The Universe Has My Back, Right?

 
Manifesting a soul mate and the role of the Universe in the process.

Today, I want to dive into a lesson the Universe delivered to me ever-so-kindly the past month.

Let’s step back in time to the end of June (and even before that). I’m mid-way through a massive two-week juice cleanse and have just stumbled into some serious emotional detox. Like, oh man, this fucking sucks type of emotional detox. Sitting on the couch at my therapist’s office, I take off my glasses (so they don’t get those dreaded speckles from tears that are hard as shit to get off).

“So, I guess during all of this cleanse, I realized I tuck away my fear of being single,” I confess. “Like, the only time it ever comes out is when I drink and that’s a big reason I don’t drink anymore. I’m happy 99 percent of the time, but then that little annoying one percent just hammers me when I let it.”

May and Dating

We dissect the past brief “relationship” I had. I put it in quotes, because I met a guy and we dated. And by date, we met on a Friday night, and then went out every night but one, our last date being the following Tuesday.

I realized he was nowhere near where he needed to be in his healing process with his ex, and I wasn’t interested in being the guinea pig for it, and also, we just weren’t a match.

But, I clung to it … because he liked me and I convinced myself to like him. Only, the convincing I did was courtesy of whisky, beer and wine, since that makes it easier to fake feelings … to feel how you think you’re supposed to feel and also to ignore those red flags (ex-wife he still lived with, not in tune with our goals, etc.) because damnitIwanttofindsomeoneamazingandwhileheisntitmaybehecouldbe … right?

Fucking wrong wrong wrong.

“Diana,” my therapist says, “fear makes us do things we normally wouldn’t do.”

I chortle.

“How do I ignore it then?”

“You have to be in tune with yourself. And, you have to know that the right man for you is on his way.”

In tune with myself. Isn’t that what I’ve been working on for the past year?

But, I know what she means. It’s those red flags. Because if those weren’t there, I would have worked to make that relationship blossom. Unlike in the past, when I would have kept on until my partner (no matter how ill-fitting) would walk, this time, I lasted four dates. And I acknowledged the red flags … and made excuses/justified them.

So, I was kinda sorta but not really there.

“You’ve got to make space for the right person,” she states. “Go home and clean out some space in your drawers. Buy an extra toothbrush. Open your house to love.”

I sigh.

“Imagine what it feels like to be with the right person,” she continues. “Repeat ‘I am ready for him.’ It will happen, you have to put it out there.”

“Alright, I’ll do it.”

After therapy, I head to Ikea to  shop for cool shit  make space for this man I am going to manifest. I buy organizers for my bathroom counter, red candles for my bath tub (she said to have red items in my house because that is the color of love). I go to the grocery store to buy a tooth brush and cleaning supplies.

That night, I clean my bathroom and make space on the counter, placing the unopened toothbrush in one of the organizers.

I go through my clothes, creating a giveaway pile and emptying areas in drawers. I adjust my closet so there is space for my future love’s hangers.

Once it’s all done, I light those red candles next to the tub and draw a bath. Sinking into the lavender-oiled water, I lean my head back against the rim of the tub, placing my feet on the faucet.

I close my eyes and imagine being in love. I feel the feelings. I walk through my day in behind closed eyes, letting myself envision what it feels like to be in love and to be in a real, caring relationship.

After my bath, I do a little dating app exploration, and nearly every man I swipe right on is a match and from Las Vegas (a rarity). The following day, I give my number to one of said matches. He’s cute and witty, but when I tell him I’m on a juice cleanse at the beginning of our text conversation, his response is “I’ve got some juice for you.”

Wait. What. Also, seriously?

Where Old Diana would have let that slide, Fear Aware Diana doesn’t.

“Pretty forward for someone you just messaged, eh?”

“LOL it was funny.”

Or, it wasn’t and it wasn’t the way I wanted to be flirted with by someone I didn’t know and doesn’t know me.

So, I took a deep breath. Blocked. Deleted. Next.

July and Dating

Right on call, the next day the Universe delivers someone to me.

He’s a “semi-local,” 45 years old, seemingly normal guy. We talk on the phone and hit it off, so despite being on a juice cleanse, I agree to meet him for “dinner” that night.

As I watch him clean his Cracker Barrel plate, he fires questions at me, and we learn about each other over a longer than normal dinner date.

I sit there, thinking of the space I’ve made as he tells me I’m beautiful and funny and all the things I want to hear.

When he takes me home that night and kisses me goodbye, I don’t fight it.

It feels right.

We make plans for two nights later, right before I’m due to head out of town. Again, we go to a long dinner where I drink water. This time, our conversation goes a little deeper.

“Why are you single?” He asks me, holding my hand.

Wouldn’t I fucking like to know.

“I think I’m a lot for most men my age,” I offer. “I have my shit together. I’m super independent. I’m driven. I’m me and I don’t make any apologies. I think that really intimidates a lot of potential matches.”

“You are a lot,” he says, rubbing his thumb on my hand. “But, then again, so am I. I think you’re incredible. Beautiful. I like holding your hand. Is it OK if I keep doing it?”

I sink. This man is saying all the right things, and he continues to do so.

We end the night at my place, where he endears himself to me even more by playing with my cats for a good 15 minutes. I keep the night PG because I’ve learned by now that I want something serious and getting too hot and heavy too quickly means those flames also burn out really fast.

Cuddled on the couch, he lazily traces his finger up and down my arm.

“You deserve to be loved. You deserve someone incredible. If it’s not me who gets you, the person who does is going to be so lucky.”

He spouts magic word after magic word, knowing exactly what to say to rope me in, praying on my desire to manifest my match. I’ve wanted someone to say that to me … forever. And, now, here we are. And, just wow.

You’re beautiful. You’re amazing. You’re perfect. I feel like I’ve known you forever. This is so wonderful. 

Even for a woman with confidence like I have, to hear those words come out of another’s mouth fills me up with hope, desire, an idea that despite initial thoughts (he’s super short and scrawny, and I always imagined I’d be with someone who’d make me feel secure and safe), I overlook them because no man has ever said those words to me and they make me feel so damn good.

Maybe he is saying them to me and he’s never said them to anyone else before. Maybe he really believes what he is saying. Or, maybe he says it to everyone. It doesn’t matter. I’m. In.

Before the night is over, it’s been established I’m going to meet him in LA in two weeks. We part ways and continue our “relationship” over text.

As I sit on the runway 36 hours later, I get a text from him saying: “Is it weird to kinda miss you?”

Butterflies.

Fast. Furious.

A few days later, I remember that he has a free ticket to Universal Studios, and I really want to see him and he makes it seem like he really wants to see me.

“What would you say if I came out for the day to go with you to Universal”? I write.

He responds enthusiastically, telling me it will be a blast.

Ultimately, I book the ticket and the days leading up to our reunion, I get countdown texts.

When I arrive to LAX, he greets me at the bottom of the escalator at baggage claim, my name written in Thai.

Jesus, how did I ever end up so lucky? I put it out into the Universe I was ready, I made space, and there this man landed on cue.

Then, the red flags start.

When I get in his car at the airport, he hands me a Visa gift card.

I hold it in my hand and look at it.

Was he helping to cover the cost of my adventure?

“Don’t get excited,” he says. “There’s nothing on it.”

“OK …”

“You’re on Southwest. You can use this and order whatever you like. They don’t run reports until after the flight is over, so by the time they run it, you’re gone.”

Oh mannnnnnn. My stomach sinks.

“Oh,” I say, at a loss for words. I blink and look outside as we drive through Hollywood. “I appreciate it, but I won’t use it. I think it’s bad karma.”

“Not for me, it’s not,” he says. “I don’t have any bad karma.”

He also confesses grabbing discarded airplane tickets and using the tickets to bulk up his frequent flier account.

“It’s OK because it doesn’t take away from anyone else,” he promises.

I ignore all of it and instead focus on his hand on my knee and how nice it feels to have someone make me feel so special.

We spend the day holding hands, hugging, kissing, going on rides and having a wonderful time. Even when I’m back at LAX after a super romantic theme park adventure and my best friend asks me how the date was, I tell her there were some things I wasn’t OK with, but not red flags. He’s really cheap, I joke. But, not really joking.

“Best dates 3-5 ever,” he writes that night. “Can’t wait to see you next week.”

Fear and Choices

Then, the next afternoon, he becomes cold and distant. I feel the shift in the pit of my stomach as his Xs and Os disappear and his response times go from a minute to a day.

Yet, I continue to gush, thinking of all of the wonderful things he has said to me to hook me, ignoring the things which bother me.

“They’re behaviors that can change,” my friend explains to me over dinner.

“Yeah,” I say, stirring my ramen, “I hope so, because I don’t know how I feel about some of that stuff he does. It makes my stomach sink.”

We go two days without talking and then on Monday, I go to look at our old conversation from the dating app, and he’s edited it since the day before when I showed someone his profile, changing his text about being in Las Vegas.

“He has a penis,” my friend justifies to me when I tell her what I saw.

“Yeah, but also, he was so all about me and telling me how wonderful I was and beautiful and perfect, and all of the sudden, that stopped and he hasn’t responded to my message today, but had time to change his dating profile? What the fuck?”

I feel betrayed. Like the words he spouted meant nothing. Did they mean anything? Haven’t we reached a point in our mid-to-late mid-life that we can simply be open and honest and not pussyfoot around important conversations like “hey, I liked you and now I don’t, maybe it’s not a match after all?”

I hear from him half a day later, right before I go to bed, and he apologizes, saying he fell asleep. For seven hours.

“I’m not going to LA this weekend,” I tell another friend. “He’s going to cancel.”

Never do I admit I should cancel, that is isn’t working, that I’m not ok with his sudden change in behavior because, man, I love the way I feel when I’m around him.

I book a session with my therapist the next day after prompting from my mom, who I call and tell her what’s happened.

“Literally, nothing changed. It was all ‘you’re amazing, I can’t wait to see you,’ and then it was silence,” I say, trying to make sense.

And then, she points out my red flags.

“Those aren’t things you liked,” she says, “But you ignored them.”

“Yeah, I did, because I like him and I want to give him a chance.”

“Or, because he liked you and you liked what he said to you.”

Fuck. Hello, Fear. You fucking asshole

“Well, tomorrow will be a good session,” I offer.

As I sit in the waiting room for my therapist the late afternoon of the next day, he calls me.

“I’ve had a shitty day,” he begins. I feel my stomach tense up. I know what’s coming. “I think I’m getting sick. I don’t know for sure, but I think there’s something coming.” Fake cough

“Yeah, ok,” I say because I already knew this was going to happen. I don’t feel sad, I feel angry. Furious that I’m being lied to and he thinks he is getting away with it. Thinks that I am an idiot.

“I’m really sorry, I mean, I don’t know if I am sick, maybe I’m not, but just in case, I don’t want to leave you hanging or have to cancel your plans or not have a Plan B.”

“Oh, I have no intention of canceling my plans, I’m going to be with friends, and I have a Plan B.”

“OK, good. I really want to see you, I just don’t know if I’m going to be sick or not, so let me see how I feel tonight and call you tomorrow and if I don’t have a fever, it’s cool.”

And, it’s Tuesday. LA is Friday. And, I’m in town until Monday. But, hey, when you’re lying, I suppose it can make sense.

“Yup, ok, I hope you feel better. Eat some garlic and drink some tea.”

“Oh yeah, right, I will,” and then, “I hope I can see you. Will talk to you later, cutie.”

I shudder, disgusted in the time and space I’ve given him.

Why? Just why?

So, over therapy, we dissect the relationship. I report to my therapist what I’ve learned about his life, who he is, what he’s said to me, how he has treated me. And, my feelings about his behaviors that don’t sit right with me i.e. the total lack of integrity.

“OK, so, let’s go back to the other guy,” she says, referencing the man with the ex who still lived with him. “You knew it wasn’t right but you didn’t walk away immediately. But, you did walk away.”

I nod.

“This stuff with this guy, it’s the same. You know it isn’t right, but you didn’t walk away. It’s never going to sit right with you. Why didn’t you walk away.”

“Because he made me feel really good about myself,” I say. And, then I get really mad. I start to feel like prey. Like, there’s this piece of me that he knew wanted to be loved and cherished and he saw it when others haven’t, and dangled words and affection in my face until he found his next person. And, that there was something in me that still needed that fucking validation that I thought had vanished ages ago.

“Oh, and yeah, fear.” I finally admit. “I knew and I ignored it because I wanted it to work.”

“But, you see he’s not right for you and you ignore it, even now, when he is pulling this with you, you see it, you acknowledge it and instead of walking away, you wait for him to make a decision about what happens next.”

I hug the pillow. “Yeah,” I mumble. “So, how do I change that?”

“Choose you.”

“I don’t know how to say that.”

“Yes, you do. Tell him you choose you. Take control of your life and make a decision for the two of you.”

“I did all this work, I put it out into the Universe, he came along. I thought it was him,” I say, frustrated.

“The Universe gave you him, and you know why? Because you need to learn how to choose you. How to listen to your gut instinct and not ignore it. How to acknowledge when something isn’t right and walk away. That you don’t need someone else to tell you how wonderful you are, that you need to believe it yourself. You’ve got to learn these lessons because they will bring you to the right person, and that’s what the Universe is telling you.”

Well, damn. She’s right.

I get in my car and call him. I can feel the tension pulse through my body as I take a deep breath before diving in.

“I know you’re sick and I’m sorry,” I begin. “But, it made me think a lot about us and I choose to be with someone who has space in their life for me, who wants to spend time with me, and I don’t think that’s you.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing,” he says. “It sucks because I like you and I’d like it to turn into something, but yeah, the distance isn’t going to work.”

I leave out the original statements he had made to me when he told me that he isn’t really semi-local and is only here on occasion, but it’s ok because he’s dated women here before and it can totally work.

The conversation continues for a minute or two as he over explains why it won’t work.

Then, he says: “Well, I mean, we can still hang out Friday, just maybe you don’t spend the night because that might be a little uncomfortable.”

Oh, but you’re sick.

“No, I don’t want to see you, this isn’t going to work.”

The words come out of my mouth and suddenly, I feel empowered. In control. I choose to walk away, even from a fleeting feeling of good.  I’m not overlooking the things I was willing to overlook so you can play on my fears.

It’s something I haven’t really done before but holy shit, I just did.

“Well, I guess I will talk to you soon,” he offers.

“I hope you don’t get too sick this week,” I say sweetly, then it’s over.

Tomorrow, I’m going to LA because why would I not go to LA? As the Universe would have it, there’s actually a vegan market in town this weekend. Which I’m going to because obviously there’s a reason I moved my schedule around in the first place.

And, as the Universe would have it, this week has made me hyper aware of my boundaries and truly listening to my gut. This fear vs. gut is a new thing for me, and it’s going to take some getting used to listening my gut, truly listening, but it’s all part of the process.

Because, as Gabby Bernstein promises, the Universe does indeed have my back.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley
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Diary The Dating Life
What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

The Not So Definitive Guide for Men to Creating Dating App Profiles

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.
Oh, dating in the app age. Remember a few short years ago — you know — the good ol’ early 2010s when you’d plunk down cash/card and go through the exhausting getting to know you questions on eHarmony? Or, the mindless browsing of profiles on Match?

Gone are those days.

Er, well, not gone, but definitely not as prevalent as the new kids on the block like Tinder and Bumble.

After a year of swiping, I’ve noticed a few things I’d like to share with the male population: some tips to make me actually want to swipe right. And, once you’re there, how not to blow it. And, I don’t mean the sexual way. I mean the you-have-nothing-to-say-way or the pen-pals-for-life way.

So, let’s start at the start.

Your Profile

Gentlemen, first, you need to establish why you are on the app and what you are looking for. There tend to be three types of men on the dating apps:

  • Those looking to get laid
  • Those not specifically looking for an actual relationship for any number of reason (i.e. they’re picky, just got out of a relationship, etc) but won’t be opposed to it if they meet a great girl, but will also likely to be looking to get laid initially as well
  • Those looking for an honest-to-goodness longterm relationship

Men. If you’re the latter, let’s examine your profile.

(Note: There’s also a fourth kind of man on the apps, those looking for a plus-one in their romantic relationship. But since that is a less mainstream and more specific polyamorous type, we’ll stick with one-on-one dating lessons.)

What Photos Not to Post on Dating Apps

Now, as a 37-year-old woman who has dated my fair share since moving back from the dating wasteland of Thailand, when I look at your profile, I will swipe left 99 percent of the time if you have any of the following photos:

  • Shirtless  (if you’re not at a beach or pool and, you know, being casual, not flexing your guns for the camera) – personally, I’d rather wait to take off your shirt myself than see in a profile. Also, it makes me wonder why you feel that your shirtless selfie (or shirtless bathroom selfie — even worse.) is necessary when someone is deciding whether or not to drop you a line initially. If you’re proud of your body, awesome. Love it. Confidence is rad. Write about how you like to workout. Or, even better, don’t because it seems every. single. man. writes about how he likes to workout and stay fit.
  • Petting a tiger/riding an elephant – first off, I’m super against both of those things, as are many other women. And also, again, every. single. man. posts photos of himself with a drugged tiger or cub or exploiting animals. Let’s leave ethics out of this convo and ask some simple questions: Do you want to be cliché? Do you want to fall in line with every other guy, or stand out? It’s awesome that you like to travel. Write about it. Or, again, don’t because – I’m not exaggerating – all the men like to travel. I’ve never read a blurb from a guy that says “traveling sucks. I never want to leave my backyard.”
  • Holding a fish. Or dead animal. Again, you’re looking for a female right? Most girls do not want to see that shit, not now, not if they’re married to you 20 years. As someone who loves all the living things, nope. Swipe. We get that you are outdoorsy, but I don’t want to see some dead fish in your hands or you proudly holding up the a deer you killed by the antlers. Unless the woman likes fishing or hunting, it’s more cliche than anything else.
  • Triathlon/marathon/scaling the world’s tallest peak. One of these is fine. Your entire portfolio of images composed of your athletic feats is 1. overkill; 2. intimidating. I love someone who is athletic, and I’m sure other women do, too. But, just pick your best shot. One. Photo. And if you only prefer women on a similar athletic plane, make that known in your bio.
  • Selfies in a bathroom mirror. (FYI — 99 percent of my single girlfriends report this gets an immediate left swipe.) Come on. Someone can take a photo of you at some point in your life when you look good. Let them take it. Also, we judge the cleanliness of your bathroom.
  • Pics of you with kids. If you have a kid, I’m going to go with the opinion of don’t share it (or at least blur out the little one’s face). There are creepers on the internets and apps. You never know who is looking. Also, I get posting pics of you with your niece/nephew/friend’s kid to show you like kids. But, you can always tell us you like kids versus stealing one for a photo shoot and then adding a disclaimer: child is not mine.
  • Filtered pics. If you are going to filter or photoshop your photos, do it so we don’t know. I’ve seen so many photos where the filtering/tweaking is just bananas. Also, snapchat filters for your profile pics? Nope. Ladies – if you’re reading this – same goes for you.
  • You partying excessively. One pic with a beer is fine. Six photos where you are downing shots, beer, wine, whatever … it starts to look like the only thing you are serious about is partying. And, if that’s the case, I hope your profile states that versus looking to settle down. I’m 37. I like to go out and drink. On occasion. But, every photo of boozing makes those warning bells go off.
  • You with a bunch of hot women (hey, it’s a thing on these Vegas profiles). We are women. If we see you surrounded by a bevy of beauties, it leads us to draw a few unsavory conclusions: 1. You are a player. 2. You expect to date a super model. 3. You’re a player. 4. You want lots of easy sex with lots of “10s” and probably have no soul.
  • You in bed. Immediately, I wonder who you sent that photo to before you were on a dating app. Also, it looks creepy and lazy. Two things which shouldn’t go together for a first impression.
  • You 10 years ago. Um, catfish anyone?

What Photos to Post on a Dating App

And now for what photos will get women to swipe right:

  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies in a car while you’re driving
  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies of you doing something you love (that isn’t showing off your deadliest catch or latest kill or exploiting an animal)
  • Photos of you with cats or dogs. Because cats, dogs and men together are so cute.
  • Photos of you with friends (but not every photo. We want to see you on your own, too. And know who you are in the group.)
  • A full-length photo
  • If you like to travel, a photo of you traveling
  • Photos that are recent. Like, really recent. If you have to write that you no longer have a beard, etc. how about just uploading a photo with you sans beard?
  • Photos that really show your personality. You’ve got 100 or so words and a handful of pics. Choose wisely.

What Not to Put on Your Profile

The worst thing you can do is leave you profile blank. To me all women, it shows that you’re not serious in meeting someone. It also shows that you’re maybe a little bit lazy. Swipe. Left.

Typical profiles I see go like this:

I like adventure, work out and stay fit, love to travel, work hard, play harder, whisky, dogs, 6’2. We can tell everyone we met at a Whole Foods. (Note: what women request height? I’m sure some do, but I don’t know any who claim height is a deal breaker. I’ve never asked. In fact, some of the greatest men I have dated have been shorter than I expected, but it didn’t matter because they were so rad, it was all good.)

Stand out and skip mentioning things in your bio that everyone loves. These include: “having fun, traveling, hanging out with friends, my pet, good food, good drinks, good conversation, loving life,” etc., etc. So you like fun and traveling and friends? Groundbreaking? Nope. Does it make you blend in with 1,000 other swipes? Yep.

Or just:

Vegas local.

Simply writing where you are from gives us ladies nothing to go on. I automatically assume if you write that, then you’re looking for a little fling and that’s it.

Or:

“Best guy ever.” — New York Times

“Hot and funny.” — LA Times

“A keeper.” My mom.

 

The quotes? The first time I saw it, I thought it was cute and original. The. First. Time.

What to Put on Your Dating App Profile

First off — what do you want out to get out of the dating app? A relationship? A hookup? A new friend?

Save us time and spell it out. There’s nothing worse than getting into a convo with someone who seems awesome and then having them bust out with peaches and eggplants.

The guys who are honest and disclose they only want hook-ups — thank you. Really. Thank you. Because I know you’re not for me. You’re for someone. Just not me.

I know there are only 100 or so words on Bumble and you can do a bit more on Tinder, so break it down to this:

  • Where do you live? In Vegas, we get so many tourists, I never know who is here full-time or just breezing through
  • What do you want?
  • What makes you cool?
  • What do you like to do?

An example of a dope profile I’d swipe right on:

Las Vegas local who gives a shit about animals, seeing new places and hitting lesser known locales. Digs whisky, foreign cities with character, and good vibes. Loves veggies, wine and looking for a long-term partner-in-crime. Not allergic to cats.

I mean, that’s the guy I’m looking for (so, if it’s you, holler).

Communicating in App

Now, for the communicating. With Bumble, it’s ladies who take the lead. So, depending on how creative we get, it’s up to you to continue the convo. Responding and not leading to another question likely results in the end of the chat. I assume that if we match on one of these apps, you actually want to talk to me. Therefore, let’s talk.

On Tinder or other swiping apps, if you message first, please please please don’t start with any of the following:

“You’re hot.”

“Hi sexy.”

“Hey/Hi/Yo.”

Engage. It’s the best way to get a woman interested. If someone messages me that without anything else, I don’t respond. Because, why? Dating is a dance. And that first impression via messaging is important.

Take a minute and read her profile. Determine a question that shows you read her profile and ask. Then, start the convo. The best convos span a little, dig a little and then lead to asking for a number and, ultimately, asking the woman out.

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

Also, if it’s clear from a profile that you aren’t what the woman is looking for, stop right there. For reals.

Pen pals are fun. If we are actually getting letters in the mail that are handwritten. Pen pals on dating apps are a waste of time. If you have no interest in asking a woman out, then there’s no point in continuing a conversation. Let it go.

Not interested? Get back together with your ex? Meet someone else? Please don’t ghost. It’s so damn rude if you are mid-convo. Instead, a simple: “Hey, you’re rad and all, but I think right now isn’t the best time for us to continue getting to know each other.”

End. Of. Story.

If you reach out to a woman and she doesn’t respond immediately, don’t follow-up to check on her. Give it a day or two or three. And, if she still doesn’t respond, definitely don’t message her and be all “hey, are you not interested or what?” Starting to send numerous unanswered messages is your kiss of death. Promise. Chill out. Let it be. If she’s into you, or interested, she will respond.

Sometimes, we get a little swipe happy and may swipe on someone we didn’t think was a match. It’s not a rule to respond to every person who messages, just like you don’t have to respond to every message you get. I get the hint. You get the hint. Hopefully, others get the hint, too.

Go forth, into the wild west of dating apps where no rules apply, but really, they should. And men, please let us know what you like/don’t like on dating apps, too!

Title photo via Flickr Creative Commons: NASA GSFC

Featured Perspectives The Dating Life
What is EMDR and does it work? I personal experience with eye direction movement reprocessing therapy and how it helps reprogram your past memories to help your present.

What the F#$% is EMDR and Does it Work?

What is EMDR and does it work? I personal experience with eye direction movement reprocessing therapy and how it helps reprogram your past memories to help your present.“Here’s the thing,” my therapist begins, after a particularly anxiety-filled session discussing my focus on outcomes and relationships, “You’re aware. You’re so aware. You know that how you are feeling is not rational, but there’s something missing …”

“Yeah,” I sigh, defeated.

“You just need a click.”

“Yeah,” I repeat, looking down at my hands as they grip the plush pillow.

Over the past two years, I’ve worked long. I’ve worked hard. I’ve transformed from a girl who was so unsure of her footing in regards to adult decisions, to adult relationships, to my entire being, to a woman who is keenly aware of what makes me who I am and why. I’ve navigated the tumultuous (and often times ridiculous) dating minefield in Las Vegas. I’ve navigated the same minefield of friendships. I’ve navigated my own minefield.

And, I’ve arrived.

Basically.

Except the anxiety. The being overcome with doubt. With fear.

It’s been bred in me since my childhood (note: not from the way I was raised, my parents are sensational and loving and empowering, it’s from life), this idea of not being enough. Not loving enough. Not being worthy. I know it. I can talk about it openly. But, as much as knowledge is power, this knowledge and acceptance doesn’t make those deep-seeded beliefs disappear. No amount of meditation, mantras, affirmations, crystals, manifesting, make those things go away.

I’ve tried.

“I think you’re the perfect candidate for EMDR,” she announces. “I think it’s the click you need.”

I sit upright on the couch as she continues. EM what?

“EMDR works for people who have suffered emotional traumas in the past. It uses an eye direction technique to essentially reprocess events in your past which have somehow hidden out in your brain and stuck around and impacted you far beyond how they should,” she explains. “You are cognizant of everything … now you just need to reprogram some key instances in your past so they don’t impact you the way they currently are.”

I feel a warm light wash over me.

Reprogram my past? It sounds like an episode of the Vampire Diaries where a heartbroken Elena tries to remove her love and change her memories after Damian gets stuck in some weird other world (I used to love that show). Will EMDR change me? Is it some witch-y thing that shakes up my core and makes the pain from past experiences go away?

Yes. And no.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Whattttttt?

Simply put, EMDR is:

“A psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.”

The EMDR Institute goes on to explain:

“Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.”

The therapy uses bilateral stimulation or eye movements during a part of the session to examine an event in the past and then works to transform them on an emotional level. It delivers the power of change to the patient, and rather than continue to cling to the negative events of the past, they are reprocessed to become empowering.

Click.

How EMDR Helped Me Heal

The first time I walk into my therapist’s office, I’m excited. After years of working on myself and untangling my past to understand my present, this is my last step. My first session is an intake, where I explain the traumatic experiences from my past (including my numerous sexual assaults which have left their nasty scars in my heart and mind) and then am given a quick intro to EMDR.

My therapist places two little pulsars in my hand, connected to a box which controls the pulses. She guides me through a quick meditation, asking me to recall a time when I felt truly peaceful. As I close my eyes and recall the memory (Mexico, this year, sitting on the beach and feeling the warmth from the October sun hit my face and radiate over my body), the pulsars buzz back and forth alternating between my left and right hand.

I feel the warmth. I feel the peace I felt on the beach. Deeper than I’ve ever felt it before.

The next week, we dive in and tackle those monsters of my past that still linger as gray clouds threatening to dump rain on me and impacting my psyche.

The first memory I have is also one of my first memories. It’s one which I’ve talked about for years but never realized how big a role it has played in my self-love (or lack thereof).

First, I walk through the old memory.

“I want you to feel it, really feel it,” she instructs as I close my eyes and the pulses begin.

The emotional pain starts in my sinuses, stinging them as my chest constricts and my stomach tenses. I don’t struggle for more than a brief moment and then let the tears flow. I don’t know where all of the pain comes from, but it is there and flowing. And flowing. And flowing.

She has me relive it for a bit, as I replay in my head the memory over and over, letting those feelings rise, rise, rise to the surface.

We stop and discuss the situation. How my body reacted to it. What I felt emotionally.

Then, we dive back in. This time, we focus on letting my mind protect myself and envisioning either someone I love and trust insert themselves into my memory, or inserting myself as an adult into it.

I once again dive in, but this time, I alter it. I let the person I love help. From there, my brain takes over. It builds a loving shield, bursting with affirmations I practice today into my childhood memory. Those kind words, kind beliefs, plant their roots into my old story.

The tears cease. Then, she asks me to recall the event to her and focus on my body.

“How do you feel?” She asks.

I scan down, starting at my head, recalling the memory as I go.

“Weird,” I report back.

The tension, the tightness, the stinging … they’re gone.

My therapist hands me a log sheet to note any issues I may have post-processing and between appointments.

I don’t even pull it out of my purse.

A few days later, EMDR is put to the test.

An instance where I normally would be hyper-focused and anxious is rendered silent.

“There’s a difference in you,” my friend reports after hearing my experience. “It’s working.”

She’s right.

Where there should be anxiety and fear — at least according to 30 years of experience — there is a blessed silence in my brain.

I should be feeling something. I should be feeling … anything. But that negativity is nowhere to be found. There’s an odd numbness/peace which takes the space of the pain.

I think to myself:

“This is what life must feel like to normal people without the emotional scars I carry.”

And, I no longer carry them.

We go through another three sessions of reprocessing. Each session is painful, digging up and reopening gaping wounds which had long since scarred over in the ugliest of ways (you know, what scars look like without vitamin E). Then, they re-heal seamlessly.

I try to conjure up the old pain. The old Diana. But, she doesn’t exist anymore.

“It’s like there is this gaping hole where pain used to be, and it’s just not there any longer,” I explain to a friend over drinks one night. “It is a weird feeling, to know how I used to feel. To be able to recount how my thought process was, but that turmoil that was raging inside … it’s simply vanished.”

The EMDR Test

I’m not content with knowing that the old feelings are gone without putting my new self to a test. So, my last session with my therapist, we work to reprocess a trauma that doesn’t deal with emotions, but a deep-seeded fear.

When I was in sixth grade, my ears were pierced. But, I was irresponsible and didn’t take care of them so they became grossly infected. The night before my birthday my mom went to clean the earrings.

“I can’t find the backings,” she had said, telling me I would be reporting to the doctor as soon as possible.

The next morning, after being chased around the doctor’s office for a hot minute (I blocked this part out, my mom reminded me), I stood clenching my hands tightly as the doctors ripped the skin on my ears apart, the backings having been swallowed up as the infection attempted to heal.

For 25 years, I couldn’t so much as look at another person’s ear piercings, let alone fathom putting an earring through any lobe. The sight of holes made me sick to my stomach. It made my knees tingle. It made my heart race in the most uncomfortable of ways.

Then, at the start of 2016, I decided to re-pierce my ears. With a friend holding my hand, the needle pierced my lobe.

I will be good this time. I will take care of them.

I twirled the earrings like I was supposed to. I washed them. But, when it came time to replace the studs with other earrings, I couldn’t do it.

My brain would literally not allow my arms to lift to my ears or my hands to pull off the backings.

After seven months of not being able to change them, my mom finally switched the earrings out in her kitchen. I stood there, sweating, anxiety-attack looming as she replaced the studs.

“D, you really need to learn how to do this,” she said as I questioned how the holes looked.

“I know, I know,” I responded.

But, I still couldn’t do it. I’d always put it off. Promising myself next week. Next month. When she was in town.

So, I decided to introduce the traumatic memory into my EMDR session.

First, I relive the experience at the doctors. Then, I am instructed to talk to myself now and explain that my ears are fine. That the backings are there, not covered by skin. That changing my earrings will be pain-free. That nothing bad will happen. I tell myself that I was young when that happened, but it won’t happen again.

We go through the memory and reprocessing for about 15 minutes.

Then, peace.

I walk out, head held high.

Let’s put this EMDR to the test.

I get in my car and think about changing them. And I don’t get sick. My heart gets a little flutter-y, but it’s the anticipation … not the fear.

“Come over and we will do it together,” my friend messages me later that night. “I’ve got lots of holes in my ears. I think you practice on me and then do it yourself.”

So, I go.

We sit at the table, earrings laid out on a paper towel. Rubbing alcohol next to it, along with cotton swabs. It looks like a makeshift doctors office, with all of the instruments laid out and sterile on the dining/operating table.

“OK, you ready?” She asks. Her hand goes to her ear and removes the earring. I watch as she pulls it out.

It doesn’t make me sick.

I pick up an earring.

“Put it in,” she instructs.

I close my eyes, swallow and then grab the tiny post, cautiously putting it through the hole in her ear.

I did it. 

A smile erupts on my face.

“I didn’t puke! I didn’t get scared! I did it!”

“You did!” She echoes my excitement.

I continue practicing on my human guinea pig, placing earring after earring in her ear, hooks, posts, whatever.

“Now it’s time for you,” she says.

“I don’t even know how to take off a backing,” I sigh.

So, she does it for me, pulling the earring out.

I grab another earring and hold on to it tight. My palm doesn’t get sweaty. I stand up.

“I’m going to do it,” I announce, walking to her mirror.

I look at the hole in my ear. It’s so tiny. Then, I put the earring in.

I turn to her, slowly, my heart bursting with happy.

“I fucking did it! I didn’t freak out. I didn’t get sick. I didn’t even feel like getting sick. I. Fucking. Did. It.”

I continue on for another 20 minutes, putting a variety of earrings in my ears and taking them out. I do it until my ears are scarlet and sore.

Then, I look in the mirror at the silver jewelry dangling from my ears. And, I cry. I let go of 20 years of fear. Twenty years of anxiety.

“I don’t know how this works, but it works,” I tell her and continue sobbing. “This … I can’t … my life … it worked.”

I can’t explain how it felt to be able to do something which used to paralyze me. To be able to have that fear removed from my life. It’s … astonishing. Unfathomable. But, more than anything, it gives me peace.

So, Does EMDR Work?

Yes. So much yes.

The earrings were the easy-to-see-success test, but I’ve also noticed how the EMDR works in the other areas I needed it to make a change. It’s a surreal feeling to know how I used to be, to know the way my brain worked, and to no longer have that thought process take place. To no longer have those feelings pulse through me. To feel empowered. To feel good about myself when I didn’t think (in certain regards) it was possible. Those fears and doubts and negative stories which were so ingrained in my body, my mind, my heart, have vanished and been replaced by a positive story.

Should I try EMDR?

EMDR isn’t right for everyone.

And, trust me when I say this — it isn’t a quick fix in the way you may think. You have to dig and truly get in touch with shit in order for it to work. It’s not a substitute for getting your shit together, or the tough work you need to do be able to address the situations which have led to the need for EMDR.

The reason I was a prime candidate was because I had been working on myself long and hard. I had implemented daily practices of self-love and care. I had worked with an amazing therapist for a long time to get me to the point where this was the final step.

But … those steps to get to EMDR, and the EMDR itself are so very worth it.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Diary Get Your Shit Together

The Wildfire and Rebirth

An essay about getting over heartbreak and learning self love.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Stark

Hi.

I’ve missed you. Seriously. Missed.

“So, if you’ve missed TCZP so much, Miss, why have you not penned a damn thing in almost a whopping year?”

I call Life.

See, after garnering more consecutive days of sobriety since I was 18, I realized some stuff. Not because I kicked the sauce. After I headed to Thailand to speak at a conference (where, yes, I drank a copious amount of seriously shitty Thai beer and wine), I realized all the things.

Actually, it wasn’t so much realized, but more like admitted shit to myself.

And, what did I admit?

Oh, you know, the basic stuff: I was absolutely fucking miserable in Spain.

Yup. Mis.er.able.

Gut-wrenchingly, devastatingly, miserable.

Long story: Why I said adios to being an expat.

So …

I returned to my desert roots of Las Vegas. It’s been my home more than any other city in my adult life. And, for some reason, despite how many times I utter under my breath “I loathe you,” it’s always wrapped its dry heat and strip malls firmly around my heart.

I arrived, fresh-eyed and ready to tackle Sin City. Except I had baggage. About 160 pounds (give or take) of it. Stuff I never talked about anywhere.

Baggage that kept me from really living. From really experiencing, because that weight constantly had my mind, had my eye, and, yes, had my heart.

I could never be firmly present, firmly anywhere, because my mind (and that annoying beating thing in my chest that always took over the mind) was never present. It was living in some world I imagined, where every little piece of the puzzle was perfectly placed and those romantic movies come true.

Spoiler alert for any of those who are in love with your best friend: life is not “Just Friends” or “When Harry Met Sally” or even “One Day.” You are not Mindy and he is not Danny (not this season, obviously). Or any of those other movies where the camera encircles a couple, realizing their love, locked in that passionate first kiss.

It’s far sloppier than that. And not really true.

Here’s the thing about an unrequited love: it destroys. Like a wildfire raging out of control through the parched land, it crackles and burns and then wind comes and makes it grow even larger until it burns everything in it’s path (oh hai, heart).

But, often times, those wildfires are necessary because they nourish the soil, making way for new growth. For new life.

Minus the burn being (at times) catastrophic, in the end, there is some good that comes out of it. (Folks, it’s an analogy, I certainly don’t wish wildfires to destroy anything.)

So, my Wildfire came in March. And again a month later because sometimes you think the fire is out, but then some embers reignite the shit and it’s even worse.

But, finally, I put it out.

It was heartbreaking. It was tragic. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. And then, it was over.

Like any period of mourning, you grieve. You miss. You yearn. You look at the phone number of the ghost and toy with deleting or keeping it alive. Your eyes search over old photos, letting memories pop up and linger until that hole in your heart becomes almost unbearable.

Then, you stand up, dust your shoulders off, hold your head up high and tackle the shit out of life because you’ve got no choice.

That end ended up freeing me. And being the best thing to happen in my life.

Why?

Because (with some therapy, natch), I realized it wasn’t about me. That I’m not this deeply flawed person who is not loveable. It’s human nature to want to feel good. To feel validated, and damned if that validation didn’t turn out to be a legit thing.

I mean, of course you love someone and keep them around when they make you feel so good. They make you feel happy. They make you feel special. Loved.

Until they don’t.

That validation I felt/no longer felt, turned to anger. And then, acceptance and gratitude for the past.

Validation became a theme for me as I moved forward.

Not consciously … at that point … but still.

For the first time in years, I truly wanted to date. I wanted to meet a good guy. So, I downloaded Bumble. OK Cupid. Even as I still cried over my loss, I dated with vigor.

Begrudgingly at times, but I did it because I knew I needed to. I knew I needed to know – nay, to prove – that I was, indeed loveable. Pretty. Funny. And whatever other stupid fucking words I needed to feel via a first kiss.

I can’t even recount all of the dates I went on (although my friends and I definitely came up for nicknames for some of the ones who made more than one or two appearances. It’s coming.). The shallow promises of second dates. The drunken first kisses (although I always firmly told my therapist the right guy for me would be a sober first kiss … or one glass of wine versus four). The text messages. Then, the teetering out of communication or straight ghosting mid-conversation for reasons unbeknownst (not by me, I’ll tell someone it’s not working).

There were even a few in the mix I genuinely liked. Cared about. But, always knew there was zero chance of it ever being more than dating.

Then, after a particularly draining, boundary-ignoring man entered my life and refused to leave it, I decided something: I had it.

“I don’t understand why I continue to do this,” I explained to my therapist, curled up on her couch. “I don’t even like this guy, I told him as much and now that he hasn’t responded, I sit here wondering if maybe I made a mistake. Although, I know I don’t want to be with him. If I wanted to be with him, I wouldn’t have ever told him to back off or complain that every word he says drives me batshit and literally feel my jaw clench when his name pops up on my screen and feel the urge to throw my phone like a hot potato across the room. And yet …”

My voice trails off as she and I both go back to that Wildfire.

And, that word: validation.

We had tossed around the word before. It ended in her referring a book to me, Radical Acceptance, which I ordered immediately, read the first chapter and then tucked it under my bed.

But, there we were again.

Fucking. Validation.

I dated. And dated. And dated. Looking for someone … anyone … to make me feel good about myself.

So, on that couch that day, my therapist and I decide it’s time.

“You have to learn how to validate yourself. To really love yourself. You’ve told yourself this horrible story for so long [Ed. Note: that’s what happens when you have a love/hate relationship with yourself aka depression] now you need to rewrite it, Diana.”

Of course, the tears flow because, fuck, I’ve never been happier in my life than I have been since I moved back to Vegas, since I moved on from that unrequited heart suck, since I’ve worked so hard on me. I even started a Gratitude Journal and every night before bed, would turn on my salt lamp, light a candle, and document at least five things which I was grateful for each day.

I’m obsessive when I get into things, so even the days I didn’t write, I’d make it up the following, sometimes literally going back four days and writing 20 things I was grateful for.

However, it wasn’t enough.

“You need to rewrite your story,” she said reaffirming. “You need to love yourself, truly love yourself. You need to tell yourself every day …”

Then, it hit me: “I’m done dating,” I state, proudly, sitting up on the couch. “I want to do kind things for me. I want to love me. I have to learn how to do that. I have to retell my story because the shit I have been putting out into the universe for the past 36 years has led me to where I am, and it isn’t where I really want to be.”

“What do you want?”

“Me. I want to love me. And then, I really want to be open to love. I want to meet a man who loves me as much as I love him. To have a relationship that is good and kind and loving and nothing like the shitty relationships I have had.”

I walked out of that office that evening knowing it was time to make a change. I delete Bumble. OK Cupid. Any phone number in my phone of a guy whose last name is “Bumble” or “OKC” or any derivative/identifier of who they may be since I was still nurturing communications with a handful.

Of course, not even 24 hours later, I met someone who ended up derailing me for a moment. But, even that derail didn’t cause catastrophic results. It opened me up even more.

Over dinner a few nights after that, I sat with my good friend, Jen, telling her my ideas about not dating, but also my feelings about what had happened with this man.

“It’s not like anything can happen,” I explain. “He’s not even a match for me. And yet, I feel so sad about it.”

“Diana,” she said, her blue eyes focusing in on me, “You have to replace that shit.”

I blink, moving the Thai food around on my plate.

“Change your story. When you start to feel sad, or bad, or lonely, tell yourself this: I have everything I need.

“But, I don’t …”

“Yes, you do,” she argued. “You absolutely do. You just don’t believe it.”

So, I open Radical Acceptance that night and start to read it. Then, the next day, I try the affirmation.

I tell myself “I have everything I need” so many fucking times. And, a funny thing starts to happen. When I repeat it in my head, I can feel a tingle in my heart. Every. Single. Time. And it feels fantastic.

I start telling myself anytime my mind wanders to doubt about who I am.

The company I now keep in Vegas is very energy- and manifest-focused, so I started a manifest journal and my friend sent me a video she did explaining how to do it. I decided I want to really start meditating.

Then, a few days later, Jen came over with gifts for me. She pulled out a tiny bag filled with a few relics to put on my mediation altar, and a rose quartz bracelet.

“You have to practice self-love,” she says, handing it to me. Then, she had me lay on the floor and do a reiki session.

Of course, my chakras were out-of-whack, namely my heart and throat ones.

She instructed me to imagine pink glowing from my heart and tell myself I love me, and love others, and am open to love from myself and others. And, for the throat, she instructed me to write letters to people of things I haven’t said and then burn them.

That week, I started to meditate. To manifest journal. To retell my story in words and thoughts.

Then, magic started to happen.

My thought process began to slowly change. I started to vibrate happiness. I actually felt my heart opening. I felt peaceful. I felt powerful. And, somewhere in there, the idea that the universe is going to give me exactly what I needed really, truly, hits home. In those brief moments of doubt, that thought comforted me, gently. Empowered me. Made my heart flutter.

The universe is giving me what I need.

So, what do I need right now? Me. That’s it. Me.

I need to believe in myself – truly believe in myself. To love myself. Truly love myself and be aware of it.

Let me tell you something – it’s a lot easier said than done.

As I grow, I’m going to grow here, because I want to show that anyone can change their story. Anyone can come out of their shells. Can find love and happiness within themselves.

The past few weeks have opened my eyes as life has literally changed because of the things I have manifested. As I have felt free. Weightless. Blissful.

This isn’t TCZP of old. It’s new. I haven’t laid it all out in terms of how I’m going to break it down, but I am going to say this: TCZP is truly going to be about getting out of my comfort zone. About opening up to loving me and others. To being kind. To being compassionate. And to learn more about how I can attract what I need and want in my life.

I’ll be sharing it all here, along with bringing in experts to shed some light on how to change old thought patterns.

I envision TCZP to be part holistic health, meditation, energy, wellness and also the other goodies life brings, like relationships.

Welcome back to TCZP.

 

Diary Get Your Shit Together

Sober in Spain?

A personal story about going booze-free (and eating clean and working out all the time) for a month ... while living in Spain“So, my good friends are leaving tomorrow, and then it is basically just me … alone in Spain,” I explain to my therapist. “I know I’m going to be so lonely.”

She listens patiently, casting a sympathetic glance at her computer screen, thousands of miles away from me. I sit, sprawled on my bed in Madrid, Lucky in my lap, as I fight the fear of once again being alone in a foreign country.

It’s a shitty feeling, sometimes, being an expat and starting a new life in a foreign land.

“What are you going to do?” she asks me from Las Vegas.

I ponder for a moment, looking down and stroking Lucky’s soft orange and white fur. I sigh.

“I guess I can just focus on me,” I announce. After reading The Power of Now, I’ve had a reawakening of sorts, getting out of the mindfuck I constantly let play out in my head. “I can work on being the present and working on me and becoming comfortable with me.”

I quickly calculate how long it will be until my friend returns to Spain.

“So, it’s like 40 days of really only having one or two people in my life. And they have lives, so I need to learn how to operate without looking to anyone else for entertainment or my happiness.”

“I love it,” she says, smiling. “Like 40 days and 40 nights … of just focusing on doing things for you.”

We disconnect from Skype and I feel … better. Not great, but better. Resolved. The next 40 days will be about me. If I’m alone, it is because I choose to be alone. Not because I am alone.

That night, over wine, I tell my Madrid friend about my plan.

“That’s good,” he says. “I like it. What are you going to do?”

“I guess I will just focus on me?” I muse, sipping my wine.

The next day, he messages me. “I’m doing this with you. Let’s not drink starting now. Eat clean. Work out. I’m in.”

Wait. What? Not drink? Eat clean? Work out?

A personal story about going booze-free (and eating clean and working out all the time) for a month ... while living in Spain

Me and my best friend. And the guy who works at Hedonism in London.

I think to the pizza I was dreaming of ordering in a few hours. The wine I was going to buy to wash it down. A weekend of lazing around … because I can. Forty days with no pizza? With no wine? What the actual fuck is that?

“We’ll start Monday,” I type back.

“No. Now, or you won’t do it.”

And, he’s got a point. Over the weekend, I teeter. I don’t drink, I don’t work out, but I order pizza as my parting comfort food for the next bit.

Can I really go a month without drinking? Since I’ve been of legal drinking age (and before), drinking has been a part of my life. Going out with friends? Beer. A girls night-in lamenting about being single? Wine. A party? Shots. Hell, the longest I have gone without booze was a few months earlier, and that only lasted two weeks. And that was because I was in Delaware with my parents and they don’t really drink. A month? In Spain? Yeah, right.

That Sunday night, my friend and I meet at an intercambio. I arrive early.

If I get one glass of wine before he gets here, he won’t know. Plus, it’s an intercambio. Everyone drinks. I have to have a glass of wine if I’m going to be social.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more introverted. The idea of massive gatherings with people talking from all directions actually gives me a knot in the pit of my stomach. I’ve never done a gathering like that without alcohol to alleviate that feeling. Even in small groups, I tend to go off in my own mind when things get too hectic. The idea of being at an event like this without alcohol makes me not want to even be there.

Yet, for some reason, I don’t order the glass of wine. I’m not sure if it is because I don’t want him to disapprove, but I know part of it is we’ve got a deal, and I want to hold up my end … even if I don’t want to.

When he arrives, he asks if I’m getting wine.

“No,” I sigh, scowling. “I’ll have a stupid fruit smoothie.”

You know what? I make it through that intercambio without a drop of alcohol.

Three days. Done.

Getting through the week without going out to drink is pretty easy. I’ve got him, and he’s not drinking, so instead we go out and drink water and just talk. It’s a weird feeling at first. People look at me when I decline a drink.

“Seriously?” They ask, and then try to convince me to have just one glass of wine or beer.

“Nah,” I always respond. “I’m not drinking this month. I’m getting healthy.”

The more I say it, the more I believe it. Suddenly, I’m hitting the gym five days a week, doing at least a spin class every day, and then arms/legs a few times a week.

I’m eating clean. I’m eating vegan. I’m going to bed at a normal hour. I’m learning Spanish. I’m declining invites out because I’d rather (gasp) stay in and write. Or work.

I look in the mirror and watch as my face grows thinner. As the alcohol padding around my stomach begins to whittle away. As my arms become more defined.

About half-way through the month, something strange happens. One day, while I’m sitting on a spin bike, getting ready for class, that feeling of embarking on torture for 50 minutes disappears. I’m excited. I look forward to the class. To getting off the bike, covered in sweat, walking outside into the Madrid heat and feeling it evaporate in the air. To going home, to writing, to hanging out at home, making a smoothie …

Then, it isn’t about counting down the days until I can drink again, it is celebrating how long I haven’t drunk and marveling at how easy it has been.

What have I learned about myself the past month?

For starters, I have willpower. When I want set a goal, even if it is hard (like not drinking, eating clean and working out five days a week), I attack it. The people who tell me I have “amazing willpower” make me smile. Part of it is willpower, but more of it is how incredible I feel being so kind to myself.

It’s the first time in, well, ever, I’ve been so incredibly good to myself. I feel energized. I feel strong. I feel … happy.

I’ve also learned I can be social without alcohol. Granted, I don’t really enjoy being around super drunk people and having them ask me the same question repeatedly because they are too drunk to remember they’ve already asked me a billion times, but I can go out. I can sit around as everyone else sips wine and enjoy the refreshing, cold water I drink.

Even better, I’ve learned I can live in Spain and not drink. When I first arrived here, when I told another friend of mine I wanted to stop drinking, she looked at me with shock.

“Um, it’s Spain, that’s impossible,” she had said. “Everyone drinks.”

It basically gave me permission to just go out and get shit-faced. Because Spain.

So, today marks one month of being sober. Am I going to go celebrate with a glass of wine? Or go catch a nice buzz? Nope. I’m going to hop in the shower (because I’m gross from my two-hour workout), make a fruit and veggie drink in my NurtiBullet, and then do some writing.

Will I drink again? Sure. But, after this month of not drinking, I’ve decided it doesn’t need to be as big part of my life anymore. I’m so much happier feeling good. And not hung over. And knowing instead of hurting my body, I’m doing something good for it.

Will I continue to work out like a fiend? Yup. I love it.

As for the pizza … well, I had one slice the other day. Hey, there are some things I just don’t want to give up.

Diary Featured Get Your Shit Together

Yes, I am a Travel Blogger. No, I Do Not Piss Glitter.

Yes, I am a travel blogger. And no, I do not piss glitter. A look at what life as a travel blogger can really be like.

“Glitter close up” by Inkwina – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Huge disclaimer: This is most definitely a rant.

This post has been a long time coming. But, life got in the way.

And, I’m not talking about my life of travel and unicorns and rainbows that for some reason the general public seems to think we travel bloggers live. I’m talking about the cold, hard world that REALLY can be life.

Waking up and wanting to get through the day, just so I can go to sleep and start another day. Working with my laptop perched on my legs, leaning against a pillow on my bed, wearing a bra and shorts because I just can’t be bothered with getting out of bed. And, when I do get out of bed, it is to smoke a cigarette, go to the bathroom, or go and heat up some crappy food. Oh, and to grab a corkscrew and pour a glass of wine or 10.

See, people talk on the interwebs about what a glorious life they lead as travel bloggers. Seeing the places! Eating the food! Drinking the drinks! Sleeping in that 1 billion thread count bed. They don’t talk about the struggles. They just spew the idea that everyone and their mother can do it, too. Can live some kind of life where they can see the world, make a shit ton of money and go to sleep with a smile on their face and start the next day all sparkly and rich.

I call bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

Yes, there are definitely a select few who are able to do this (and the ones who really do damn well deserve it!), and make enough money to live (likely not in the States. Or Australia. Or maybe even parts of Europe.) And, my hat goes off to them because they work their asses off. And I mean it.

But, the rest of us? Nope. Not even close. Some will tell you they are successful (and you can be, too!), but if you look closely, it is because the post is littered with affiliate links directing you to often-times pricey resources to DIY, of which they get a nice cut.

When I tell people I’m a travel blogger, I kind of mumble it. Or, I don’t even tell them. I just say I work online. Because I know what words will follow: Oh my god. You are sooooooo lucky.

While I don’t disagree, I am lucky, I always tell them I am luckier that I have the ability to travel because I work really hard to make money. That I am lucky I have friends and family who support me. That I have enough money behind me to pay for annoying visas to live abroad. To cover the cost of rent. To ship my cats from Thailand to Europe.

Yes, I am a travel blogger. No, I do not piss glitter. I do not get to travel the world for free. Hell, I don’t even make an income off of my blog really. Unless you count that $30 that Amazon has that they won’t release to me until I hit the ever-looming $100 mark.

I work. All of the time. For everyone … but me. I do social media. I do PR. I copywrite. I ghostwrite. Hell, I have even toyed with starting a dog-walking service in Madrid just to cover rent. I dream of simply working for myself. Of writing that one great novel. Of hitting the Amazon Affiliate jackpot. Hell, of writing an e-book that sells millions … or at least 100. But, right now, that isn’t my reality.

So, please. If you want to get into travel blogging, do it because you LOVE TO TRAVEL. And, love to write. Not because you think it is some cure-all. For some, it is. But, for many of us, we do it because we love it, not because we are in it for the money.

Also, welcome back to The Comfort Zone Project. More news to come soon.

Diary Perspectives

A penis does not equal desire

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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Christina

Tonight, I would like to write a PSA of sorts to the men. Actually, not men. If I actually had a desired audience for this evening’s rant (and it sure is a fucking rant), me thinks the actual audience would be boys, because only boys would have this juvenile thinking of “penis = girls want me.”

Take a step back in time with me, if you will. To about two hours ago. Beth — my American friend who is hot, awesome and takes shit from no one — and I are sitting at my new favorite pizza place in London, Franco Manca (trust me, sour dough crust, numerous locations across town, it’s the best and cheap!!!) as we finish off our bottle of red wine.

“You want to go out for a bit?” I ask, feeling like at 7 p.m., with an upcoming trip to Madrid, it is far too early to call it a night and head back home.

“Sure,” she agrees, polishing off the glass. We pay our check and then begin to walk out of Brixton Village (my favorite spot for cheap eats and awesomeness).

Wandering along the main road in the cold, we finally pop into Prince Albert (don’t laugh) and place ourselves in front of the taps in the dimly lit — nearly empty — bar.

“Look at those guys,” she says, gesturing to a table of four just outside of the bar. The table — all men — are clad in animal onesies.

We both look and giggle. I mean … why on earth does anyone go to the bar clad in a onesie unless they want attention in the first place? You certainly don’t go wearing a lemur costume to blend in.

“I’m going to ask them why they’re in costume,” I say, grabbing my cider, because why the fuck not? “You cool with that?”

She agrees and we walk up to the guys.

“Onesies?” I ask. “Why?”

Guy 1  — the only one not wearing an outfit — launches into it being Australia Day tomorrow and his friends — all Irish and in town from Dublin — wanting to celebrate.

For a few minutes, we laugh about their costumes and then he invites us to sit.

I feel like at this point I need to better set the stage. Beth and I are out randomly. I’m wearing a plaid shirt, ripped jeans, my hair in a ponytail and no makeup. She’s wearing a camo sweatshirt and makeup-free face and hair back, too. We are most certainly not out to get laid. Or even meet men. Shit, we just stuffed our faces with pizza and wine.

“You want to sit?” Non-Dressed-Up-Guy asks.

Why not?

So, we scoot into the wooden booth and start chatting with the guys. They are from Dublin, flew here on super cheap flights, and were out and about tonight with others. They play guessing games as to where she and I are from. We chat about random bullshit.

Then, when a few of the guys get up and it is just Beth, myself and a physicist, he breaks it down for me:

“We are all engaged or otherwise taken,” he informs us, solemnly, hands wrapped around his beer and looking me dead in the eyes.

Wait. What?

I look at him, completely shocked by this information.

“And you are telling me this because …”

I look over to Beth who blinks and glares at him.

“Well, because you should know. In case you’re trying to pull one of us …” (ohmygod, so British.)

I look back to the guy, with thinning red hair and a thin beard.

“Wait,” I say, formulating my thoughts. “Did you think either of us were trying to hit on you?”

He smiles.

“What?” I ask again, taking in this information he has decided is pertinent information in our lives.  I look back over our conversation. There is nothing that would have ever even given him the slightest hint we would have been even trying to hit on him or his onesie-wearing friends.

“Was it my foot that rubbed up against your leg and into your crotch that gave it away?” I ask (note: I did nothing of the sort. In fact, I had not even touched him, batted my eyelashes or undone the top button of my button down shirt), disgusted that by us simply accepting his friend’s invite to sit with them that it automatically means the following:

1. We find them attractive.

2. We are interested in them.

3. We have done anything, other than be friendly, that would justify his statement.

He stares. Clearly caught off guard, knowing there was nothing blatant at all about our interactions that would have led him to make any sort of statement about his relationship status.

Meanwhile, his friend, dressed as Red Riding Hood laughs. “Ooh, I like her,” she giggles.

“Really?” I ask again. “What made you think we would be hitting on you? You are wearing costumes to a bar, we asked you about it, you all invited us to sit down. At what point did we ever give you the idea that we were interested in you?”

He laughs it off and then begins to droll on about this Web site (because at this point he knows both Beth and I have sites) and asks for advice.

But, Beth and I are done.

Since when does sitting with someone mean we want to fuck them? Since when does friendly equal attraction? Since when does simply sharing a conversation mean we want to have illicit relations? And since when do men feel it is vital to tell women they are otherwise occupied without the slightest hint of interest?

Mind. Boggled.

We excuse ourselves from the table and sit on our own, free from judgement because we are friendly. Is it just an American thing to talk to people? Or does going up to the opposite sex in a public place automatically mean we are interested?

And, what on earth makes any guy think we are interested in them unless we actually make it a point to communicate that (read: “Hey, you, cutie, I dig you. Let’s have a beer, flirt, be all touchy and then go home together? Okkkk?”)?

I think back to the past month I’ve had in London and my interactions with men. Is that how it is here? Being friendly = “I want to fuck you”? Engaging in fun conversation and hanging out means “I am in love with you and want to be in a serious relationship”?

I shudder at even the thought.

Boys, get over yourselves. This is 2015. And last I checked, not every girl wants to fuck every boy. Some of us are actually capable of just being friendly gals. If you so happen to be so caught up in your own bullshit and can’t see that, shame.

By the way, have I mentioned lately how much I don’t like dating??? Man.

(And, to you Mr. Physicist, no, we were not interested in you. Sorry.)

(And, Comfort Zone is back.)

Diary The Dating Life