Fire and Ice

Before I begin, I should remind you that I am not a travel lifestyle blogger. I typically blog as I would compose a diary, to remind myself of where I was and what I experienced. This is going to be a long post because I want to capture the details that matter to me, and not boil down my travels to a perfectly-manicured and concise article on the time I went to Iceland. So, reader, you’ve been warned…

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There are people out there that say there is a particular sadness in leaving an immersive trip, the sadness that the incredible journey is now just a memory on its way to becoming a story.

I returned to Seattle after spending a week in Reykjavík, Iceland at the beginning of December 2015. The worst part about visiting Iceland is how badly it makes me want to go back now, so as not to let it become just something I remember. I suppose that delaying the completion of this post is my one way of pretending it isn’t over, but time has a way of slipping by regardless.

Everything I knew about Iceland made it seem like a fairy tale; although I had heard about the Northern Lights, the architecture, and the quaint feel of the only large city many times over, it was too fantastical to be believed. I had to see it for myself, and arriving in Iceland, it was truly like I had traveled somewhere other-worldly. It’s part of my story now–and I can recall the trip itself, still fresh like the snow we trudged through to and from the city each day.

Sunday, November 29th

John and I packed for most of that Saturday, when he insisted on bringing a laser pointer for no reason other than, “It’ll be fun.” On Sunday morning, we both went to the gym for one last WOD, then cleaned up and started loading my car.

Ari and B met us at noon, and we hauled away to Sea-Tac where John’s coworker let us park the car. She drove us to the airport, we checked in, and we sent all of our bags away; two free checked bags is a very comfortable policy, it turns out. Thanks, Icelandair!

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With parkas on and only our purses and small backpacks, we passed through security and on to our terminal. We grabbed a bite to eat and awaited our plane. I chatted with my mother on the phone, keeping an eye on the impatient crowd at the gate. Eventually, there was movement, and we all boarded the Boeing 757.

Once snugly in our seats, we settled in for the seven-hour ride. John and I had been moved to exit row seats, so our leg room was ample and the tray tables quite awkward. We set our watches eight hours ahead, took off through some low-lying Seattle clouds, then turned northeast and climbed on towards Canada. The sun was already low in the sky, and we spied pink snow-capped mountains out the window before the night sky took over.

With not too much to see, I split a snack with John and had some water before trying to snooze as much as possible. The woman on my other side was part of a group of three or four, traveling to Iceland for some kind of celebration; I never discerned what their reason was, although they were planning to spend time both in the city and somewhere outside of it. She ordered two mini bottles of wine, so I figured perhaps she was celebrating a birthday as well.

Spotify offline playlists kept me calm and soothed, and when my phone read “5:00AM,” I woke up and watched some of the in-flight offerings until we landed.

Monday, November 30th

The Seattle flight left at 3:45PM Pacific Time, which meant a 6:55AM Monday arrival. Once on the ground at Keflavík Airport, I marveled at the fact that I was on Icelandic soil for the first time; it was a wish come true.

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Customs was a quick process, as we were one of only a few arrivals at that dark, early hour, and after collecting our bags, we did some duty-free shopping. The thing to keep in mind about Iceland is that the liquor is expensive, but that it’s quite reasonable at the duty-free store. We grabbed a few choice bottles, including some Brennivin, along with some Garún Icelandic Stout NR.19 (Borg Brugghús), Einstök Toasted Porter, and an obscene amount of Viking Gylltur.

After shopping, it was time for juice and a snack, killing time before our 8:30AM shuttle to the Blue Lagoon. The freshness of the smoothie was much-needed after a long plane ride. However, what was even more needed came next.

The Blue Lagoon excursion immediately following arrival was one of our best ideas. Blue Lagoon is a major tourist destination, although one a traveler cannot miss; all my worldly friends stand by this, tourist trap and all. They make it so tourist-friendly anyway, it’s hard to say no.

Our shuttle bus driver stashed our luggage in the cargo hold, then drove us through the pitch black dark about 12km from the airport. We transferred our luggage to the bag storage at the end of the parking lot, where our group of three busses–ours only had about six people on it–parked; no other visitors had yet arrived, making our arrival seem even more special. We stopped in front of the Blue Lagoon sign to take a few celebratory selfies and sips of liquor, reveling in the cool winter air and the pre-dawn hush. Perfect snowflakes blanketed the ground and muted all the background noise, so it was just the trudging of our boots and our lowered voices in the air.

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We had pre-booked our visit, so once we reached the main building, we got in line and got squared away with our wristbands before heading to the luxurious locker rooms. Again, with relatively few visitors at the Lagoon, it was relaxed and peaceful. I remember the locker rooms being the perfect temperature, both in the air and beneath my feet. I changed into my favorite swimsuit and commented to Ari about how flattering the lighting and mirrors were; I actually looked like I work out as hard as I do! An added bonus to an already great experience.

Many people warn tourists about the showering process, where one must strip down before entering the Lagoon. No one mentioned the fact that there were single shower stalls in addition to the common shower. With no rush, there were plenty of single showers open. Spotting an open stall, I took it, and I relished the warm water and soap; after all, I had been on a plane all night. I made sure to load my hair with conditioner to stave off the minerals, then put my swimsuit back on and wandered out into the frigid morning.

To say my feet were then cold was not giving Iceland its due credit. The air was freezing, and the walkway surface was not much warmer. It behooved us to hang our towels as quickly as possible in order to get into the milky blue pool before turning into human icicles.

With dawn breaking and steam rising off the surface of the water, I couldn’t help but want to hurry on in, though. The Lagoon was heated to a comfortably hot temperature, somewhere between 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit, and again, after a seven-hour plane ride, it was just what I needed. We slowly ventured to the outer reaches of the Lagoon, with our visibility obscured by the thick steam and low light; thankfully, I didn’t fall into any unexpected deep spots (something you expect when you’re 5’1″).

Since it was a birthday celebration trip and all, our next order of business was to procure champagne, so off to the bar we went. In all actuality, this meant finding the stairs closest to the bar, dashing inside, dripping all over the floor whilst apologizing for doing such, and then ordering our drinks of choice. We were rung up with a swipe of the wristband, and back into the warm waters we went. (Luckily, for our next round, the swim-up bar was open; no more mad dashes for a beverage.)

We spent the next few hours wandering in the water, sitting in the steam rooms, and lounging in the jacuzzi areas. The water had a sort of soft quality to it, and only in the steam rooms did I ever sweat.

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Eventually, it was time to leave, so we reversed the process: showered, dried off, dressed, paid, ate lunch, retrieved our bags (and beer), and waited for the shuttle to the city.

We eventually made it to our Airbnb apartment, after transferring to a mini-bus due to the snow. The apartment’s “on-site manager” (so to speak) met us, let us in, and gave us essential pointers for our stay. We unpacked, freshened up, and were ready to see the city by foot. Icelandic fish ‘n’ chips were on the menu for dinner that night, so we were able to cross off one item on John’s “must do” list. Please note that we visited Reykjavik Fish Restaurant to get our fish ‘n’ chips; our friends had advised that they once tried to find fish ‘n’ chips in town and had ended up at a joint that had “fish ‘n’ chips” in the name, but alas, no actual fish ‘n’ chips. Reykjavik Fish, however, had a chalkboard with its offerings, and their hearty fish ‘n’ chips were just what we needed.

In addition to dinner, we took in the sights of a Christmasy-looking Reykjavik and wandered through a snow-covered cemetery before calling it a night and doing our best to ward off the jet lag.

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Tuesday, Dec. 1st

A winter storm rolled in on Tuesday, bringing lots of snow to the area. “Lots of snow” is an understatement, but I don’t have a much better way to quantify it. We took our time, after sleeping in, to bundle up and seek out the famous Sægreifinn lobster soup.

Let me tell you about lobster soup in the most succinct way possible: it’s incredible.

Warm, flavorful, perfectly salted, and rejuvenating, lobster soup became an instant favorite of mine. The menu at Sægreifinn is also wonderfully straight-forward: there’s the soup, fresh seafood skewers, and beverages–alcoholic and non–to choose from.

We warmed up at Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron), enjoying our soup and complimentary bread, as well as enjoying being out of the wind and snow. It was a good day for cozying up in coffee shops and bars–which is considered one of the best tourist activities when in Iceland–and generally just seeing all the city had to offer.

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We spent a good deal of time at the Culture House, a part of the National Museum of Iceland, where the exhibition Points of View was being housed. This was another good way to learn more about the country we were in, taking in art and history from centuries ago through the present. While we were in the building, I distinctly remember seeing large, fluffy clumps of snow falling past some of the windows. The relative quiet and stillness of the Culture House–along with the picturesque snowfall–was peaceful, a nice departure from the hustle of “real life.”

Other places of interest on this snowy day included Lebowski Bar and a book shop. White Russians and books, what could go wrong? We eventually wound up back at the house after trudging along through most of Reykjavik.

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(PS – I visited Lebowski Bar’s page in February, and I noticed that they were offering free bacon on all burgers for Valentine’s Day. First of all, that’s quite the way to celebrate; second of all, had I known about this sooner, I would have definitely pushed for a return visit slash date night.)

Wednesday, Dec. 2nd

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The morning was clear after the previous day’s winter storm, and after starting our day, we walked down to the Harpa Concert Hall to pick up tickets for a Sin Fang show later that night. We arrived at Harpa at just the right time, as the sun was high enough in the sky to throw some beautiful colors into the surroundings.

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Shortly thereafter, dark clouds, heavy with precipitation, rolled in, but instead of rain, they brought more snow. We wound up at Kex Hostel and Bar, where the restaurant/bar provided us with unnecessary amounts of delicious food: a spicy burger, salmon and kale, fresh sausages, and a simple yet much-needed green salad.

Later that evening, we went back to Harpa and watched the show. We were in one of the small auditoriums, looking down on the group. All the songs were in English, and all of the filler between songs was in Icelandic. This made for a pretty mellow experience for us. We didn’t understand any of the punchlines to the jokes, but we laughed along anyway. Young Boys was the subject of some kind of joke about it being a “gay anthem.” It’s fairly obvious upon listening to see how that could be; the song itself is one of my favorites now, and I encourage you to take a listen.

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After the concert, we quite likely ended up at Prikid, as we had time on our hands, and feet with which we could walk.

Thursday, Dec. 3rd

Or, the Day I Turned 30. And how else would I start the day but with a WOD at CrossFit Reykjavik? (Actually, it started with toast, skyr, some juice that I’m sad we can’t find Stateside, and an espresso from our grumbly espresso machine. But I digress.)

In order to get to the gym, we needed to take a cab; our driver got us there quickly, especially quick considering the snow-covered roads. Icelandic drivers mean business. We arrived in one piece, then wandered the perimeter of the building until we figured out we had to access the lower level to get to the gym. In our defense, the snow was obscuring the pathway.

CrossFit Reykjavik is, as another visitor noted, a fitness factory. A well-oiled machine, we dropped in during the block of time where classes start every twenty minutes. The space is organized to allow this type of rotation, with strictly timed warm-ups, skill or lifting sections, and the WOD.

Our coach led us through warm-ups, which were easy enough to follow, as the combination of Icelandic and body language were all we needed. He checked in with us Americans every now and then to make sure we understood what was going on, which was appreciated.

The day’s lift consisted of 8 minutes to find your 1-rep max overhead squat. With a cranky shoulder, no Olympic lifting shoes, no weight belt, and a few days of improper nutrition and jet lag, I still managed to PR my overhead squat by a few pounds. 50kg/110lbs., good enough for a birthday PR. The rest of my Seattle crew either matched or PR’d their OHS, as well.

Then there was the WOD. It came with a 12-minute time cap, and read:

For Time
400m run
then…
21-15-9
SDHP (55kg/35kg)
Box jump overs (60/50cm)
then…
400m run

I was worried about hitting the time cap, between all the aforementioned ailments and chronic asthma. However, I surprised myself partway through my first set of SDHPS, noticing the clock was not very far along.

I’m actually going to finish this, I thought. Since that was the case, it then was in my best interest to try and keep up as best as possible. My fitter half and two BFFs unsurprisingly came off of the middle part of the WOD ahead of me, and they were well into their closing 400m run when I joined in. At the least, the gym operators weren’t cruel enough to send us out into the snow and ice, so we ran 8 small laps around some of the equipment.

I had a small lead on a few of the local athletes, and I finished well under the time cap. John naturally finished in his favorite spot, “fastest in the class,” although he didn’t look at the right clock to log his time. His time is forgotten to all eternity.

(That’s not true; B was able to track both their times, and John logged his on our gym’s website. I just looked it up online, and his time was 8 minutes and 15 seconds.

Fine.)

Final time: 10 minutes, 25 seconds 

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After the WOD, we took advantage of the wrestling mat and stretching room, rolling out before heading into the locker rooms. We showered, then instead of getting dressed and going home, we put on swim suits and hopped in the gym’s hot tub. (And cold tub. They had both.)

We did not get to take advantage of the sauna, although I imagine that would have been glorious as well. Instead, once we showered and changed, B noticed a Hlöllabátar across the way, so off we were to acquire some ham boats for post-WOD sustenance. I had to run the page through Google Translate because I don’t speak Icelandic very well (that’s an understatement), but the sandwich–boat–in question is the “Skinkubátur.” All you need to know is these boats are reasonably-priced and tasty. No frills, just great boats.

After the boys wrangled a taxi in the parking lot of a grocery store, we were on our way back to the apartment to rest up before birthday dinner. Walking around and eating lots of things whilst on holiday is difficult, so we played some games to keep ourselves entertained. I’m not exactly sure when we brought out Milles Bornes, but that is a game I highly recommend bringing on vacation, along with Quiddler. Both are good, clean fun, and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. They’re a very good way just to have fun, and they take up little room in the suitcase.

Our friends Aaron and Michelle departed Edinburgh, Scotland via EasyJet, and were en route to Reykjavik by early evening. Ahead of their arrival in the city, the four of us Seattleites went out for dinner. For the first few days, the boys had been asking us ladies were we wanted to go for our special days. There were several very nice restaurants around, and most were serving special Christmas meals. We kept telling them that we would make a decision at some point.

Naturally, it being my 30th birthday and all, I decided on lobster soup.

So, lobster soup it was, with the added treat of fresh salmon and cod skewers, along with a sampling of all the Christmas beers the Sea Baron had. It was a hearty and peaceful dinner, as we got to sit upstairs in the old bunk room area.

Bunk room?

Yes–there are several bunks in the upstairs area, which used to be lent out to fisherman in need of respite. A whole different type of homey feel to the restaurant, and one that made this birthday seem all the more unique and special.

After soup and beers, we moved onto Kex where we met the two ex-patriates, and where we enjoyed Einstok beers and a chocolate flourless cake. Aaron, the gentleman he is, requested a candle on the cake for my birthday, and Kex delivered.

The cake slice arrived with extra whipped cream, and a tea candle placed gently atop the cake. I’ve never been more delighted!

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It was a special night to be celebrating my birthday in Reykjavik, turning 30 with five of my favorite people, all who entered my life at various points in time. I couldn’t have thought up a better way to turn 30, and the best present was knowing there was more of the trip still ahead of us. We kept it relatively under control on this night because we had to be up early for the Golden Circle Tour.

Friday, Dec. 4th

I would say we were up at the crack of dawn on this day, but considering dawn wasn’t going to happen for several hours, I will just say we were up early. We had booked tickets for the Golden Circle Tour, including bus pick-up near our Airbnb, and had to get up to meet the mini-bus.

Unfortunately for us, we were the last scheduled area for pick-up, so we waited maybe 45 minutes out in the cold–and I mean cold as in “far below freezing”–before we finally got to climb into a tiny bus. The waiting game was perhaps the biggest hiccup in our trip, but all things considered, it was not the worst thing in the world. No one was hurt in the process, and we eventually got to our big buses, where Aaron and Michelle had saved us all seats.

I fell asleep for most of the drive out to our first stop, which was a tomato hot house, Friðheimar. There we were able to sample some delicious tomato soup and bread, learn about the indoor tomato cultivation, and also pet some Icelandic horses. One particular horse was rolling around in the snow without a care in the world.

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Next on the list was the Geysir geothermal field. As the name might imply, there is quite a bit of geothermal activity here. It’s of utmost importance for tourists to keep to the path because even though it’s cold out, it’s quite ill-advised to touch the far-beyond-boiling water.

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One of the geysirs, looking hot.

We waited patiently for the Strokkur geysir to erupt, and we were eventually treated to a spout of water preceded by a big bubble.

We refueled in the restaurant, then boarded the bus to Gullfoss (Golden Falls). Gullfoss was incredible and worth the biting wind. The water plunges over 100ft., and in the cold winter, some of the spray froze to the edges of the cliffs, creating what essentially looked like another frozen waterfall. I’m not certain what else I can say about the waterfall, other than it was incredibly beautiful. Absolutely amazing.

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Last on the list was Thingvellir National Park, a geology lover’s dream come true. The tectonic plates are pulling apart here, creating steep, blocky walls. We could also overlook the original Parliment and the lake, again braving the cold wind.

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100% John’s camera and eye here.

Back in town, we rested up before embarking on a night out. It started with a card game at the house, included some ham boats and hot dogs, and ended at Prikid with dancing and realizing Icelanders bring their A-game on the weekends. I’ve not a clue how any of the women were able to pull off high heels and normal club clothes in the dead of winter, but I admire them for it.

Saturday, Dec. 5th

When we finally awoke on December 5th, it was Ari’s turn at 30. Neither one of us had experienced anything strange, such as losing a limb nor all of our hair spontaneously falling out at once, so it was looking like 30 would be just fine.

We paid a visit to the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, where we took the elevators to the top of the church and looked out over the city. To say it was gorgeous would be an understatement. Even in the winter fog, with the visibility reduced, it was worth the trip to the top. I can’t wait to go again in a future summer.

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John’s work, again. (By this point, the rest of us had quit trying to take photos because John’s camera was showing all of us up.)

After coffee at Reykjavik Roasters, we went to Snaps for a very late brunch. Brunch runs until 1600 at Snaps, so we were just fine between sleeping in and our wandering. Being the holiday season, there were some additional Christmas treats on the menu, including mulled wine, which I have a weak spot for. Even though I was at the point in the vacation where I needed to probably think about putting myself on a restrictive calorie diet, I ordered Eggs Norwegian, and there were no regrets. Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon? Heaven in a single dish, I would say. (Actually, this blogger basically said the same thing about Eggs Norwegian at another place. We can’t both be wrong.) Everything else we ordered was on-point, and we gladly indulged.

It was a wandering and food-centered kind of birthday, with a siesta of sorts at the house after brunch. Eventually, we trekked down to Kex yet again for birthday treats, and later, four of us made it to Slippbarrin for cocktails and accidental (?) free shots of whiskey.

Ringing in 30 in Reykjavik was a great choice.

Sunday, Dec. 6th

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Sunday signified the end of the trip, and we begrudgingly packed up. John made one last trip to the neighborhood pool facility, and the rest of us went for coffee and a light pastry breakfast at Kaffihus Vesturbaejar. I had a croissant with some cheese and jam, and the bistro was calm and cozy, perfect for the close of a fantastic trip.

Also perfect was our bus ride to Keflavik, which began with another mini-bus pick-up. Our mini-bus driver was a natural at driving in the snow, and he wove up and down the side streets to gather other passengers and occasionally honk at pedestrians who were walking a bit too slow for his frantic pace. It was certainly a ride for which I buckled up, but when all was said and done, we not only were in one piece, but we had been thoroughly entertained by our young, relentless driver.

The longer ride from the central bus station to the airport was relaxing, with the sun illuminating the landscape outside. I snapped a few photos, but the dirty window and the moving bus diminished the quality of what I was really seeing.

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Once at Keflavik Airport and through security–and after we finally figured out the self-check system for the bags–we grabbed a hot meal of Icelandic meat soup and bread. I need that recipe in my arsenal, and I need Keflavik Airport’s food in my life more often. What a treat.

I also would not mind having the airport’s bars in my life more often, as the service and selection were both great. We enjoyed a few last drinks, including the last Einstok porter for awhile.

Soon enough, we were back on an airplane, and I snuggled up to the window seat. We hadn’t seen the Northern Lights the entire trip, but once we climbed high enough and the sky got dark, I looked out the window. Past the wing, there was a faint, green glow in the sky. At first, I thought it must have been a cloud, just catching the last rays of sunshine, but it persisted, and I knew it was the Northern Lights.

I nudged John and told him to look out the window, that the Northern Lights were just outside. We both craned our necks to watch them, until they were too far behind us to see any longer.

Turning our attention forward, we settled in, headed home to the Pacific Northwest, and said goodbye (for now) to the Land of Fire and Ice.

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The gang’s all here.

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PS – In case you were wondering, John forgot all about the laser pointer until he unpacked everything back in Seattle.

PPS – Photo credits for this post include John, B, Ari, Aaron, Michelle, and myself

A Singular Sensation (Encore)

The holiday season is an interesting time of year to be acutely aware of my status as a single lady in her late twenties.

Then again, the holiday season is an interesting time of year to reflect on what it was like to not be single at this time last year.

We did all the expected things: I had Thanksgiving with his family; we went out to dinner and a concert on my birthday; we visited my friends in Seattle and did some shopping; we exchanged gifts before I left town.

And then, naturally, I decided we had to end things right before New Year’s–even though I would still end up spending it with all of our mutual friends. The book was completely closed several days after New Year’s, though, without a lingering, messy break-up. It was a clean break, with me telling him bluntly, “We are no longer together. Now go do what you need to do.”

It was calm, unapologetic, to the point, and completely necessary. The line was drawn. And in a way, it set the tone for the rest of 2013. I had several moments in which I later laid my emotions on the line, moments in which I could say, “I forgive you,” and, “You are still my friend despite everything; our friendship means so much.” These things were tough for me, someone who loves those annoying cryptic posts on Facebook and Twitter, along with passive-aggressive jabs.

I’ve never been fantastic at relationships. I used to spend a lot of time on my blog whining about being lonely. I also used to grasp desperately to whatever relationship did come my way. Being single for this year has been tough at times, but it has also brought me much more in terms of growth.

Yes, I still have many feelings. I still melt down often, and transitions always exacerbate both aspects. But even in times where I had to let people go, I knew it was what I needed– and even more so what they needed. I am getting over my manic pixie dream girl complex, the idea that I need to save those emotionally-burned men I fall for. I fall back on a different narrative–much to the dismay of my irrational side–of telling myself they need to learn and make mistakes and hopefully get their lives together without me. And in doing so, even though it still hurts my heart, I am taking the right steps forward in being a better-adjusted single lady.

I read something the other day which, as a whole, was not my cup of tea. I won’t bother linking it here because I found it condescending to single ladies of my type. But there was one part that stood out and that I could at least thank the author for, which I’ll paraphrase as:

Being single may be part of my identity, part of my status, but it is not my identity. It does not define who I am. It is an important part of me, and it is to be celebrated in this moment. Especially in what it can teach me about the rest of who I am.

I’m still hopeful that he’s out there, but I’m more hopeful that he’s learning great things, too. We will have many stories to share, I think, so I suppose I can create many more before we connect.

That would be a fine way to spend this holiday season, I think.

(And if an interested party happens to be reading this… first of all, thanks for making it this far, and maybe we should plan to make mulled wine and watch a holiday movie. Or go to a shooting range. Same difference.)

Thoughts from October

“If you just keep going after the really pretty ones, believe me your happiness will be at most temporary and the fruit you will bare will not be worth your labor. Worst of all, we will continue to neglect the rest of the beautiful women out there. Women who have so much more to offer than just really good looks. Women whose beauty is matched, inside and out. Women who believe that love, when truly found, is unconditional. They understand that it, like everything else, requires work, from both sides. These women are smart and talented and awesome in every way. They are the ones who deserve our love. Believe me, Olympus may never fall but there is far more beauty here on the Earth, we just need to stop staring up into the heavens.” via Thought Catalog, “Why the Really Pretty Ones Are Just Not Worth It

Hello. I like what you just had to say, author of the quoted article.

But, let me remind you… let me remind you what Earth has to hold; those complicated women are scary, too.

Because the one I have in mind has lived in five different cities in just under ten years.

Her heart belongs to two, three, or maybe more, men who live in different corners of the world, and who they really are beyond the stories she’s made up to fill the in-between remains more of a mystery. But she loves mystery and much more than only a mental challenge.

Some things come easy to her; others are elusive. Love is the latter.

She can’t quite settle down yet. In fact, she left a city she saw a future with because she wanted to make sure it was the one. She’s full of restless energy, and she’s always running from one place to the next. No one has been able to give the chase their full focus, either. And in the end, who is really chasing whom?

Is it even a chase? Probably not.

Because the ones she wants are probably running the same restless race, and when their paths cross, no one’s sure if it’s just for a passing moment or if those paths will wrap back around and suddenly run parallel to one another.

She’s not sure what she’s running to–at least, she’s not completely sure.

And if that’s okay with you, then that more-than-just-a-pretty-face woman might be someone you want to get to know.

Better find her. Better get her attention. Better keep up with her.

Or, at least make it worth her while to slow down and match your pace.

(She’d probably enjoy the company.)

Unconquered

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

– William Ernest Henley

It’s been hard to write lately. Things are changing very quickly. They are moving faster than I expected, and it’s all because of me.

For those that haven’t heard, I accepted a job at the University of Washington. I begin in mid-September, where I will be taking my advising skills to the public four-year realm as part of the School of Public Health. I am nervous and excited and happy and confused and all sorts of different nuances. What I do know is when I need to be at work on that first day, and for now, that will have to be enough.

I spent a lot of today talking about CrossFit and love. My one-year anniversary is coming up, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on this past year, as it really has much more to it than nutrition and fitness. That’s a story for another day, however.

Today, I talked at length about being a manic pixie dream girl and how I’m tired of my penchant for trying to help (“rescue”) the males in my life. As I have quoted many a time, “We are the hero of our own story.” (Thank you, Mary McCarthy.) That goes for all of us, regardless of biological sex or gender identity or sexual orientation. We are the hero of our own story.

I am looking for someone who understands that. He will understand that for himself and about me. He will be so incredibly fascinating by his own account that I can feel safe and comfortable in sharing my own stories. He’s going to be different. He’s going to be unexpected. We will find the space in our own stories where things don’t simply fit together like puzzle pieces–they instead create something new, something where the individual parts are still visible and still meaningful, yet the sum of the whole is more than those individual pieces.

I write about love a lot. But I write a lot about my journey there, because being alone is something I want to be good at. This summer has been such a good thing for me. And maybe, yes, I’m still unsure about the possibility of ending up lonely. As another friend and I discussed, it would be lovely to be with someone that looked at you not with lust, but with love and adoration and respect and the most genuine kindness. It would lovely to be with someone who would say, without prompting, without curating the perfect words, “That woman right there? I love her.” They would say it with feeling, with realness, not with the sugar-coated insincerity social media has blown up.

I fully expect the same of myself, too. I want to feel that spark and the simultaneous calm that comes from being with someone who’s a good match. There are a lot of opinions out there on “knowing” you’re with the right person; I am of the opinion that, if I allow myself to, I will be able to feel and know. I’m optimistic, because I haven’t quite gotten there yet–and it’s scary, not knowing what it feels like to know (see what I did there?). I have been wrong. I have been wrong a lot. I haven’t conquered nor mastered this.

And why should I have done so already? There has been so much change in my life, in who I am and who I am becoming. I think I like who I am becoming. (That’s a Drake quote?) I cannot (but I will) wait to see how things unfold.

I am a lot to handle. I bring a depth of thought and feeling to the table, and it is overwhelming to many. But… someone out there can handle it. Maybe we’ve already met, but does that matter when the nature of life is somewhat turbulent? I know he can make it through, and we can make it through to each other. I trust him.

Because he’s out there, too, hopefully searching for himself in this wild frontier we call life.

 

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Why I Choose to Fail at Relationships

“You will take a trip, and you will see a glimpse of the self that you hadn’t run into in a while. You will see that you missed that person you always were and still were but had lost track of. You will meet a girl who is interesting but whom you don’t really feel very strongly for and you will continue to see her. You will mistake your lukewarm feelings for maturity, for an ‘adult’ approach to love that allows it to grow slowly and involves a careful accumulation of intimacy that is measured out as if cooking from a recipe card.

This will not work, and it will take you a while to see that you are merely bored and are trying to bolster your self-worth and a space-filler for a lonely girl. You will drift away from her, and you will be surprised by how plainly you can see that you don’t and never did care at all. You will think that indifference is better than being lit up only to be extinguished.” – Anastasia Sasewich – “Here is What Will Happen” via Thought Catalog

“I know someone who is soon marrying his girlfriend of eight years. He admits that he loves her, but isn’t in love with her. He says that they are very different, that they don’t have much to talk about as friends, that they bicker and fight. But time has built commitment, families know each other, and they are used to life with each other now. I said that sounds very sad to me. He said, ‘It’s not so bad. I pretty much do what I want.’ He goes out with friends, drinks and smokes weed, hasn’t really changed anything for her and she has just learned to deal with it. Well I guess that’s good, I tried. ‘It is and it isn’t,’ he said. ‘Because on one hand, yeah, I do what I want, but on another…’ He paused for a long time before he started again, ‘I never learned to love anyone more than myself.’” – Jill Neumann – “Don’t Settle For What Doesn’t Make You Happy” via Thought Catalog

These two articles have stuck with me for weeks on end. They stick with me because I see my past self in both of them. (I replaced the gendered pronouns with my own preferred partner’s pronouns in some readings–and in other readings, I imagined myself as the girls [women, hopefully] in question.)

I see myself mistaking “settling for” as a way to end the loneliness. I catch a glimpse of myself as recent as last summer, and maybe a pang of guilt should surface when I read the passage that accuses me of never caring at all. But how guilty can you feel when it’s so true?

With the advent of social media, it becomes easy to cherry-pick the moments we put forward. “Everything is great–actually, it’s beyond great! We’re over the moon with happiness!” But behind the infinite walls of the Internet, things are falling apart or they’re just barely holding together in the first place. It becomes harder to distinguish genuine happiness and what’s been spun the same way media moguls nip and tuck their every message.

We cater to an expectation of bliss and perfection. We become afraid to reach for something that could be fulfilling because that reach–and the lingering fear of failure–becomes too much. We hold on to failures from the past and let those attempts dictate what we try next. We try what is the easiest.

And when it becomes clear that this isn’t what we ever wanted, some of us won’t leave. Because leaving hurts. And remembering how bad it felt to leave or to be left still stings more than we care to admit.

And those that don’t or can’t or won’t leave will make excuses. For him, for her, for themselves, whatever. They’ll make excuses, and they’ll carry on as if everything is OK. Which it could be. It could be “just OK.”

But if that’s what we’re living for–“just OK”–then I don’t want to be a part of it.

I have made mistakes, but I have learned. I rule out nothing moving forward. I won’t say I’ll never try distance again or I’ll never date a friend again or I’ll never this or never that because that’s not how life should work. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of people and the weirdness of the universe, and yes, I feel jaded a lot of the time. That part is obvious.

But it’s because I have allowed myself to feel–not just happiness, but sadness, anger, jealousy, forgiveness. Everything you can–and should–imagine.

Failure sucks. But I find it worse to roll over, to give up, to never try, than to pick myself up again, even if it means not succeeding. This is my resilience. This is why I choose failure over never trying.

Through all the trials and tests and obstacles thrown at me, there remains hope. I’ve explained that a lot of us–a good portion of my friends, at least–are still trying to figure it all out. Those who are making headway are taking risks, are letting themselves stumble here and there, and are letting themselves grow from it all. There are those who aren’t, but I hope for their best that they see what they’re worth, that they deserve more than they think they do, and that it does take some discomfort to clear those hurdles.

And if and when that moment comes that you realize you need a shoulder to lean on because the weight of the world just seems like too much, I’m here. I’m always here.

One more quote for the night, which just happens to be my email signature, but which also sums up the reality of these stories we are writing:

“Adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility.” – Tim Cahill

So–are you simply getting by, or are you going to live a life of adventure?

Bleary-eyed, but I could make out the start of another grand adventure.

Bleary-eyed, but I could make out the start of another grand adventure.

One Single Summer

I realized yesterday that I haven’t spent a single summer truly single since maybe 2006. Maybe even earlier than that. Either I was in a serious relationship, or I was dating and it turned pretty exclusive, or whatever was going on soured and then I spent the latter half of summer in a foul mood.

This summer, I’m just kind of free to do whatever I want.

Yeah, I find summertime activities fun with a partner, but it’s good to be authentically alone for a bit. I’m not saying I’m going to plant my foot and declare, “No dating this summer!” However, I’ve long since deleted my OKCupid profile, I’m not asking incessantly if people have nice men for me to date (although we often entertain the topic), and I’m focusing more on what I want out of myself, not what I want in a partner. I’m still fighting the urge to take someone under my wing and try to fix them up, so that’s where I’m planting my foot and saying, “No.” Enough with “potential.” Enough with creating an idealistic, imaginary version of my current infatuation. Enough. Those boys are free to make their own mistakes, and my hands are clean of it all.

And that leads me to here.

Here’s to the best single summer ever.

I’m going to play in the sun, and enjoy great drinks, and I’m going to hop in the car and drive wherever I want, whenever I want. And I’m going to get strong, and I’m going to go dancing, and maybe I’ll keep on writing. And I’ll keep on living the best possible way I can for myself.

Because one summer of carefree solitude in a sea of brokenhearted summers will never be the worst thing that can possibly happen to me.

If anything, I'm just going to live here and try one of each.

If anything, I’m just going to live here (The Old Gold in North PDX) and try one of each.

As an added bonus, go on and check out Thought Catalog’s 27 Perks of Being Single.

27. Forced independence that will benefit you in the future. Being solo, you don’t always have a person for emotional support and the only option is to be strong for yourself. It’s like lifting weights. A girlfriend/boyfriend serves as spotter, but when you’re by your lonesome, the pressures on you. Get stronger or drop the weight on your chest.

What I’m Looking For

When I was 15, I didn’t want Prince Charming; I wanted a bad boy. Who I found was just plain bad for me.

When I was 20, I didn’t want Mr. Right; I wanted someone who was “different.” But mostly, I wanted someone to talk about incessantly. I wanted people to know I had a boy in my life.

When I was 22, I wanted someone who fit into my life plans, but I wasn’t all that willing to fit into his.

And when I was 24, I simply didn’t want to be alone.

First, I wanted the fairy tale. The fairy tale turned into a nightmare full of psychological games that left me badly damaged.

Then I rushed into an absolutely wrong match: cocky, undecided, lost–and ultimately, empty.

Soon, I started “talking” to a friend. Funny, cute, but in transition and unwilling to commit or even attempt anything more than “more than friends” with me. I loved the his job description because it was so unlike the person I thought he was, and that story was fun for a bit. In the end, though, there was no love beyond that.

I tried the sensible, settled, funny guy next, but I found it lacking in passion. I was too spontaneous, too drawn to the city, too drawn to a global presence to ever make it work. Our ideals were so different that compromise for either side would have led to nothing but resent.

When I was in the spring of 27, I looked at a friend in new light, took a chance after what could have been a fleeting kiss, and told him that I cared. But I left out the part that said I wanted someone who was willing to take a chance on me–on us, actually–and not just “talk” about visiting and how wonderful the other person was. Maybe things would have actually been different if we had been in the same city (as he told me later on), but I had ended up crossing his timeline at the wrong time. And he crossed mine at the wrong time, too.

When I was 27 and a half, I finally gave it all some thought. I wanted someone who was respectful and respectable. Someone who I would be proud and honored to stand next to. Someone whose very presence made me light up. I wanted someone with whom to create history and new stories–and someone who wanted that, too.

I needed someone who would validate me and affirm my dreams. Someone who would challenge me when I got too stubborn. Someone who could bring me back down to earth now and then, but who would also entertain the idea of communing with the clouds (to borrow a phrase).

And as for what I want for him? He should value us, together, but also as independent beings. He should value himself, but not in an egotistical sense. He should have confidence, not cockiness. He should know that he has a partner who likes him a lot, even if she is terrible at communicating that aspect verbally. He should know he’s admired.

He should know that he is so important to me, that I cannot wait to share our days’ stories with one another. He should know about the way I pretend not to wait for his next call or text. He should know that I’m always looking forward to seeing him. And I am anxious about the first kiss we share and the first trip we take and the first time I meet his family. And he should know that, even though I’m still on the fence about having my own kids, my heart will melt when he posts his latest, “My niece/nephew!” pictures. And he should know that I–in all my perceived awesomeness–am nervous about sharing my whole persona with him, from cool and sexy to vulnerable and sweet to fiery and intense.

And all too impatient, although I’m forcing myself to calm down, just wait, give it time. Just be.

I am the fire sign, the brightly burning soul who holds dreams of changing lives and of faraway lands. I dream of impacting those around me in positive, good ways; I cannot settle for an unremarkable life. I am not running “from;” I am running “to.” And through it all, I have dreams of finding that someone who ignites a whole new side of me. In turn, I hope he is receptive to what I share. I hope he catches me and grabs my hand, and we’ll share a brief glance, and like two mad men, we’ll just keep on running towards… well, we’ll just keep running “towards.”

When I was 27, I decided he would find me when he was ready and that I would live the best life for me until then. I wanted someone who could learn patience–and that someone was me.

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