My Crush Method Protection

I blame it on my grandparents.

I think I’ve always had an idealized image of love and relationships. Part of the blame goes to Hollywood, with romantic comedies being a staple of my childhood. But I place the rest of the blame on my grandparents. They were high school sweethearts and were still completely and totally in love with each other. They would go on walks together every morning. Run their daily errands together. Watch Jeopardy together. Their days were spent, side by side, and the mundane errands never seemed to be mundane to them. I assumed it was simply because being together was joy enough. One of my favorite things they had hung up on their fridge, next to the artwork from me and my brothers and sisters and cousins, was a “Love Is…” comic strip by Kim Casali that said “Love is Having Someone to Hug.” Just like their relationship, it was simple, sweet and perfect. It was exactly what I wanted.

I clung to this notion of the perfect relationship desperately and because of these firm convictions and my stubbornness, I didn’t date in high school or college. I rarely even considered it. Though I would develop crushes, they never panned out, because as soon as I found a flaw, I would end it. If I couldn’t imagine growing old with him, taking a morning stroll together, it was over before it began and I would wonder why I was still without love. I remember one guy in my photography class in college; he had long hair and I felt a connection with him immediately. He was nice and seemed smart; there really was nothing wrong with him! I sensed that he liked me, but when he asked me out I declined. I had somehow convinced myself that he was pretentious. Another guy I went on a couple of dates with was a little too short for my liking…The thing is, I’m 5’1 so why would I bother being so picky about a vertical challenge that I suffered from too?!

Other times I would develop crushes on guys who were clearly disinterested. One crush in particular was on and off for 3 years. This is just way too long, but you can’t help your emotions. I had no reason to develop a crush on this guy. We barely ever spoke. He was shy. I was shy. He was from my hometown and I would only see him when I returned home from college for the summer and holiday breaks. Because of our lack of communication, I was able to create this long, unspoken, but deep connection between us. I call this the crush method form of protection. For someone who wanted a relationship, but didn’t really want a relationship, the crush method was perfect and non-threatening. Without any actions, there could be no consequences. Looking back, however, I realize these crushes were just another way of protecting myself from a committed relationship. I was letting fear decide my fate. Why take a risk on a relationship, I thought, if it wasn’t going to last? My mom would tell me that I was too picky and had my standards set too high. Although part of me knew this was true, I was unwilling to let go of the idea of a perfect romance.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I still hadn’t had a serious relationship. I started to feel embarrassed and worried that love just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was on all the dating apps and sites, to no avail. I was ready to give up and resign to a life alone until I realized that maybe, just maybe, my mom was right. Perhaps I was being too picky. It was time to lower my unrealistic expectations. But if let go of my standards, would I also have to let go of my idyllic, romantic notion of love? I was willing to give it a shot, but had a feeling it would prove difficult. After all, this was a belief that I was practically born with.

Fortunately, I quickly realized that this wasn’t a notion I had to let go of. What I did have to let go of was taking dating so seriously. By doing so, I was setting unrealistic expectations that every date would/should end in a lasting relationship. It wasn’t until I started dating for the fun of it, rather than finding the absolute perfect person, that I was able to find love. I did have to date a couple of duds in the process, though. There was a guy who was a terrible listener. Another guy who seemed lazy and unmotivated, and didn’t seem to have goals or ambition. Not only did those duds helped me realize what I want and need out of a relationship, but they also showed me that no one is perfect, everyone has flaws, but despite that, there is something redeemable in us all. The bad listener was so funny and fun to go out with. He would tell me long stories about his past, his family, and his childhood that would never cease to make me laugh. But I grew tired of his inability to hear me when it was my turn to speak. This, in my opinion, was selfishness. I learned that listening is a trait I care most about. Though the lazy guy couldn’t tell me one future goal of his or even past accomplishment, he had a vast knowledge of music. He had some passion, though it didn’t translate to any action. Still, I learned a lot. Because I opened myself up to the dating world, I knew what I was looking for in another person, and I found him. A good listener. A kind person. Someone to make me laugh. A hard worker. No, he wouldn’t meet my unrealistic expectations set in my early teen years, which was basically a mixture of Prince Charming and Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s short. He’s funny. He’s incredibly messy! No he wasn’t perfect. But neither am I. Nor is our relationship joyous and happy all the time, as I imagined my grandparents to be, but it’s ours and because of that, it is perfect. Though the person you love may be different than you’d expected, your relationship should be exactly how you envision it.

How My Relationship and My Self Esteem Benefit from Meditation

I started with just five minutes of a guided meditation in the morning…

A little over a year ago I was suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem, and I felt paralyzed by fear. I’m a natural-born worrier, but this was different. It felt irreparable. My emotions began to take a toll on my physical health, including severe stomach pain which caused me to go to the emergency room, where I was prescribed medication to treat my symptoms. seek medication for stomach pain. I blamed my stress on a lack of a steady job and inadequate income. My relationship with my boyfriend, which had been so solid, had turned rocky. I found myself fixating on things that I never had before. We live together and if he didn’t buy toilet paper, for example, you would’ve thought I caught him having an affair.

But it was only until I looked inward, that I truly began to understand the root of my problems. I was the one causing my inner stress and inner turmoil; therefore, it stood to reason that I also had the power to transform it. I decided to seek the help of a friend who had struggled with anxiety and she told me about meditation. Like many of you, I’ve heard the benefits of meditation touted spouted for years, but I was convinced that this practice just wasn’t for me. I’m just not patient enough to just sit. I’m restless. It’s simply a waste of time, I told myself thought to myself. I had my morning routine already, coffee, a shower, and out the door. I am a creature of habit, and though this routine wasn’t serving me well, I clung to it. Feeling as low as I did, however, was the catalyst I needed I was ready to change.

I started with just five minutes of a guided meditation in the morning, and though I didn’t feel immediately transformed, I did notice that I was able to take on the challenges of the day with ease and a lightheartedness that I hadn’t felt for a very long while. For example, when I missed the subway, that morning, for example instead of dwelling on the frustration of the later train’s crowded morning commute and how I might get in trouble at work, I let the anger roll off my shoulders . I noticed the mood shift within myself and continued to meditate every morning since then.

Before I started meditating, when I would come home to find a messy kitchen, I would react angrily before thinking. I would yell at my boyfriend, place all the blame on him, without even asking wondering how his day had been was. Through mindfulness meditation I’ve learned to be patient, compassionate and more understanding, which I came to realize is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Through meditation, I realized my expectations of what should happen were unrealistically high,held too high, so high that I was judging my boyfriend and other people, when I felt they had made a mistake or didn’t act accordingly. Though it has taken a long time, I am now able to see beyond my judgements in order to distinguish the reality behind a situation.

Letting go of negative thoughts and recognizing them for what they are, merely thoughts, I found I had stopped judging myself so harshly. My self-esteem was greatly improved, I felt confident in myself once again. I realized that my low self-confidence was a result of false beliefs about myself and my capabilities, I was judging myself just as harshly as I was my boyfriend. Meditation helped me see past these negative perceptions.

Meditating helps me to slow down and not get caught up in my anxiety. If I find myself feeling overly stressed throughout the day or following a worrying thought down all the possible negative outcomes, I take just 30 seconds to focus on my breath. Inhale, exhale, repeat, and then, I return to the present. I let my negative thoughts pass on by. I breathe in the present moment and exhale all expectations. Through meditating, I’m able to find the joy in every moment, because there really is so much to be grateful for.

Decorating Tips for a Healthy Relationship and a Happy Home

Communication is key when decorating together.

I moved in with my boyfriend a couple of months ago and it’s been great! We get along really well. He makes me laugh, he’s kind and thoughtful. He built an Ikea couch! Okay, he followed the directions, but that’s extremely complicated! He buys me chocolate when he knows I’m annoyed. He’s sweet, but his interior decorating skills, are severely lacking. It’s not just that my boyfriend is disinterested in that stuff; it’s more that, it kind of stresses him out. In the beginning I was kind of bummed that we wouldn’t be going to antique stores and tag sales together to pick up unique finds. Isn’t that what all couples do? I felt irritated annoyed at him and angry every time I was shopping alone, but also resented it when we did shop together and he seemed miserable. I felt like I was dragging him and nagging him and it wasn’t fun for either of us. But throughout the process, I learned just how to combat this issue in order to make decorating fun, stress-free, and better for both of us. Here are the most important tips I can offer.

Keeping The Lines of Communication Open

Communication is key when decorating together. One of our biggest fights was when I brought back a big, beautiful, abstract painting that I wanted to hang above the television. Just as I was about to put in my favorite one up, my boyfriend told me he didn’t like it. I felt like this was an attack against me and I was really hurt. Then I remembered all the times I turned down his decorating ideas. We both realized that we needed to take each other’s needs into consideration and decided to talk more about what we wanted the apartment to look like. In the end, I was happy he spoke up, because it opened us both up to the possibility that we could turn our apartment into both of our dream homes, without one of us feeling unheard and unexpressed stylistically.

Be Willing to Compromise

If you couldn’t guess, my boyfriend and I have very different styles. I like to fill my home with cute tchotchkes, paintings, and artwork. If it were up to me, I’d fill my home with bright colors and patterns everywhere. Whereas Mmy boyfriend, on the other hand, likes to keep things minimal. Living together, I’ve had to let go of some of my collecting tendencies, while he’s had to embrace my style quirks. Though it wasn’t easy in the beginning, it’s a necessary part of home decoration. You want your home to reflect both of your personalities and styles. Your home is a place where you both want to feel comfortable and at peace.

Looking to the Past to See Ahead

Although I don’t think it’s healthy to always live in the past, I think that the ability to see it with new eyes, or looking at it with a different perspective can offer clarity.

I was home recently for Thanksgiving and was lucky enough to be joined by all 5 of my siblings. I have a big family and we’ve always been close. Though we don’t live near each other anymore and don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, we still remain close and connected. The distance only forces us to relish the time we do get to spend with one another. And this time was no different. We took breaks from the Thanksgiving festivities by watching childhood home videos, that had been left and all but forgotten in the basement. Even though I’ve seen the tapes countless times as a kid, watching them this time around took on a special significance. Not just because I’m older, and hopefully more mature, but my sister is about to get married, and therefore, I found myself thinking about her leaving us and starting a family of her own.

As a child, I would watch the home videos, only noticing the silly, ridiculous, and occasionally adorable things me and my siblings did. I would laugh at the badly choreographed talent show dances, the awkward moments caught on camera, and the bad haircuts and bold fashion choices,  but this time around, I couldn’t stop noticing the interactions between my mom and dad. My parents had 6 kids, all under the age of 10 and were naturally surrounded by chaos, but they didn’t seem to let that faze them. They were so happy, patient, and I couldn’t help but notice how, amidst the yelling kids, dirty dishes, and piles of laundry, how full of love our house seemed. Sure, the videos didn’t capture many fights and arguments, I’m sure that they had, as is normal for any relationship, but watching them made the whole prospect of having a family seem like an adventure.

What Stanley Taught Me Regardless of Our Differences

In a society enamored by the brash and the brazen…

When I moved to New York 4 years ago, I had just gotten a new job as a receptionist. I was excited about the change, about being in a city, and having a job that would enable me to fulfill my stand-up comedy endeavors. However, I was quickly dismayed by the long hours spent behind the computer and lack of meaningful communication. I longed for human interaction and connection. Without the ability to forgo my income security, however, I decided volunteering would be the perfect means to do this.

Aside from occasionally working at soup kitchens over the holidays and giving to Goodwill, volunteering wasn’t something I had actively committed to since high school. I missed it and decided, with ample free time, now was the perfect time as any to start again. I was unsure of exactly what to do, but through online searching, I found an organization called, DOROT, a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating the social isolation that,  unfortunately affects many members of the elderly community. DOROT seeks to do this through multiple services including, friendly visiting, meal delivery services, and help with daily tasks and errands.

I remembered how lonely my grandfather felt after my grandmother had passed away the Summer before. The loss was hard on everyone, but especially him. Though my grandmother was frail, she was the one to take care of him. It was because of her guidance that they would wake up early for their morning walk, run their daily errands, cook dinner and watch Jeopardy. She provided him with a daily routine that made him feel connected to the outside world and without her, my grandfather felt lost. Though my grandfather was in a nursing home, and surrounded by so many other senior citizens, his despondence at his seclusion was palpable. My family would have him over for dinner just about every night and would visit frequently. Those visits were so important to him. He said they brightened his day and, though my grandfather was prone to exaggerations, I don’t for one second believe this was hyperbole. I thought of this frequently when I started volunteering at DOROT.

For my volunteering I met with a senior citizen named Stanley. Stanley was like me, small, quiet and reserved. The major difference was that Stanley was 84 years and had no idea how to use a computer. So would meet with him once a week for an hour and attempted to teach him basic computer skill. I’m proud to say I helped him get a Netflix and Hulu account, but alas, could not help him master the art of the email. Perhaps, more important than offering computer help, I lent companionship and a listening ear. Stanley was frail, requiring the use of a walker and was rarely able to leave his home.

Stanley loved to tell me stories about his childhood and his beloved dog, True Heart. Whether he was looking back at a memory with fondness, or expressing regret, I loved hearing Stanley reflect on his past, because he was able to do so with more wisdom than anyone I’ve ever known. In return, Stanley loved to hear about my life, my family and was so impressed and intrigued by my ability to do stand-up comedy. He said, if he could go back in time, he would do it and he gave me such credit. Through my stories and visits, I helped Stanley feel connected to the outside world. He called me brave and would remind me to be grateful for everything I had, to take pride in my accomplishments, no matter how small. Selfishly, when I started volunteering, I thought about how much Stanley would learn from me, but in the end, I know I learned more from him.

Sadly, Stanley died last year, but my visits with him continue to inspire my path in life. Stanley helped me realize the importance of telling one’s narrative. Despite our differences, we all have something to gain simply by listening. Whenever i would leave, Stanley would say how much he appreciated me coming over and how my visits never failed to brighten his day. In a society enamored by the brash and the brazen, it’s easy to forget how powerful a tool compassion can be, but I think it’s the most important.

Getting Unstuck for 2017. Here’s How…

How My Self Esteem and Motivation are Growing With My Lunges

I’m never one to make New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I set little goals for myself, but goal-setting is something I try to remain consistent about throughout the year. This year, however, was different. I’ve been feeling stuck lately in terms of my writing. I haven’t felt inspired and have been severely lacking motivation. This lack of motivation was bleeding into all aspects of my life. I was unhappy, dissatisfied and felt a little lost. I knew I had to make a change. But I discovered that the best way for me to change my sense of self and writing abilities, wasn’t by putting pen to paper, it was through working out.

I’ve always been athletic and enjoyed exercising to some extent. I did gymnastics as a kid and was a cross country runner throughout high school and continue to run today, though not as consistently. Just like my writing, however, I’ve felt stuck in a rut with my workouts, unmotivated and bored. So when my gym was offering a promotion for a personal trainer, I decided to take a risk and go for it. Getting a personal trainer was always something I’ve wanted to do. I just never had the courage, or reason to do it. The promotional deal was just the push I needed to finally try it.

My first workout was a total wakeup call. I did sprints, burpees, squats with weights, a ton of core work in which I threw a giant medicine ball back and forth and a bunch of other things that I never thought I was capable of doing. I was sweaty, smelled awful and was exhausted, but above all else, I felt motivated again. I felt confident in myself and my abilities. I felt like I could push myself further than I had before. I could work harder and I could truly achieve any and every goal I set for myself.

Although I know my workout sessions have just begun, I continue to see and feel this major shift within myself. And, surprisingly, the biggest change hasn’t been in my physical strength, or appearance, though I’m pretty sure yesterday I could make out an outline of a single abdominal muscle in the mirror, it is my mentality, spirit and drive. The fear of writers block has been holding me back, which is something I’m slightly ashamed to admit. It’s been a daily struggle for me to get any form of writing out. Before i began to challenge myself physically, I worried about writing an article, essay or even a journal entry and writing something that I wasn’t proud of, or worse being rejected by others. But when I start my day by bench pressing (80 pounds!) I have faith that I can push myself to write at least 500 words, regardless of the outcome. I’ve learned that it’s more about the journey and less about the end goal.

I’m not advocating for everyone to get a personal trainer. Some people just don’t like exercising and that is totally fine. But I do believe that challenging yourself in some way is so important to your mental and spiritual health. Perhaps challenge yourself by delving into cooking, take a foray into a class or hobby you’ve always wanted to explore. It is only then that are able to stretch, learn, and grow. I know I’ve learned a lot about myself in my workout process. I didn’t know I sweat so much, smelled so bad, or was capable of doing a single pull-up. But, perhaps most importantly, I didn’t know how low my confidence had been until I started taking the necessary steps (and lunges) to build it.