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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30: When I started not to give a shit about a lot of things that weren't worth giving a shit about.

A dear friend recently turned 30 and it's actually made me think about about my year of 30.  I do have to say it's been pretty incredible.  I'm nearing the end of the first year and thinking its been one of the better years of my life, on probably every level.  I'm starting to believe the people who said life really begins at 30. 

I was thinking about what made it so great.  And here's where I came to: the day after my 30th birthday, I started not to give a shit about a lot of things that weren't worth giving a shit about. There was a light switch and I flipped it. In the same essence, I committed to leading a more honest, bold, and genuine life.  I wanted to look back on my life and be proud of the life I lived. I'm still thinking about what that might look like but in the meantime, in order to do that I decided to stop doing the things I didn't want to do, I stopped pretending to be something I wasn't and I started telling people how I felt and what I thought. I started standing up for myself and others.  If I was hurt, I shared why with the person that I was hurt by. If someone expressed goodness or picked me up, I expressed gratitude instead of guilt of being the recipient of someone's kindness.  In both good and bad ways I expressed myself more.  And really, I thought, that if I could do that with people, it would invite people to do it with me. That's ultimately what I wanted.  

I was no pro at this when I first started.  I haphazardly made my way through this more authentic me but not without serious bumps and bruises along the way.  Also a good reminder that I bruise easily so it didn't take much to screw up. But I learned....and fast. I had a very difficult conversation with my mother about our relationship.  Things have been improving.  I had a very honest conversation with the former BFF telling her that I perceived our friendship as her using me and in much kinder terms, she was being a shitty friend.  This didn't go over well and she decided to discontinue our friendship. win some you don't win some.  I've had very honest conversations with coworkers which is a treacherous line to walk but has turn out alright so far.  When I met someone that I thought we had a chance at something real, I shared my concerns/worries and was met with encouragement, kindness and acceptance.  That didn't last but I finally experienced dating someone that allowed me the space to own how I was feeling and be authentic about those feelings.  I mean, I haven't told any of the dreamboats I've been crushing on that I find them distractingly attractive and disarmingly charming....but, we're talking baby steps here.  

Each opportunity that has gotten easier as I can see the positive rewards manifesting. As situations arise I do gut checks and ask myself about am I living the most honest and genuine life I can. I do heart checks and ask myself if I'm surrounding myself with people who love me, positively challenge me, and want me to succeed? Am I hard-hearted, unforgiving or closed off? And if so what do I need to adjust this condition of my heart.  Am I supporting those who I love succeed and be the best them they can be?

But what didn't expect to do in this new mantra was to meet face to face the scenario I'd needed most desperately to be honest about, but feared the most. I was presented the opportunity to tell the person I loved that I was in love with him and had been for 10 years.  

I've know this person since my sophomore year of college. We met when we moved in across the hall from each other.  I won't get into the very long history here, but we became fast friends and since having been through a lot over the decade of our 20s and 10 years later, almost to the day, after a particularly not great situation where my heart had been hurt, I actively disconnect my life from his.  Deleted phone number, text message history, unfriend, block, unfollow, the only thing I didn't delete was the email.  It had been 8 months since we'd disconnected. That time frame spanned over the holidays, travels, new jobs, life milestones and every day tidbits. We went from chatting every day to zero in an instant.

But like any percolating, just-below-the-surface issues, it takes only a minor move to bring everything to the top.  It all came to recently.  So in this effort to lead a more genuine and authentic life, I told him the truth about how I felt. And I was petrified, but I knew no matter what came of it I was at least exercising my new outlook on life and trying to change the closed condition of my heart.

In a lengthy conversation I found myself being the most honest I'd ever been with him. I told him things I'd never told anyone, let alone him. I was so brutally honest that it hurt. And it hurt to hear some things in return. It was maybe one of the hardest types of conversations because doing gut check during a difficult conversation is a challenging feeling(s) to manage.  This conversation was breaking a bad habit, with the worst culprit while exercising my new mantra, presenting itself at the same time.  Oy vey,what a trifecta.

However, unlike my previous tough-talks, this conversation ended with no resolution or clear next steps.  This is even more unfamiliar territory. Our friendship cannot go back to how it was. Ever, and nor should it.  So this is new territory in a new-ish land to navigate.  That's been interesting. (In the way people use the word "interesting" as a substitute for a word with actual meaning but can't think of.)

One thing I do know for sure, I have not regrets about telling someone they are loved. I have no regrets about being painfully honest and wrestling with the ickyness that comes from the fallout. I don't want to be in the position to wake up one day and think, I wish I would have told someone how much he/she was loved.  I am slowly realizing life is too short to keep that tucked away.  

So I invite you to "not to give a shit about a lot of things that weren't worth giving a shit about."  Whatever and however you decide.  Let me know how it turns out. Don't wait until you're 30...or older.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Part Secondi

The train left early the next morning.  With not much sleep we headed out for Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

I couldn't stop thinking about Basem.  I couldn't stop thinking about our conversations, the unlikihood of our meeting and the even further unliklihood of someone seeing right through me. Granted I had a lot of time to think and that's naturally where my mind wandered. Farah and I proceed to have an amazing time traveling, exploring, eating, relaxing and doing all things vacation related.  As they days went on I thought about him less, but when I was fully left to my own thoughts and no distraction I thought about him.

About mid way through our stay on the farm Farah asked if I wanted to meet in Rome after she'd gone to see other places up north.  I, of course, thought perfect!  I'll go back a few days early and see if I can connect with Basem.

It was time to leave the farm and head back into Rome.  I took an early train in to give me a few hours to explore the city.  Independent of this unlikely romance, I truly fell in love with the city itself.  I wanted time to explore the city on my own, turning down whatever street intrigued me, stopping where I wanted to stop, shopping in the stores that caught my eye.

After getting into Rome, I got settled into hotel and headed out to explore. And by explore I really mean I b-lined it for the gelato place.  Close to the restaurant, I all of a sudden got really nervous.  What if he didn't want to see me?  Would he even remember me? It had been two weeks, who knows what happened during that time. I stopped by the restaurant and was greeted with closed doors and a dark restaurant.  But I had a feeling. I can't explain it but I just knew he was there.  So I peered into the restaurant a little closer, and there, sitting in the dark, was Basem.

The look of confusion and disbelief on his face was endearing and he came open the door.  He offered some wine and we sat drinking and chatting about vacation and the last two weeks.  The conversations comes to a natural lull and he gets up and goes behind the bar, for whatever reason.   I could hear him walk back.   Before I could figure out what was happening I feel him behind me, arms around me, kisses on my neck and before you know it I'm on my feet and we picked up right where we left off, but with the enthusiasm of hormonal teenagers.  Chairs, silverware, dishware, tables were mere obstacles that got pushed out of the way. Back up against the bar, the only think I could think of is that I am making out with an italian dreamboat in the dark of a restaurant in middle of the day in Rome.  Like one does.

As time goes by, things heat up and I eventually have to cool his jets which would last for a few minutes until we were back at it again.  Serious...those Italians know how to love.  Taking a real break of the activity at hand we straightened up the restaurant, and put away the desserts that had just arrived from Napoli (and maybe had one or two). It was nearing the time before he had to open the restaurant for the evening so he walked me back to hotel, holding hands, kissing, just like we left off two weeks prior.  When he dropped me off I assured him Farah and I would come by for her last meal in Rome.

Here's where I overshare:  I am the one person who travels and doesn't pack protection. It just didn't cross my mind. Also, I of course am a part of the 3-5% of the population that is allergic to latex, which adds to the complexity of buying protection. So I'd like you to imagine trying to find latex free condoms in a  Roman Catholic country.  Process that.  So should the situation arise again where something could happen, I wanted to at least be prepared.  To prepare I have a very dear friend in the US and the translator of friends doing some reconn on how exactly I'm suppose to track down the necessary goods.  In the end of have 3 photos and a text of how exactly what I need to find. But don't you worry, protection was procured.

Farah and I went back to the restaurant for her last meal in Rome.  We sat at the end chatted about the trip. She ordered the risotto, I had the fettucini bologenese (which I'd been craving for weeks). A fairly uneventful dinner, and once Basem closed the restaurant we went for gelato one last time.  As we walked and ate I remember feeling that it was all coming to an end and feeling like there was nothing more I wanted than to figure out how to not go back.

We walked Farah back to the hotel and then we went on our way.  Its funny how we didn't have to say much and we both knew what was next.

This is where I stop with the details.  The internet is not the space for me to go in to these details so I'll end Act 3 by saying that there is a point in life when you let your guard down, resign to living a life a love.  That moment happened this night.

Want the nitty gritty details?...ask Farah.

Act 4
I had promised Basem to come by the restaurant during the day's break and that evening for dinner.  We hung out during the afternoon just chatting and laughing.  I went back that night for my last meal.  I sat at the end again and spent most of the time writing.  I ordered the spaghetti alla carbonara (which was exquisite) sipped on wine and really tried to not think about vacation coming to an end.

When the shift ended he asked what I wanted to do and the reality was that I really just wanted to spend time walking and talking to him.  He asked where I wanted to go and knowing that the Colloseo is his favorite place in Rome, I told him I wanted to go there with him. Keep in mind this is about the furtherest you could walk from wherer we were, but he didn't care.  As we walked we talked and laughed and made out (I'm getting really good at this triple combo by the way).  It was a summer's night in Rome and I strolling arm in arm head over heels for an Italian stallion.

By the time we got to the Colloseo, reality soon set it.  This was over. It was 3 am and I had to leave for the airport in 4 hours.  Unlike anything that happens in real life but instead this hollywood rom-com, we began walking back and it starts to rain.  Not drizzle but large raindrops that begin to soak us.  It didn't stop us from making out, in fact it only added to the romance more.  It rained harder, our clothes began to stick to us and the drops began to soak my hair and run down my face.

On that warm summer night, each step we took toward the hotel was a step closer to reality.  He asked me if I was ok.  He knew something was off. I said no.  He asked if I was nervous.  I said something like that.  We reached the steps of the hotel I was knocking on reality's door.  We stood face to face and all I could do was let him wipe away the tears that had started to fall.  He told me he could wipe away my tears for the rest of my life but only I could make them stop by finding the good in everything.  (Seriously, who is this guy?)

Earlier in the day I had written him a note on the back of a postcard of the Colloseo just expressing my gratitude for him who he was and the time we had. I thanked him for how he made me believe in love again and how he made me feel beautiful in my own unmake-uped, clothesless skin.  On the note I left my email and phone number.  As I handed him the card, he told me he'd never forget me and gave me the most gentle kiss. 

Then in true hollywood fashion, rain still falling, after the gentle sweet kiss, (insert crescendoing music) he pushed me up against the door and gave me a true good-bye, knee buckling kiss that seemed to last not long enough.  And with that, he said, "buona notte, bella," and walked away.

(PS. I'm crying as I write this, clearly I'm hormonal.).

Just like that. He walked away.  I walked into the hotel up the 4 long flights of stairs to my room while very sad, so incredibly in love with love. 

The next day I headed home.  Each step I took, each train ride, walk through the airport terminals, boarding a plane, touch down of the landing gear, I told myself you can still go back.   By the time I got to Amsterdam I stood at the connecting flight ticket counter and really thought about going back. 

When the flight landed in Seattle, to my own surpirse I had gotten on the plane home.

I'm home now, have been for a few weeks.  That Saturday after I landed, much to my surprise, my phone rang and it was him. It was 5 am and I didnt care. We've talked and texted over the past couple weeks since being home.  It's been a week now and despite my efforts to reach out to him its been radio silence.  I think reality is setting in and my heart hurts.  The hopeless romantic in me was holding on to a vacation fantasy.  But I'll still say, and keep alive as long as I can its that I'm still head over heals in love with love.  I'm in love with friends, with the strangers I pass, with who I am, with the food I taste, the sun I feel, with my body, all boiling down to being in love with love.   

For that, I will be forever grateful to have had fallen in love with a silver chain wearing, cigarette smoking, swagger walking, Egyptian Italian man who taught me more about myself and love in 4 days than I ever could have learned without meeting him. 

Grazie amore mio.  sei baci.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I know this has been a long intermission but it's been one of THOSE weeks.  Those weeks that you're not sure at any given moment you should be laughing or crying.

Well, I'm laying in bed crying tears of laughter with this buzzfeed.  Literally laughing out loud with tears rolling down my cheeks.  
25 YouTube Comments That Are Actually Funny
Seriously, please tell me you find these as hilarious as I do.  Tears of laughter? Let's be friends. 

Will return with Acts 3 & 4 shortly. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This only happens in the movies, until it happens in real life, Part Primi

Maybe my favorite souvenir of the trip, besides my tan lines and Italian leather sandals, is the story I'm about to tell.  I'd like to preface this story by disclaiming and recognizing that I acknowledge that everything about it batshit crazy but true. I couldn't make it up if I tried. This is a long story so you might as well pop some pop corn and get settled in.

One our third night in Rome we were looking for food near by the restaurant and Rick Steve's pointed us to a place that didn't have outdoor seating.  So we wondered upon a restaurant with small awnings and just one outdoor table left. We took advantage of the open table and thus began an evening, and a series of life changing events.

We were greeted by a tall dark handsome waiter (don't all good Hollywood storylines start like this?) who seated us. We were making small talk with him as he took our drink order.  We ordered a bottle of wine and some bread and he kept coming back to chat.  At some point he was really only talking to Farah which wasn't unusal because the Italians were very taken by her.  And then at some point he turns to be and apologize and say that he can't look at me because I'm so beautiful and remind him of someone that he used to know.  He told me that when I walked into the restaurant his heart stopped because he was certain I was this other person (Laberta who now lives in Canada).  He kept showering me with compliments and saying that he could just tell there was something inexplicably different in my smile and eyes.  He could just see "but no explain" it.

Well that's all nice and lovely to hear but there was also something in him that was so sweet and genuine that you just want to talk to him more.  Between times he'd walk away Farah and I would devise a plan to how we were going to hang out with him.

Meanwhile, ANOTHER waiter has been quite taken with Farah and began flirting with me to get her attention (why do men do this?).  He's untying my shoes as he walks by.  He's making googly eyes at both Farah and I.  Meanwhile I keep catching the other waiter's eye and giving a smile and a wink (hey! when in Roma).  They keep sending wine, prosecco and limoncello over to us and we are having the time of our lives because we have consumed all the beverages and have on our hands the potential for a really great night ahead of us. We've chatted with the owner, the food is amazing, the bottle of wine we ordered is maybe that best I've had in my life.

We've come to learn that the tall dark handsome one is Egyptian/Italian, 27 years old, lives just blocks from our hotel and is named Basem who regularly gets told he looks like Tony Parker.  The other waiter is a short skinny pale 34 year old Pee Wee Herman look alike who has taught us how to say "f*ck you!" in Italian, is named Andrea.

They practically beg us to wait until they close up the restaurant and we kindly oblige since we were in no hurry and it was practically closing time anyway.They finish closing up and Basem walks through the door of the restaurant exit, heads straight towards me, makes quick eye contact, puts his arms around me and plants a (very good) kiss straight on my lips.  So that happens.  And all I am thinking is "This is happening!! Well, when in Rome...."

We get into Andrea's car, Farah in the front, Basem and I in back.  Farah and Andrea proceed to have a dance party in the front, while Basem and I have a full on make out sesh in the back seat.  In a tiny car, racing through the streets of Rome, Rhianna blaring on the radio, I literally pulled away from Basem for a moment just to make eye contact and watch the speed of the moment and the world race by the periphery of my vision. While looking at his eyes, I thought to myself, this is one of those life changing moments, I could just tell.

See I told you this sounded bat shit crazy. But it is all true.

We eventually find the gelato place they were looking for, order and stroll for a little.  Basem and I are wrapped up in our own little world while kissing, holding hands, talking, eating gelato and the best wingwoman of the century is entertaining Andrea, who is a handful to say the least.  By the time we finish our gelato, Farah is DONE with trying to keep him at bay and ready to go to bed. They take us back to the hotel and while Farah heads to bed, Basem and I decide to scurry off to "talk and walk". And that's what we actually do, for hours.  We talk about life and who we are as people and lessons from our family.  His English is pretty good but we do have to spend some time trying multiple ways to translate things to get to the right point.  And my Italian is 3 days old comprising of grazie and food items so I'm pretty useless.

A break for a moment of reflection: Finding a common ground for language was super fascinating.  Defaulting to speaking in English, it was so refreshing to talk to someone in a way that I couldn't hide behind fancy words or complex sentence structures or the generally super hoity-toity way I talk.  We spoke plainly, simply, and honestly and it was so refreshing. Misinterpretations/mistranslations were funny instead of embarrassing. I was forced to take down all my walls because our conversation demanded simplicity and you can't hide behind that.  He saw right through me, called me on everything and meanwhile it all felt safe.

Commence story:  It was getting later and later and before I knew what was happening we were making out in his apartment lobby, and then in the apartment elevator, and then in his apartment door way and then he's not wearing any clothes. That was quick.  And then I freak out, like I do in general when I find myself in that situation.  He was super about it all during the freak out, very much a gentleman and walked me back to the hotel make sure I got in ok and hoped we'd come by the restaurant the next day.  I proceed to float upstairs high on endorphins and love.

People, that's just day one.

The next day we decide to stop by the restaurant after we have dinner elsewhere and get some gelato (that came as a recommendation from Basem and turned out to be the best gelato in all of the whole trip).  We swing by the restaurant and the moment he sees me we walks right up and plants a big ole kiss on my lips (keep in mind, he's working but that doesn't seem to phase him, or anyone else for that matter).  We make plans to get together after he closes the restaurant.  Later, we meet in the hotel lobby and head out for a walk and talking some more.  And that's what we actually do with just little breaks from the walking and talk to make out.  There is an ease to our conversation. There are no pretenses, there is a comfort that I feel like we've know each other forever. We talk about real things.  We talk about not real things and funny things and favorite things and everything in between. Oh we laughed...a lot.  At one point he stopped and looked me straight in the face and affirmatively and assuredly stated, prompted by nothing, "I know you are strong. I can just tell." That statement sticks out to me more today than anything else.  Knowing only a very rosy picture of my life at home, he unknowingly hit home.

We talked for hours that night and he walks me back to the hotel as we had an early train to catch.  Well, turns out our hotel attended must have fallen asleep on the job because there I was, 4 am, locked out of the hotel.  Both Basem and I are knocking, buzzing, and calling to no avail.  Of course I'm thinking to myself I'm going to have to spend the night with Basem and if that happens, other things are going to happen that I''m not ready for.  And if Farah wakes up with out me in the room she is going to freak the frick out like a good friend would do.  On top of it all I'm dying inside because he keeps repeating that he's nervous for me because the train leaves at six which with his accent sounds like "sex" and it is killing me when he says it. We have a good laugh about this and now is a running joke in our conversations (teaser: yes, we're still talking).

After a good while, the door finally opens and Basem quickly kisses me good-bye as I dash inside.  In all that rush, I didn't really have the moment to think that might be the last time I'd see him.  We hadn't exchanged information, I only knew his first name, he on other hand knew my entire name and kept repeating it. In my heart of hearts I knew it wouldn't be the last time.

But we still had 2 weeks left on our vacation and I had no plans to come back to Rome.  Yet.

Intermission.  You should refill your pop corn, grab some sour patch kids and a soda of your choice because acts 3 and 4 promise to be riveting. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Italia - Week 3 - Lucera e Matera

After the coast we headed east to the other side of the country, a true country side getaway.  Dear friends are living in Lucera for a couple years so we visited them and experience life in the country side.  There was a pool, animals, vineyards, our room was larger than my apartment that over looked the wheat and poppy fields.  We slept, relaxed, soaked up even more sun, ate one of the best meals of my life, and rested the achy feet.  It was perfect. Oh and there were 7 puppies.


We took a day excursion out to Matera, an ancient city just south of Lucera. We got caught in a lightening/thunder/rain storm in which we thought it best to climb to the top of the mountain and stand next to the metal cross.  Like smart people do. We dined on amazing food, discovered amazing gelato, and otherwise explored every cranny.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Italia - Week 2 - Sorrento, Capri & The Amalfi Coast

We headed from Rome south to the Amalfi Coast.  We had reserved a agritourismo just outside of Sorrento in Massa Lubrense, which proved to be a delightful "homebase'' experience even considering the junglous steps to the main road. Our deck over looked the orchard and then the Bay of Naples beyond that. We loved the coast and the coast loved us.  We ate under the lemon trees and sunshine.  We feel in love with the small coastal towns and the people who call it home. We put our lives into the hands of bus drivers who at any given moment were going to propel us off the side of the cliffs.  The Island of Capri was stunning and we discovered the wonder that was the Blue Gratto. We explored, relaxed and worked extra special hard on that tan.  Hard work does pay off.

Note: next time go there with a sweetie.  Maybe the most romantic place I've ever been.


We did visit Pompeii and Naples which I was underwhelmed by due to the Italian general disposition to not put a useful sign all of Italy.