more trust in the process.

Trust in myself - that I haven’t profoundly fucked up this time, even when my brain is pretty certain I have. Trust that the right relationship will work out at the right time for everyone involved - and that I don’t have to hurl myself warrior-style into the coliseum to be gnawed on by a tiger for the privilege.

I do want to be kinder to my heart. I'm learning what that looks like, slowly but surely. It means not proceeding out of fear or need for validation. It means giving myself plenty of space and room to nurture me and my relationship with myself. For now, I'm just thrilled that my heart is finally feeling less raw. Joy is starting to feel more natural, and all the I'm-in-a-grieving-period bad decisions and massive karmic tangles have finally stopped. It kind of feels like a hot shower and big meal after running a marathon - routine experiences that suddenly feel like Christmas morning, simply because you put yourself through the wringer first. 

It's like the universe is asking for my faith, asking me to just surrender. Because the more I try to control, the harder everything gets. But if I just trust what comes my way, and trust myself to handle it, everything simplifies. 

What Happens When You Meditate For An Entire Day

Amber Adrian

Spoiler: Nothing. 

Nothing happens when you meditate all day. Sweet, blissful nothing.

You go in with an agenda, because of course. You are a human being and if you're going to spend all day staring at the wall, you'd damn well better get something out of it, thank you very much.

You walk out having no idea what your agenda was or even that you had one, because you’re all pumped up on peace endorphins.

We all want the answers. We want to know that our actions will yield fruit, that our life is headed in the right direction, that we are safe. 

But sometimes we have to realize that it's not time for answers. That there is absolutely no way we can take a wrong turn in life. Because there is no right path or wrong path. 

My brain is already kicking in with OF COURSE THERE'S A WRONG PATH AND YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY TAKEN IT, EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE GUTTER WITH A NEEDLE, WHICH IS ANOTHER WRONG PATH. OF WHICH THERE ARE MANY. 

Why meditation can be really nice. Especially a day of it. Because, after two sittings where my brain spun mercilessly, it finally wore itself out like a three-year-old after a birthday party with Spider Man, a piñata and multiple rainbow-frosted layer cakes. 

And then there was silence. My need for answers quieted. My desire to be safe quieted because I am safe. In this moment, I am always safe. My path is just my path. It just is. 

Quiet.  

My inner guidance has been prompting me to meditate two hours a day. Obviously, my brain thinks that’s bullshit, so I haven’t been doing it.

But absent other answers regarding my life, I’ve vowed to follow my internal guidance and trust it, even when it doesn’t seem logical - which, frankly, is most of the time. So when a friend invited me to a day-long meditation retreat on Sunday, it sounded like exactly what I needed. So off I went. 

It was held at a beautiful home in the Oakland hills - complete with pool, mountain view, and strategically placed Buddhas - and the day was run by a man with luxurious locks of the Inigo Montoya variety. He also had a duck wing to wave the smoke of burning palo santo on us.

I admit, I did wonder where he got that duck wing. Is there a one-winged duck moping around in a field somewhere?

I also wondered how everyone else kept their lower extremities from falling asleep. I had to do the awkward attempt-to-slowly-and-subtley-stretch-my-legs-out-in-front-of-me as my feet get caught on my skirt and I almost tip over, while everyone else is a marble sphinx of enlightenment. 

What I learned from a day of meditating with my body: Healing can be easy. (Except for the feet thing.) 

It doesn't have to be this elaborate ritual of energy clearing and slightly-frantic prayer and lists of things I have to do daily in order to stay sane. My god, no wonder I burned out. My perfectionism even got my healing in its sticky grasp. 

Sometimes, allowing ourselves to just quiet down and rest is the very best healing there is - the very best thing we can do for our brain and our body and our life. 

What I learned from driving to Oakland to meditate with my body: Men I have dated are everywhere.

This is the problem with being single for a long time. At some point, people you once dated become impossible to escape. Driving to the house on Sunday, I drove past the street of one of my poor dating decisions a few months ago. (The one who yelled at me a lot, if you happen to remember that.) Then, on the table at the retreat center, I saw the face of a guy I dated years ago staring up at me from his business card. He's now, apparently, a Tantric sex coach. It was too good not to share, but we were on a silent break. It almost killed me not to wave the card in my friend's face so we could die over it together. 

Anyway. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Is not to meditate two hours every day because that's still crazy talk. But do pay attention to those little nudges - the ones that are prompting you to a new habit or a new creation. They're gentle, they're quiet, but they're so very worth listening to. Listening to your intuitive nudges is the easiest way forward in this time of uncertainty and change. 

Unexpected Things That Make My Life 100% Better

Amber

The more I take care of myself, the more I see that self-care is the golden ticket. On June 11, I declared it Be Nice To Amber month. Because I enjoy making grand pronouncements that don't mean anything to anyone but me. I encourage you to try it - bonus points awarded for grand proclamations made while wearing a paper crown and wielding a scepter made out of a broom and tin foil.

In the past, these types of pronouncements have required massive lists of things I probably wasn't going to do, so that I could feel good and terrible when half of it didn't happen. This time, I just set the intention. I was going to be kind to myself, deeply kind, in a way I've rarely been - whatever that ended up meaning.

Here's What That Ended Up Meaning

Listed here because one of my favorite things on the internet is reading about what other people do and how it works for them - and maybe you like reading about that too. 

Not Dating: Dating stopped making me happy, so I stopped dating. Easy. When I stopped dating the way we date these days - constantly prodding my dating apps and spending my days in a daze of hopeful despair over some random guy or another - I started feeling good again. Like all the pieces of my power and self-worth that went on vacation with Hot Guys #1-27 could come back to me. Like I could go about my life feeling whole and happy and not wondering if Hot Guy #16 - that day's favorite - was going to text me back. The energy that brand of dating sucked away from my work and my life and what truly makes me happy was immeasurable. I'm becoming very aware of the energy leaks in my life, and dating is a leach (and a leech - hi, fellow word nerds!) that's simply not worth it. Besides, the internet isn't the only delivery system for a mate. Certainly not when you're poking at it like a cocaine-addled lab rat in search of its next hit.

Stopping with the List Making: My lists expand into any media on which you can write words. I have lists on my phone, lists on my computer, lists on paper, lists on post-it notes, lists in my head. My lists have lists. This is exhausting. Draining. Lists are the Dementors of my life. So I gave them up - trusting myself to know what I had to do and trusting myself to actually do it. My happiness quotient jumped by a factor of a zillion. I would nap when I needed to nap, write when I had something to write about, work when it was time to work. Easy.

(Note: I started panicking and making lists again a few days ago. The lists are far lighter and more realistic than they used to be, but I can still feel them pulsing in the corner of the room, ready to suck out my soul at the first misstep. I'm thinking about walking over and ripping them up. Obviously, my relationship with lists is still in process.)

13 Minutes a Day Toward a Personal Project: Just enough time to get something done, but not so much time that you stress out about it. I always feel better when I'm working on the thing that's been squatting in the back of my brain for a year, throwing a bottle at my skull every so often to remind me that it exists. Not ignoring projects > ignoring projects.

Real Food: This one isn't so unexpected - I've known for years that if I eat more veggies and fruit and 90% less processed stuff, I feel better. More energy, more mental clarity, no worry about stuffing my thighs into denim tubes. But sometimes life happens and suddenly you're eating pancakes made with chocolate milk three times a week. When I started taking care of myself - looking at what truly makes me feel good and give me energy and what doesn't - the shift back to eating things that grow in the ground was effortless.

Bye, Bye Black Beans: Giving up coffee, yo. In all the dietary changes I've made over the last four years, in all their rises and falls, coffee is the one thing I could never bear to abandon. But suddenly I just didn't want it any more. When I experimented a bit, I realized that it fuzzes me out in a way that stunts my creativity and my connection. Nope.

Yoga with Candles: God, I'm such a girl. But Lanny told me about the Yoga Download app and instead of watching episodes of Frasier until I fall I asleep, I've been doing 20 minutes of yoga before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. My spine sounds less like bubble wrap being stepped on and my rest is better. 

No Glowing Boxes Before Bed: Yeah, yeah. Everyone tells you this and I've always meant to do it. Really, I have. But there's something so comforting about sleeping with your phone right next to your head, isn't there? But then I wake up in the morning and instead of getting up to be a productive, happy human, I start jabbing at my phone with my index finger and then I've been in bed an extra hour for no good reason. Yoga cured me of sleeping with my phone like a teddy bear. After I'm all stretchy and glowing, the last thing I want to do is turn on the blare of a screen.

One Decadent Thing a Week: Massage. New running clothes to replace the hand-me-downs and ancient t-shirts. Reading Harry Potter on the deck with a peach. Decadent doesn't have to mean expensive - though in the case of the running clothes that's precisely what it means. (Being adorable during exercise does not come cheap, it seems.) It just means something I wouldn't ordinarily do for myself. Something I really, really like.

---

With every passing day, I feel better and more whole and like I am worthy of the fundamentals that I believe everyone deserves: work they adore, enough money to live the life they want (it's just lucky that I don't want a tiger on a gold leash*), a home that nurtures them, and to feel and radiate love every damn day. It all rolled out naturally, born of a desire to be good to myself in a real way. Deeply kind, not "I want to do this thing so now I'm going to do it because that's being nice to myself, right?"

* On second thought, A TIGER ON A GOLD LEASH SOUNDS AMAZING. Sign me up for that too.

My Be Nice To Amber month ends on July 11. Which also happens to be my birthday, if you happen to have a baby giraffe to unload. (Please note: Now accepting deliveries of baby giraffes.) All of this has changed the way I feel so significantly that I'm going to keep right on doing it. Especially that part about the massages.

I've taken care of parts of myself in the past. But I've rarely taken care of all of me - mind, body, spirit, emotions - all at the same time. This month, I've been happier, I've gotten more and better work done, the brain hamsters are all asleep in their hammocks, and I feel energized and peaceful. Well, okay then.

The day Be Nice To Amber Month ended. I felt good, I was happy, great experiment, the end. 

The day Be Nice To Amber Month ended. I felt good, I was happy, great experiment, the end. 

Your Turn

What's the nicest, most deeply kind thing you could do for yourself right now?

You don't have to answer here - although I'd love to know what your answer is - but give it a few minutes of thought. It's shifted so much for me in just one month that I want to walk up to people on the street and shake them and yell, "ARE YOU BEING NICE TO YOURSELF? IT HELPS! IT REALLY, REALLY HELPS!" Maybe while wearing a tin foil crown and riding a baby giraffe.

X = Me

Amber

Solving for x is astonishingly easy, as it happens. If I am the x factor, then the x factor is me.

Simple, right? Almost brutally so.

What's particularly brutal is that I've known this for years. My brain understood. People told me, books told me, my reasoning skills parsed it out. But just because you understand something doesn't mean you know it. Just because you know something is true doesn't mean your heart or your emotions have any idea what that big gray lump in your skull is prattling on about.

I am the x factor. Not because I'm the reason dating hasn't worked, but because I need to focus my attention on me.

If I am the x factor, that means I get to put all of my time and attention into things that make me happy, instead of going out on first date after first date in a time-consuming attempt to play the numbers and manipulate the system into giving me what I want. I get to put my energy into what feeds me on a deep level, rather than spending my time trying to create some safe, loving space for someone else because I thought that if I make them feel loved, they'll make me feel loved.

Pro tip: That doesn't work.

Trying to force people to feel something - even if it's something we all want to give and experience - is a really bad bet. Good intentions, poor execution. People can feel it when you're coming from a place of need, rather than a place of "here, I have so much that I would like to share it with you." I can't name that place because I haven't found it on the map yet. I'm still looking.

In my efforts to find me in this new map, I have claimed this month. All of it. All of it is mine, henceforth to be known as Be Nice To Amber month. You don't have to be nice to me, but I have to be nice to me. Being nice to me means no dating. No online suitors, no constant checking of the apps, no wondering when he's going to respond. Unless some epic romantic comedy kismet slams into me at the grocery store, I will go on not one single date. Instead, I will focus on what makes me happy, rather than on what someone else is thinking or feeling. A month of fixing up the hobbit hole and going to yoga and reading Harry Potter in the fairy garden that was recently discovered near my house. A month of less caffeine and no self-recrimination. A month of things I rarely allow myself, like manicures and chocolate bars* and afternoons at the beach.

* Lies. I always allow myself chocolate bars.

My month began on June 11 and will end on July 11, my 36th birthday. Everything feels better already. Lighter, clearer, like I'm more me than I have been in a long time.

Maybe the best way to date is not to date at all.

Solve for X

Amber

Diptic-2-e1439676044298.jpg

In five years, no one I've dated has lasted longer than six weeks. They slide out of my life like water down a windshield, droplets that leave shadows of themselves behind long after the liquid has evaporated. I am romantic teflon.  My brain looks for patterns, because that's what brains do. 

I sleep with them too soon and they disappear. I show too much emotion and they disappear. I ask for something and they disappear. I try to deepen what we have and they disappear. 

I am the x factor in all my relationships. Since I'm the only common denominator in my experience, I need to figure it out.

Solve for x.

But solving for x feels heavy, exhausting, full of self-recrimination. If not full-on existential despair than at least a solid dose of melodrama.

But when you want something enough, you will brave what you'd rather avoid. So I dig through the layers, sorting through my psyche and its tender bits like I sort through my books, hauling some to Goodwill but picking most of them up and then putting them back down again, not sure if I still need them. Maybe this book will help me some day. Maybe this book will be the answer to a problem. Maybe this was meant to be mine. So I continue to haul heavy boxes of books between apartments like I drag along the ghosts of past relationships.

Solve for x.

I'm scared of losing myself.

I'm afraid I can't have what I want.

I'm too much or not enough. Either way, I'm not right.

The specters of my past experiences continue to rise, lighter, gray like smoke instead of sticky black tar, but still rising: the idea that emotion will frighten people away, that communication will make everything go bad. The idea that I'm not enough. Or that I'm really just too much and who has time for that? Either way, I'm not right.

But then I begin to wonder if maybe I'm looking at the wrong piece of the equation. If I solve for x, I get a relationship with someone I adore. But maybe I need to be solving the equation that will lead me to myself, rather than to the idea of another.

What Lies In the Beyond

Amber

In December, I was dating someone I really liked. The night we met, there was a ring around the moon. We gazed up at it, the water behind us, and it felt like that might mean something, something good. And it did. But not the way we thought it might. Instead of marking the beginning of an us, that ring marked the beginning of a me. A me who can walk away for the right reasons, something I'd never done before. I would swallow what I wanted in order to not be alone. Or give him what he wanted and push aside what was best for me because I thought that's what love meant. But the more you give yourself you, the less you can give up for another. So on New Year's Day, I walked away. As I drove home, it didn't necessarily feel good, but it felt right.

That ring around the moon did mark something special - but for me rather than for us. I want the us, but I won't take the us without it being right for the me.

Walking away is scary, because you don't know what lies beyond. So far, what I've found in the beyond has been better. But it doesn't matter, really. Because whatever I get - whether it's a me or it's an us - will be exactly what I need.

At Least Now I Know The Dutch Word For Chicken

Amber

Figuring out which soup is chicken in a Dutch supermarket when you're feverish is a daunting task. I could have asked someone, but simply forcing one foot to step in front of the other in a vaguely normal fashion felt like summiting Kilimanjaro without a sherpa or even a water bottle. Conquering my squeamish belief that it's rude to walk up to someone in a foreign country and assume they speak my language was really too much to ask on the day that the insides of my stomach made an abrupt and brutal reappearance. I insist on being a pansy about this, even though everyone in Amsterdam does speak my language - even the yoga classes are conducted half in Dutch, half in English. I should probably just get over myself. But conquering deeply entrenched beliefs and getting over oneself are definitely too much to ask when the only thing between you and what feels like death is a mug of chicken soup. All of this to say, would a convincing graphic of a plump and obvious chicken be too much to ask, Dutch soup makers?

NMmF_iEtBd
NMmF_iEtBd

Panda by Brian Andreas. Because he does things like that.

Traveling by yourself to random countries for months at a time can get lonely. I'm pretty good at being alone. I'm even reasonably good at being lonely. But at some point, being good at something stops being a good reason to do it. So you start dating instead.

There was the Italian man who wore his hat through dinner. There was the man who somehow found me on a random bridge after I'd manage to miss the very obvious landmark at which we were supposed to meet. Two days in a row. I missed it twice. Despite having been there many times before. My brain is missing the GPS component that comes standard in most models.

But the true winner in my own personal Dating Olympics was the guy who went to the police station with me instead of to the museum. Because my purse had been stolen on my way to meet him. HI. I JUST MET YOU. HELP ME FIGURE OUT ALL MY SHIT.

When we got to the police station - after I almost started crying into the iPad he very nicely let me use to skype the credit card companies, credit card companies that really really do not want to send replacement cards to the Netherlands - we learned that the efficient and genial Dutch cops had already nabbed the guy. They returned a very strange selection of items - my credit cards and my makeup and my umbrella. But not my purse or my sweater or the keys to my bike lock. But they were very apologetic about making us wait a whole fifteen minutes and told us about how they found the thief sitting in bushes (really) and so the cops crept around the building and hopped out from behind it to wave a cheery five fingered hello before tackling the guy.

If you have to sit in a police station and give a police report, you may as well do it in Amsterdam. Thanks for getting my debit card and my lip gloss back, guys.

On our second date, we did that whole nice dinner, night stroll along the Amsterdam canals thing. This would have been the best date in the world, were I not starting to feel queasy. I thought I was just low energy, maybe an adrenaline let-down from the whole purse thing. It wasn't until I was pedaling home like a 93-year-old grandmother instead of zipping around as many Dutch people on cell phones as possible that I realized I'd contracted the flu. Stopping on the side of the road and reintroducing myself to my lamb entree confirmed it.

First date, purse gone. Second date, flu. Third date...accidental arson? Horsemen of the apocalypse? Dinner theater?