love

…and then she proposed…

I was watching TV, annoyed that I had to sit through commercials – because what is this, the 90s? – and a credit card commercial (I think) came on. A young black couple sat in a Chinese food restaurant. She looked nervous. He opened a fortune cookie. It was cute. She proposed. I was like, well that’s badass.

So back before we were ready, I had the idea. Aside from the fact that it would make me feel like a feminist badass, I also thought it would be really nice to take it off of Anthony’s shoulders. He stresses out A LOT about giving gifts every year for birthdays or Christmas – they have to be absolutely PERFECT. I knew that this would be so much pressure on him – so why not take it on myself?

Then one day, we talked about having kids. Usually these conversations go a little like this:

Him: Do you want kids?

Me: UGH. NO. I mean, probably. But in like, 10 – no, 20 – years maybe?

Him: Ugh I know right? We’ll probably have them, but I can’t imagine having them…

Me: Let’s stop talking about this.

Him: K!

But this time, he was like “Ya, I want kids.” And I was like “Ya, me too.” Then I realized we needed to get the show on the road and told him I wanted to be married for a few years before it all goes down. And we had this moment, celebrating our 4 year anniversary in Pismo Beach, where we were like – “Holy shit. We’re gonna get engaged soon.”

This happened in March. We both thought, without telling each other, that it would probably be sometime this summer. During our conversation in Pismo I threw out the idea of me proposing to make sure he didn’t react in a random way – of course he just shrugged, and apparently told people it was a toss up over who would propose first.

Which, by the way, I just LOVE. So much more exciting, in my mind.

So a couple weeks later, I’m hanging out with my sister and some friends and talking about what I would want to do. When I thought of what Anthony would want, I immediately thought of his family. He would want them involved somehow. So I thought maybe I could have them come out and surprise him over the summer. Then I realized they were already coming out for a show of his in late April. My sister was like, “Just do it then.” I was like “Ummdkajfhweihgwirjglkwgjm;wldg huh?”

But that made the most sense. It was SO fast, but also – what are we waiting for? And I’m soooo glad I didn’t plan something farther out because it is SO hard to keep that shit a secret – I just wanted to get it over with!

So I made a plan – then called his mom, his dad and sister, and my mom. They were all thrilled and we made a plan for the parents to come to Santa Barbara the day after the show. It was a really emotional day, actually – talking to everyone about it and planning it and having it become real – no going back after that.

There were a lot of logistical issues, some I won’t bore you with, others I’ll mention because they might be helpful to someone who might be thinking of doing the same thing. But I have to say, with all of the complexities and planning and things that could of gone wrong (even though the proposal was so simple!) – I was SO damn lucky. Fate LOVED me the whole time.

So one issue was his ring. I wanted something shiny to hold up when I got down on one knee (I wanted to do the whole thang ya’ll). But I didn’t know his ring size, and I didn’t know what kind of ring he would like. I googled the first issue – and let me tell you, the internet doesn’t talk much about chicks proposing. Except this one study that said it’s a BAD IDEA AND DON’T DO IT. Anyways, people were like, “measure his finger while he’s sleeping!” or “go to a jeweler and joke around and have him try on some!” – those weren’t going to work without completely giving away the surprise.

So – I just made a call. I picked one that I thought would look beautiful on him, and picked the size of my friend’s husband’s ring. It was $20, so no big deal if it didn’t even fit on his finger.

Fast forward to the day of. I had been SO good you guys. Usually I tell people I meet in the bathroom line what’s going on in my personal life, but I had kept this a secret from all of our friends, save a couple of mine who live far away. YAY ME. I also wasn’t acting like a total crazy person, even though I was SO nervous the entire afternoon leading up to it.

I suggested that we head to the beach early to take some pictures and watch the sunset before meeting his parents for dinner. And my guy is so sweet. He was like, “Okay, I guess I’ll need to look nice then.” When I suggested that I drive instead of taking the usual Lyft (so I could make a detour to the proposal spot) he kept asking why, since parking at the restaurant/beach was so insane. I just said because, and he just let it go and let me do whatever I wanted. I love this man.

I realized we had to get gas and nervously texted my sister who was hiding at the proposal spot, camera ready. I felt like I could probably barf on my shoes. I’m getting nervous even thinking about it now! As we drove, he loudly rapped Kendrick Lamar lyrics and thought it was a great idea when I suggested (totally casually) that we stop by that lookout point he had taken me to years ago, above the beach on the cliff. Apparently that was not my smoothest moment and he started to think something was up. It didn’t help things when he asked me what we should listen to and I suggested our song. But I knew he would love that so it was worth it.

The sun was golden and perfect and Santa Barbara was looking its very best that evening. I pulled over at the lookout spot and nervously grabbed the ring out of my purse, putting it on my finger and hiding it from him as we walked to the cliff edge. I was totally shaking at this point, wanting so badly to just rip the band-aid off.

I (think I) told him that I was so glad he moved here and that we met in such a beautiful place, and that I was so happy and proud of the little life we made together. I (think I) told him that I usually get scared of big things like kids and marriage, but he makes it all seem doable, and better yet, fun. That I have a hard time trusting and being vulnerable but he makes it easy, and better yet, the most rewarding thing in the world. I wanted to spend the rest of my life having as much fun as I’ve had in the last four years. And then I knelt down and held up the ring, and said “Will you marry me?” (I think – I was so nervous I may have blacked out a little).

He was immediately on the ground with me, all reassurance and love and happiness. I was shaking and we stood up and I hugged him and just shook and sort of sobbed? But not really crying yet, just shaking and electricity and relief and vulnerability literally pulsing through me. I just held onto him and was so glad it was over.

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He said I was really cute and that this was perfect and then said “Are we the most subversive couple or WHAT?!” and we high-fived. Then I told him I didn’t even know what I just said because I was so nervous – and then proceeded to tell him everything I WANTED to say, but maybe forgot to say?
He said, “Ya, you already said that, baby.”

So yay me, I guess?

By the way, the ring fit, and he loved it.

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My sister came strolling up – “I just happened to be in the neighborhood!” – and gave him sour skittles. Then she took some pictures of us right after, and we all headed to dinner. We were early, because apparently proposing is so uncomfortable that I do it in lightning speed. And I could hardly talk to anyone for about 10 minutes as my body recovered from what apparently was quite the physical as well as emotional ordeal. Once I had champagne, and realized it was over and I could just relax, I came back to life.

My parents also came to dinner, and we had such a special night. My mom gave me her mother’s wedding band, which was so special for so many reasons – I might do a separate post explaining that – but we were all crying and the night was even more amazing than I could have imagined. Anthony’s sister FaceTimed with us and sent a gift ahead of time, and our parents bought dinner and champagne – it was the best time ever.

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We got home to our apartment and talked about the whole thing, staring at our rings. We texted friends. I said I was surprised he didn’t cry more when I proposed – I was expecting a lot more water works from him. Although, he did cry when I said I knew he would want his parents there to celebrate with us. And after a couple beers, and putting on the playlist we used to listen to when we were first dating, it happened – he started crying and it all hit him – and I was like YESSSS! I won’t be the only one with a crazy emotional roller coaster happening tonight!

It was truly the best night ever. I can’t believe how easy he makes things. How the hard things are rewarding with him. How everything seems to be exactly the way it should be – but even better. I get to be with my best friend, and laugh my ass off everyday that I’m with him. I couldn’t be luckier.

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Broken gas light

 

When I was younger, I was surrounded by a lot of drama, conflict, and uncertainty. Unstable home lives, parents dealing with their own demons and relationship issues, substance abuse – these were things my friends and I were witnessing and dealing with on top of growing up and deciding how we wanted to abuse substances, or who we wanted to have sex with, or how we wanted to deal with conflict.

I don’t mean to oversimplify my adolescence – it was also like a heartwarming indie movie. Me, walking or driving under huge gorgeous redwoods, thinking about what my little self wanted – and afterwards coming home to a warm house wallpapered with art, intelligence, values of creativity, nature – with a warm balanced meal waiting.

No matter what kind of environment you grow up in, we all have to decide how we will manage our lives after we leave that environment. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice – sometimes I feel like a complete product of how I grew up and the coping mechanisms that seemed to just appear inevitably, without my permission.

But I think there was a decision, maybe when I was 8, maybe younger? – to handle conflict and relationships in a certain way. My plan was to completely avoid it. And it seemed like as good of a strategy as any for a long time. Facing it head on just never looked like it worked out great, from what I could see.

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This plan had a lot of  unexpected ripple effects. In elementary and early high school, I thought being a good friend (and friendships then, of course, are practice runs for all future relationships outside your family) was to make that person the center of attention. If they are dealing with something hard, I should drop everything and be there for them.

But what if the Hard Thing they are dealing with lasts for… the entirety of our friendship? I realized that I was bottling up feelings and problems I was having to make more room for their Hard Things – because they seemed bigger. I could wait. Then I couldn’t wait anymore – the resentment would spill over, and I was so angry at them for not magically realizing on their own that I had been giving them this gift, the gift of not asking anything of them for so long so I could support them. How could they just not ask how I was doing? Didn’t they realize that we talked about them 99% of the time?

It was a tough lesson to learn: that I couldn’t expect other people to make sure my needs were being met. I had to set the stage for how I wanted to be treated. It was up to me, and it was unfair to be mad at these people after creating that environment in the first place – they didn’t ask me to do it, they were just following my lead. I never said it was a problem, until it was a complete disaster.

The problem is, this totally conflicted with my plan of avoiding conflict. I would rather secretly resent everyone in my room than risk raised voices – or even dancing dangerously close to the idea of conflict. To this day it makes my stomach feel like a lava lamp – the idea of purposefully starting a conversation that would be uncomfortable.

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This pattern (ugh, I even hate acknowledging that it’s a pattern – how… unevolved…) has been popping up in allll of my relationships. Friendships, family, boyfriends. And so many times, I felt like I cracked the code. “Look! I stood up for myself. I broke up with them after all that bullshit. I said how I felt, created boundaries, and cut them off when they didn’t respect them.” Okay. Except maybe next time those boundaries and outward declarations of how you felt could exist earlier in the relationship, and not just come crashing down on everyone, all of a sudden, when your resentment tank is full?

I don’t even realize I’m doing it. In the moment, I feel strong, and totally content. “He is way more busy than I am!” “I don’t have much going on right now, so it makes more sense for me to visit them more than they visit me.” “She just has more to talk about, my life right now is so mellow…”

The thing is, my life will always be mellow, without a lot going on. Because I do that on purpose. I love stability, zero drama (or the fantasy of it), a wide-open schedule – lots and lots of extra time for sleeping in, binging on a show, drawn-out conversations over beers, or road trips on long weekends. I make room for these things in my life on purpose, which is something I like about myself and the life I decided to have.

But even when things aren’t mellow – when my boyfriend is having heart surgery, when work is so busy that I can’t find any energy to blog or do anything other than stare at the TV when I get home – I will tell people, “Oh, there’s nothing much going on with me – I mean, things are a little crazy, but it’s just the same ol boring stuff – what’s up with you? You had that crazy thing happen the other day! We have to talk about that!”

In the moment, I don’t feel like I need that attention – I really DO want to talk about that crazy thing that happened, rather than my stuff. But after a while it builds up and I’m like “Why does no one care about my shit?” It’s like I check my gas tank and I’m 75% full, and I’m like, cool – I can totally drive for so long before I have to think about filling up. But it’s like I have a broken gas light or something – before I even think about checking on it, I’m broken down on the side of the road at 2am in the middle of a total emotional breakdown, before I realize that maybe I should think about how my gas tank is doing.

The frustrating thing is that I know all of this so well. But I forget every time, and I’m back in that tired old pattern, and when I’m on the side of the road again I’m just like yelling to the heavens, “GOD DAMMIT STEPHANIE!!!! Learn the lesson and MOVE. ON.”

It’s like the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever had is with myself. (…Wow. That was way more cheesy than it sounded at first. But I’ll leave it there, because whatever – cheesy is helpful sometimes. That could be the tag line for my heartwarming indie movie.)

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Image by Two Happy Lambs Photography

It’s really annoying now, realizing that I can’t chat with my friend in the car and listen to a whole album before checking in on my tank – I have to look at that fucking thing every 5 minutes. That’s my life now, if I want to keep things the way I want them – I have to make sure I’m being honest, making sure my needs are met, making space for myself, and not expecting anyone else to do that for me.

I have to make a conscious decision about how I want to live my life and how I want my relationships to be – when we were younger, we only had the examples around us for guidance. Now we have to decide, and work – really hard – to get to the life we want for ourselves. And we can’t put it on autopilot to get there. Unfortunately.

Being an adult in adult relationships is really hard, guys. That’s why I need so much sleep and Netflix time – to recover from this bullshit.

 

File this under “Steph’s Issues” – see also, “On Being Self-Depricating“.

 

Any arm wrestling matches that you’re having with yourself lately? I don’t know about you, but this shit is exhausting.

 

 

 

Devil Side

 

I’m excited to share another post from my friend Angela, who shared this piece a while back about anxiety. I love when she shares with us because reading pieces and blog posts by women being vulnerable and telling you about the times that they felt confused and scared is a rare find in the blogging world, and I appreciate her courage.

I wrote this piece about a past relationship to learn a lesson, to remember just how deep I allowed myself to sink. I wanted to show myself that I was hiding in denial from something so grotesque, I am almost ashamed to share. But here it is, because I have learned that keeping my mouth shut about this is the only thing I feel ashamed of anymore.

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Run and hide, it’s gonna be bad tonight, ’cause here comes your devil side. It’s gonna ruin me. It’s almost like slow motion suicide watching your devil side get between you and me.

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The sound of the pool queue clattering to the floor silenced the bar. His anger erupted with screaming profanities and then he was running away, leaving the fallout from his outburst on me.

I felt the blood rushing beneath my skin and the eyes of everyone in the bar watching me with pity, or maybe disgust, as I scrambled to pick up his queue and follow him outside. I called his name, but he ignored me, disappearing into the night.

“Are you okay?” a friend of his asked, stopping me from following him.

“I’m fine.” It was a lie I was accustomed to telling. It was as easy to say as my own name.

“No you’re not,” he said.

I began to cry and pleaded for his friend to let me go so I could pick him up and bring him home. Excuses for his behavior bubbled out of my mouth. I had played this role so many times. I was an expert. But his friend knew better.

“You don’t have to feel this way,” he said.

“I know, I know, please let me go get him. I just want to bring him home,” I pleaded.

“He’s drunk,” the friend said. “Are you going to be safe?”

“Yeah, I know. I’m fine,” I insisted but I was thinking, Who cares about me?

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I found him a mile up the road and pulled over. He was fuming and shut off, a shell of the man I believed still existed. He pulled his queue from my car and threw it violently at a lamppost, shattering it. A man was watching cautiously from his yard, looking like he was contemplating calling the police. Cars passed slowly, drivers staring as if they were watching a film.

I begged him to get in the car and come home and just let it go. It was just one bad game. My words set him off and he screamed at me. He got big and scary and I thought he was going to hit me. He assured me that he would never hurt me, but I had watched him do plenty of things I didn’t think he was capable of doing.

Finally, he got in my car and I drove him home, crying the whole way. When I parked, he sat in the dirt and threatened to run away. He said he hated his life, he hated his job, he hated that I cared so much, and he hated himself. He didn’t say it, but I knew he hated me too.

For over two hours, he spat vitriolic words at me, acidic insults that cut me down to my greatest insecurities and I sat with him, trying to act impervious, trying to bring him back.

For neither the first time, nor the last time, I coaxed him down from his ledge and got him inside. He fell asleep quickly but I was awake all night wondering why the man I adored was so deeply troubled. How had one bad game of pool spiralled into this?

I pushed down the nagging feeling that I was in danger, that I was sacrificing my happiness for someone who felt more like an addiction than a partner. Somehow, believing that I loved him made his actions, his violence, his anger, and his cruelty irrelevant.

It felt so natural to put myself on hold to help him, but the longer this went on, the more I realized that I loved a footprint of a man long gone. He had dragged me down with him by asking for my love and then refusing to help himself. I suffered through the rest of the relationship, feeling trapped and insecure, until it came to a fiery end at his hand.

The man who told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore was not the same man I had met at the beginning of the year. The mask he had used to enchant me had fallen off. He had stopped trying to hide his tortured life from me. All that remained was an angry, dependent man who was determined to lose everything.

When we said goodbye, I cried. It felt like an arrow being pulled from my stomach: deafening pain followed by a rush of sweet relief as he walked away for the last time.

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Valentine’s Day Inspiration

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I’m going to admit this right now – I have never been a huge Valentine’s Day person. It seems a little forced to me, I guess? Like, can we all acknowledge that every day is basically a day when the world is obsessed with love and relationships?

Myself included.

Anyway, Anthony and I usually celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries, and save our money the rest of the holidays. But, I have been super into seeing a bunch of pink and cute things on other people’s blogs and I thought – I would love to contribute to someone else’s Valentine’s Day fun. So I have some stuff that I think you’ll like.

unsplash_5244808e6b835_1 Here are my favorite love songs right now, to get you in the romantic mood:

I want to love you – Lenachka – I am super into this song right now and would play it on repeat if I wasn’t too cheap to buy the premium version of Spotify. So romantic and sweet.

Say you love me – Jessie Ware – This has been one of my faves for over a year now probably – Ed Sheeran wrote it I think. It’s bomb.

Comrade – Volcano Choir – Honestly, I have no idea what these lyrics are about or what he’s saying half the time – but the song is beautiful and dreamy so I decided it falls in the love song category.

Love myself – Hailee Steinfeld – For when you’re like, “You know who my favorite person is? ME!” (P.S. I am aware of what the song is actually about, but it also works for an innocent “go me” song…)

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I ran across some adorable ideas from Advice from a 20something for what to do with your honey this vday – it includes making a fort, which is just awesome.

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Are you like awesomely single and dating up a storm? Thinking about online dating? Check out my post on my OkCupid experience (don’t forget parts 2 and 3!).

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Thinking about wedding bells and expensive dresses? I still love my best friend’s wedding photos – they planned it all themselves, so there’s a lot of inspiration in there if you are close to tying the knot (or just expanding that wedding board on Pinterest for when the day comes).

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I also listened to this awesome podcast about rethinking single life the other day and loved it.

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Anthony and I actually do have plans – we are going to go to an event on campus which is like a grown up prom, and all inclusive – very queer friendly with the idea of dressing and doing what you wish you could have done when you went to your high school prom. Cute, huh? I’m pretty excited to dress up and dance to live music with friends!

 

What are your plans for this Valentine’s Day?

 

 

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