"Single" Doesn't Have to be a Way Point

2013 was a year of "slow blogging" on good old TNR. And I loved it. 

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I do realize, however, that "slow blogging" brings with it the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good: I only wrote when I wanted, what I wanted, how long I wanted, and fuck all that "Web-friendly" whatnot because I'M AN ARTIST OR SOMETHING. 

The bad: I wrote, like, 12 posts for the whole year, and after six years on this blog and literally writing hundreds of posts before then, it's probably been a little too slow.

The ugly: All my shit has felt, well, a little sad. I did a lot of digging down into the "why" of some things, lots of insight on breakups, lots of stuff on being enough, letting go, and how you're maybe doing it wrong

But I'm NOT sad. This year has been amazing and I'm super duper excited for 2014 (I've got some big stuff in the works and can't wait to share). 

I finally published my book.

I started a podcast that is doing AMAZINGLY well (um, we beat out Dr. Drew one weekend? We debuted at #1 in SEVEN New and Noteworthy categories?? We literally have had HUNDREDS of thousands of downloads!?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING!??!).

I've been happily single all year. Dating when I want. Flirting when I want. Sleeping smack dab in the middle of the bed when I want.

Orrrrr...just striking up conversations with strangers just for the hell of it, with no expectations or desired outcomes...you know, because talking to people, connecting with other human beings is FUN.

But I haven't talked much about these things. And I haven't written much helpful stuff on the true joys of being single. 

How singlehood isn't something one has to simply survive, but can truly be a thing which can make one thrive and grow and be. 

How those times when you question yourself can be a perfect time for activity: the gym, some work, even some housekeeping. And when you're done...new perspectives.  

How you can say "no" to perfectly wonderful people who just aren't perfectly wonderful for you...and be perfectly okay with that.  

"Single" doesn't have to be a weird purgatory, where you live a stilted sort of half life waiting for someone to complete you. You know you're complete already. And if you should meet someone, it's a bonus to an already full and fulfilling life.  

All that to say, do your thing, do you. And make 2014 awesome. 

 

You Are Powerful

Life is a little like a scale.

Or maybe more like a cycle.

Or a Venn Diagram. I dunno, I'm bad with charts. 

Let's go with Venn Diagram. Boom. 

On the one side, we have our "youness", on the other, we have the shit we're good at.

Some days we'll feel pretty alright with being us, and that'll drive that day's work.

Other days we will doubt our youness, and those are the days we just have to rely on the shit we're good at.

The best days are the days there is a balance...we trust our unique ability to be powerful, as well as our ability to execute the things we know. 

If you're single or in a relationship, these rules still apply. In fact, most of the rules apply when it comes to your love life, but we often forget because we buy the lie that our personal lives are one thing, our love lives are another. 

Be you. Trust yourself. Love.  

The Lie of Being the Best (and the Alternative Truth)

I'll be perfectly honest and say that I'm going through one of those "dig deep" times. 

I was faced with one of my flaws recently, a lingering sense of pride born out of perfectionism and the need to be right. 

In turn, I had ugly thoughts about others and myself, and while much of it remained hidden, some would seep through the seams every now and again, showing itself in haughtiness or arrogance, or in sharp words delivered on the heels of insisting I was right. 

What I'm discovering is that perfectionism, or the pursuit of being "the best" (an arbitrary distinction as it is...for every person who insists some artist, or city, or restaurant is the best, there are others who insist and argue against it), is an insidiously dangerous way of approaching life.

It's alienating, it inevitably forces one to trod on others on the way to a perceived ideal, and it breeds a cycle of judgment between yourself and others. 

Personal Best vs. THE Best

There is nothing wrong in taking satisfaction from doing a job well. But there is a vast difference between seeking to achieve your personal best and being THE best. 

One would think, as a person who has actually read a book entitled, "The Gifts of Imperfection" I might have internalized the following message a little more: 

"Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Holy balls, Brene' Brown...why don't you just punch me right in the face?

Perfectionism, the pursuit of being the best, makes it all too easy to continue deflecting judgment while piling in on thick for everyone else, and thereby creating what Dr. Brown calls "The 20-ton shield."

Perfectionism doesn't allow much room for genuine kindness for those who are struggling, doesn't really see much need for community, and ultimately isolates the person who pursues it.

And, if at the end of the day, we are defined by the quality of our relationships and not the quality of our accomplishments, it can be a lonely road indeed. 

Perfectionism also keeps one from true authenticity in the effort to save face and appear to have all the answers. Simple phrases like "I don't know," or "I don't understand" are approached with fear, when in reality, admitting the lack of an answer can actually create room for deeper, better dialogue or build another touchpoint for a relationship. 

We create perfectionism out of our own perceptions of perfectionism...an arbitrary set of rules, laws, truths or lies that we tell ourselves is "correct."

Miguel Ruiz says that the problem is we not only judge ourselves harshly by this arbitrary standard, but also:

“We judge others according to our image of perfection...and naturally they fall short of our expectations.” 

The Alternative

The alternative lies in authentically working toward being your best self, the best version of you. The one who is kind, authentic and asks questions instead of faking answers. Which means you can still be the person you know yourself to be without making excuses or conforming to someone else's standard.

The best version of you doesn't need to fight to be right, but instead relaxes in the knowledge that your value is not intertwined with your rightness or wrongness.

In turn, you also don't believe that someone else's rightness or wrongness is tied to their value...which, I will tell you, blows my fucking mind. 

It's perfectly okay to do your personal best in your pursuits and your hobbies and your passions. Ruiz encourages readers to do their best, but only with the knowledge that: 

"Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret."

A Kick in the Pants

Back to digging deep...I have been hurt several times over the years by people who wanted to be the actual best, scrambling to the top in a mad grab for power or recognition, and yet I found myself exhibiting some of the same behaviors recently.

I could try to paint myself in a better light by saying that at least my behavior wasn't on such a grand scale, but who cares about how little or small the scale is when you are hurting yourself and others? That's just me saving face. Again.

As I dig deep, I can see the little pockets here and there where I allowed this thing to rule my life. I want to be a better version of myself, but it's going to take a little dismantling and rebuilding, a re-shaping of how I approach the world, and especially in the things I accomplish.

Pride vs. Satisfaction

I'm finding that there's a big difference between pride in what I do and satisfaction in what I do.

It's a shift in approach that seems subtle, but actually provides an entirely new frame to achievement.

It's entirely possible that I'm playing with semantics. But the definition of pride leaves little room for positivity:

"A high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

While the definition for satisfaction:

"Confident acceptance of something as satisfactory, dependable, true, etc."

When I take pride in something, or act proud, I do so because I believe I looked good or better than someone else. Someone or something else has become my yardstick.

When I take satisfaction in something, I know that I simply love what I did and am happy with the result. It's an internal contentment in the fact that I know I did my personal best, no more no less. No yardstick, just me.

So here goes. I'll do my personal best to keep digging. 

 

How (and Why) to Apologize

Sometimes you can be a good person who does shitty things. 

Because, for whatever reason, no matter how proactive you are at honest self-improvement, you've got some leftover sticky residue of pride or jealousy or pettiness. 

(Of course, there probably always will be some sort of sticky residue--you are human, after all--but that is a discussion for another day.)

So you say or do things to yourself and others that seem, in the moment, perfectly rational or honest or right.

It's not until you see that you've hurt yourself or others that you realize that moment was colored by the lesser parts of you. The parts that are selfish or broken or mean.

You Meant It

You can try to trick yourself or the person you wronged into thinking you didn't mean it. But you did. You absolutely did.

In that moment, you meant it.

You said something cruel or you betrayed a confidence or stuck your dick into someone you shouldn't have. 

You can't take it back. It's done, and those words or actions are now etched forever on minds and hearts, cutting shallow or deep, leaving a mark. 

You're not generally an asshole, so you then have this thunderclap moment, a pounding in your gut that you--yes, you--did something shitty, and as a result, people are hurt, a relationship was broken.

And because you're not generally an asshole, you feel remorse...remorse for not only hurting someone you care about, but remorse in realizing you are also a person who has the capacity to hurt someone. 

I call these moments, "Mirror moments." Take a look, motherfucker. That's you. 

"Sorry" Has Lost Its Meaning

We throw "I'm Sorry" around so much, it's lost its meaning.

"I'm sorry for not sending that attachment," or "Sorry I'm late," or "Sorry, I forgot." Tiny things that might be an inconvenience to someone, but they didn't actually harm anyone or cause a rift in the relationship.

We say "I'm sorry" to be polite, and as a result, we've politely diluted it to almost nothing. A teaspoon of concentrate in an ocean of habitually spoken phrases.

We need the concentrate.

For our apologies to mean more than the things we did to cause harm, they gotta be full strength. Undiluted. Top of the line.

We need them to be full strength, because they have to do double duty for us. They must say, "I feel remorse for the harm I caused, AND I'm willing to change my behavior." 

Which means we have to let go of the need to be right, to stop wrapping or dismissing our bad behavior in a bundle of, "What I was trying to say..." or, "But you did this..."

When You're Ready to Apologize...

When you are ready to apologize, that's the only item on the agenda. Anything else--if there is indeed anything else--can wait for another time. This is about you taking first steps to repair something you broke and you may not multi-task.

It requires precision. It must be deliberate.

Get to the heart of it when you're ready. Dr. Guy Winch says there are three ingredients to an effective apology:

  1. A sincere statement of regret for what happened
  2. A clear ‘I'm sorry' statement; and
  3. A request for forgiveness. 

I'd add a fourth step, which is the acknowledgement that the things that caused you to say or do something harmful are things you are working to overcome. You can't promise you will never hurt that person again (see also, "human"), but you can promise to try harder to be better, for both your sakes. 

Get Ready to be Vulnerable

Sincere apologies are tough because they require a level of vulnerability we are not used to practicing.

You expose your neck to someone, un-guard yourself, take off the armor and show your soft underbelly. You can't pretend to be anything other than flawed in those moments, the real you in all your messiness and disarray and imperfection.

And then you have to ask someone to look at that mess of a person and try to, if not love that mess, then at least not hate it.

You have to ask them to have two truths co-exist in their minds: 

  1. You are the person who hurt them with things that you meant in the moment
  2. You are also the person who is asking them to give your apology more weight than the words or actions that hurt them

Rough stuff. And they can say no.

Why, What, When

Regardless of whether he or she decides to forgive or not forgive (which can be its own messy process for the individual granting it), you are not excused from your part in the process of repair. 

“An apology is not just a tool to make peace. It’s not another way of saying “Get off my back”. It’s not a way of introducing harm, “sorry but I am going to have to divorce you”. It’s not a tool to manipulate others.

A genuine apology is not a habitual apologetic mannerism. It is a deliberate effort to solve a relational problem that you have contributed to.

When should you apologize? Whenever there is a break in a relationship. No matter what the issue, there will usually be a part, even a small part, that was your responsibility. For this you should apologize. Realizing that a disturbance is your responsibility is a giant step towards emotional maturity.”

Take that step. It'll be tough. You may feel as though your insides have been scooped out, and it likely won't be pretty.

Take that step. Do it with your voice, not in writing...writing allows us to package it up neatly, to save a little face, to say things a little too beautifully.

Take that step. Do it even though it's messy and raw. Go.

Listen to more of my thoughts on apologies on Relations: the Podcast, Episode 30.

Comedy is Community

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you my thoughts on comedy, community and Columbus. This article is in response to the article(s) Comedy Sandwich, Parts One and Two that recently appeared on columbusunderground.com.

This is my perception of what comedy can do and is doing for Columbus. We'll get back to all your dating and relationship ish soon! 

Studio 35 was packed. We looked out over the crowd, filled with tipsy friends, family, random comedy lovers and, inexplicably, a tour bus full of healthcare professionals from Cleveland.

Our collective thought, “It’s Tuesday night, and fuck yeah, we’re doing comedy.”

It was the 2013 Improv Wars finals, and after a few weeks of “battle” between 12 Columbus troupes, some heated banter between rival troupes, and enough “I heard…dildo?” get-fors for a lifetime, we were down to the final four troupes, who proceeded put on a helluva 2-hour show to a sold out crowd at a movie theatre in Clintonville.

When we started #hashtag a year ago (yes, before Jimmy Fallon), we had one goal: do comedy, in Columbus, in a new and fresh way.

Our group has a mad mix of influences: musical theatre, stand-up, film, improv, storytelling. We also have a crazy cast of characters: a hip-hop artist, a PhD in geography, a lawyer, a former ABC6 reporter.

We didn’t want to be “Chicago improv,” and we didn’t want to be pigeonholed into “Whose Line” style games (though improv is the medium that drives us). We wanted our own unique identity, a recipe of one-liners, comedic truth, gasps and “weird” that other cities looked at and said, “I want to learn how they do it in Columbus.”

That’s still our vision, and Columbus is catching on. Studio 35 was, to us, the first big testament to the fact that Columbus loves comedy. Our own shows—a combo of improv, sketch, music, standup and multi-media--at the Short North Stage are another testament, where we often pack the room with “regulars” and comedy newbies alike.

There are a bunch of funny people in the city, #hashtag included, dedicated to growing the comedy community here.

Here are 3 principles about “community” we think are central to growing a comedy scene in an amazing, vibrant city like Columbus.

Community in the Core Discipline

When I first started doing improv in Columbus the early 2000s, there were only a handful of groups performing. In the last year, the scene has grown to include 15-20 troupes that follow a multitude of improvisational disciplines.

In my opinion, the scene grew because we’ve deliberately fostered the improv community.

Improv vets See You Thursday led by example by making it a point to reach out to other improv groups to share their stage on performance nights (a practice #hashtag follows).

Added bonus? Multiple groups on stage put multiple butts in seats.

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We also take (or teach) classes together. We form one-time-only super groups for festivals like Independents Day. An Improv League is in the works.

2014 looks promising in the improv community, but none of what we have now, and none of what we’re working toward would be possible without support from other improvisers.

We could do better. More.

Ohio State’s improv troupes, Fishbowl and 8th Floor, are monumental talents in this city, and we have to work harder to connect the worlds of “adult” and student improv. We should do more mash-ups of veteran and rookie troupes, and we should all get together more for funsies outside of competitions and shows.

But as a whole, whether we do weird, experimental shit, or “normal” improv, we support each player in our core discipline.

Community among Comedians

It’s probably like this in most cities, but it’s very easy in Columbus to spot the comedy silos.

Standup. Improv. The weirdos at MadLab.

Get off my lawn, joke writers and script memorizers.

The problem is, we can’t grow comedy as a whole in Columbus in a silo-ed atmosphere. And certainly nothing can thrive in a silo that doesn’t even see itself as a community in its core discipline.

Take, for example, local standup comedian Bo Presarno, a humble guy who is probably not going to appreciate that I dropped his name into this article. I first saw Bo do standup at one of our own #hashtag shows, where we often cross disciplines by inviting standups and other funny people to join us for our improvised sets.

Bo KILLED, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen him in Columbus before. He’s not just talented, he’s polished, professional, and knows a thing or two about making sure his audience has a damn good time while he’s on stage.  

Where’s this guy been in the last two years? Making the rounds in all the towns surrounding Columbus, because, well, silos-within-silos.

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Or how about the number of very funny women in Columbus? Columbus has a slew—SLEW—of funny women doing standup, storytelling and improv.

When I say these women are hysterical, I mean it. Not “funny for girls” and not “funny for Columbus,” but bust-your-gut, holy crap, she-speaks-the-truth hilarious.

Recently, I hosted a night of comedy that featured an all-female line-up. And lo, it was glorious.

The night only happened because of a partnership between two organizations that are dedicated to local causes. Morgan Landis (a great comedian and sketch writer in her own right, and part of the night’s lineup) ran the event as a part of her website’s  (InTheCspot.com) launch and partnered with Liz Lessner and the Jury Room for a completely sold out, hysterical show.

In fact, the night was so successful, another all-female comedy night is planned for February, this time at Grass Skirt Tiki Lounge. Collaborations like these between disciplines, venues and community leaders are essential to the future of comedy in Columbus.

Which leads me to my final point…

Community in Columbus

The two best secrets I’ve learned about performance in over 15 years on stage are as follows:

Because sometimes you have to show, not tell...especially when it comes to your most memorable sexual experience.

Because sometimes you have to show, not tell...especially when it comes to your most memorable sexual experience.

1. The audience is ALWAYS on your side…at least for the first 30 seconds. They didn’t pay to be bored, they paid to be entertained, and they are PULLING for you to entertain them. Begging, pleading, “Please let me have a good time. I trust you to make me want to relieve myself in my pants right here in this chair.”

2. If your audience doesn’t love your stuff, it’s your fault. Period.

Comedy is both an art and a conversation. As comedians, it’s our job to figure out how to steer the conversation so that the baseline metric is “good time,” then add in the layers of our art form to elicit a more nuanced response.

Sure, in Columbus, people like a lot of the same stuff when it comes to comedy.

Bill Watterson tackled the artist’s job best, though, in a rare interview in Mental Floss in October: You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.”

Columbus people are smart and they know what good comedy is at its heart.

Our job as comedians is to show them that comedy can be so much more than a YouTube compilation of dudes getting hit in the nuts.

Our job is also to serve it to them on a silver platter using every means available to us, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Alive, Underground, (614) and a million other outlets and collaborations we just haven’t thought of or tried yet.

Is it really fucking hard to do that in some of the current venues around town that are not dedicated comedy venues? Double yes, with swears.

But the solution isn’t to flip Columbus the bird as people with narrow, unambitious comedic interests.

The solution is to, as comedy godfather Steve Martin says, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

I do this a lot in shows...

I do this a lot in shows...

That means we honor Columbus with polished sets, games, jokes and scenes. We have more hits than misses. We go hard in the paint whether there are 5 people in the crowd (one of whom is our mom) or 500.

We welcome local comedians and improvisers who are (gulp) better than we are to share the stage with us, even if that means it cuts our own stage time.

We practice harder than we’d practice in New York or LA or Chicago, because we have to kick and scream for attention, whether it’s a good venue, bad venue, or steakhouse with a stage.

Above all, we have to show the Columbus audience that we value them as more than a waypoint between here and some big-city comedy black hole.

We want them to know that we truly believe we can be a city that eventually people say, “Did you catch some comedy while you were in Columbus?”

That won’t happen in two years. It’ll probably be closer to a solid Chris-Hardwick-approved seven.

At least for #hashtag, we’re willing to put in the time, because this community is worth it. 

No matter how many times they yell, “DILDO!”

Catch #hashtag comedy at the Short North Stage on the last Tuesday of every month.

The Unfortunate Correlation Between Divorce and Bankruptcy

Divorce is a funny thing. Half of all married people in the US will do it in a lifetime, and in some ways, it brands you as an "adult" more than, well, pretty much anything else. 

For me, opting to leave my marriage was my way of declaring my independence...something I was in no way actually prepared to claim.

I hadn't lived on my own before.

I was married before I graduated college.

So when my marriage was over, while it made me an "adult", I pretty much knew nothing about being an adult. 

I did stupid, stupid things with my money, folks. Just...dumb. After being pretty conservative with my money as part of a unit, I decided that, as a singleton, I should go ahead and mirror my now wanton sexual ways with my spending habits. 

And lo, as one might imagine, I hit rock bottom. Well, beyond rock bottom, since you can go below zero on your bank account. And reach your limits on all those credit cards you just opened. And not have money for rent. 

Fortunately, while I was an IDIOT with my cash, I was able to learn some valuable lessons about spending, budgeting and paying off all that damn debt (which I did--in full--in 2011. A bittersweet moment where I was both proud and disgusted with myself, haha). 

When I received this infographic from a reader recently, however, the statistics on divorce and money were fascinating and sobering. While I figured that my case wasn't necessarily singular, I didn't realize just how much money and divorce correlated. 

So take a look...then tell me what you think in the comments!

!

This visualization was developed by CashNetUSA.

You Might Never Know...So Now What?

A reader wrote to me recently about his breakup.

His ex-girlfriend broke things off very suddenly and he wanted some insight on why/how she could change her mind so quickly.

I started to explain that it could be any number of things, and then I stopped.  

I had no explanation for her choice.

And really, would an explanation help? 

When you are broken, does it REALLY help to know the ins an outs of someone else's decision making process? Do you really need to know that it was something as simple as she changed or mind, or something as complex as he met someone new? 

If you really knew, and the answer was somehow acceptable to you, would you have the ability to process it? To simultaneously grieve the relationship and rationally say, "Well it's okay now because he said it wasn't about me."

I'm gonna say no. Even if somehow, your ex-partner was kind enough to really lay it all out for you at the end of things, it takes time to grieve and heal before you can work through "the knowing."

But the truth is...you may never know.  

So now what? 

Well, remember, closure is a luxury. So heal instead. Grow. Learn. Become the best version of you. Drink wine. Make bad decisions with your pants parts.  

But let go. Remember that other people's decisions have much more to do with them than they do with you.  

Easier said than done. And, of course, it doesn't make the hurt you're feeling now go away.  

Hang in there friend. The answer to "now what?" is "you.' 

Still need a little help after your breakup. This book might help

34 Things I've Learned in 34 Years

You know how these posts work. It's my birthday, let's get to it.  

1. Create a life worth living alone and you'll automatically create a life worth being shared. 

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2. Drink more water than coffee, more coffee than whiskey, more whiskey than beer. And never, ever drink vodka. 

3. New York City is wonderful and the perfect place to find a hidden energy and drive you never knew you had. You don't have to stay forever to live, though, even though you once thought that to be true.

4. No matter how drunk you are, don't ask your friends to send you dick pics. They'll remember, and call you on it later.

5. Speaking of pics, should you decide to send ones of yourself in your birthday suit (ahem), always crop out your head/face. You know how stuff lives on the Internet forever...

6. Speaking of getting naked (again), just one time you should get naked with your friends in a totally platonic way. Because that shit is hilarious. 

7. The best way to get through a cold, dark winter is a space heater, a Slanket, and doing anything, ANYTHING that gets you out of the house regularly. Throw in a monthly 60's dance party and those cold winter months will fly by.  

8. Yes, you CAN have meaningful, connected, emotional sex with someone you are not in a relationship with, nor plan to have a relationship with.  And yes, you can both still respect each other after, and even--gasp--maintain a friendship.

9. It's never too late to find something you are passionate about and pursue the shit out of it. 

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10. No one cares about how often you change your profile pic. Not really. 

11. You may think in your head something ridiculous like, "I have the mind of a 30-something, but a vagina of a 20-something," but you probably shouldn't ever say this out loud.  

12. Yes, you can choose your friends, and yes, it is okay to carefully curate the group of people that are your favorites.  

13. Get a coach, a therapist, a mentor or a rabbi. You don't have to seem them that often, but sometimes a little perspective is good.  

14. Only YOU can regulate your emotions. 

15. On that note, the way you react to people's behavior is more often a reflection of you rather than the person doing the thing that shocks/annoys/angers you. 

16. Try not to live your life like a 44 year old man living in his mom's basement. Go grocery shopping every now and again, and don't stretch a large pizza into four meals.  

17. Sometimes you should, you know, ask for help for things. Like when you install your giant AC unit and almost fall out of your second story window.  No one will think you are weak for not dropping that thing on someone's head. Or, you know, not falling out that window and dying..

18. One of the greatest skills you will ever learn, hands down, is how to have a conversation with ANYONE for an hour.  Fact.

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19. Find your weird. Embrace it. Flaunt it. Make that shit funny.

20. People just want to know where they belong

21. Speaking of which, this is why people hold tight to their INTJ stuff, their introvert/extrovert stuff, their hipster/Brony/Mac-loving stuff. But don't let your search for identity or belonging pigeonhole you. You are, after all, a incredibly nuanced individual. And being shoved into a box so you can be labeled is not a good look.

22. A "Like," a click, a comment or a view is not the same as being valued

23. To add to #22, these taps and keystrokes ultimately cannot replace the sense of value you create for yourself when you pursue a life you're passionate about.

24. If you've just gotten your heart broken, do yourself a favor and nurse it with the old, "starve a fever, feed a cold," mantra. Except this time the fever is your ex, and the cold is your sweet, salty tears that keep dripping into your jumbo sized glass of wine. All that to say, take 30 days an observe a generous period of no contact. Seriously. 

25. If you DON'T follow #24, and end up destroying yourself in the process of clinging to some dickhead who never loved you in the first place, you should write a book about it. You'll learn a ton, and you'll probably help somebody in the meantime. 

26. MAC AND CHEESE IS STILL DELICIOUS, DAMMIT, AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE FOR LIKING THAT SHIT. 

27. Some situations don't have a right or wrong answer. Truly. So calm the eff down already.

28. Oh, naps. You are the best friend a girl could ever have.

29. Soo,,,gluten free cookies. You can't actually eat a whole bag at a time. Just FYI.  Also, donuts? Super good, but now that you're not 16, you know that shit goes right to your thighs. Just keep thinking "sometimes food, sometimes food, sometimes food" NOOOMMMM.

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30. Lower the stakes, reframe the situation, manage your expectations, then simply do your best. Relax. You've got this. And, go. 

31. Don't hold people up to such a high standard that you forget they can make mistakes. Instead, support them when they fall, ask them for better next time.  

32. Since we're talking about asking...you can't expect people to magically know what you want. You have to ask for it, or at least communicate it clearly. And stop making shit up in your head based on assumptions. Assumptions are not facts.

33. Stop comparing your life to others'. And stop trying to live someone else's dream. This is your life. It ain't over until it's over. You're never too old to learn something new, or fall in love with something (or someone), or try the thing you always wanted to try. There's no due date or expiration or timeline. Just go. Do it. 

34. Be grateful. Work hard. Don't isolate yourself too much. Learn something new from everyone you meet.  Write, revise, write again, but never stay in draft mode. Produce, perform, play. 

Live. 

<3 you guys! Thanks for another great year on TNR. :) 

 

It's Not the Mechanism, It's You (and that might be a good thing)

choice_by_balakov-d4pq2di.jpg

I keep hearing women say that there are no good men left.  

So they go on Match.com or OKCupid or Eharmony and browse for the next Mr. Maybe. 

And then two weeks later when the shiny new toy has lost its sheen, and they've been on three or four dates with men they can't keep a conversation with, they say there are no good men left again and complain about how online dating sucks ass.  

Except it's not the mechanism, it's you.

Maybe that's a good thing.  

See, maybe you just don't understand--truly understand--online dating.  

Let me break it down for you.

It's simple: online dating is a mechanism to making an offline connection. That's it.

It's not meant for weeks of conversation over the built-in mailing system, or chats, or anxiously checking your Likes or Winks or Stats or Views.  

It's not meant for you to feel better about yourself, to check your inbox and think, "I have so many messages, it must mean that I am desired." 

It's not meant as a salve for your soul, as a splint for that broken heart of yours, or as a replacement for being the right kind of person who draws in the right kind of person.  

It's a mechanism. A gateway. A digital means to a potential real life end.  

So if you're not having any luck, or if you hate the process, or if you're searching and searching and waiting and still feel sad and lonely, it's not the mechanism, it's you. 

And again, maybe that's a good thing.  

Maybe you don't like that you have to figure out the best way to display yourself like a commodity to be viewed and clicked and wooed, to find just the right angle on that selfie you're taking so no one can see that the crinkles around your eyes are getting deeper....

...even though you earned those crinkles from years of laughter or squinting into the sun on a hot summer's day while you watched your niece practice handstands in the pool.

Maybe you don't like that because you have to describe yourself in X number of words or less, you find that you're penning down the same tired cliches as everyone else ("I like to dress up and go out, but I also love to stay in!")...

...even though you are beautiful and vibrant and nuanced and just last weekend, you quietly sat with a friend on a Friday night as she bawled her eyes out because her sister's kid has cancer.

Maybe you don't like that you've actually done your best to present yourself as a real, whole person online, one who is sweet and caring and looking for something real and meaningful, and putting every vibe in the world out there that you're more than the photos you post, more than your hobbies or travel habits or income, and there are STILL men who message you with, "HEY SEXY ARE YOU DTF?" 

Maybe, just maybe, you don't like the fact that just because you now have access to MORE doesn't mean that you have access to BETTER.  

Better conversations, better connections, better people.  

Because an algorithm can't determine someone's character.

A profile can't be anything but reductive.

And those little rules we make for ourselves on who makes the cut rarely have anything to do with the quality of their being, and everything to do with the quality of their punctuation or cropping skills or sentence structure. 

I'm not saying that online dating can't be right for you or that it doesn't work for some people.  

I am saying that maybe instead we should focus less on making hundreds of fleeting, one-dimensional connections (a view, a wink, a deleted message) and focus more on making a few whole, real connections with the people we meet in real life.  

Because you never know what the ripple effect might be when you stop desperately seeking The One and start proactively trying to be the kind of person who makes your barista's day better with a smile, or takes the time to help a friend move, or can have a deep conversation with a man without needing to touch pants parts afterwards because having a deep conversation with anyone is a beautiful thing and what we were meant to do as human beings. 

I guess I just want everyone to know that building a life worth living alone is part of building a life that is worthy to be shared.

You don't have to force yourself to do a thing you hate or that is dissatisfying or frustrating in order to achieve the "shared" part. 

So maybe it's not the mechanism, maybe it's you. And that might be kind of awesome. 

Author's Note: I've been writing this post over several weeks after my second shortest stint attempting to online date (the shortest was last summer at 14 minutes from sign-up to account deletion. Still pretty proud of that one).

It marked the 2nd time in two years I couldn't even complete a full month searching for the next ex-Mr. Naked Redhead online and decided it was worth the loss in payment to simply cancel early.

I think online dating can certainly work for some people, but, at this point in my life, I feel none of the urgency that maybe others do to "find someone." So every time I logged on, I felt very much caught in this mad scrabble to notice and be noticed, and it just felt...wrong.

I met some perfectly nice people, but at the end of the day, I realized that I'm a social enough person that I regularly meet perfectly nice people without help from a site that manufactures weird Pavlovian reward through a button entitled "wink." 

My two cents. :) 

Photo by Balakov on Deviantart

What Do You Know About Dating and Relationships?

No, really...I really want to know! 

And just WHY do I want to know?

Well, after noodling over it for years, I'm FINALLY jumping into the podcast waters. 

This month, I'm starting a podcast with a friend all about dating, relationships and the like...but I need YOUR help!

Because, let's face it, there are a lot of podcasts that will talk AT you, but we want to talk WITH you.

So! I need your expert opinion on the following topics (we'll have more...these are just to get us started :)):

  1. Pick-up Artistry: Does it work? Is it good for men? Bad for men? Have you ever run "the Game" on someone? Had "the Game" run on you?
  2. Meeting Date-Able People: Lots of singles complain that "all the good ones are taken" or say they can't meet anyone. So how do you meet date-able/available/non-taken people in your 20's? 30's? 40's? What are the do's and don'ts of the "public pickup" or book club "ask out?"

But just how do you get on the show?  

It's easy as pie: 

  • Call the following number: 508 444-2003. It's a Google Voice number, and a nice robot lady will take you to voicemail
  • Start your message with your name, Twitter handle/website/or other online entity you would like us to promote for you
  • State the topic you are addressing
  • Drop your wisdom in all its glory
  • Hang up
  • Listen to the podcast for all your awesome advice-giving goodness (details coming soon!)

For these topics, we are looking for your smartness by MONDAY AT NOON (8/19). If you can't make it in for these by then, I'll have another list for you soon!  

Whether you're a newbie blogger or an old pro, a seasoned professional, or even if you're always dispensing adice to your friends, this podcast is a great way to reach a bigger audience and strut your stuff. Call in, share, dish, pontificate...I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

I'll have more details soon on website and where you can listen to the episodes. Stay tuned! 

 

What's Your Thing?

The answer to problems is not to stop having problems, but to work through problems when they present themselves. 

Sort of seems obvious, but it's not. 

It's why sometimes we end up with "things" we carry around from relationship to relationship, moment to moment.

Bits and pieces we refuse to look in the eye, to explore, to say, "I don't want this in my life anymore."

Sometimes they're minor, like the fact that I realized recently that I hate (HATE) being referred to in masculine terms by men ("boy," "man," "dude"). It's a minor detail left over from minor slights over minor things that happened to me as a kid, that built up minor layers of boy-term-hating sediment so that when I hear that "she's just one of the guys" (you know, even after I fought to be accepted as such), I feel a deep, burning, flip-o-the-switch rage. 

It's Silliness, remedied easily enough once I took the time to say, "Huh. I'm a grown-ass woman, and this shit shouldn't really bother me so." 

Then there's the major stuff.

The deep wounds that seep and ooze and bleed years after the initial hurt. The gnarly scars that calcify, then stunt your emotional range of motion.

The event or happening...the one moment that changed everything.

The parts of ourselves that scare us so badly (because we see the depth of our badness, or the expanse of our pain, or the extent of our brokenness), we skirt the issue, walk the long way 'round, and do nothing. 

But it just piles on more, the layers get deeper. Pieces--important pieces of you--get covered and grown over until it seems like a dream that you were anything other than you are now.

There is no question that it is excruciatingly painful to peel back the layers, to suddenly look back with clarity at your own self-sabotage, your undoing, every missed moment or opportunity in the name of self-protection, preservation.

In a lot of ways, like me, I bet you probably didn't know you were doing it.

Because sometimes your "thing" becomes you, defines you. You cannot remember a before or after, only a now, and the vague sense that you could be better. Or maybe that you were better once, long, long ago. 

Or maybe you even harbor the stronger feeling of derision for the pre-"thing"-you...that patsy, that sucker, that idiot who wouldn't know a hard knock if it bit him/her right in the ass.

You mistake your old sweet innocence and capacity for openness for naiveté. Your "awakening" was so rude, you convince yourself that had you struck first, or had you never loved so passionately or felt so wildly, it wouldn't have hurt this bad. 

You've let your "thing" go so long, nursed it so poorly, that you truly believe you are better off now as this limping, twisted version of your best self.

Life used to be different. YOU used to be different.

The view from there held endless possibilities. 

The view from here is narrow, tight, and focuses only on survival, subsisting on meager rations of love and joy and abandon.

And not that life has to be a never ending hippie-dippie whirlwind of positivity, but you once did things differently.

You once reached without hesitation for her hand without fear that this time would be yet another time she'd pull away, cold.

You once knew a missed call meant a missed call and not the plummeting stone in your stomach that means that surely, SURELY he is fucking someone else instead of you. 

You once gave of yourself easily, happily, willingly and without hesitation, before knowing that doing so would make him be cruel to you, disgusted with your vulnerability. 

There were once moments in your life when you weren't terrified of the first time, or of meetings with strangers, or simple turns of phrase.

So you now believe that your approach to life couldn't possibly be any different than what it is now, because while you see the potential for joy if you could Just. Let. Go., you also see the potential for PAIN, blistering, gut-wrenching pain, and there's no way you'll open yourself up for that again because it's the only thing you ever recall feeling with any clarity.

It's the sharpest feeling, so you believe it is the strongest feeling, the only feeling worth remembering.  

In an attempt to ward off the next onslaught, you ward off everything else, and you live a sort of emotional half-life...a life lived largely in fear of an imaginary potential future that you are sure--beyond a shadow of a doubt--only exists to terrify you further and make you bleed.

You live in this fear of pain gladly, in some ways, because you figure that's "just the way it is." That it's the only way to protect yourself and function somewhat normally and without the potential of being ripped open. Again.

It isn't. 

I promise. 

Or at least, it doesn't have to be.  

But it means work. A lot of work.  

It's never solved in a day, or after your first big breakthrough, or even your second or third. 

It just takes the tiniest bit of guts to get started. To say, even to yourself, "I need help." 

I'm not saying you have to fix it right this second...I'm just saying you have to begin. To take that first step. To hold eye contact with it just a beat longer than normal.  

You can do it.

It's important, and worth it. 

Go. 

Want to read some stuff about how your "thing" can affect your relationships? Grab a copy of How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide for more!

 

How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide...It's Here!

Thar she blows! 

After months of tears (I called last summer "The Soggy Summer"), a year of writing and freaking out, and long nights spent editing and tweaking and writing some more, she's finally here!

I've explained enough about 'er already, so let's just get to the good stuff, shall we?

Buy How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide now on Amazon!

Don't have a Kindle? Get the Kindle App for Mac, PC, iPhone and Android

And once you read, do me a favor? Please rate and review!! 

So go! You know you're not really working this morning anyway. :)

PS--You all are kind of the best. And by "kind of" I mean "actually, really, and truly." Thanks for reading TNR all these years!

 

10 Breakup Commandments

Yo! My book is here (!), and in celebration, here is another quick excerpt for you all. And by quick, I mean that I've titled this post "10 Breakup Commandments" and I'm giving you 5. 

THIS IS WHAT WE CALL A "TEASER," FOLKS. Enjoy!!

 

Got questions on how to conduct yourself after a breakup? Just follow these ten simple commandments.

1. Thou shalt not contact thine ex for at least 30 days for any reason, and especially not to say, “Hi, I miss you.”

After a breakup, you're an idiot.

Sorry, it has to be said.

I'm not pointing fingers. I was a COMPLETE and TOTAL LUNATIC after my last breakup. Things that made no sense at all were reframed into, "THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT EMAIL ABOUT MY FEELINGS I'VE EVER WRITTEN. SEND."

I cried in public over songs that I'd normally scoff over.

I watched terrible movies and derived hope and meaning from 90 minutes of treacly bullshit.

And not that my lunacy is everyone's lunacy, but I'm telling you...your brain is broken right now. Detoxing. Wreaking havoc on your body.

Give yourself space away from your ex to re-set to normal (whatever your old normal was, and whatever your new normal will be).

Make it at least 30 days, re-evaluate, then add more time if you need it. Remember, your brain is doing some crazy things to your body, so you are somewhat unable to think clearly through this emotional trauma.

Take time to leave things as clean and quiet as possible before you let all your crazy break things even further. 

I promise you, friend, 30 days is but a trifle. I know your brain is thinking right now, "But what if there's a window???" If there is a window (and sorry, there isn't), but if there IS and it means you two will be together FOREVER, 30 days is NOTHING for the two of you to get your shit together. In fact, 60 days is nothing...six months is nothing.  

The BEST thing you can do for either of you--if there is, indeed, hope for getting back together--is to take this forcefully mandated time to look back, fix what you need to fix, and become a better person. That is something that neither of you will ever regret in the long run. 

Oh, and to answer the questions that are plaguing your ever-loving soul:  

No, he hasn't forgotten you completely. 

Yes, she heard everything you had to say. 

No, you don't need to say goodbye one last time. 

Yes, you made yourself very clear the last time you spoke. 

No, you don't need to get your stuff back right now.

Yes, sending that email is a bad idea. 

2. Thou shalt not permit yourself to stay in a shitty situation with your ex simply because it is convenient.

One of my exes and I shared a condo for a few months after our breakup.

No. No, no, no. Never again.

The space we so badly needed after our split was nonexistent (see Commandment One), because, you know, we regularly passed each other on the way to the bathroom.

And sure, it was convenient to continually shack up as we looked for other places, but it wasn't healthy.

(Plus, we broke Commandments Three and Four because we continued in our idiocy.)

So I had to ask him to move out...which meant an inconvenient move for him back to his parents' basement...and it meant I was inconvenienced by now having to live by myself in a sort of scary neighborhood...but man, did it ever feel good to breathe.  

Therefore, friends: Do not do shared custody of your pets.

Do not hang out in the same groups together if it’s too painful (and kick any of your friends who think you should suck it up and be more mature and just do it for the sake of the group. Noooope.)

Do not continue anything that feels uncomfortable to you just because it's close, or easy, or "the way you've always done it." At least, for a minute. 

Find a new bar, buy yourself a bike if you share a car, crash on someone's couch (done it), ask for space, define your boundaries, and do whatchoo gotta do to carve out what you need, no matter how inconvenient things are in the meantime.

I mean, yay for shared rent and stuff...but that’s what Craigslist is for. Find a new roommate. STAT. Or get a cheaper apartment. Or sell some stuff. Or work out a schedule if you must. But you must start to re-calibrate, and you can’t do that very well if you’re still sharing groceries.

NOW, if you’re sharing custody of human beings, you’re going to have to get over yourself a bit and figure stuff out. HOWEVER, you can still take massive strides to reclaim a little bit o’ you in that situation. People do it all the time, promise.

3. Thou shalt not sleep with thine ex.

Stop it, stop it, stop it.

This move is terrible for both of you, but especially for the person who is still hoping it’s all going to miraculously work out. I don’t care how horny you are, don’t do it. Someone will be sad at the end of it all, I guarantee it.

4. NO REALLY, THOU SHALT NOT SLEEP WITH THINE EX.

Do you really think it’ll bring him back to you? Do you really think she forgot how good your cock was and will miraculously want to try to be bf/gf after she gets it one more time? Do you really think he will be able to keep his feelings out of it? Do you really think she’ll be able to stay rational when she JUST told you how much she wanted you back?

Friend, if he/she wants to be with you, they will want to be with you without needing to sleep with you to work it out. Give yourself a little credit, FFS.

And if you’re the one who knows it’s over and you did the dumping? Shame on you. Hands off, bucko (or buckette). I don’t care if she DID give you the best orgasms of your life...you’ve been giving yourself some pretty good ones since you were 13. I bet you’ll find that rhythm again real quick, ya jackass.

(I'm not bitter.)

5. Thou shalt not be less than anything but honest with your ex, no matter if you think it’ll make you look bad, or it will be hurtful to your ex.

I’ve said this before: mean is bad, nice is worse, dishonesty is acid on the soul.

When you are breaking up with someone, say what you need to say, no more, no less.

Don’t coat it in half-promises, or half-truths, or silly attempts to soften the blow. All the person being dumped will hear are the bits and pieces that make it seem like, “Maybe, just maybe, if this one thing changes, he’ll come back!”

No. That’s not how it works.

If you don’t have the feelings you need to have, say that.

If you are seeing someone else, say that.

If you think the person is completely toxic and self-destructive and you refuse to be tangled in their web of lies, say that.

The most honest thing anyone has ever said to me was, “I do not want a relationship...with you.”

He didn’t deliver it as, “I don’t want a relationship...right now,” because all I would have heard was “right now” and then I would have followed him to the ends of the earth (I’m a glutton for punishment like that). Instead, he nipped it right in the bud.

Even though I was a mere 18 years old and it felt like jumping into the Arctic naked to hear him say those words to me, it was oddly comforting. I knew exactly where I stood with him, and I could make a clean break and go.

Did it suck? Yes. Did it probably take some guts for him to say it, knowing it would hurt me? Sure. Did we both move on quickly without messy talks and pleading and hope? Sure did.

Be brave, have a little courage, and say exactly what you mean. No more. No less.

6. Thou shalt fucking go through the... 

Read the rest of the Commandments in my book, How to Be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide, on Amazon now! Don't have a Kindle? Download the FREE Kindle App for iPhone, Android, Mac, PC and other devices! 

 

Best Breakup Songs of All Time

In honor of my book, How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide dropping next Tuesday, here's some breakup themed whatnot for you all. YAY FOR BREAKUPS! 

Best breakup songs of ALL TIME, Kanye? Really? Maybe not...but here are some of the songs a group of experts (ahem) from Facebook threw at me. Enjoy an abbreviated version of this Listly post here on ye olde blogue.

*** 

First up, nobody quite does subtle, quiet anger like Ani. If you want to politely send a "fuck you" to your ex, this is the way to do it.

Nice try, beyotch. Cry it out, I ain't takin' you back.

Crude? Yes. Perfectly captures a little male angst over bitches not being able to hang on the mother fucking Compton streets? Also yes.

IT'S TOO LATE FOR I LOVE YOU, says Phil Collins, quietly.

The original "Cry Me a River," all about not taking back the jerk who broke your heart in the first place.

Despite not quite knowing how to spell "you," has there been any better anthem to breakups in the last decade?

OK, except for maybe this? 

The title says it all, really.

One of the best, angriest songs about Canadian Dave Coulier ever. (Note to self: Do NOT breakup with Alanis Morisette for an older version of herself.)

I mean, we'll never know if you/I would be something I/you would be good at, but just let this woman stare into your ever-loving soul for a minute, k?

Also, because TNR readers are the MUTHAFUCKIN' best, here's an entire breakup playlist that'll seriously knock your socks off. Thanks to Christina for sharing!! 

What are, in your opinion, the best breakup songs of all time? 

How to Get Closure After a Breakup

My book, How to Be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide, drops next Tuesday, 7/30. Since you are probably wetting yourself in your excitement to get your hands on said book, here's an excerpt from it to get you through until then. Enjoy!

how to get closure after a breakup

The one bad thing about being a part of a society that is (relatively) accepting of therapy and people getting/staying mentally healthy is that we are almost too educated.

We throw around terms and ideas like so much dirty laundry, thinking we are owed or can demand certain things for ourselves. You know, because, CHECK OUT MY RECEIPTS FROM DR. MILLER, Y'ALL. 

While it’s true that we can certainly set boundaries and ask for (and demand at times) respect for our feelings or limits, there is one idea that’s often thrown around after breakups that I think is wildly misunderstood.

Closure.

Webster's defines closure as being twofold:

1. The resolution of a significant event or relationship in a person's life
...followed by...
2. A sense of contentment experienced after such a resolution.

Well isn't that all bunnies and unicorns and NOT AT ALL what you're feeling after a breakup? Neat! 

We often think that we are “owed” a final conversation, or a last word, or the chance to just say one more time what we feel. And we think--erroneously--that hearing that thing, whatever it is, will be the magic words to making all the badfeels go away.

Hard Thing to Hear A: We are not owed anything by our exes, friends.

Once the relationship is broken, we might kindly ASK for the opportunity to say our piece or plead our case, but we certainly are not owed it, no matter what was said before, or how many times he said he loved you, or how she promised again and again that she wouldn’t treat you this way (and then did anyway).

Our exes have every right to say no. To keep their distance. To never, ever speak to us again.

So how, in those cases, can we get closure? To feel as if the relationship has really been laid to rest, that our demons are silenced, that we can truly move on into our new normal?

First, we gotta separate closure from healing

Closure vs. Healing

It's easy to confuse closure with the process of healing. It's even easier to confuse closure with the final stage of grief, Acceptance (though they have a lot in common). 

Healing comes first, always. Healing means you grieve the loss of the relationship, all the good, bad and ugly of it.

You go the fuck through the five stages of grief.

You cry it out, you get angry, you make some bad decisions with your pants parts. You maybe get some therapy.

And then one day you wake up, and you're like, "I feel better (or maybe just slightly less shitty). I'm ready for what's next. I'm not so broken as I was before." 

"Closure," however you're framing that confusing little concept in your head, is NOT a part of the healing process. It is not a start, a jumping off point, or an impetus, or a prompt.

Healing can start now, immediately.

Healing doesn't have a waiting list or pre-requisites. 

Healing is its own thing that you MUST do on your own, completely and fully, and it absolutely does NOT require closure. 

Why? Because... 

Closure is a Luxury

Hard Thing to Hear B: closure is a privilege, not a right.

I know, right? What a bitch.

Look, it’d be super nice if, after every breakup, your ex was gracious enough to let you talk about ALL THE FEELINGS and to air every grievance and to ask every question and for you to feel like you’ve said and done everything you could possibly ever say or do until your little brain finally goes, “Ahhhhhh.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how the end of relationships work.

Your ex might be a real dickhole.

YOU might be a real dickhole.

You might have suffered some abuses that no amount of talking out, or answered questions, or karmic comeuppance will ever fix.

She cheated on you? You really think understanding WHY she sought intimacy outside your relationship is going to make you feel better?
He hit you? You really think getting to the root of his daddy issues will throw some glitter on those dark days?
She had severe trust issues? You really think hearing one more time, "It wasn't you, it was me?" will help you stifle that little voice in your head that says, "Nah, you just weren't good enough to trust in the first place?" 
He left without a word? You really think him giving you a pros and cons list of your relationship, then saying that the cons outweighed the pros will make it all click into place, will make you feel less abandoned?

Sorry, loves. Sometimes shitty, shitty stuff happens to us. Sometimes that shitty stuff will always leave a little twinge of hurt, "closure" or no. Sometimes you will never, ever hear those little words, the right phrase, the apology, or get the last hug that says, "It's all okay now." 

Plus, the problem with demanding closure from an ex? Sometimes we’ll glory in the simplicity of having an answer, even if that answer is wrong, rather than really doing the work of processing our shit for ourselves.

So that’s the bad news. Closure is a luxury.

The good news is...

Closure: You Can Give it to Yourself (Heyo!)

Dr. Abigail Brenner, M.D. says in her 2011 article, "In Flux", that: 

Closure means finality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities. [emphasis mine]

In other words, closure is all on you. YOU let go. YOU accept. YOU honor the transition from "in a relationship" to "single."

Above all, YOU stop seeing the end of the relationship as limited by the thing he/she "HAS" to say/do for you to really feel like it's over.

Closure is up to you, baby. It just is. Because, let's face it, we are human (even your ex! Hard to believe, I know, but he is!).

While you might expect your ex to do what's best for you to feel all warm and fuzzy again with your fee-fees, the reality is:

a) your ex has the right to honor his/her own boundaries and

b) your ex no longer owes you anything.

Not one conversation. Not one more look. Not one more minute.

Would it be NICE if your ex was like, "Take your time, get it out, and tell me what I need to say/do?" Of course. But can you count on it happening? Should you rely on it to get what you need to move on? No. 

I never got the answers I wanted from my last ex. In fact, the last time we spoke was the summer of 2012. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive, successful or broke, single or married.

While I haven’t gone into all the gory details of our story here, there was some fucked up shit that went down between us that we ignored and buried and pretended never happened.

No amount of talking or emails or answers will change the fact that I was hurt, that parts of that relationship broke me, or that things didn't end the way I had hoped or planned.

I had two options, then:

1. I could go the rest of my life in a fuzzy state of denial (it never happened) or bargaining (what if it never happened)

...or I could say...

2. “It happened, I will grieve, I will fix my shit, and I will fight to be good, as is.”

Giving yourself closure requires some really grimy work. It means answering for the things you were personally responsible for, or sifting through your own emotional backlog.

It also means acknowledging that there might have been things that happened to you that sucked and were out of your control...and that it wasn't your fault...and that you don't have to let those things break you.

I can tell you, first hand, that can be some messy, messy ish. A bubbling up of ick. Stuff you buried deep inside you that is fighting to get out and begging for address. Voices you will have to silence and call Liar. Rips right across the fabric of your soul that you'll have to mend and patch and repair.

It is work that, while you may have wonderful people who can support you through it, you have to do on your own.

After my divorce, I didn’t really speak to my ex for almost a year. There were things that I still felt bad about, like how I felt so trapped in our marriage that my only response to his attempts to love me was to be cruel or cold. Or how I left him on his birthday (I’m bad at dates!) or served him papers on our five year anniversary (OK, really, really bad at dates!).

I was fortunate enough that, under the influence of alcohol one Christmas Eve, we were able to talk through some of those issues and forgive one another.

It was a tough talk.

We sifted through some shit. We admitted our parts in the failure of our marriage. We talked about the things we still liked about each other, and forgave each other for the bad pieces of ourselves that we used to hurt one another. 

But if we hadn’t had that talk? We would still need to work through those issues on our own. I would still have had to forgive myself for my behavior during my marriage even if he never did. I would still have needed to figure out why I acted that way in the first place.

All I’m saying is, a million and one things can come between you and that conversation or action you think you MUST have for it to be over.

You cannot spend the rest of your life leaving that corner of your life unresolved, waiting for another human being with his own nuances and feelings and responses to say EXACTLY THE THING you need to hear. 

Because you may not ever get that. Ever. It's 100% a crapshoot. It's 100% a luxury. 

And it's 100% yours to give yourself. 

Dr. Nancy Kalish says it best: 

So is healing and moving forward possible? Yes. But the healing must come from within; you do not need to contact the lost love for this to happen, nor is it desirable to contact a lost love if a complete ending is what you are after. The events and feelings of the past can best be worked through, on your own...A lost love cannot heal you. There are no shortcuts. Getting over a conflicted lost love experience takes work, and a genuine willingness to let go. [emphasis mine]

So let go, friend. Heal. Grow. Then grant yourself the grace to indulge in some sweet, sweet closure.

 How to be Dumped: the Definitive Breakup Guide drops 7/30 on Amazon! Stay tuned for further updates!

You Are Enough

He sat quietly for a moment at the kitchen table, waiting for a response. The AC wooshed on with a soft sigh, rustling papers. He said again, "You are worthy of love. You deserve to be loved. You. Are Worthy. Of Love." 

And I realized in that moment--much to my surprise--that I wasn't sure I believed him.

Deserve? Worthy? 

My brain questioned the validity of those words. How was it possibly true that I deserved or was worthy of something I often wasted?

Divorced at 26, my frowning family still not completely recovered from the choice I made, causing dinners to revolve around small talk and questions about my work (but never, ever about my life, unless it was a question about why I don't go to church any more, as if I could spend one more minute in an environment that toxic to my creativity or sex).

A string of one night stands and time spent (purposely?) pursuing unavailable men for a majority of the last seven years.

Two attempts at relationships ended in part because I thought I could make something work by sheer grit and determination, and because I thought if I ignored something long enough, it would just go away...respectively.

Deserved? Worthy? No, I thought, seeing only my brokenness; only the many, many knots I needed to unravel.

So I didn't believe him...because he had not used the word "earn."

*** 

She leaned back on the picnic table and sighed. "I don't know. I just feel like I should be doing MORE." 

"But you do so much!" I said, thinking of her continuous efforts in the community, the program she's championed that helps junior high girls build self-esteem and a sense of independence through cycling.

"Yeah," she said, "but I think of everything else that's going on in the world, and I feel like what I'm doing here isn't enough." 

I said, hoping she could sense my wish that someone had invested in me at that age like she invests in those kids, "It's enough to that one little girl whose life you change. Right here. Right now. It's enough to her." 

*** 

He posts photos of himself in exotic locations, muscular arms slung around the shoulders of people whose faces punctuate magazines and television and book jacket covers. He sends a positive message: "You, too, can have this life...." 

It's easy to confuse his dreams with my dreams, or to buy the lie that his life is the only way to live life, when in fact his life is the only way to live his life.

We all have people like him in our lives. It's entirely possible we're not working hard enough to "have it all," or that we're settling, or that we just don't have enough single-minded focus to just make it happen. 

Possible...though not entirely likely.  

Maybe, just maybe, your life is enough, but you keep looking so far outward, or so much at how your life stacks up to other people's dreams, you forget that there are tiny, beautiful moments happening to you right here, right now. 

*** 

In improv, we often joke about creating "disposable comedy." For me, this idea brings both a feeling of relief and regret.

Relief because if you royally fuck up a scene, or let your partner down, or tromp over the rules, or overthink, or simply forget to bring the best you to the stage...it's over in a minute, never to be repeated again. 

Regret because if you create something beautiful and brilliant, or boost your scene partner to greatness, or remember the rules only to deliberately break them with the cleverest intent, and bring the very best of weird, wonderful you to the stage...it's over in a minute, never to be repeated again. 

In reality, I should feel neither relief nor regret. I should only feel satisfaction from having performed at all, and perhaps the merest acknowledgement that, "I can do better," or conversely, "I couldn't have done that any better." 

Yet when it comes to my life, It scares me to think that I'm wasting time. That perhaps there are precious seconds of "more" ticking by...seconds I can never recapture, hands spinning 'round the face of a clock.  

Disposable moments prompting either regret or relief...sadness over missed opportunities or bad behavior, or a reprieve in knowing, "at least I didn't fuck that up too badly." 

In reality, I should feel neither relief nor regret... 

 ***

"How are you?" I asked, glad for the brief meetings we are able to arrange between his world travels. 

He replied, like always, "I'm perfect. I just need a little tweaking." 

Photo via my Instagram account.  

How to Be Dumped (for realsies this time)

So, 'member how I was like, "Oh hey, I'm writing an ebook about breakups?" 

And that was like, oh, a minute ago? 

Well, it's finally happening! Neat!

 

Woot. I'm a champion.

Woot. I'm a champion.

This bitch drops 7/30 and is chock-full of great little nuggets, like me saying sweet things like the following: 

"Let’s be honest, during your break-up, you will be a stupid fuck. It’s not your fault. You are a broken, irrational, sobbing, bad-decision-making, stupid fuck."

Because you are. We all are. Our bodies turn completely against our hearts and our brains go apeshit on our asses and release chemicals to make us total nutballs. 

I mean, not that it's an excuse for you to like, key your exes car, but at least now you'll know WHY you did it (Kubler-Ross up in this bidness!).

It's also not your typical ebook. This shit is full-length. I did not start out intending for it to be full-length. I really and truly thought I'd make you all some sort of pretty, abbreviated pdf.  

Instead, for those of you who like YA novels (raises hand) that's the length of ebook you're getting. Because I couldn't. Stop. Writing. 

I've had a few friends going through breakups lately and as I watched them grieve and heard them process through their pain, I did my best to treat them the way I needed (not necessarily wanted) to be treated last year.  

It means I doled out a lot more tough love than I usually do. It means I was an absolute STICKLER on the No Contact Rule. It means I said things like, "I understand, but you have to ride this bad day out" and "closure is a luxury." 

I'm sure it made some of the things I had to say (and type) hard to hear (and read). But I know now that had I been a little more strict with myself last year at this time, I'd be coming out of my funk instead of repeating old cycles.  

Anyway, in the next few weeks, look for me to drop a little somethin'-somethin' free for you all right here, my first ever promo video (whaaaat?) and more super FUN THINGS ABOUT BREAKUPS. 

In the meantime, here's a small preview of some of the content as filmed during my presentation for Pecha Kucha this last February:  

Enjoy!

74 Days of Love

This is a guest post from a reader who wanted to share his story. I love this piece because it's honest, raw, and mirrors a lot of what we all go through with love and loss. 

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I met her in November 2011.  She worked at a client, and a colleague of mine and I had a brief meeting regarding a client related business topic.  At the end of the meeting, I looked at my colleague and commented on how much her look softened over the course of the meeting.  Privately, I also made a note of how I thought she was attractive.

As the months went by at the client, we had occasion to discuss a variety of business topics.  We would discuss the “work stuff,” then career stuff, maybe a hint of family.  I made note of her green eyes and beautiful smile.

One day she called and said a group of people were getting together after work for a beverage, and invited me.  When I arrived, it seems nobody else could make it.  The two of us had a great time talking a little work, more career, and some personal stuff.  I discovered she was my age, and had three kids.  Most interesting, she was single.

In July, a colleague from the former client was coming to town, and I was meeting him.  She wanted to come as well, and joined us from noon on.  She met some of my family, and we spent time together over food, drink and touring.  As I drove the colleague back to his hotel 60 minutes away, he pummeled me the entire way asking why I wasn’t more serious with her.

By November, she and I were in close contact with each other. Thanksgiving eve we agreed to meet for a coffee near a Whole Foods, and her work/traffic delayed her.  Worrying the store would close before she arrived, I started walking up and down aisles picking up things as directed by phone.  She got her groceries and I got to visit.  A win: win.

As December came around, I asked if she would attend the Boston Pops with my family.  We always get tickets, and I’ve been buying a single extra ticket for years.  She agreed to go.

Christmas Eve comes, and we exchange gifts.  New Year’s Eve had us in separate homes, “watching” a DVD together.  It was hard getting two DVD players synched.  We shot texts back and forth all night.  Around ten, she asked if I would stay up to midnight with her.  Of course I would…..there wasn’t anything else I wanted.

January 3rd was a big night for us.  After a night of dancing, I took a chance and leaned in and kissed her.  It was a perfect kiss, and she took her breath and fanned her face.  Obviously this had to be followed up with another kiss.

January 11 she returned from a business trip, and when she got off the bus, she had a huge smile and radiance about her.  I was absolutely hooked. 

One night at a bar at the Boston Harbor Hotel, a patron approached and said, “You two must have something special. You’ve been staring at each other all this time.”

We did have something special.  It was perfect. We had each other.  

Valentine's Day: She had told me she had always had to make the plans in her prior relationships, and wanted someone else to do that for her.  I made a reservation at a very nice restaurant in Boston, including flowers.  We had a fabulous time being waited on hand and foot. 

Dinner was one of those special times.  We started talking about a future together.  “Going shopping” became a euphemism for looking for an engagement ring.

On February 21, she asked me to marry her. As it turned out, on February 23 we found the perfect stone and setting.  

I think of our 74 days of love as having three phases.  January is where it really all started, after a lengthy period of courtship. February is where it got serious. In March the fairytale ended.

March 24, she packed up her stuff and left.  I’m intentionally being vague on the last month.  Things were said, feelings bruised.  Nearly all the “friction” was over minor stuff taken individually, taken as a whole it signaled the beginning of the end.

The truth is I still love her.

Earlier this week, I pulled up our calendar and removed 17 events.  I was canceling some of the future we had planned together, or I had planned for us.  

I felt a connection to someone at a very deep level.  We seemed for two months to be in complete harmony.  I can honestly say I haven’t been that happy in my life in the last ten years.  She is an amazing person.

I regret how quickly the last three months have unfolded, and how quickly the wheels feel off in March.  Did getting the ring bring stress to the relationship?  Did the real world present normal stresses and pressures our relationship couldn’t sustain?

In my heart, I wish we could have a “do-over”.  Slow things down.  Find the time to smooth the wrinkles.  Let our relationship experience strife and recover.  Live for the now.

I am struck by how it takes two people to have a relationship work, and either one can end it.

Dear Life, Quit being a Dick

OK, fine, life isn't that big of a dick, but the title popped into my head and I knew I had to use it. 

I mean, it's KIND OF a dick. It's taken two good people I adored from this world in the last two months who were WAY too young to go. 

It's confronted me with some old challenges, and some new. The kind where I'm struggling to identify the base components, sift through, react and respond accordingly and appropriately. 

And let's not even talk about stuff outside my own sphere, like people blowing up marathons or kids or other innocent people both here at home and the world over. 

But overall, I think I'm getting a little better at it, this whole life/adulthood thing. 

I still do dumb shit. I still speak well before thinking. I can still be catty or flippant with people and situations that deserve far more respect. 

But I think I catch things more quickly now. I don't always wait until I'm mired in a thing to say, "Oh fuck. Well, how does one get out of this?"

So, in the spirit of soul puke, here are a few things I'm learning about this beast we call life, which can be a dick, sure, but still has some beautiful parts to it...not unlike that hottie from the bar you bang occasionally.

1. I have what I like to call "life or death" moments.


A dramatic description, sure, but allow me to explain myself (if I haven't already somewhere on this blog before).

"Life or death" moments are the ones where you can foresee the end result of a decision about 27 moves out. 

So, like, texting the "bad news" dude, casually, "just to say hi." That's a move made where--if you're really honest with yourself--you know EXACTLY how it's going to pan out in a month (you, in tears, him all like, "I'm seeing someone else, I thought you knew that.")

For me, I have life or death moments when it comes to my own self-care.

After a regrettable experience with a Mirena IUD that sent me into my first ever bout of for-real, can't-get-out-of-bed, my-whole-body-hurts, I-hate-life, crying-for-no-reason, I-never-believed-in-it-until-it-happened-to-me depression, followed by a round of therapy that helped me to identify that I've been living my life in a mild state of anxiety since, oh, forever, I can tell when I'm on a precipice. 

These moments are never anything terribly bad. It might be a funk, or a mood, or a simple shift in the way I view the world or my life. 

But it's there...it's that moment that could turn into a thousand other moments, which could turn into, "I can no longer function normally and this is dangerous."

I wrote in my journal the other day that these moments are a "sinking, dampening feeling...water seeping in through boots, leaving socks soggy."

Which is like, the WORST feeling ever, amirite??

Anyway, when I have one of these moments, I know I must make a decision immediately or face tumbling into the abyss. Not today, not tomorrow even, or next week. But soon.

I refuse to let that shit happen. 

For me, these moments mean that I need to hit the gym, STAT. Or write it all out. Or call one of my core people.

I am good at the former (at least in the sense that I know how to execute, and it's good for me), and trying to be better with the latter. Getting there. Which leads me to:

2. I am bad at balancing independence/strength with my inherent need for connection.


I think there's this thing that single people do where we scream and shout and yell that we are just fine all by ourselves! We don't need a man/woman/blow up doll to be happy! Haha, look at you suckers all out on date night on Friday! We're in watching Homeland, wearing sweatpants, with a whole pizza and a bottle of wine ALL TO OUR PETS-AS-CHILDREN SELVES. 

WE DON'T HAVE TO SHAVE OUR PUBES LIKE YOU SUCKERS!! MWHAHAHAHAAA!

I think we're doing ourselves a disservice.

I mean, I get it. I get why we feel the need to rail against a society that sells us the Disney Princess lie...that we can only be happy when coupled and fitting in nicely to our gender roles. That we are somehow "rescued" when we're in a relationship. 

But what we're really sliencing is our inherent need for connection. And, yes, we NEED connection. 

Or at least, that's what I'm learning.

I'm learning that it's okay for me to be a strong, independent woman (a thing I fought and clawed for) but also want to connect with someone...

...with my pants parts.

Oh yeah, and my heart and shit. Whatever.

3. Owning your truth can suck hard. Like, real hard.


As discussed earlier, there come those moments in life where your own self-care is paramount.

Maybe it's a simple acknowledgement that French Fries are a "sometimes food," or that you're perpetually making yourself miserable by never getting more than six hours of sleep, or that it's finally time to have an honest meeting with the boss to say, "I'm in over my head and I want to throw up when I think of spending another 14 hour day here."

Then there are those other moments where your heart says, "Let's make this hurt so good," but your head says, "You know that's a terrible idea."

So those are the times you have to say, "Enough."

And it sucks. It'll hurt, yes. And you'll have moments of confusion where you'll wonder if you did the right thing, that maybe, maybe if you had stuck with it, it would defy the odds and turn out differently. 

I guess I'm just at the point in my life where situations that offer fleeting moments of happiness in exchange for consistent moments of my heart to be ground to a pulp isn't an acceptable state of being.  

That's when you start confusing "happiness" with "reprieve." Those feelings are two very different things, friends. 

Owning your truth is less about protecting oneself and more about honoring the reality of one's limitations. There is something raw and vulnerable and honest about saying, "I can only handle this much," then asking others to respect your stopping point with you. 

It's self-care at its finest...and most painful. It's also a step in the right direction.

And that's what adulthood is, I suppose. Lots and lots of tiny steps in the right direction.

All pictures from my Instagram account where I sometimes take pictures of phallic looking clouds. Follow me @sarahjstorer, you goons.