Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

I had an Arbonne business for a few years in my twenties. It was natural skin care and other health products and went into people’s homes and did skincare parties.

I learned a lot from that business. I learned a lot of skincare tips, which are fantastic. But more that anything else, I learned a lot about running a business and the importance of positive self talk.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I have really active self-talk chatter. It is almost a constant in my brain. I have been consistently meditating for about three months now and the more I observe, the more I am in tune with the actual messages that I am saying to myself. And I need an overhaul of what I am constantly saying to myself.

I made a promise to myself if I catch myself saying “should” that whatever follows is just an obligation and I need to slow down and look at the situation. Ask myself what is compelling me to feel like I should be doing a certain thing. If I should be doing it, that means I’m not actually doing it, so why not? Why am I resisting? Why do I feel obligated?

Should is usually a spotlight on exactly what I should not be doing. Should is a silly word and usually brings guilt alongside it.

So when I was getting ready for bed last night after a date with Unexpected Date guy, I found myself will all kinds of self chatter.

“I should back off. I shouldn’t like him as much as I do.”

And immediately sirens went off. What was that all about?

And, dear reader, since I consider us to be fairly close now that you’ve seen my booty and read some of my innermost thoughts, I hope you are ok with me working through my thoughts.

Unexpected Date guy and I had just discussed that we are both ok with taking it slow, with hanging out and making out. And that’s it. He was up front about what was going on his life that made him feel like he wasn’t completely himself and he doesn’t have anything to give in a relationship. I told him where I was, and why I feel like I can’t completely bring myself to the table either.

We both felt relieved to be on the same page and to be open and honest with each other. He said he was worried about rushing into anything because he had done that before and would hate for me to “catch the Feels.” (ugh, I will be unpacking THAT phrase some other day, I really hate it)

But when I started “shoulding” at home, I realized how much I actually like this guy. Which was the opposite of “not catching the Feels.” (shudder… I need to stop writing that phrase, it really bugs me!)

Which leaves me where exactly?

One option I have would be to completely leave. To say “I like you a lot, I see where this is going. And neither of us can go down that road right now. So I’m hitting the breaks hard.”

The other option I have is to continue as we have been. I can say “I really like you. And I am willing to ride it out and be patient. Let’s be friends right now.”

But if I take a step back, that doesn’t feel true. Even just writing that I am willing to wait it out and be friends, I have a reaction in my body that tells me that I am forcing something. My body stiffens a little bit like it is bracing for an impact.

That’s not a good sign. I shouldn’t be making choices that my body is interpreting as an impact.

I suppose that leaves me with letting this fish go and throwing the bait back in the water for someone else. Which is a disappointment, yes. But I can’t blame the guy for wanting to straighten out his life. It is a bit complicated and messy and, in the end, I don’t really want to be a part of messy. So I appreciate that he is saving me from that.

And there will be someone else that is less messy and a better fit for me. I truly believe that.

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I was talking to my life coach last month and when she made an offhand remark about my attitude towards money, I realized that many things in my life are connected. My lack mentality around money is also very similar to the lack mentality I have about relationships.

I have a deep seated belief that money is scarce, that when I have it I squander it and there is always going to be a need that is greater right around the corner so I should feel guilty for spending it now.

It sounds something like this. “Those groceries should’ve been cheaper. What could I have cut out? I better make this stretch for a long time.” “You don’t really need that thing that will bring joy to your life. You have things that bring joy. You don’t need it. It’s probably not worth it.” “If you’re going to buy it, you better do a bunch of research to make sure you are getting the best price. You want to spend as little as possible, and use the thing for as long as possible to get the most value from it.”

And when it comes to relationships, it’s very similar. I think this is why I recycle my exes and keep trying to resurrect those relationships without searching for someone new. I think that what I had is as good as it’s going to get and that I should hang on for dear life.

That voice in my head says, “Maybe I will never meet anyone that understands me this way every again.” “Maybe I will never meet someone that I have this kind of chemistry with ever again.” “The sex is good, I better get as much as I can because you might never meet anyone that makes you feel this way again.” “Love is rare.” “Connection is rare.” “Someone who understands me and sees me for who I am is rare.”

You know how I know all these voices are lying? Because I make money every week. I use my talents at a day job and I am paid for those talents. I have people seek me out for my talents and ask me to do things and they pay me for that.

And every time I have broken up with someone, I have met someone new. Good sex is around the corner if I want it. And usually the new person I meet is an upgrade from what I had. I have yet to move on to someone new and be really disappointed. Usually the disappointment comes when I break up with that person and I go back to an ex from a while ago as an ego patch.

There is a lot of money in the universe. There is a lot of love in the universe. Both are incredibly abundant things. It is not limited. I am about to get a little woo-woo on you. Both are an energy that flows to like energy. This is how the law of attraction works. If you are putting out a clean and clear energy of abundance, abundance comes back to you.

I am working on my thinking. I have known this fact about attracting for a long time, but the patterns of thought are embedded pretty deep. I am working on clearing that out, weeding my garden of thought and getting rid of the riff raf that are not serving my purposes of growing something beautiful.

I know it’s going to take some time and some awareness. I am purposefully not saying effort because I have a sneaking suspicion that I need to let go of effort and let things flow naturally. I need to stop trying to force things, and be more in flow. I think that abundance is the natural state, and I need to get out of my own way. I think that answer is probably much easier than I think it is.

I am worthy of abundance. You are, too.

 

The Pain of Self-Sacrifice

My last relationship ended for a whole list full of reasons, but it all boils down to the guy needed a lot of help that I was not qualified to give and he wanted to do it alone. There were patterns of addiction, and it manifested itself in various ways from the obvious to needed validation from everyone around him including another woman.

It is some deep, troubling baggage that he needs to unpack and work through. And I know what any logical person would say “Thank God that’s not your problem to deal with anymore, Single Gal.”

And I would agree. Thank God indeed. Thank God he did not want my support because then I was given permission to be selfish and to look after myself first. But that isn’t what I wanted to do at first.

When I put all the pieces of his bad behavior together and saw the really big problem, I offered to help. I offered to be there as a support if he was willing to do all the hard work to get better. I basically said “I see you stuck in the hole down there and you are stuck in a pile of shit. I will jump down there with you and hold your hand if you are willing to get yourself out. I will go be stuck in shit with you, for as long as you need me to.”

I didn’t do it to be valiant or a martyr. I did it because I really loved this person and I cared so much about him being healthy that I was willing to put myself through hell to help him get to the other side.

I am so grateful he turned my offer down (which is actually very much in line with my understanding of people that suffer from addiction. He pushed away the person that could see the truth so that he would be allowed to live his lie longer. He would rather not go through the pain of looking at and changing his behavior which is a shame). I am so grateful because in the months after the breakup I have made huge strides forward in my life because I had all this extra space and energy that I could create with. My mind was not distracted with his major problems and my energy was not drained by supporting him.

My situation is an extreme example of choosing someone else over myself. If I had gotten what I thought I wanted, who knows where I would be right now. In the last 6 months I created a play and raised funding to take it to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That took up so much of my time and energy, and I don’t know what would have happened if I had someone around that I felt responsible for.

I have recently met a man that I more than I knew I could ask for in a guy. And I don’t know where that path is going but I never would have met him if I was dating someone else.

I think about how easy it was for me to choose him over myself. And maybe that I partially why he turned down my offer, because he recognized that I shouldn’t have to go through that shit with him. That he was the only one that should deal with it and that I had more important dreams for my life. Maybe he knew he couldn’t let me make that sacrifice by choosing him over me.

Apparently it is something women do very naturally. We put the needs of others before our own. It’s is actually a really big problem because every time we do that we are programming our brain to work against ourself.

Luckily this can be rewired. Part of the rewiring process is doing exactly this. Bring attention to when you chose someone else instead of yourself. Look for triggers and patterns. Where can we make a different choice next time?

I know that something like regularly choosing myself is going to feel unnatural at first. I will have to make a conscious effort to do it, and I am probably going to mess up. Big change can be hard, but not impossible. But I am confident that choosing myself has the biggest payoff in the end and I am not willing to sacrifice myself any more.

Dating Story: The Train Driver

I can’t remember if I knew I was being set up when I went to the play reading. But it was incredibly clear when we were introduced that our mutual friend orchestrated the evening so that we would both be there so we could meet.

He was tall and boyishly handsome. And he was funny and sweet. I was completely smitten.

We had a really easy time together. We laughed all the time and flirted constantly. Conversations just flowed. Hours flew by. I knew he had a tricky schedule but in that first 6 weeks he always seemed to make time for me on his day off.

He drove trains for a freight train company. His route took him up the eastern coast and back. All he had to do was make sure nothing went wrong and to solve problems if it went wrong. It was a mostly mindless job, so he spend most of his time reading, texting, Facebooking, playing games on his phone.

What I thought I found was a guy that was really into me because he was texting all the time and really getting to know me by asking lots of questions. What was really happening was that he was bored and I was responding.

But it took me a long time to figure that out.

The Train Driver is still to this day one of the best kissers I have ever known. The makeup sessions were incredibly hot and we would lose hours. Just making out. It was the most fun I had ever had.

For a long time we didn’t jump in bed even though the kissing was fantastic. Later that summer we made a plan for his next day off and talked about both being ready for the relationship to become sexual. And then he got called in to work. This last minute call and change of plans had already happened a few times before.

Maybe I got scared that I would lose the opportunity to sleep with this guy that I had such great chemistry with (trust me, I know how ridiculous this sounds, I suffer from some serious lack mentality instead of realizing that there is an abundant amount of chemistry out there in the universe!). Or maybe I was just being completely impatient, which I am often guilty of.

Fueled by an impatience to get laid, I asked if I could come to him at his hotel in Philly. Insert eye rolling and groans here. “No, Single Gal! That’s a HORRIBLE idea!”

Yes, in hindsight I know this. At the time, I didn’t see the huge red flag waving back and forth just behind my eyes. (Have you noticed this pattern in my dating stories??)

So I went. I thought it was exciting. A night in a hotel that his job was paying for. It would be fun! Instead, it was awkward. He was worried about his coworker seeing me go into the room and ratting him out. He has different sleeping habits than I do and I don’t recommend finding this out in a hotel. And first time sex is always a little tricky, and it would have been a little more comfortable at home.

And the hotel was not in downtown Philly, it was in a weird outskirt of Philly. So when we wanted to get breakfast in the morning we couldn’t find anything that was open. So we had that awkward time in the car looking for a coffee shop but not finding anything, and both of us were getting hungrier and hungrier. This was not sexy, at all.

And I think that was the turning point. I saw him a few times after that, but he started working 6 days a week instead of 5. His day off was spent sleeping and rarely scheduled time to see me. He still texted constantly but I was growing tired of having a pen pal. Eventually I picked a fight because I was never seeing him and I drove a wedge between us and I decided to move on.

He and I kept in touch a few times a year. Every once in awhile it was a nice distraction for me. Sometimes it slipped into sexting. But I always knew it was just text messaging and I wanted a relationship with someone I actually saw. I finally ended it once and for all when he he sexting me but had announced his engagement on Facebook. It seemed like a fishy situation. He told me it was “fake” to “make her ex jealous.” I told him I wanted nothing to do with that situation.

I’m realizing I don’t stand up for myself often. I try way harder than I need to when it comes to saving a failing relationship. I very rarely am the one to end things. But it feels really good when I set a standard, and if that standard isn’t being met I ask the person to leave. I really should do that more often.

Sometimes Love is Just a Short Story

A good friend of mine supported me through my breakup this winter and then two months later she had her own. We both found ourselves in very similar situations. We compared situations about our breakups and couldn’t believe how similar they were. And how similar our reactions were. We both knew the breakup was ultimately for the best, but we were still mourning it deeply and we were frustrated we weren’t moving on faster.

I would say I am 90% healed. She is probably 70%. I saw her for 4th of July weekend and we had a number of heart to heart talks. She kept referring to the relationship as a failure and as something bad. It wasn’t sitting right with me.

I had a mental shift and it really made a lot of sense to both of us, and it helped us embrace the sadness that we felt when the relationship ended instead of resenting that we felt sad over something that we should be glad about.

I realized that the relationship is not a failure because it ended. Let me say that again because I need to take it in, and I bet you probably do too. The relationship is not a failure because it ended.

A relationship can still be a success even though it is over. Successful relationships do not have to be defined by whether or not it ended in marriage. There is still a lot that can be learned from relationships that don’t last forever. And often there is still a lot of love in those relationships.

The way I said it to my friend was “Some relationships are just short stories.” And that shifted both of our thinking. Not every story has to be an epic “War and Peace”-like tome. We can still love and appreciate the short novellas or the essays just as much. They are still valid contributions and can move us deep in our souls. So can poems. It doesn’t make them lesser than only because their length is shorter and there are fewer words on the page.

I think we need to redefine failure in relationships. Failure in relationships is staying in something long after it is over rather than leaving when you stopped growing. It is not serving either of you to stay if you have grown all you can from the relationship and there is nothing else to gain. I’ve been there many times. Thinking that if you try hard you can force it to be what it’s not. Accept it, let it go. That’s life.

A failed relationship is one where you deceive yourself or the other person intentionally. That’s not a relationship. That’s just not being honest and that feels gross all around. You can’t even have a relationship if you’re not being honest.

A relationship is a failure if you manipulate or make the other person (or yourself feel small). We have relationships so that we can grown and expand as human beings. So we can become better versions of ourselves. We are able to grow in a different way with another person by our side, it’s why we are wired for all kinds of relationships. But if you are in a romantic relationship with someone and you are intentionally causing pain, if you are trying to manipulate the other person, or if you are putting yourself or the other person in a box then it is failing to allow you to grow.

I’m writing a little off the cuff on this topic to really fully explore this idea of changing the idea of a failed relationship. Removing that label feels so good, it feels like I can expand a little. It removes the self-pity of having another failed relationship. I don’t have a failed relationship. I have a relationship that came to its completion. It ran its course.

 

Tiny Deaths and Rising Like a Phoenix

 

I pray for rebirth and surrender.

Let me back up and explain. I have been talking with a life coach and in our last session she made a small comment that sparked a tiny ember that has been growing into a flame.

She casually mentioned that money is one of the areas where I have issues, back from when we first met. And I didn’t focus on that in the moment because that wasn’t what we were discussing that day but that small observation stuck with me. I was a little offended. What did she mean I have issues with money? I never said that!

And then I realized I was having a really strong reaction against her observation of something that I must’ve said, or she wouldn’t have said it. And as she and I unpacked our topic for the day, some of these stories I have about money came up, and I found that they were mostly fear based. And I have had them as stories for so long that I don’t exactly know where they started. Or how they started.

And so I did what I always do. I got a book to do some research about money stories. I chose one that had been on my shelf for ages and I never opened it, “The Soul of Money.” And it was exactly what I needed.

So I started pairing the reading with long walks so I could reflect on what I was reading and how it applied or what was coming up for me. And I started noticing all kinds of issues I have. I limit myself a lot. I constantly tell myself I can’t afford something. And I constantly spend money on things that are not aligned with my values but are convenient or seem necessary and I am often denying myself the things that do align with my values.

It’s like eating. It’s like when you finally pay attention to how your body responds to what you put in your body. I first noticed this when I was a vegetarian and would often have an upset stomach and bad acne. I realized it was caused  by those fake meatless products that are made for vegetarians as substitutes. Simple answer was I stopped eating them and bought whole foods instead and just made things from scratch.

With money, it’s like buying that Starbucks latte because I want it just because I am out shopping and would like something warm and comforting and it’s conveniently right there down the hall. But then I deny myself something like a new pair of sunglasses to replace the broken pair that I keep fixing and breaking over and over.

THIS is what the money books and blogs mean when they say cut out the latte and save the money. That is addressing the surface problem by saying don’t buy that, buy this other thing.

The real underlying problem is that you have to evaluate your values and realign your spending that way. When we detach from our values and make choices based on the moment and immediate whims. We are satisfied immediately, but get no closer to our bigger goals.

I am becoming aware that I have a lot of old habits that are like this that I would like to break. They are no longer serving me. They are misaligned from what I really want and are keeping me on a treadmill instead of walking down a path towards the goals.

I do it in money, in relationships, in my career, and in my spiritual growth. I have been hanging out with a new guy and we discussed that we both need to take things slow. This made me like him even more. So when he gave me a little bit of space because that’s what we agreed that we want, my mind freaked out. It went into Spin mode where it created all these stories that he doesn’t like me, that he doesn’t want me around, that I’m not good enough.

I pray that these old habits and old ways of thinking die a little death so that I may replace them with habits that serve my long terms goals.

Someday I do want a loving partnership. I want a career that supports a flexible lifestyle that I can fill with learning, growth and adventures. I want to have time and energy to help other people. I want peace.

If I can find a way to focus on the big things that I want and work backwards by asking what do I need to do to get what I want I will be able to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of my old habits.

I’m not saying it is easy. But it is as simple as that.

Numbing the Soul’s Pain

The advice to keep busy after a breakup or during a hard time has never really felt right to me. Something about it didn’t sit right with me, but everyone says it works so I did it. Every time.

 

I find it so easy to distract myself and numb the pain with distractions. It is so incredibly easy. I am a driven person so it is easy to be really busy with work and projects and hobbies. I am so good at it that I don’t even realize I am doing it.

I think I am just doing the things you’re supposed to do after a breakup. When your heart hurts aren’t you supposed to go out and drink too much? Aren’t you supposed to find some random dude to make out with? And then you call a fall back dude from years ago and hook up a few times to feel the rush again?

Aren;t you supposed to watch your favorite sappy movies and the silly TV shows and cry?

Isn’t this all what “fake it till you make it is all about?”

I thought so. I thought those were all the things that were normal that led to healing. It made sense to me: if you do the things you normally do, maybe at a heighten level or a slightly more frantic pace, then you will get over the hurt faster and you will be healed before you know it.

I think I started practicing these habits when my dad died when I was 14. I decided the best thing I could do would be to keep pushing forward and doing my best, because that would have made him proud. I went to school after my dad’s funeral because I didn’t want to ruin my perfect attendance streak. I played three sports that year, I got straight As. I got my first boyfriend. Nothing was knocking me off my track.

I remember a guy I dated in my early twenties that didn’t treat me well. He left me guessing all the time. He cheated on me with his ex girlfriend. And I think that is when I started numbing with alcohol, constant TV and keeping my friends around me all the time.

And I thought that it actually worked. Because I would eventually stop crying and I would eventually stop thinking about the pain and the memories. Eventually it all fell away.

But those things don’t heal anything, they numb. And just like anesthesia, the numbness wears off and you have a choice. You can re-numb or you feel the pain.

For as long as I can remember, I have chosen to continue to re-numb. I found it was always easy to find some kind of escape. It was immediately available at my finger tips.

The other night I had a moment of clarity. Where I suddenly saw all my habits for what they really are. They weren’t hobbies, they weren’t a good time, they weren’t bonding opportunities. I was running from my pain, pushing it away, burying it, trying to numb all the deep pain and fear I feel.

So that night I decided to face it. And the amazing thing was that I identified the pain, I sat with it and it passed so quickly. Granted, I have been working through and feeling this pain for a while. But there was something incredibly healing about seeing the pain clearly for what it was that allowed me to move past it. It was as if I could actually feel the scab form over the wound.

I’m not saying I am completely healed, but it feels very different. It feels like forward movement. It feels like I don’t need the girlfriend dates to distract me from the lonely weekend nights, I don’t need the exes to sleep with me to make me feel something again, and I don’t need to drink too much to feel a high.

Cupid’s arrow has been sticking out of my side for a long time. I’ve been walking around with that thing, and because it’s still there I keep re-injuring myself and it never heals. I finally pushed it through. Let the healing begin.

 

Baring It All

After my breakup in the winter, I knew I had to act fast to keep myself out of depression. As a little context, winter months are always particularly tough and I have a tendency to get some seasonal disorder. I had even had the conversation with this guy as we went into January. I told him I will probably be feeling particularly blue and to not let me make any major life changes until April.

They say when we make plans, God laughs. I see the joke, and it is a seriously twisted sense of humor.

I decided I was going to give myself something to look forward to. I wanted to feel feminine and pretty. I wanted to celebrate my body, which is curvier than it has been in a long time. I decided to invest in a boudoir photo shoot for myself. There is no better time.

I found a deal on Groupon and I am so glad I did. The company is called Three Boudoir, and right now they do photos in very select cities. I remember going through the galleries and thinking how happy these women look. How comfortable. How SEXY. And not in a cheesy posed kind of way that seems forced. They seemed like they were owning the sexy from within.

Dare I say it… it was like all these women were channeling their inner Beyonce.

So I booked a session for two months later and added on the makeup application because I am pretty clueless when it comes to that kind of thing.And strangely I didn’t feel all that nervous.

The day arrived. I took the day off from work. I’m fairly certain I blushed when I lied and told my boss I was going to DC to visit a friend that was here from out of town. I took a long, leisurely morning to get ready by painting my nails and moisturizing and loving every inch of my body. I took extra time to do my hair, despite the downpour that was happening outside. We can only control so much…

When I arrived, I was brought into makeup and that’s when I really began to feel pampered.I’m not used to fake lashes and liquid liner and shimmer. But it sure was fun.

And then they began to prep me for the shoot. I met my team. There was a photographer and what I will call a Stylist or a I’m-Gonna-Make-You-Look-Awesome Expert. But honestly, they both fed off of my energy and each other’s and it really felt like we were all in it together.

They made me feel like one of their best friend instantly. Despite the fact that I can’t remember the last time I was in panties and a bra in front of my friends. Or just a thong.

I will be honest, I went through phases of being comfortable. I spent a majority of the time in just a black thong because I really wanted to highlight my legs and back, features that I love. But every once in awhile you realize “my boobs are just… there.”

And it reminds me how much we women are uncomfortable in our own bodies. I wanted to confront that and embrace it and be all hanging out. Some poses were more awkward than others and sometimes it was a challenge to hold my tummy tight while popping my booty. But that made us all laugh which leads to more great pictures.

I laughed a lot and I left feeling like a rockstar. I left my makeup on even though it was way heavier than I was used to wearing. That glow of confidence is still with me, especially when I look at the pictures.

It was easily the best money I had spent in a long time. I would do it again in a heart beat. It has confronted some of my body hangups and now when I find myself self-hating I turn it to a laugh and remember how awesome my body is.

And I realized that one of the things we get hung up on is how we think other people think of us. And being mostly naked in front of two hot women (in my opinion!) and they embraced it and even celebrated it with me was incredibly empowering. It let me know that as long as I feel good everyone else feels good around me. My energy will feed theirs.

We should worry less, and celebrate more. That’s a New Year’s resolution I plan to keep.

And now, the photo I am most proud of. I was inspired by a photo on a woman’s blog, and maybe it will help you as well.

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Solo Traveling

Doing things alone are often one of the quickest ways I learn about myself. I have no one to hide behind, no one to distract me, no one to make decisions. There is no one to lean on when I get lost or lonely. Just myself.

I’ve traveled alone and gone to the movies, dinner, concerts, the bar, social events and parties, and weddings alone.  Most of the time I do not let my lack of a date stand in the way of doing what I want. I could be waiting forever if I always waited for a guy or a friend to agree to what I want to do (and have the time!). For a long time it was empowering to do what I wanted to do without asking anyone, it’s definitely freeing to not be relying on anyone else.

And now I’ve been doing it for so long, I take for granted how cool it is. Until I went on vacation alone in San Francisco.

I had an amazing time exploring this city that felt new and exciting. I loved just about everything in this city, most especially because it was a lot like Baltimore, my hometown. I liked that it was accepting of everyone’s individuality. I stayed in an Airbnb in the Mission District, which is felt so hip and funky I was a little bit of an outsider.

When I go out alone I rely heavily on Yelp to find places that the locals go to. And when I am feeling particularly adventurous I like to do drinks and an appetizer at one place, dinner somewhere else and then dessert in another different place. I did this twice in San Fransisco, and how could I not with so much delicious food everywhere?

On one night that I went restaurant hopping, I found myself in this funky bar that reminded me of one of my favorite dives in Baltimore. I loved chatting with the bartender who seemed charmed by my willingness to not only go to a bar alone (without any intentions of picking up a man) but to also travel alone. But one can only talk to a bartender for so long because, as enchanting as I am, eventually he gets busy.

I had a phenomenal time, and I went home at the late hour of 9:30pm, before the night’s festivities of Wheel-of-Death karaoke even got started. I was tired, and didn’t want to have anymore to drink. Plus, as a solo woman traveler that walked to the bar in an unfamiliar place I wanted to have my wits about me when I walked home.

I went to my gorgeous Airbnb and watched a few episodes of Girls and went to sleep completely happy. But I had a conflicting feeling that I was missing out on the nightlife of this great city. I justified it as I was making the safe decision. And it’s hard to meet people at a club or even pick the right club when you don’t have friends with you to make it fun. Plus I like to go to bed early, so I would be sleepy if I went out.

Isn’t it funny the way we want things we can’t have? I don’t even like nightlife. When I am home, I prefer spending a Friday night with Netflix and a glass of wine compared to a night out on the town. And when I am traveling I would much rather spend an entire day walking and exploring neighborhoods and local charm and be completely tired when 9pm rolls around.

So it is strange to me that the only regret I hold is that I didn’t go out more. EVEN THOUGH I DON’T LIKE IT.

I don’t pretend to make sense. It’s just how I feel. Conflicted.

I am working through letting go of expectations. Somewhere there is an expectation that when I travel I need to hit all the important experiences: walk local neighborhoods, eat like the locals, check out the bar/nightlife scene, do the quintessential experiences for that city. And somewhere I think I should play into the stereotype that as a young, single woman I should be out partying and making tons of friends and dancing in a nightclub until 1am. But that’s just not who I am.

I like being up early. I like not being hungover on vacation. Maybe I find a yoga class or going for a run. And I just have to let go of this expectation in my head that I have to be and do all the things and be someone that I’m really not.

I’m about to do another solo trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts this weekend. I have a friend working there for the summer and I will get to see her a little bit, but I am mostly alone. Which is exciting. There is really no nightlife to speak of in the Berkshires, so that inner conflict won’t be a problem. But I can still practice letting go of my inner expectations of who I am supposed to be when I am traveling on vacation and I can just enjoy my time doing exactly the things that I want to do.

I Spent My Birthday Alone and I Feel Fine

As I approached my birthday, I told one of my dearest friends that the only thing I did not want was to be alone.

I had a rough breakup this year. I had hoped it was the kind of relationship that meant I would never spend a birthday alone again. Looking back, I can see that was never going to be the case, but at the time that is what I thought.

I don’t even think I could articulate why it was so important that I wasn’t alone. I was afraid of some kind of bad luck charm that would curse my year. Or if I didn’t have a momentous birthday it would reflect on who I am. There was some story I made up in my head, and I wasn’t even sure of what it was or what the root of the story was.

So this friend said that she would gladly celebrate with me and we made some plans for drinks. And then things went awry and she had to be in the hospital. I told her that I would love to come and just be with her.

And then it was the morning of my birthday I was thinking about the idea of being alone and I started feeling anxious. And when I felt that anxiety, I knew that was exactly what I had to do.

I had to confront this feeling of “I can’t be alone.”

I wish I could say that I loved being alone. I didn’t. But I didn’t hate it. I didn’t die. The Facebook messages saying “happy birthday” continued to roll in. Which felt ironic in a way. All these people that were sending me wishes and here I was sitting alone.

I picked up some delicious and fresh eggplant parmesan from the nearby market and my mom had made me an individual sized cherry pie the day before and I saved it for my birthday. That was lovely. I had that with a nice big glass of wine and The Queen’s Code. And I ended the night writing reflections and goals for my year ahead and also purging some things that I no longer needed.

While these are activities that I do love doing and I needed to do them, it’s not exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday. I would have rather been out with a friend talking about our lives over margaritas.

But the fact that the idea gave me anxiety was a strong enough reaction that I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t NOT do the thing that scared me that much. And one thing I want for the year is to confront these stories I am clinging to and prove to myself that they are just made up and worthless. Spending a birthday alone does not mean that your year will be less than. It is not bad luck. It does not mean people don’t care about you.

The one treat I gave to my self was a massage. The muscles in my back are a tight and a stubborn mess. He had to do a lot of work, and it’s probably just scratching the surface to fix those problems. It was not comfortable or relaxing. I did a lot of deep breathing to let oxygen into the muscles as he really worked. It was uncomfortable but I definitely stood taller with less pain in my normal places, and I can see the benefit after just one uncomfortable session.

It was exactly what I needed.

And at the end of the solo birthday experiment, there were no major revelations, no earth-shattering breakthroughs. But, it didn’t kill me. It didn’t mean I like myself less. Or that people don’t care about me or don’t want me around. It doesn’t mean that I am less important or that I am going to have less of a great year.

In fact, I think it may point to the opposite.Like the massage, the more willing I am to be uncomfortable the more I am able to grow and stretch. And that is what I am all about. Growth. Becoming the best version of myself. Becoming a person beyond what I could dream of being.

I just have to lean into the discomfort and see what is there.