Love at My Age

Love at my age is a mixed bag of emotions. You reach in to grab a handful and never know if you will come out with fear or joy.

By the time you reach your 30s, most of us have had our share of relationships of every category – puppy love, first love, flings, true love, friends with benefits, one night stands, cohabitation, engagements or even marriages. No matter if these relationships brought you smile or tears they still affect you in some way and the accumulation of all of that gets brought with you into a new relationship and into the arms of the poor sap who has to deal with it all.

So it is with these emotions, for better or worse, that I have entered into my current relationship. I am insanely in love and much happier than I have been in a very long time. I couldn’t ask for more. I am even more fortunate that he and I have been close friends for 7 years. The fact that he knows me so well and vice versa has made it that much easier to deal with these past emotions because we have been present in each other’s lives during most of the big relationships. There is great comfort in knowing that he loves me in spite of all of that chaos from the past.

However despite how much I trust him and how mutual our love is, those “Cinderella scars” (see one of the first posts on this blog) still resurface and stab What Ifs into my mind…What if he’s like the others? What if he cheats on me? What if he leaves me? What if he lies? It is a constant struggle to remind myself that HE IS NOT THEM. He actually helped me get over them over the years. The key is to focus on all of the good things he does for me everyday that reminds me of his love for me.

On the other end of this emotional scale is the joy. I cannot express how glad I am that I didn’t get married sooner because at my age I have gained a greater amount of confidence. I know what I want and what I won’t accept. I’m more tolerant, more patient and more rational. I think before I act or speak (I don’t know about you but I certainly didn’t have that skill in my early 20s). Handling a serious relationship at this level of maturity is less stressful. I appreciate him and what he brings to the relationship more now because I am more secure with who I am and what I can bring to the relationship.

Perhaps it’s because he’s my best friend or perhaps it’s because we are both older and more mature, but I feel an intense amount of satisfaction and a deeper connection with him than any of the others in the past because I’m finally ready for this…

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The Comfort of Safety in Korea

Night Street Light

Night Street Light (Photo credit: Sheffield Tiger)

I remember several years back, when I was living in the US, walking home one night after university.  I was only walking from the bus stop, which was less than a 10 minute walk.  It was later, maybe 10 or 11pm.  I came to a darker street of the walk and one of the street lamps was out, making it darker.  I stopped, hating the idea of walking down the dark street at night, alone.  I just imagined being one of those news stories you read where the girl gets attacked and everyone asks ‘why was she walking alone at night on a dark street?!’  I looked up at the street lamp and just wished for it to come back on.  Much to my surprise, it did.  It didn’t light the street up very much, but I suppose it was more of a symbol of safety for me.  So I proceeded, walking quickly as I usually did after dark and keeping my eyes alert for any suspicious noises or people.  I made it safely, thankfully, but that night reminds me of the fear that I always felt having to walk alone at night.

I don’t know if others in the US feel this fear as well.  I know that those with OCD like me tend to be on the more paranoid side to begin with.  Some people say the US isn’t as bad as I think it is for crime, but how can I help but think that way when night after night the news stories involve random people being attacked on streets, in parks, in their own homes.  Assaults, robberies, shootings and stabbings of guilty and innocent people alike.  There are also hundreds of stories of people snapping and going on killing sprees.  The fact that ‘going postal‘ is now a well-known phrase in American English vocabulary is an indication of how often this type of thing happens.  Everywhere I went I never felt truly safe.  I hated that feeling.  I live an average life.  I am a good person.  I shouldn’t need to feel like I’m walking on egg shells everywhere I go.   It was stressful.  My body and mind felt tense.  I love to walk at night, but as a woman living alone, I didn’t always have the luxury of someone to go with me, so I felt trapped in my own home when I’d rather be out enjoying the moon and the cool air.

Then, I moved to Korea.

I heard it was safe before I got here, but you never really believe it until you experience it.  It’s funny, you can always tell who the recently arrived Americans are because they are the ones clutching to their bags and wary of those around them.  I was one of them.  Now, two years later, I am noticing the effects that the lack of crime here has on me.

Just the other night I was walking home from dinner, my friends headed in another direction, so I was off to walk home by myself down a few dark, seedy looking streets.  I wasn’t sure exactly which streets to take so there was a chance I’d get lost.  It was about 11pm or so and there weren’t many people around.  I got to a dark part of the street and it reminded me of the night I described above where I felt so much fear.  I kept walking (still alert, but relaxed) and took the time to reflect on what it feels like now to feel the comfort of safety.  My body is so much less tense now.  I am relaxed and can actually enjoy a nightly walk without having to walk fast and hope I don’t run into any unsavory characters.  I passed groups of men and plenty of drunks, none of whom bothered me.  As a woman, I cannot tell you how liberating that feels.

It’s not just walking alone at night.  It’s not just the fears that women normally fear.  This comfort of safety can also be felt in other areas too, such as being able to leave your iPhone or bag on a table, walk away and know it will still be there when you get back.  You can break out every fancy electronic device you own on the subway and not fear getting mugged.

I’m not sure of the exact reason that it’s so much safer here.  Some say it’s the idea of family vs. individual because doing a wrong here affects the family name and the respect of your whole family.  Others say it’s the presence of CCTV and knowing you could easily be caught.  Or perhaps it’s simply the lack of guns and drugs roaming the streets.  And for those in America who blame violent video games for their children’s violent behavior, I say, think again, because Korean children play the same video games with much more intensity than the American children do and I do not see the same types of juvenile crimes here.  My students may be able to draw AK47s with frightening accuracy, but they don’t intend to use them to harm their friends or classmates.

I know that crime still happens here.  I’m not ignorant of that.  I still maintain the level of alertness and ‘street smarts’ I learned throughout my childhood, as should everyone to be on the safe side, but the possibility of experiencing crime first hand is much lower than what I am used to.  So when people ask me why I don’t wish to move back to the US, I tell them the lack of paranoia and stress is worth the small sacrifices I make by living outside of my home country, outside of my supposed ‘comfort zone.’

The Road to Femininity #7 – Beauty Updates

Ok, so I’m back in blogger mode now and ready to dish on the updates of my latest beauty endeavors.

First, gotta tell you, BB Cream is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  For a girl who hates hates…did I mention hates? – putting stuff all over her face, this is my solution.  It’s light, it’s easy and my skin looks and feels so incredibly refreshed!  It glows.  It evens out my skin tone and hides the tiny spider veins on my cheeks, amongst other minor blemishes.  I won’t leave the house without applying it now.  The one I use is Aurora by Tony Moly, but I bought Maybelline’s Pure BB Mineral for my mom (not available in the US) so I’m going to try that too to see if it’s any good.  The only thing I haven’t figured out is what to do about summer coming and the fact that I sweat quite a bit.  How do I dry my face from sweat without wiping it all off?  Grr.

Second, I have found mascara bliss.  I am generally a fan of 2 step mascaras because I have very thin, very blonde eyelashes and they could use all the help they can get.  However, 2 step mascaras in Korea aren’t as common as in the US and they tend to run quite expensive over here.  However, I found L’Oreal’s Double Extension mascara(at Watson’s for fellow ROK residents) at a somewhat decent price ($16 with good quality eyelash curler included) and I love it.  It works wonders.  True to its claim, it does add length and you can see its effects.  It is almost as if they use like a thread-like substance mixed in to attach to the lashes to make them longer?  Not sure, but whatever it is, it works.

Third, microfiber is the new terry cloth.  Ok, so maybe I’m the last to realize this, but I recently bought some microfiber bath towels strictly because most apartments here don’t have dryers and I’ve never seen a laundromat, so I wanted a thinner bath towel that would dry without smelling like a nasty basement in a humid climate.  I liked them so much, I got rid of all my other towels and only use those now.  They wash easier and dry faster and don’t take up as much space, but the best part is, they feel so much softer on my skin.  Also, I don’t see as much lint coming off of them.  Definitely recommend them.  (ROK ppl – I got mine at Daiso)

Fourth, I finally bought a new razor.  Decided to try Venus Breeze.  It works wonderfully and leaves my skin feeling quite soft.  It’s also easier than the standard razor with the built in gel, seems to take up less time and effort, which means less water wasted, which means I feel a little more green in the morning.  🙂  But…my only beef with Venus is how do you travel with it since the gel can stay kinda gooey when wet????  I’m going to the Philippines in 3 weeks and need to find a non-messy solution.

Next on my list of things to try

– tinted moisturizer for my ghost-like skin

– need to find a product to restore my hair, it looks and feels damaged, although I have no idea why since I’ve never permed it or dyed it and only blow dry it like 2xs a year.  :-/

– would like to find a night moisturizer, specifically one with anti-aging qualities

If you have any product suggestions or beauty items you simply can’t live without, please share in the comments, I’m open to suggestions!!

OCD

Perhaps in a previous post somewhere (can’t remember where now) I mentioned that I’d discuss with you one day my OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies.  I have hesitated before now because I have not been officially diagnosed by a mental health professional and I don’t wish to be seen as one of those people who self-diagnoses off Web-MD, then blows their symptoms out of proportion.  What could also sometimes be referred to as internet hypochondriacs.  However, it has been several years now since I realized that what I do is not normal, so I feel justified in my self-diagnosis that I do in fact suffer from OCD.  I tend to hide it from people, but I remember one particular event where my brother was visiting from out of town and we were getting ready to leave the house.  I stopped to check the stove 3 or 4 times and he asked me why since I had been the only one home all day and I hadn’t used the stove in several days.  I didn’t have an answer as to why.  I knew it wasn’t logical, yet I couldn’t prevent myself from doing it.  Not to mention, since he distracted me, I had to go back and do it again.

You may ask why I have never been diagnosed nor treated.  I have wanted treatment for quite some time.  Not in the form of pills, but simply techniques or mental exercises that I can do to reduce the anxiety I get if I don’t check things.  However, when I lived in the US, treatment just wasn’t affordable.  I could barely afford the doctor’s visit and prescription for my allergies let alone a therapist.  Then I moved to Korea and although it is probably less expensive here and I have more financial flexibility, therapy here is not as common as it’s still seen as unacceptable to admit that you have a mental disorder so I don’t think I would be comfortable going to someone here, not to mention the difference in language.  I am sure I could find a practitioner who spoke good English, but I need someone who will understand my rapid thinking pace (my train of thought is faster than the KTX, no pun intended) and not have to stop my trains of thought to be sure they are fully understood.  So instead I just deal with it.  Just like with any mental disorder, I have good days and bad.  Some days I only have to check things once.  Other days it takes 7,8,9 times to get it right.

I noticed that when I’m not alone, such as when having a guest stay with me or living with others, I am not as bad about checking things multiple times.  Perhaps that is for fear of what they will think of me or perhaps it’s that I feel less anxiety and more stability and safety when others are around.  To reiterate, being OCD does not produce logical thought processes and many parts of the way I think cannot be explained, but it is what it is.  I am thankful that it is not worse and I am thankful that my family and friends are supportive.  My parents even bought me Howie Mandel’s book a couple years ago, which helped make me feel a little less alone (Howie often speaks publicly about his rituals and dealing with these anxieties on a daily basis).  I am able to laugh at myself because me being a logical thinker, having these uncontrollable illogical thoughts can be amusing.  It is quite an internal battle, but since I can’t change it, might as well accept it.

For those who don’t know much about OCD, I can’t tell you much.  Sorry.  I don’t know much about it myself.  There are different types of OCD, mine is the obsession with checking things for safety, such as locks, outlets, stoves, lights, etc.  To give you a glimpse of my particular brand of OCD, here is a clip from the show that A&E has called “Obsessed.”  It shows a man who is afflicted with many of the same obsessions I am.  I do not write down a list as he does, nor do I check the water (I sometimes do but not often).  Nor do I know what triggered my OCD like he does, but a lot of the rituals are very similar.

Until I can get proper treatment, if anyone out there suffers from OCD or knows someone who does and knows of any mental exercises to try on my own, please let me know.  I am thankful that it does not affect my daily life, besides being part of the reason I’m always running late, so I am not in need of urgent care, but living a little more at peace would be nice.  I realize that putting it all out there means sharing a very personal issue with my friends, acquaintances and unknown readers, but I think knowing these types of issues that people generally hide only helps us all to understand each other better, so I think it is worth that feeling of vulnerability that will inevitably follow when I publish this post.

And as a send off, here’s a short interview Howie Mandel did on the Ellen show where he balances the seriousness with the ability to laugh about it too.  I’ve always been a fan of Howie’s.  My germ obsessions aren’t overly strong these days, but they are still there, so I sympathize with him.

Movie Screening – Bring Tissues

A small box of Kleenex.

A small box of Kleenex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished watching the Vow.  Sappy?  Of course.  Tear-jerker?  Of course.  It was everything I expected it to be.  Also, as a side note – prior to watching it, someone had commented on how great the end credits song was.  At first, I was thinking how could it be THAT great?  But I completely agree.  Awesome way to end the movie with a classic song and feel.

I had some tears cascading down my cheeks throughout the movie and this got me thinking about a couple of things.

1.  Why do women flock to these Puffs-inducing movies?  (Puffs are WAY better than Kleenex IMO.)  It’s like self-inflicted emotional torture.  Does it make us appreciate what we have in our lives?  Does it make us feel the whole swirl of the emotional range?  Why do we feel the need to pull forth all of these emotions?

2.  Which love story has used up the most of your tissue box?  If there were an award for the sappiest one, who would take the giant tissue-shaped trophy?  The Notebook?  Titanic?  Sweet November?  And are there any that don’t involve a major character dying in the end that STILL induce a great deal of tears?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter below…

Happy movie watching!

A Complicated Conundrum

I remember sitting in the guidance counselor’s office of my high school pouring through a very large book of scholarships for college. Yes, a BOOK, those things we had to use to look up info prior to the internet. I was not having much success finding any for my skill set. I wasn’t a star athlete, I wasn’t a minority (with the exception of being left handed), I wasn’t part of some group like the Daughters of the Amer. Revolution. I had a GPA well over 3.0 but that wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t rich but I wasn’t financially needy by their standards either.

I suddenly came to the disheartening realization that despite feeling smart, confident and unique, on paper I appeared merely average. I didn’t win any scholarships despite my research (hence all the student loans) and that disheartening feeling I felt…I’m just now realizing that it is still lingering with me.

With the numerous job paths I’ve wanted to go on – writer, flight attendant, English teacher (in a better job and different country), etc – I always felt like I had exactly what it took to be good at the job, but didn’t think that others would see what I have to offer because on paper, I am merely average. I excel in interviews, I just need them to notice my resume to get face time.

This applies to my love life as well I’m sure. The guys I have been and am now interested in, I don’t know how to make them see how amazing I can be or how much I can offer them in life. I see it, but do they?

I suppose this is how I ended up as a Spanish speaking, salsa dancing, blonde American living in Korea. I became obsessed with being different. Following a path of normalcy is not an option for me. I love that my life is no longer average, I am just surprised that this desire to be different stemmed from a scholarship search.

This is my complicated conundrum. I have the confidence a woman in her 30s should have, I just don’t know how to make others see it on first impression.

The Formula for Happiness

3 posts in one day!  I’m making up for lost time…

Check out the TED video below.  Shawn Achor is funny and quick, but most importantly his formula for happiness is worth putting into practice in our everyday lives.  He has done an experiment which I am considering trying out myself and it’s as simple as this:

1.  Write down 3 new things that you are grateful for for 21 days in a row.

2.  Journal about one positive experience you had every day.

3.  Exercise.

4.  Meditation

5. Random acts of kindness – emailing one person everyday to thank them or pay them a compliment.

Doesn’t seem that hard if it means you’ll come out at the end of 3 weeks with a more positive attitude right?

Shawn Achor – “The Happy Secret to Better Work”

p.s.  For Den and Nadia over at Dear Optimists…thought you might like this.  😉

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