The Unbirthday

“Here’s to your 27th birthday!”
“No, T’s turning 27. I’m celebrating the second anniversary of my 25th birthday.”

Twenty-seven. When you’ve officially entered your late twenties, no ifs, ands or buts about it. 27 is the age I always thought I’d be an adult, or I’d have my shit together. I didn’t expect 27 to hit me as hard as it did when I woke up on Monday morning, just before 7am, right around the time my sister was born, the older twin by 14 minutes. After a fun-filled weekend of shopping, baseball, fireworks, hiking and lots and lots of beer, on my last morning in Massachusetts, I quietly grabbed my sister’s keys before she and her fiancé woke up. Pulling my hair into an almost-ponytail and cautiously closing the door behind me, I took my yoga mat out to the same riverside park behind their apartment where T and I did our first yoga class together two mornings before. I sat for a minute, watching the sun rise over the low river, enjoying the silence of the early morning, before everyone was awake and about, and just before starting my Sun Salutations, I took a look at the clock. 7:13, it read. Exactly the time I was born 27 years prior.

27 sounds like an adult age, right? And my life is starting to feel super adult as well, between all the weddings and whatnot. People I know are even starting to have babies, or have babies that are starting to look like humans instead of squishy adorably screaming things, and the fact that this all feels normal is the oddest feeling in the world.  I can’t reconcile reality with being 27 quite yet, I never gave much thought to life after 26, I don’t think, so now I’m in this weird age where it feels like I’m not at all where I thought I’d be and that’s kind of amazing. It’s also scary, though – which is probably why I’ve been telling everyone that I’m not celebrating my 27th birthday. I’m celebrating the second anniversary of my 25th birthday.

At first it seems a ridiculous notion on a number of levels, avoiding my birthday and therefore reality, but then again, turning 25 was when everything started changing for me. 25 is when I started getting tattoos again and when I dyed my hair red. It’s when I tried yoga for the first time and it’s when I started this blog. The years since 25 have been heartbreak and bad dates, broken promises and lots of starting over. I wouldn’t go back to 25 again, and hell, I wouldn’t even go back to 26 again. I’ve loved growing up in the past two years, and I wouldn’t change any of the lessons learned for anything. So if I’m going to be in denial that I have, in fact, crossed that late-twenties line, why not celebrate what it’s taken to get there in the past few years?

After a long weekend of traveling and drinking, I was grateful to have yesterday off from work, a day to decompress on my couch, snuggling with little miss and ignoring the suitcase that needed to be unpacked, the carpet that needed to be vacuumed. It was like a birthday present to myself, disconnecting from everything for the afternoon and just finding stillness in this adult life of mine. “27,” I said aloud to no one in particular at one point, letting the number roll off of my tongue and roll around in my brain. It’s starting to feel a little more real, this whole adulthood-thing, and that’s quite a scary thought. It helps in the meantime to pretend that I’m not celebrating another year, but an anniversary of when things started moving forward to the life I’m living now. Because this life might still be a little crazy, but to me it’s perfect. And it’s only taken 27 years to get here.

Six.

While shopping for my maid-of-honor dress this spring for Twinster’s wedding in October, I very quickly narrowed it down to two choices, but took a long time to make a decision. T and I talked about it a lot, because unfortunately, the reason we loved one dress more than the other was the exact reason we knew I couldn’t get it. See, I think I have just about the coolest mother in the world. She taught me how to be kind, and tough, and has supported me through absolutely everything. But she just can’t stand my tattoos. She loves to admonish me for them whenever they’re visible (*which truly, isn’t that often), tell me how much I’m going to regret them when I’m older, your typical parent things. The dress T and I loved was backless with a sheer cape, and while it was probably the perfect dress for me, it would have put the rib tattoo on display. Now, T wouldn’t have cared less if I showed up sporting a Mike Tyson (“Have you seen my dress? It’s not like anyone will be looking at you”), but Mama B would never forgive me if I wore something that displayed that much of my ink. So I went with my second choice, a dress that’s equally beautiful and has a closed back, and though it doesn’t showcase one of my favorite features, I can’t wait to wear it all the same.

I don’t mind that my mother hates my tattoos. Well, let me rephrase that. At this point in my life, and sporting the pieces that I do, I no longer mind that my mother hates my tattoos. I think because the first two were such carefully planned impulse decisions, I didn’t have the chance to prepare for her reaction. In some vague way, I knew she was going to be PISSED (*and she was), but at the same time, I knew that it didn’t really matter how angry she was with me for them, because I’m the one that has to look at them and live with them, and I love them a little more every day. I finally gave her a heads up before getting the third, and planned a careful speech to have with her so that she would understand both my decision to get one, as well as how well-researched and serious I was. She cut me off after a few sentences when I finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, but I didn’t push it. I know she’ll never understand or like them, and so I’ve just continued to get them, warning her along the way if I can, preparing for the renewed anger that I’m getting used to.

It’s hard to respond to people when they say things like “I couldn’t get a tattoo, I change my mind too often!!” because I think it misses the point of tattoos. Yes, they’re permanent – but that doesn’t mean it absolutely has to have some sort of higher meaning that will never change, a design you’ll feel exactly the same about from the day you get it till your last breath. I mean, the tiny heart on my ankle was the epitome of an impulse decision. Exactly seven years ago today, I was 19, living in a foreign country, and though I tried telling myself that it was too cliche to come home from six months abroad with a tattoo, I still walked into a shop that cool August morning by myself, an indecisive teenager ready to make a permanent decision. The final product isn’t the design I wanted, it’s not even the design the artist wanted, and I’ve had to have it redone once already. But here I am, seven years later, and despite everything being wrong from what I’d initially wanted, every time I look at my very first tattoo, it reminds me of a time in my life where I was bold. It calls a memory of that wild child in Buenos Aires, who did so many stupid things and a learned a lot of lessons to boot. The tiny heart on my ankle is like my little souvenir from who I was, and what I learned, exactly seven years ago today.

The designs have improved with time, and for the last two pieces I’ve stayed with the same artist, because he’s really the one person I trust to put ink to my skin now, but that feeling of a souvenir from a previous LB is true with every one of them. Of the remaining four, one of them makes me feel daring; one makes me feel obvious and loud in the best way; another reminds me that you can choose your family too; and another tells me every day to be grateful. That’s not the order in which I got them, because how each of those memories connects with which tattoo is too personal, even to mention here. But those are pieces of a previous me that I want to remember, and parts of my spirit that I never want to lose. Truly, it’s not for everyone, a permanent reminder of who you were seven, five years, even just one year ago. But whether tattoos “are” for anyone else is irrelevant to my decision to have them, because they absolutely are for me.

At the wedding this fall, I’ll wear my beautiful dress with a full back, and stand behind my sister, making sure her beautiful dress looks picture-perfect while she says yes to the rest of her life. And only my arm will be showing, but luckily it’s just the one line, so for Mama B’s fear about the photos, there’s always Photoshop. We’ll have our bridal lunch, and wedding, and then of course the Jets v. Pats game on Sunday, where husband and wife will enjoy a fierce rivalry as such for the first of many times. And then when I return to the city, I’m going to rest for one day before traveling to the Lower East Side for tattoo number six, one that will be very visible and very planned, and I absolutely can’t wait. It’s going to remind me of this time in my life, where I’m surrounded by love and the one-bedroom apartment that no longer feels so empty, and one day I think it will remind me that life is meant to enjoy.

This is my white flag.

Everyone has bad days, personally, professionally, because of strangers, or lovers, or partners, or friends. We all have our ebbs and flows, we have the days where you’re flying and the days where you’re drowning, and that’s not what I’m here to talk about. This isn’t another post about the bad days, and how I know things are going to get better, because if this was a post about the bad days I would already know that. This is a post that simply has one message: I surrender.

The chaotic monotony of life has been building me up and breaking me down lately, and walking out of the office 2 hours after I’d first packed up to leave last night was the icing on a really fucked cake. I’m exhausted. Stressful weeks mean I’m abusing the chocolate drawer, and all that sugar in my system has aggravated the anxiety that hasn’t flared up since before I did the Whole30 in April. All I wanted was to get to a yoga class, and once again that was taken from me; all I wanted was to get to my mat at home but I couldn’t even have that to look forward to, because I had to stop at my lovely friend M’s to pick up my dress for R’s wedding, and then I had to feed myself, and I needed to clean, and shower, somewhere in there I suppose I’ll have to sleep before going back into work forever; and everywhere in there I’m still covered in poison ivy, which has a real way of making you feel life a fucking rockstar. When my head hit the pillow last night, I let the tears frame the sides of my face as they streamed down, down, and found a new mantra to guide me to a restless sleep: deep inhale, deep exhale: I surrender.

I surrender. I’ve been so fortunate for the past few weeks that things have been fantastically wonderful in my life, with positive thinking and attitudes, but something snapped in me this week and I don’t have it in me to fight anymore. Last night when I got to M and N’s place, I started talking about my day, as they are the most amazing listeners and let me complain whenever I need to, and about two minutes into my frustrated lamentations, M walked over to me from where she was sitting on the couch and without missing a beat pulled me into a hug. The second my head hit her shoulder in a grateful release from the tense nature of feeling overwhelmed at life, I started to cry, the first time that night that I felt like I couldn’t push through. It was just a few minutes where she let me cry on her shoulder, shoulders shaking with the tiny sobs of someone who doesn’t have it in her to fight any longer, and the rest of the night before my head hit the pillow, I was trying to figure out where my fight went, and why I surrender felt so good to repeat over and over, before falling into a dreamless sleep.

I’m a fighter by nature. I fight back bad moods, I fight back at stress, I push through the bad days and I don’t let people walk over me; it took me years to find my voice and I will be damned if anyone tries to mute it again. I make mistakes because I’m human, but I fight to grow from those mistakes instead of letting them define me. But I’m waving the white flag on this week. I can’t fight anymore. Last night I felt defeated, like I’d run a race as the leader until the last three steps, where I fell and watched everyone else sprint past. I was supposed to have a Summer Friday today but I’ll likely be here late, pushing to get things done on time, even though it won’t matter, and next week everything will still be crazy. Monotony, circles, running around like my job matters in the largest grand scheme of things, like the world might stop turning unless I get that email out in the next five minutes.

This morning I woke up early and sighed, deeply, the kind of sigh that speaks to a long week and the optimism that ran out by Wednesday. I stared at my yoga mat and heard the little voice in the back of my head saying that it would be okay to surrender back to sleep and stretch tomorrow. But I didn’t. Instead I worked through a really easy, basic flow, whatever came to mind, while keeping I surrender top-of-mind. And it started to take a new meaning. I surrender to the bad days and the bad moods. I surrender to being crazy at work. I surrender to the limitations of being human – maybe I’m cranky and upset today, but by the time tomorrow comes around, it’s a new day, with new challenges, and eventually it’s going to be okay. So this is my white flag to this week, where I’m going to let everything just happen now, and I’m going to try my best to trust that things will work out the way they need to. I surrender to the weekend and to what I hope will be a learning experience, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the fighter comes back next week.

Paths

If your path is more difficult, it means your calling is higher.

Maybe I’m spending too much time on Instagram lately, and like 90 percent of the people I follow are yogis so we’re all about mantras and good energy, but I seem to be finding a lot of inspirational quotes there lately. The one above posted late last night, as I scrolled through my feed while waiting patiently for all the essential oils treating the poison ivy on my torso (oh yeah IT SPREAD) to dry, and it made me stop for a minute. The person who wrote it talks about her faith a lot, and while I don’t necessarily share the same world view, there is something about that statement, especially when you’ve had a week like I have, that makes you think.

I fucked up this week. There’s really no better way to say it. After all of the great things that have been happening personally and professionally lately, this week threw me a real curveball. From one perspective, I’m not entirely surprised – it’s a new moon today – but from the others, I hate that I can work so hard and juggle so many pieces in the air, and do it well, only to have a gust of wind come by and cause everything to drop in a panic. Mistakes are learning experiences, and to some extent I know they have to happen for growth, but it does suck to be in the same position I was in this time last year, feeling once again like I’m making the same mistakes, if a little different as well. After a few meetings with my bosses yesterday things are making more sense, pieces are coming together, but I kept waiting to find myself in a ball under my desk, fist in my mouth to keep from screaming, entire body rigid to keep from crying. And yet, I managed to finish the day on a stronger note than I’d started, and instead of taking on my usual coping technique of “a large bottle of red wine alone in my apartment,” I took a walk after work to call my anchor G, made it back to my apartment before the sun went down, and spent an hour doing yoga, letting the stretching and balancing reset my whole perspective.

There were times in my life where things would happen and immediately everything looked bleak, like a black night, no moon, nothing ahead but darkness, searching feebly for a ray of light to hold onto. There were times that the darkness was a twilight, where I fought to find the light without realizing I was letting it fade slowly and on purpose, despite insistent screaming for it to come back. Around this time last year I ran around telling everyone who would listen that I could see the light, I found it, I took it, it’s mine; but it was a flashlight, artificial, I thought I was taking charge of it but I was anxious for the day that the battery would run out. This is what I’m used to in my life, reacting to situations by falling into the darkness accidentally on purpose, and working hard but not at all to pull myself out. And now something happened this week, which was similar to something that happened last month, which was similar to something that happened last year, and I spent all yesterday waiting to enter the slow descent into the dark tunnel, the kind where you don’t realize how deep you’re in until no one can see you to guide you back out.

Sometimes it feels like I make a lot of mistakes, all in the name of growth. The paths I’ve chosen for myself, living in NYC, working in the field that I do, the terrible decisions that I make fueled by vodka and an instinct for self-destruction, are difficult paths to walk. Yesterday I acknowledged that the darkness that has tortured and comforted me since my teens wanted to take over, wanted to let me wallow in What Ifs and Why Mes. Instead, though, this time I acknowledged that it was there, and I stared back at it. I let it scream, and call for me, and I didn’t answer; I continued on with my day, letting that voice fade into the background by the time I made it to my mat at the end of the night. What would normally put me into a tunnel of depression instead made me feel stronger, and guiding my practice with my favorite mantra of I will do well contributed to my waking up this morning with a smile on my face, knowing the past can’t change, so all we can do is move forward.

There are paths that we’re given and paths that we choose, and each of them converge into a wild ride of life. Maybe the paths that I’ve chosen are the difficult ones, or maybe the ones I’ve been given are driving me to something more. Whether it’s divinely decreed or written in the stars or whatever else you believe in, I think that the quote above makes sense for everyone. Instead of crying that our paths are harder than everyone else’s, or wallowing in the belief that things will always be exactly as they are right now, we should all make a point to remember that there’s a light somewhere in every tunnel. Let the mistakes that can tear us down instead fuel us further, higher, better, more. Remember that we all have a higher purpose than stewing in the misery of a moment, and we’re all capable of watching the tunnel from afar instead of charging into it like it has the answers. The quote at the beginning of this post inspired me to make sure that I’m carving my path, and letting the rocky mistakes along the way call me to the best version of myself.

Quick Thoughts: Just Me

I saw a friend last night for the first time in probably six months, and we had so many things to catch up on – my no-longer new job, no-longer new haircut, and to his biggest surprise, my commitment at not dating in 2015. “What do you mean not dating though,” he remarked after I told him that the plan was still in effect. “Like you’ve only been on a few dates and don’t want anything serious?” Nope, I told him. I haven’t been on a date since January and it was so terrible that I just decided I’m not going to deal with them anymore, or at least not till I start contemplating getting more cats even more seriously than I already am. He sat back with a smile on his face, and stared for a moment, like he was trying to find something in me, maybe a sadness, a longing, or a trace of the “left behind” feeling so many people are convinced I’m experiencing now that everyone around me is engaged. The words he said next really stuck with me, and haven’t left my head all day:

“So this is what LB is like without a man. I gotta say lady, she was great to begin with but this is a whole new level.”

Much as I profess to being “single” for a year and a half now, he really has a good point. Last year was a flurry of dates and almost-relationships, of big promises and me wanting, trying, needing to find someone to fill this void that I thought would never go away on its own. If we’re talking single life as in no dates, no relationships, no promises, no crushes even, I’ve made it six full months and I’m on my seventh. It’s as though last year I was trying so hard to get to know other people that I forgot to take a few months to get to know myself.

So this is what LB is like without a man. I gotta say readers, I’ve been pretty okay with her for a number of years, but the past six months really are on a whole new level.

Maybe, Never

On Super Bowl Sunday, following a languid day of yoga, food prep, more yoga and of course, the Puppy Bowl, I found myself standing in my lovely friend M’s kitchen between quarters, searching for a bottle opener amid solo cups and mountains of chips. I heard a loud “LB!” behind me, and turned to find M striding quickly in my direction, stopping close enough to put her hand on my shoulder, lean in my ear and tell me something I was absolutely not expecting to hear. It’s not a secret, it wasn’t shocking in content, and granted I was a *few* beers in, but it was enough of a surprise that for most of the third quarter, I sat next to H the Scot, halfheartedly yelling at the television screen while I let this new information roll around in my thoughts, testing the words on the tip of my tongue, trying to figure out how I felt about them. I finally put the words away for a while, since there’s only one way I’ll really figure out how to feel about them: I just have to wait and see.

That next weekend was the ever-epic Nickname Posse Does Atlantic City weekend, my last “hurrah” after 36 hours of funemployment before starting the new job. While wandering around with drinks on Friday, trying to find a good spot to settle for a steady drunk on the first night, we saw on a poster that freaking Lil Jon was going to be spinning at one of the clubs in the casino on Saturday, and in the spirit of “EPIC WEEKEND,” we knew we had to go. Despite a mishap where our dinner restaurant apparently thought “we have a reservation” meant “you can wait around for 30 minutes,” we made it to the show with enough time to get primo standing real estate (complete with perfect stage view) and enjoy a few drinks before the dulcet tones of “SHOTS” started thumpa-thumping. Somehow towards the end of the night, H and I ended up as the last ones standing, downing whiskeys by the bar and having one of our classic drunk heart-to-hearts about everything and nothing. He brought up the content of the Super Bowl conversation and we talked about it for a while. It’s so dumb, how much I’ve thought about the content of that conversation; it’s almost embarrassing, a delusional dreamer who can’t get those two conversations out of her head. But H and I came to the same conclusion that M and I did: I can’t figure out how I feel about the situation, so I just need to wait and see.

I have a hard time waiting things out. Blame it on my Irish roots, my miserable attention span, an after-effect of the gimme generation or a combination of those factors and more, but my personality is not one that gravitates towards situations where the only conclusion is “wait and see.” Usually it’s harmless: I’ll read spoilers for movies I don’t want to see that badly (and some that I do), open the oven door 2 minutes before the cookies are done “just to check,” or post a video on Instagram of my partner-in-crime R and I dancing to Lil Jon in Atlantic City before watching it because I want to show off our sweet moves. Other times it’s harder: I’ll decide I want a tattoo and a week later I’ve got one, or I’ll buy a bottle of wine the night before a date with the assumption I’ll need it after the date turns out terribly and I’m alone with little miss again. I’m impatient and impulsive to a fault, and knowing there’s something coming in the not-so-distant future that can change everything or change nothing has set off my internal Uh-Ohs; I’m desperately searching for answers or even just a clue as to whether all these weird emotions are completely insane or if it’s okay that I find myself daydreaming of the summer sun on FiDi rooftops like it’s five days instead of five months away.

Something non-single people love to tell single people is “You never know.” As in, “I know you didn’t have a great time on the first date, but give him another chance – you never know!” or “Sure, you haven’t heard from him in days, but he’s probably just busy! You never know!” That’s all I’ve heard in any direction of a conclusion since hearing those words on Superbowl Sunday, in Atlantic City: “Well LB sure it’s kind of crazy, but come on, you never know!” It’s an evil yet powerful statement to hear in any situation, much like “everything happens for a reason” and “free booze till 10.” I know I need to keep those words tucked in the back of my mind for now, safely guarded within the stone walls of what are either delusions or fantasies, until I have no other choice but to deal with them. Maybe this wait-and-see will turn out to be a false alarm, or maybe it won’t even be a relevant factor in my life when the time comes. Or maybe it’ll surprise me, and waiting will have been worth it the whole time. I mean, maybe it’s crazy – but hey. You never know.

Good chat

At the party this weekend, late into what is technically considered Sunday morning but what we still considered Saturday night, I accidentally bumped into H the Scot while nosing my way through the crowd, in need of another beer. We obviously had the MOST JOYOUS REUNION EVER, despite having been separated for no more than ten minutes, and then segued into a conversation about some entertaining and serious stuff, as it happens after drinking whiskey and wine for 7+ hours. H and I have a tendency to have these intense discussions while we’re smashed somewhere; it’s a quirk we’ve had since the day we met, a warm spring morning drinking leftover red wine on R’s couch, chatting about life while she was occupied elsewhere. Most of the time it’s silly things, conversations we’ve had a million times before, but our Saturday talk has had my head spinning a bit more than usual, even still spinning four days later, because it ends with an unintentional cliffhanger. The noise at Sweet & Vicious made it hard to hear him, the noise plus his accent made it hard to understand him, and the noise, plus the accent, plus the aforementioned 7 hours of drinking made a memory where I can recall one thing he said to me very clearly, and then he said “but” and my memory goes blank.

To clarify, I did not black out on Saturday night. I remember (pretty much) every aspect of getting home, from hailing a cab instead of waiting for an Uber, to stopping at my lovely friend M’s place to pick up everything I’d left there in the afternoon, to a final text exchange with H, where I’m reminded how excited I am that he’s officially forever a part of my life. I remember all of the incredible food from dinner, from the beer-battered lobster to the cupcakes from heaven, the unexpected surprise of college friends I haven’t seen in years, and I remember dancing in the back corner of the bar to all the right music. But I do not remember what came after that “but.” I’ve tried everything I can to remember, which is to say I thought about it really hard for a while and then drank some wine last night hoping it would magically resurface (drunk memory is a real thing, y’all), yet it seems that tiny cliffhanger is set to remain as such. I generally hate spoilers, but I’m just saying, I could use one here.

Now, normally a silly conversation between friends while drinking would not still be on my mind four days after the fact, because normally a silly conversation between friends while drinking amounts to “I SERIOUSLY LOVE YOU SO MUCH” and “BUT LIKE, LITERALLY, YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND.” In this instance, however, I had perhaps been fishing to hear something very specific, something I think I already know, but I still wanted to hear from someone else. I know, I know, it was sneaky of me to spend part of an evening setting up a friend to say something I wanted to hear, and it was even sneakier to do it at his own engagement party, but I actually didn’t intend to bring it up at all throughout the course of the night. It surfaced after he said something offhand about it first, which obviously meant all bets were off, opening the floodgates of speculation, scenario planning and more than one “but do you really think so?”s on my part.

There are girls in this world who don’t need to hear something from someone else for it to be valid, girls who can know something completely enough that they can sit with the information on their own and feel secure. In some aspects of my life, I can be that girl, but in others, I’m the complete opposite; I turn into the one who asks the same question up, down and sideways, the one who says “Are you sure?” as a reaction to everything, the one who wants to believe something really badly but can’t just trust her instincts. I appreciate when friends cater to my self-indulgent need for validation from others, telling me I don’t look puffy following a bad night of sleep (when I totally did), or that my hair doesn’t look like a bad mix of a rat’s nest and a lion’s mane (which it usually does), and that I don’t look ill because I haven’t filled in my eyebrows (IT CHANGES YOUR FACE). But I also appreciate when one of them follows up those words with “but,” because I know they’re about to steer away from what I want to hear into what I need to hear, guiding me off of a fairy tale pedestal into the reality of whatever situation I’m stuck navigating.

Having already discussed the topic to pieces on Saturday, I don’t intend to bring it up again. The words aren’t imperative to my general well-being and to be honest, I think, instinctively, I know where the conversation went after that “but.” I’m sure this weekend or the one after, H and I will find ourselves locked in a conversation in a loud bar somewhere again, maybe shouting “NO SERIOUSLY, YOU’RE THE BEST” and “LEGIT, THIS IS THE MOST FUN I’VE EVER HAD,” and I’m sure a combination of loud noise, a thick accent and a drink (or two) will create another half-memory to ponder while eating chips on my couch the next day. For now, I’ll enjoy the memory for exactly what it is: a sentence I’d been hoping to hear, in a good chat with a great person, in the middle of a night of drinking and dancing, surrounded by all my favorite people and love.