Free at Spirit

My time in Washington has surprised me. Like most Washingtonians, the Type-A atmosphere inspired my own organized drive toward achievement and in this, I soared – as a writer, a manager, an entrepreneur. I finished a book. My blog tipped. I got a great writing job. I was promoted many times. My driven desire to be the best version of myself both at work and in relationships reached a whole new plane of motivation. Drowning in copycat khaki and running clothes turned brunch wear, I had no choice but to become less judgmental, soften up, bite my tongue. I turned a blind eye to the Longchamp bags, Tory Burch flats and excessively wrinkled cardigans. The comparison comments I was once known for waned. Instead, I asked questions, became a more generous listener, a more deliberate friend, patient and intentional. My decision-making skills sharpened. My tendency towards recklessness forever abandoned.

Part of my vast growth was a little something called growing up, but another part was an environmental shift. Living amongst a cohort of people making calculated decisions to propel themselves forward in the direction of their goals left me no choice but to follow suit. For this, I appreciate Washington, D.C. and stayed in the District longer than I ever intended. Plus my mom is here, and I love my mom. jamesfuckingfranco

While the obsessive-compulsive achiever in me soared to new heights, the more free-spirited side of me slowly subsided, so much so that I came to deny she even existed until a few weeks ago. I was standing amidst my closest friends from high school laughing and talking loudly when one friend casually referred to me as “free-spirited.” I am not free-spirited! I spat back, stomping my stiletto. I was offended. Um, yeah you are. You work out for a living and you’re a writer. That’s free-spirited. I run a multimillion dollar business, I retorted. I just finished a book and write a column. Juggling that requires strategy and organization. Those aren’t traits of the free at spirit. You know what I mean, she shrugged, rolling her eyes at my dramatic response. I huffed and threw back the rest of my martini.

Later that night I found myself twirling around on the dance floor with a random stranger, flipping my hair and throwing my arms around. You’re not being free-spirited at all, my friend said dryly. The next day we laughed at how offended I was being called free-spirited. Although I would never acquiesce to her satisfaction, I quietly wondered if maybe she was right. Maybe I have been in Washington too long an the free spirit has been sucked right out of me. That happens to people here you know. Look at President Obama’s hair.

On the plane home I pulled up a document called “The Ambitious Life of Emma Dinzebach” and started highlighting the monthly goals I had completed. I looked through the green, yellow and pink color coded goals and wondered, am I really this anal retentive? Has my free spirit become completely dormant? The next day, I asked a friend from Washington. How do people really view me here in the land of the achievement? Am I a free spirit? You’re… well, you are… she started. I mean, you don’t really go with the flow. That’s because I am creating and directing the flow! I shouted confidently. Well, that’s true… Her voice trailed off, and we sat in silence for a minute. Finally she looked at me and ever so sweetly said, Emma, don’t think it’s a difference between being Type-A or free at spirit. While you’ve achieved so much professionally in D.C. a part of you has been repressed. That part is your more artistic side – your free spirit. That part is why you cannot stay.

So my free-spirit has been repressed? She nodded. You don’t need me to tell you that. Deep down, I knew she and my high school friends were right. I am the one dancing long after everyone else stopped. I wore a fur trimmed and sparkly gown to my senior prom. I travel alone, eat whatever I want, and even when it hurts, I love quite freely. Somewhere inside of this tiny shell called human being is a liberated spirit who wants to be set free. I see it sometimes when I’m dancing or editing my book or practicing yoga at home. Part of me really wants to connect with that free spirit, to answer the call of the wild. But not just yet. Not here. Not in Washington, D.C.

Emma Dinzebach

This post is dedicated to my perfect friend Brooke. Embrace your free spirit.

The First One

For several months I kept dreaming about my first boyfriend. He was my first head-over-heels, swept-off-my-feet great love. We carved our initials in a boathouse. We painted a picture together. We tangoed down the streets and slept under the stars. We also broke up almost a decade ago. He should be a magical memory, yet week after week he resurfaced in the middle of the night. Once we snuck onto the Russian floor of government spy building, another time we were swimming in the ocean, and then we had a daughter. She was eleven. She looked just like me but she had his eyes. I was disappointed because my eyes are my signature feature. Why couldn’t she have gotten my eyes? I wondered. A couple times I thought maybe I should call him and tell him, but what would I say? I keep having dreams about you. Okay, weirdo.

Then one afternoon I was in my kitchen cooking dinner and received a text message from a friend asking me if I had heard about my ex boyfriend’s dad. His dad had been in a ski accident. His dad wasn’t going to be okay. My hand clawed the granite counter top. I swallowed hard. I inhaled. I exhaled. A very deep sense of panic and pain grew in the pit of my stomach and worries wildly rushed in. Where was my ex boyfriend? Should I call him? Should I text him? What would I even say? Should I get on a plane? He would be devastated. He would have shock then guilt then regret then more shock.

I paused. I closed my eyes and thought about the last time I saw him. I was several times heartbroken, and he was sleepy from a trip to Mexico. Too much had happened to talk so we sat side by side on his couch until he got up to go to bed. As I watched him climb the stairs, I remember thinking how much he looked like his dad from the back. That was the last image I had of him.

My unconscious has kept our connection alive week after week for nearly six months, yet he has been living his own life. I probably wasn’t even on his radar. And still, I wanted to help. If the roles were reversed, how much would it mean to you? You can just go pay your respects, suggested a friend. You can use my frequent flier miles, said my stepdad. I looked up flights. I rearranged my schedule. I declared my intention to support my first love, but cityrainwhen it came down to it, I couldn’t do it. Something about going to see him felt selfish and ego-motivated. Just because I have this strong desire to see him and make him feel better doesn’t mean that is what he needs. I haven’t known him for years. How was I to know what he needed? He probably had dozens of ex girlfriends rushing to his side. Or maybe he needed space. He probably just needed his family.

At night, I lay awake wondering what he was doing. How was he feeling? In the middle of the night, I pulled my computer out of from under my bed and searched again for flights then closed it and resumed worrying. I finally fell asleep, but in the morning it all started again. So eventually, I called and left a voicemail. Then a text. Another voicemail. I didn’t mean to bother him, but I wanted to be available. I sent supportive words which felt narrow and weightless compared to the heavy empathy in my heart. I thought of him all the time. Why is this affecting me so much? I asked my mom. Because he was the first one, she said.

A couple weeks passed and late one night my phone rang. I rolled over and saw his name on my phone. Hi, I said sleepily into the receiver. Hi, he said back. I was calling to say thank you. His voice was forced but familiar. I silently started to cry. I was calling to say I’m sorry, I said holding back my tears. He spoke about the past few weeks and I listened unsure of what to say or how long to talk or what really to do. The conversation paused and silence settled any awkward emotions. I wiped my eyes and sighed. Finally, I said I have been sending you positive thoughts. I know, he replied quietly. I could feel them.

Emma Dinzebach

Special love to The Classy Issue.

Oh Shit Tears

Let me put it this way, if I never see him again, I will die happy, I said dramatically flipping my hair to one side and lifting my Bloody Mary to my lipsticked mouth. My handsome visitor and I were having a late Sunday brunch and in a trivial effort to get to know one another better, the subject of my ex boyfriend had come up. I prefer not to talk about him. He doesn’t deserve the airtime. Still, who he is and more importantly, why I stayed together with who he is says something about me. Something my current beau wanted to know.

Em-ma…, he began. I am not exaggerating, I assured him. Why though? Was it not a mutual break-up? he asked too candidly. No, it was not a mutual breakup! I replied loudly. Have you ever lived with someone? I asked. I didn’t wait for him to answer. Well, I hadn’t, and I hadn’t planned on ever living with anyone else. Even when our needs went in different directions, I was determined. I knew the only person I had control over was myself, so I tried to change this and alter that and took responsibility both for my part in our relationship issues and stupidly, for his part as well. I was like a responsibility whore. Responsibility is an admirable trait, Emma, he responded kindly, placing his hand on my thigh. Not when it’s for someone else’s behavior. Touche, he said.

Realizing my short diatribe was likely more than he anticipated, I switched topics. How is the steak? I asked reaching my fork towards his plate. As I bit down, my eyes drifted up tooptimistwards the main restaurant and landed on a red and white striped stocking hat with a fuzzy red ball on the end perched atop the head of a tall man with glasses who was walking our way. My first thought was, Where’s Waldo? My second thought was that cat eye glasses are an odd choice for a man. My mom had cat eye glasses when I was in middle school. My eyes moved down to his face. Oh shit. Oh fucking shit. I purposefully swallowed my steak and without moving a muscle I quietly whispered, It’s him.

So as not to draw attention to myself, I slowly turned towards the handsome man sitting beside me. It’s who? he asked causally. My ex boyfriend. He is right there. He is… My voice trailed off as he headed in our direction. I turned my chair almost completely around so now my knees were no longer facing a hot, sweet guy but a glass wall. I put my head down and took a long drink as he walked past us to the other end of the bar. I didn’t think he saw me.

Your ex boyfriend? He’s here? Now? he questioned, nearly as shocked. Shhhhh, I insisted. Yes, he’s over there. I nodded toward three men about six feet away from us. It was a very small bar area, yet the way the stools were arranged, you could hide in a couple key nooks. We were situated in one such slice of privacy amidst the very crowded bar. My ex boyfriend’s back was to us now, so I quickly glanced in his direction. He was wearing the button up shirt from a menswear line in Spain that I had ordered him for Christmas last year. The shipping was almost as much as the shirt. A thick knit cardigan spread over the back of his broad shoulders, and I watched his giant hand reach for his beer. I turned back to the food. We were nearly finished.

Em, are you okay? What do you want to do? he asked seriously. My words were stuck in my throat. Em, love, do you you want me to get the bill? Or I can just make out with you right here. We don’t have to leave just because he is here. Unable to gather my thoughts enough to make a decision, I just stared at him. I wanted to look back over but my neck was stuck, my body was stuck, my words were still stuck. I inhaled. I exhaled. My eyes felt watery. Not with sad tears or mad tears but more like oh shit tears.

Do not fucking cry! I told myself. You are cried out of this nonsense. I instructed my mouth to move hoping words would come out, but before I could manage he made the decision. We should go. Yes, I said plainly. Okay, I’ll go pay the bill. When he got up I turned back to the glass wall so that I would not be tempted to look over again. I closed my eyes and settled into reality. This is unfortunate and unexpected. It generates feelings, mostly rage. And I have a choice. I choose to focus on the positive: I am with a hot guy. He didn’t see me. Even if he did, I am with a hot guy. I can leave with a hot guy and not deal with him, both of which are positive.

In front of me, that hot guy stood with my coat. I stepped up and he tucked me inside of it. And put your gloves on too, he instructed. Once I was ready for cold, he pulled me closely and whispered, Let’s get out of here. His lips brushing against mine. As we rounded the corner towards the door, the the bartender yelled out loudly for all to hear, Bye Emma!  Good to see you! As he did, a red pom turned towards me, but I was already out the door.

Emma Dinzebach

You too can be an optimist.

The Actual Journey

The first time I read Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go, was the day I graduated from high school. I had my hair curled and my dress perfectly tailored and everyone had laughed when my graduated class uncrossed and recrossed their legs every time speaker said two thousand. We were the first class of the new millennium. We would do something special. At dinner, I carefully opened each present – a ring from my mom, money from my dad, and a Dr. Seuss book that I immediately read out loud to family pausing only once for dramatic commentary. The Waiting Place? I questioned. I will never get stuck there! I am not waiting around for anything! I saw fields of possibility, and I was ready for action. Waiting? Absolutely not. Who waits? Boring people. Slow people. Indecisive, cowardly and otherwise unsure folks lacking the gumption, drive and charm necessary to take their own life by the horns. Not me. I was brave, boisterous and beautifully oblivious to my naivety. I was ready to jump start the next chapter of my life like a Dixie Chicks song.

And so I ran. I ran everywhere, anywhere, and full steam ahead through the next ten years of my life leaving behind a blur of dance floors and broken champagne glasses. When I got my ten year high school reunion invitation, I paused. Ten years have passed. I couldn’t even remember what I did on my twenty fifth birthday. Where had I been? Who had I dated? What happened all those years? Frantically, I pulled down journal after journal flipping through all of the pages to figure out the mysterious quarter-of-a-century celebration. There were redundant worries, dramatic commitments, and more stories of men than someone could possibly have had in ten years. This is a book. More like a trilogy, I said to myself and before I ever found out what I did on my twenty fifth birthday, I decided to write a book about what I was then the most experienced in: dating.

That was four years ago.

Sure I was working a full time job, and yes, I was managing a fluctuating relationship. I also traveled, dined with friends, practiced yoga and otherwise worked toward being a balanced human being. But still, four years? Writing and editing and repeat until alas, two weeks ago, I received the final edited copy. The final, final edits. All I had to do was go through and accept the changes. You should just accept all and be done with it, said one friend. It won’t take you long at all! chimed in another. I set my deadline for last Wednesday. Assuming this would only take ten maybe fifteen hours max, I parked my butt in front of the computer and got to it. Seven captivating hours passed before I pulled up Facebook and typed in date number two. Five minutes, I told myself. If you don’t find anything, you move on. Five minutes later, I found nothing but a photo of him wearing one of those Polos with the giant logo. My mouth felt sticky and my hear raced. I was only to page 35. fanwaiting

That night I lay awake thinking about waiting. Waiting for the edits to return. Waiting for another Sunday so I could refocus on going through the edits. I was waiting in other areas as well. Waiting to move. Waiting for warm weather. Waiting to see the boy again. Waiting, waiting, waiting… So Dr. Seuss was right. The Waiting Place is an inevitable part of life that one will, at some point on the journey, stop through. And it doesn’t take a philosopher to conclude that the waiting is the actual journey.The journey is a process.

People inside and outside of my life are tired of perpetually waiting for me to figure out something grand. Like my high school Dean of Students was hopeful for the millennial class, my allied forces are hopeful I will get on with it already. Get on with what? I wonder. That our entire lives are a process is cliche that nonetheless renders true. While there are thousands of physical and metaphorical destinations, life is lived in this process. When I focus on the end result, I forget to stop and smell the roses. I can either sit around hitting a rubber ball on string with a wooden paddle like those creatures in The Waiting Room, or I can get excited that I don’t have it all figured out. Maybe I never will. I thought editing would take ten hours. It will take fifty. Who knows when I will move? And I may never commit to this relationship but rather drive myself cuckoo drawing out the damn process. Because it’s my process. Fast or futile, I will lean into it with the same fervor I do when I step onto the dance floor.

Emma Dinzebach

Sweetly thankful for The Classy Issue and my supportive, encouraging mother.

The Visit

It was the day after Christmas, so I went with the Christmas lights. Candles felt calculated. What was I going to do stand in my underwear lighting a candle? I always burn my gel manicure when I light candles. I could end up with a burned gel fingernail pressed against his sexy chest? I don’t think so. My brows attempted furrow. Maybe I’m over-thinking the lighting. What if we don’t even have sex? I yelled into the speaker phone. Get it together, Emma. If you don’t have sex with him, I will! my friend echoed into my boudoir. Fine, but no candles.

I hadn’t had a male visitor since the too-old, too-waspy leader a la vampire squid I dated when I first moved from the city. He tried winning over Mia Misdemeanor with home-baked doggie cookies. She backed into a corner and growled. In his high prep school voice he pleaded, here doggy, doggy. Here is a cookie for you. That’s enough, I said curtly placing the kobash. She can’t be bribed by food. She isn’t a fucking golden retriever.

Fast forward four years and find me rushing all over the apartment. My mom and brother were sweetly taking orders. Michael, please hang the picture in the bathroom. Mom, here is the vacuum. Merci beacoup. We trekked to Bed, Bath and Beyond after I insisted on a new French Press and linen spray. You probably won’t even make coffee or use spray linen, said Cricket. They tried to calm me, but my Type A neurosis soldiered on until every corner of my life was impeccably lickable and every print perfectly straight. My phone rang. Fuck, it’s him.

Hi, he said.

Hi, I said.

What are you doing? he asked.

Nothing, I replied.

Nothing? He was confused.

I’m staring at a wall, I said flatly.

Ohhhh… Kaayyyy. Well, I’ll be there in a couple hours.

Okay, I’ll see you soon, I said back.tumblr_mzt83yb0Pm1r5s8dro1_1280

Who was that , asked my mom. It was him. It was him? She looked mad confused. Yes, him. Emma, why did you say you were staring at a wall? You aren’t staring at a wall. Mom! I insisted. You’re so weird, she said. You. Are. So. Weird, I said back hastily as I arranged a bowl of pine cones. Emma, everything is going to be okay. I know! I huffed.

I know everything is always and forever going to be okay, but I wanted it to be great. The pressure I put on myself began to boil over and ten minutes later anxiety broke out. Thank you both, and now I have to get int the shower and exfoliate every inch of my body. Too much information! yelled my brother. I am serious. I have one hour. I thanked them both and hugged them adieu. When they left, I squatted to the floor and stared at the door.

Typically, I’m not a fearful person. Risk doesn’t avert me. I ski through the woods and dine solo. I travel alone. I’m not even scared of raw chicken juice. But in that moment, a feeling that I can only describe as fear grabbed hold of me. What if it is a total disaster? But worse, much worse, what if I completely love him and he leaves and never talks with me again. (Note the lack of middle ground here.) Sometimes, for some first world women in first world neighborhoods in luxg apartments with perfectly dyed hair and frequently walked dogs, these are real life concerns. Will he love me or will he leave me? Get it together Emma! I said outloud. Some things are okay being just fine.

Some things are okay being just fine. I repeated this to myself in the shower, while I slathered on Chanel Lumiere, while I poured wine. I situated my computer like I had been doing something besides breathing exercises whilst I awaited his arrival. Alas I got a text that he was here. Like here? As in at the front door? The walk to the door felt like forever and half way I thought I would turn around and say I was sick. I felt sick. Imagine, seven years later. Seven years later what do you say to a dude? I didn’t want to like him. I definitely would not let myself love him. I intended to start the new year fresh from men. Men cause me actual anxiety attacks. Well one man did, but still. My mind carried on this string of self-doubt until I opened the door.

He carried a worn leather bag. A tattered paperback book peeked from the front pocket of his olive green military jacket like he just stepped out of an American Express ad. My heart sped up, but my face relaxed. For the first time in days, weeks, maybe even months, my heart rate slowed down. I smiled. Hi, he said sweetly. He set down his bag and kissed me softly on the face. I kissed him back. He kissed me back. We stood there in the doorway kissing. Not like the end of an epic romance but like the beginning of something made for television.

Emma Dinzebach

Photo credit: The Classy Issue.

Most Guys

Amidst vivid introductions, my friend stopped the conversation. Wait, she said loudly. How do you two know each other again? My eyes glazed over as my mind raced with steamy memories of stealing passionate kisses in the darkened corners of basement bars. There was a brick wall, an office, a staircase. Without moving his gaze from mine, he responded. Emma and I… He chose his words carefully. Emma and I have known one another for a long time. We should have had something but it never happened. I lifted one perfect eyebrow. Hasn’t happened yet, I said deliberately. Hasn’t happened yet, he repeated and turned towards the spirits asking what we should all drink.

Over our expertly crafted cocktails, my friend sung my praises. Like any good friend who knows her sister is into a guy, she covered all the necessary bases. You know Emma finished writing a book? You know Emma as a blog that thousands of people read? Tens of thousands, right Emma? Well, there could always be more, I said shyly. And you realize Emma is in amazing shape. She is my workout inspiration. She is sooooo flexible. He laughed. You don’t have to tell me how amazing this girl is, he said nodding his head towards me. I have been trying to date her for years. My friend turned to me with wide eyes that screamed, DID YOU JUST HEAR THAT? I did, I relayed silently back. I heard it. I fought to find a topic to change the subject. My face blushed. I wiped my hands on my black snakeskin print jeans and quietly sighed. I have to calm down. Everyone has to calm down.

An hour later my eyes had turned to stars, and my friend was starting to feel irrelevant. She tugged my shirt, my jeans, even pulled hair pleading, C’mon. Prior to this sexy street side serendipity, we had actual plans and now others were waiting on us. Without thinking about what might happen or what I was even saying, I blurted out, You should come see me! You should for sure come see me, I repeated. Come see me. I will, he said. You will? I asked suddenly confused at why I had asked him to come see me three time in a row. I looked up at him – this Ivy educated, athlete, artist, and all-around beautiful pedigree of a human being – and my mind wandered back to the weekend prior.

freeingraveIt was a Christmas party. I had two shots of tequila and two vodka cocktails. I was really in no position to receive feedback, but my guy friend said he had to something quite candid to tell me. Can I speak honestly, he asked. Shoot. You’re awesome, said my friend. I mean, you are a cool chick – fun, funny, hot, and I am sure a lot of guys want to date you. But? I asked. But your blog keeps guys from dating you. I mean, I wouldn’t want to date you if I thought you were going to write about it on your blog. Maybe that’s why… He stopped there. Was he going to say that’s why I am single? Tequila took over my brain plucking to the surface every angry defense I could find. What the fuck? I wondered. I am at a party, and you decide to analyze why I am single? Reiterating that you would never date me. Well, I would never date you! I silently shouted. So fuck off! But I didn’t say that.

Defensiveness makes people sound like idiots. Being defensive would only drive in the stake. He waited for me to speak. I took my time and alas said, I hear what you are suggesting. And every man has his limits as to what he can and cannot tolerate. I started writing my blog because I was bored at work and sending my weekly dating updates to a long list serve seemed stale. My blog is about me – my tired self-analyzation and artistic expression turned career platform, and it is a piece of my essential self. Should a lucky man make it into my inner circle, I respect his boundaries in as much as he supports my creative outlet. He tilted his head. I get that, he said, but the bottom line is that if a guy dates you he risks being written about. Most guys don’t like that.

Therein lies the actual issue here, I said. I don’t want most guys. I want a standout guy. I want the one who not only tolerates the blog but loves me for it. While you may not know them, I assure you that they do exist. I guess, he replied unconvinced. I stared into the crowed until I spotted my girlfriend. Well, thank you for the feedback, I said and promptly excused myself.

At the time I brushed it off, but I suppose I carried that conversation closer than I realized because now, standing in a bar with a fated friend, I recalled my stance. As he repeated again that he would indeed make time for us to spend together, I felt like I was going to cry. Because I actually believe that if you allow it, people love you for who you are. Sometimes, with all the haters and naysayers and insecure, egotistical and otherwise issued people throwing stones, even I doubt that kind of love. As I looked up at this amazing man saying he intended to spend time with me, I felt reassured that compromising myself is never the solution. It will be wonderful, he said and kissed me. Not like a soft brush against the lips. A passionate ending-scene-of-a-movie kiss. The way that someone who is going to write about it deserves to be kissed.

Emma Dinzebach

Namaste The Classy Issue.

Giving Up On Fate

Several weeks ago I was walking in the lower east side of Manhattan chatting with my friend about my potential move back to the city. As I weighed the pluses and minuses, a man passed behind us. I turned back to look at him and a familiar voice said my name. I stepped closer and two strong arms wrapped around me as I gasped, Oh my god. We stood for a moment staring at eachother. My mind quickly flipped through a decade of files searching for the last memory I had of him. I remembered standing at a stoplight on Bowery and looking next to me and there he was. Late one night, years later, I was flipping through The Sartorialist and came across a photo of him. One of my favorite blogs! I can’t believe I know someone on it! I texted him. Had I lost his phone number?

It had been at least two years since I had heard his name. What had he been doing? Questions swirled around but my eyes remained fixed, wide and blank. It’s been a minute, he said slowly. How are you? Something stuck in my throat and there was a moment of silence. From my periphery I could see my friend just standing there waiting for someone to speak, and alas, my dependable peppy side snapped me out of it. I screeched with excitement: I can’t believe I am seeing you! And then he joined in: I thought you moved! I did. I’m just here for a couple days. And we run into each other? And we run into each other. It was a whirlwind of quick conversation followed by a purposed second hug goodbye. Come see me. We will. We will come see you, I promise. I promise. As I linked arms with my friend and hurried her across the street, she looked over at me. Who was that? she asked.

wingtats

Once we had safely settled in with a bottle wine and a dozen oysters, I told her about the first time I had met him. I was a bored hostess. He was a hot bartender. When he shook the martini shaker, I would turn around like a Pavlovian dog to see his arms flexing. After a week of working with him, I realized the error of my schoolgirl way. In an attempt to seem blase, I forced my face to the door and took to counting how many people would trip on the manhole cover outside. It took willpower not to turn around when I heard the shaker, but alas I am not a dog, I said. Oh, but I wrote a chapter about him in my book! I covered my hands over my eyes. I wrote a part whimsical romance, part brutal realism chapter about him because… well, I thought I would never see him again. You honestly thought you would never see him again? she asked. Then you saw him tonight. I saw him tonight, I repeated starting past her shoulder to the sparkly chandelier behind her head. In the street, in a neighborhood you never go to, in a city you don’t even live in. Emma, it is fate.

My eyes glazed over as the word sank heavy into my heart. Fate. I had decided that I didn’t believe in fate anymore. Just last month I said that maybe the stars never align, the heavens never part, the angels never even sing alleluia. I know I am supposed to be the champion of romance, but perhaps, eventually, you grow out of fate. At a certain age, you meet someone you are compatible with and you just choose. You choose because they are a nice person, they will be a good father and there is attraction enough to procreate. Hell, maybe my mother is actually my soulmate. That isn’t so bad, I said softly and downed my cabernet. My friend agreed. It was decided. From that evening forward, I started using my sensing judgement rather than my rose-colored intuition.

Fate? I asked, snapping out of it. I turned back to the plate of oysters and took a sip of wine. In truth, I always thought I was going to run into an old flame in a bookstore and like magic, that would be it. That’s why I could never online date. I crave the romance of the story. When we aren’t jaded, hiding behind our computers or claiming to be too busy for life, the romantic story does happen. Then why did even I half-heartedly give up on fate? Without fate, what will you write about? my friend asked. There will still be pointless dates with diverging personalities to fodder my relationship analysis addiction, I said dryly. She rolled her eyes. You don’t even believe that. You’re right, I sighed. I don’t.

I cannot grasp the essence of life in absence of romantic fate. The kind of fate you can’t even believe happened in real life. You go around declaring it’s “like a movie.” When you feel both sick with anxiety and perfectly at peace at the same time. When you long so much for the other person that you would cry except you are so blissfully happy you don’t. Sappy, frothy, and callow. Idealistic. Perhaps even naive. But paramount to fully experiencing life. So what are you going to do? asked my friend. I am going to see him like I promised, I said. The rest is up to fate.

Emma Dinzebach

Merci beaucoup a la Classy Issue

onward & upward

It happens just like a Kelly Clarkson song: one day you are organizing your handbags and realize that you haven’t checked your exes Twitter or Instagram or Google-imaged him in a while. Like more than a week. Like actually you can’t remember the last time. At night, you close your eyes and go to sleep. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you throw on your clothes and head to yoga class. You don’t dedicate your practice to “one day at a time.” The prolonged obsessions and compulsions cease. Like magic.

I realized this Sunday evening. After a lovely Thanksgiving watching scary movies and football, counting deer in the tiny front lawn of our city town home (These poor deer have no where to go! said mom), and reminiscing, I went home to reorganize the other thing in my life that I am wholly thankful for – my wardrobe. Up to my ears in accessories, my mind wandered back through Thanksgivings past and landed on last year.

featherhat

Last year I had a wineless Thanksgiving with my ex boyfriend’s parents. A quintessential complicated divorce left their family torn and the holidays a battle of opinions and logistics – whose home to go to, don’t want to hurt mom’s feelings, but we all want to be together! The sister wanted to make a pie. The brother wasn’t coming. Combined with the maddening indecisiveness of a large family, the holidays were more arduous than enjoyable. Unable to decide on a household host, we ended up at restaurant in the middle of central Pennsylvania, wineless. They don’t serve wine at the restaurant or you just aren’t ordering it? asked my mom when I called her from the bathroom near tears. No wine here. And trust me, we could all use a damn cocktail. It’s one meal dear. There was wine at the last supper and there isn’t wine here? Makes no sense! I whispered back. I moved past the large Pennsylvanians waiting in line and back to the table where I reached for my ex boyfriend’s hand and squeezed it tight. If the double family dinner was uncomfortable for me, I could only imagine how he felt. When we left the restaurant and drove directly to the liquor store.

This year I was in boyfriendless bliss with my whiskey and wine-loving family. We took an epic video of frying our first Turkey. We played dominos. We circled the table taking turns being thankful for one another, our jobs, our lives, our education, and our sheer luck of the draw. My five-year-old cousin went last. What are you thankful for Alex? My family. This food. What else? He paused to think, I’m thankful for Christmas! he said. Here! Here! We are all thankful for Christmas! We toasted our wine. Spiked our coffees. Said our goodbyes with hugs and kisses. We’ll go see the Hunger Games on Sunday? said my little cousin. We’ll fry another turkey for Christmas! promised my Uncle.

On the way home, gratitude prevailed. Not only do I really like my family, but I absolutely adore them. My favorite times are hanging out with my family. We share great news. We share sad news. Often we are forced to yell over one other. But when we say our thanks at our Thanksgiving our eyes fill with tears because we all love each other so very much. I don’t take this for granted.

I was moving my clutch bags to a drawer, when it dawned on me. I made it through all of Thanksgiving without thinking about my ex. He just wasn’t there. I’m not sad! I said out loud. I’m not sad anymore. Will feel sad during Christmas? I wondered. Last holiday season I made a photo album where me and my ex boyfriend could be found cutting down a Christmas tree, iceskating in Rockefeller Center and opening presents on Christmas morning. It was a nice Christmas. Tree-trimming. A Christmas Carol. Fifth Avenue. I cannot help but remember, but the woeful longing has lifted. The memories leave as quickly as they come, and I’m refocused on shoes and handbags. Then my writing. My work. With renewed strength, I am able to express myself with savvy deliberation in a way that moves me forward, onward and upward.

Emma Dinzebach

I’m starting to wonder what I do without The Classy Issue.

A New York State of Mind

Shortly after I moved from New York, I realized the error of my way. The first night in my new city, I sat at crowded restaurant, took one look around, and burst into tears. Oh, sweetheart, what on earth is wrong? asked my mom. Every…one…here…is…atrocious, I managed between tears. I chugged my champagne. I have to get out of here, I thought.

And I had every intention of moving back. As soon as I was stable in my role with a solid successor to replace me, I would move back to New York, I told myself. That first year was filled with new people, new friends and learning the ropes in a new company as quickly as possible so I could get the fuck out. I complained allllllllllll the time about the fashion, the humor-killing conservatism, the lack of street art. I have literally never seen people cross the street so slowly in all of my life! I shouted as I waited impatiently at crosswalks. My frequent trips back to New York where filled with dramatic lamenting, intense shopping and late-night rendezvous with ex lovers. The guys in New York are so much better! I declared. Guys there suck.

Then I met a guy who I actually thought didn’t suck. The one cool guy amongst a sea of Brooks Brothers. And when tragedy struck my place of employment and my heart broke in two, he was there for me. He held me while I cried myself to sleep. Then he made me breakfast. As the trauma processing collided with my new job, new community, new role, it was a little more than I could handle. I drank a lot of wine. Sometimes I yelled. Still, he complimented my perseverance. You do that when you love someone.

New York seemed less urgent but still necessary. The loss I felt projected and transferred into longing. Longing for the city full of friends and restaurants and people who don’t cringe at the word fuck. We started to fight about why New York was better. You’ve never lived there! I one-upped. He said I wasn’t living in the present moment because I was always in a New York state of mind. I told him he was an artist trapped inside a nine-to-fiver’s life. Repressed. Depressed. Why don’t you just move back then? he chided. Because you would be suicidal with boredom and drowning in khaki without me. Then the break-ups began. After each one, I ran to the city that I still called home, snuggled with my friends, cooked dinner with my brother and shopped until my feet were as tired as my credit card. The grass is always greener sweetheart, said my friend. There are nice guys everywhere. Who the hell likes nice guys? I wondered.

Summer passed. I spent time with my family and closest friends I had made during my four years away from the city. With their unconditional support, a really great therapist and a rebound with rock hard abs, I healed. In healing, the yearning to escape lifted. My career soared. My confidence came back. For several months, I forgot to visit New York until I realized that unless I left town, I would leave a week of vacation on the table. In the fall, I decided to spend one carefree week in the best city on the planet.

hotguyWe are wearing the same shirt, said the guy sitting at the end of the bar. I was waiting at a soon-to-be-wildly-popular pizza place in Brooklyn with my family waiting for our table. I think mine is a little smaller, I said back. I hope so, he said. What are you doing? he asked. I am waiting to eat at this restaurant, I replied. What are you doing? I own this restaurant. With that guy. He pointed to the chef who was calmly assembling deliciousness. Well, we came here because we heard there is a pizza with provel cheese, and we are from St. Louis. St. Louie! he said. St. Louie, I confirmed.

We chatted for a while about how we got to where we are now and where we are going. I always felt like I was running back to New York, I said. Now, however, things are great – work, health, friends – and still, I still want to be in New York. I feel at home here. I am my best self here. He pushed his empty plate aside and turned to look me in the eye. I really think you should move back, he said candidly. I mean, this city cannot survive much longer without you. There was a touch of sarcasm, but then he smiled. That’s all it took. That five minute conversation concluded with forthright flattery left me interested, humbled, inspired and decided. Because in those five minutes, he saw the best version of me. And in those five minutes – in my New York state of mind – I alas felt fully expressed.

It was fucking awesome.

Emma Dinzebach

As always, I’m much obliged to The Classy Issue.

Beautiful and Flawed

Are you always going to have something to work on? asked my boyfriend at dinner last week. I had explained that during a particularly moving and spiritual yoga practice I felt a release of some things I had been holding onto. Part of this release was my ex boyfriend. He just fell out of my head during rag doll, I said vibrantly. Part of it was a bit more complicated and centered around choice – who I was choosing to be both professionally and personally. In some circumstances I might choose to be my sassy and self-centered side while in other cases, I allow space for others. Both pieces together make me whole. One is not without the other. My sassier side allows for creativity. My generous side makes me a strong leader. Both have value. The enlightenment is in the choice, I said clearly. He paused for a minute then asked a few questions that for whatever reason, possibly red wine, made me feel defensive. I tripped over my ability to articulate what I meant. He drew conclusions. The conversation became confusing.

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Looking back, I exposed much vulnerability for a new relationship. Not that I would have done it differently. I am one hundred percent or nothing at all, so in a relationship, as we all know, I give it everything I have. Each time I expose a portion of my peculiarity, I am taking a risk. I risk they might not like me in the same way. I risk providing ammunition to use against me at a later date. I risk being misunderstood, judged, shut down or all of the above. But what is the alternative? Keep everything buttoned up tight? Yes, said my friend on the phone two days later. Some people keep it together. They don’t cry at the restaurant. They hold that shit in and then quietly deal with it in the comfort of their own home away from the world. I think they call it composure. I have been expressing my feelings and preferences since I could speak. I can’t go back now. It’s who I am, I said passionately. Me too sister, she responded. Me too.

And I believe that being able to be vulnerable and recognizing – either publicly or quietly in the comfort of your own home – that there is space for you to learn and grow and evolve, creates space for others around you to learn and grow and evolve. I tell my employees about the time (and time again) when I wanted to apply for a new role in our community team and was coached in the work I still had to do in my current role. I was disappointed and yet, I learned. I remind them that we all have our own leadership journey and time is on their side. Time provides insight that allows you to become a stronger leader. I remind them that one of my toughest development conversations was on my 30th birthday, with my entire family set to arrive to celebrate my big day, I had a come to Jesus exposing weaknesses in my leadership. Some of them were embarraassing. One employee told me that she worried I would judge her pilling cardigan. And I probably would have had she not had the courage to make me aware that my ever-strong opinions can affect others. On my birthday, just before my dad and stepmom arrived to join forces with my mom and stepdad and celebrate their dynamic, effervescent oldest child, I learned that my sassiest self – the one who my family wanted to spend time with – was holding me back.
Another six months later, and from the same strong leaders, I learned that my sassiest self is also one of the most beautiful parts of me. It is the self that my friends want to have wine with and the self who writes a love it or hate it blog. When I choose to be said self is the work. Choice is the evolution. So am I always going to have something to work on? Hell yes! I am an evolving human being committed to being my best self for those around me and my best self for me. Who I show up as in each instance will always be the opinionated, strong-willed, pint-sized me. How I choose to express her circumstantially will ever be both beautiful and flawed.

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Eternally thankful to The Classy Issue for visually inspiring me week after week. 

Emma Dinzebach