Sabotage. It’s the title of the second chapter of Moose, only in the book, it’s written in Spanish. Three years ago I wrote the following on this blog:

I’m getting worried.  I’m too used to being alone.  I like taking over the entire bed.  As soon as I find someone I like, I approach the intersection of insecurity and anxious.  I’m happy in my own private world, with my small life and circle of friends.  I’ve been so afraid of alone, for so long, that I’ve forced myself into it.  When I was on the varsity soccer team, the most dreaded thing in the world was the running.  Okay, running, just so you know, was invented to escape bad situations.  Something wants to eat you.  You run for your fcuking life.  It’s not meant to be a good time in a gym with headphones okay, it’s a fcuking life raft mechanism.  Fight or flight.  Yeah, as simple as that.  And then you find yourself a well-endowed teen– who’s embarrassed that she even has to wear a bra—having to run laps around a football field.  I hated it.  I’d have preferred to eat dirt, or let them stick a needle in hard-to-find veins.  Asking me, a fat girl whose heart can give out upon orgasm, to run a mile, was really like asking me to give up the idea of ever having children.  So, here was my take on anything painful: get it over with.  Face the worst, so you won’t hate it anymore.  I hit the locker room early, shin guards, knee socks, chapstick, and ponytail.  I was ready for the run.  I would get a head start so I could finish with everyone else.  I faced the worst of it, and eventually, I became okay at it.  I became comfortable with it. It’s happening now.  I’m running my life, in such a safe, meticulous way, having learned from everything, playing it safe.  And the problem is, I’ve left her behind.  The passionate one, the one who’s messy and full of heart, the one who doesn’t run.  I miss the me who dives, who’s messy.  And lately, I’ve been reaching out to her. 

Today, in a hair salon, I checked the horoscopes (which I never do—no really, I don’t.  It’s all crap).  I still don’t believe in any of it.  The point is, I didn’t just check mine.  I found myself checking his horoscope.  I found myself leaving and finding refuge in Victoria’s Secret for something that matched.  Who am I?  I’m all of a sudden this girl, some teenage girl with gum and a locker, with shin guards.  Fuck.  How did I get back to this juvenile place? It’s enervating. 

Here’s the thing: I genuinely believe blessings come to our lives when we’re open to receive them.  And being open, means being vulnerable.  A good home is an open vulnerable one, open to strangers and stories, and to the uncertainty of life.  It’s hard when we live in such a cautious time, when we don’t just bolt, we slide chains over our lives.  We’re very worried.  My heart has a chain-lock door, the kind you can only release from the inside.  And, I’m trying it now.  But I’ve gotten so used to things, the way they are, set in my ways, in my safe one bedroom life.  But, shit, do I really want to get comfortable here?  I mean, I was terrified of alone for a long time, but now that I’ve faced it, it’s become more comfortable than “together.”  See “together” becomes ‘tragic.’  It becomes, “Shit, I’m sorry.  Are you okay?”  And I don’t need that anxiety or heartbreak again.  It’s easier being me and the dog and the bad dates.  It’s easier when things are light, and nothing is at risk.  But, I’ll tell you one thing, from a girl who has been on both sides of that… there’s nothing like a messy life.  There’s nothing like passion and feeling alive.  Sometimes it’s reckless; other times it’s the timing is bad.  But when it lasts, it is what will keep you from ever really enjoying “safe.” 

Life, I imagine, is filled with struggles over more than who hogs the covers.  It’s bloodshed, in-laws, heartbreak, embarrassment, lust, guilt, and The Gypsy Kings.  It’s Pina Coladas, extra towels, sex in the middle of the afternoon, flip flops and calluses you wish you didn’t have.

Just as I became comfortable with running, with the one thing I hated more than tuna fish out of a can, I became more comfortable with alone than with “us.”  And whenever “us” is a possibility, I sabotage it.  I’m afraid of the one thing I want more than well done fries.  I’m afraid of the one thing I actually want more than anything.  It makes me sad. 

It’s all about balance, I suppose.  Three quarters of the battle is knowing you can’t control anything but your reactions to things.  The other bit is timing.  Magic and fate is a sprinkle in there somewhere, at a bar where they make your Caesar salad in front of you in a wooden bowl with some Mexicans serenading you with their guitars and Guantanamera renditions.  Man, that’s life, with your hair braided, flip-flops, and drunk with the people who make you smile just from thinking of them.  I want that life again.  It’s worth the vulnerable heartbreak; worth the, “I can’t get up to shower” type of depression. Mostly because I rarely shower anyway.

Today, three years later, I realize what really scared me then: losing myself. Compromise (something I still HATE to do). Giving in too often or too much. I’m still working on that one. It isn’t only an open, vulnerable home, that allows us to lead rich lives. It’s an open mind to change, without sabotaging it all with a "that’s just who I am, so deal."



  1. When I first read your compromise post, I was in the new love stage and thought you were amazingly inflexible. A month later we moved in together, and I thought, she was right. This sucks.

    Looking forward to Moose.

  2. Wow – you really described my life. It's just been recently that I'm coming out of the "one bedroom me" and moving forward to becoming someone who isn't afraid anymore to try new and different things. It's so much easier (and safer) to embrace what you are used to than to actually put yourself out there for change. And you know what? I like it! Can't believe I didn't do it sooner.

  3. I've always had a tough time with the idea of who I am versus who I was. I've felt my identity go in waves- I love the confident, happy girl who appears when all goes according to plan. I'm ashamed of falling into bad behavior when times get tough, as if I haven't learned a single lesson since I was forced to run whatever mile life threw at me. I guess all we can do is accept our constant work in progress, and as we keep piling on the paint, we may destroy one masterpiece only to create a new one on the layer above.

  4. Sorry, it's too early for me to be typing. I meant to say – your rss feed has gone into a summary or snipet format. Is it meant to stay this way?

    FROM SK: I changed it because there have been quite a few cases of plagiarism of my work lately, and it makes it all the easier when all my full posts are just sitting there in their inbox to lift anytime. Yes, now they must go to my site to steal, which adds another step I suppose. I also realized with all the blogs I read through rss that I forget whose blog is whose because I don't see the actual site. So for a while, they might be snippets. I hope that's cool.

  5. Ok, there are times that I think you are just so removed from regular life, so far in that top 3% that I want to scream…. and coming from someone who worked a 50 hour week with three kids, and then came home and cooked a meal from scratch and did the laundry and everything else while my husband sat and watched sports…

    But today, this was a great one. Reminds me of the time I walked down Park Avenue from Bourdain's restaurant crying my eyes out…..

  6. Stephanie..I just love your blogs. You either hit home to things happening in my life, or you make me understand what other friends in my life are going through. Today's blog was exactly how I was feeling today and I am not usually good with expressing myself, but you get me without even knowing me! Thanks.

  7. As you probably know, we all can't wait for this book after thoroughly loving the first one. Reading this post makes me so anxious for May (I think that is the release?) I so hope you make it to FL…maybe Miami or Orlando?

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thank you. And yes, as of right now… MIAMI is on the itinerary!

  8. I still find that there is such a gray line between compromising and 'caving' so to speak… and the caving bit is something I am loathe to do as it feel unfair, like I am the one who ends up having to make the concessions.

    And Carol, if that's true you need to sit your husband down for a little come to Jesus talk :)

  9. The only thing that sucks worse than compromise is selfishness. It's what ruins relationships. It's why people find themselves alone again. But it's tough to be selfless in a me-first world. And I don't think selfless in any way means forgetting who you are or not taking care of your heart. It's just the greatest demonstration of love.

  10. Are you coming to D.C. on your book tour??

    FROM STEPHANIE: I'm trying to convince them that there's enough of an "audience" there. It's why it's so important for people to appeal to their local bookstores–ask for the person who handles events. All you have to do is call.

  11. Yeah, it's cool. I mean, it's your blog, after all. I just have a hard time reading stuff when it isn't in my rss feed. But you don't write for me. :-)

  12. I'm jumping on the "are you coming to…" bandwagon. I've called Powells Books in downtown Portland, Oregon… the biggest bookstore ever… and the person I spoke with wasn't sure but was going to pass along my request! Do you happen to know whether you'll be heading to the West Coast this time? There are lots of people here who would love to see you… myself included!

    FROM STEPHANIE: For now, it's still a toss up. I think the more stores hear from people, the more likely it is to happen.

  13. Well put, I remember this feeling of fear. Not wanting to have a boyfriend because I was afraid of the breakup. Or afraid of changing for another person. I think back then I did a lot of morphing for other people. Even though I hate when others do that. In some ways it is inevitable.

    It's funny though, when my fiance first ran past me (literally), then stopped and turned to walk toward me, I really wasn't scared anymore. I was excited by what would happen next.

  14. stephanie–when did you know you were in love with your husband? had you been in love with others before meeting him (but after getting divorced)? and if you had been in love times before, why did you not just think this was nothing and get cynical and think, here i go again, ie., being in love.
    sorry–but i'm at a point in my life questioning if i love someone–and i only question it b/c i've never REALLY been IN love.. the only times i've been in love…have occurred after the relatiionship ended. or rather, i realized after the relationship that i loved him. i want to love this guy i'm with…but i can't help but think that love is forever..and how the hell do i know if this is really forever THIS time?…as opposed to last time?
    thanks for being honest

    FROM STEPHANIE: This is a big question. I mean, I was always falling in love with the idea of love. I loved the idea of me in a loving relationship, liked cooking and loving someone, taking care of someone. Being loved back and adored. But I sometimes only chose what I knew would choose me back. I never wanted what I knew I couldn't have. And when I felt myself begin to want more, I pulled away. With Phil, it began as a friendship. We went on 20 or so dates before I realized I even wanted to date him officially. It's a hard question to answer. Just make sure the person you choose is one you'd want to be trapped on a desert island with, someone you'd want even if they didn't want you back… because of who they are as a person.

  15. PRIDE.

    It is the one thing that consumes me in my life, work and relationships. I hate to feel that I am giving in, like I am going to give up or loose myself in the process.

    I have such a hard time with compromise as well. I feel as if I have "lost the battle" if I have to give in. Ugh. Something I struggle with daily.

    Thanks for the post, it really hit home with me.

  16. thank you, stephanie.
    i did not know how your relatinoship started and appreciate you sharing. that is fabulous that it started as a friendship. i believe having a friendship helps in the long run. the guy i'm dating now says that friendship is the most importnat thing he wants w/me to make sure we solidify this or rather, give it a good foundation. What’s comforting is that when he says he's in love w/me and has never felt this before…he does not need to hear the words repeated back from me. patience.
    As usual, your advice, comments and sharing of your own experiences are truly appreciated and of course, helpful :)
    again, thanks.

  17. I really like your idea of a "messy life." Sometimes, and I guess for some people more than others, you can find yourself during quiet times in your life, when you have the time to think everything over and figure it all out; but at other times you can learn so much more when you're completely busy, when you throw yourself into things whole-heartedly without necessarily worrying enough if it's the right thing to do… I guess when you don't give yourself time to think, sometimes, is ironically when you can think clearest.

  18. Man, am I struggling with this now. Your post couldn't have been better timed. I've always thought I wanted to be in a relationship, to be married. After a painful breakup this summer I'm starting to date again. And as much as I want to, I don't want to. I'm feeling this exact thing – loving my new home, decorated just how I want it, enjoying my new, fluffy queen bed all to myself, working at home and keeping whatever schedule I want, hardly accountable to anyone. Except when I don't, and all I want is a pair of arms around me and someone to laugh with and… I compromised so much in my last relationship I lost who I was. I like who I am…I don't want to lose her again. I'm doing the online thing and it's starting to feel like a second job rather than an addition to my life. And I find myself not wanting to fully invest in it – feeling ambivalent. I find myself discouraged – no sparks with most and those who I think may produce one feel no flint to my steel. I wonder how long to wait for chemistry…how many chances to give…whether I'm even open to see it, and whether I can trust it.

    When did you feel the chemistry?

  19. this is something that i'm struggling with right now…..i want a relationship, i want to love someone, i want to be with someone, i want to be a part of something. But at the same time i'm terrified of the "what if i fall in love with him and he totally breaks my heart?"

    i recently met someone who seems like a great guy, but i am so hesitant to start a relationship because i'm afraid to see it fail.

    anyways, I can't wait until the book tour comes to Miami. I hope its at Books and Books. Love that place!

  20. Also jumping on the "are you coming to…" bandwagon. How about Philly? Would love to meet you – and we are "The City that Loves You Back"………..

  21. Stephanie — is Philly on your book tour? Please ignore the magazine report, you know the one that rated us the ugliest city on the East Coast and come see us!! There are quite a few pretty guys and gals who would love to hear you read from Moose!!

  22. excellent post. as usual. =)
    i have ur first book, is there a second one coming out?

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thanks, and yes. It's titled MOOSE and is available on Amazon for pre-order–hits stores this May.

  23. Asking me, a runner, to ever have children, would be like asking me to never have an orgasm.

    Children are adorable, but it seems a blessing that I've never wanted kids, because I just turned 31, and my last good relationship was in college. It feels like I never even had one.

    Here's the thing: I prepared for 30. Thirty was okay. I didn't prepare for 31. I cried at work, cried at home, and held back tears on the phone with my mother. I called her three times. My two aunts forgot my birthday. My oldest friend of 22 years forgot my birthday. Forgot or ignored.

    I've been reckless and messy, and it seems the world is full of women and men, who pretend that living recklessly and messily, dabbling, is all just an exercise in self-aggrandizement, the teenage years you never got to experience. Perhaps they're right. Or perhaps I'm living right, right for me, and they're dead wrong. So what if it's just a phase? Where would we be without phases? May I just be allowed to have mine? And why the hell am I asking for permission? Maybe, just maybe, it's worse to live to be 31 and not realize that a third of your life has passed, a third if you're lucky; now, what are you going to do with the remaining two thirds? No, really. What are you going to do?

    Sometimes I dance around my apartment in my underwear, and don't bother to draw the blinds. Are some people seriously bothered when I suggest that I don't mind that someone might see me? What's wrong with them? Not the people who watch, but the people who judge. I take out the trash, and some guy whistles from his balcony, but I decide to keep on dancing at home regardless. So what?

    To be the rainbow-colored scarf to their Burberry ties. The messy to the tragically together. It's exceedingly tough sometimes to just stand there and not start going all Incubus' "Warning", and I understand that it's totally inexplicable if you haven't been there. But as far as this one life goes, getting myself (back) together, back from messy to prissy, isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Sorry. That's 31 talking. It does bother me, though, that some people are so disturbed by messy that they think reckless equals you'll never swing back to safe. They go right to the security of insta-judge, as have I, sure, but now that I know how being judged feels, I try not to. I really try.

  24. I'm definitely someone who, more than anything, wants to truly share life with someone and have a family… but who is still a bit terrified to leave the comfort zone that is me, on my own, with my dog and my mess.

    Thanks for all of your thoughtful posts, Stephanie.

  25. ok, so what i'd like to know is how do you train your brain and your heart to be vulnerable? I recognize what I am doing to sabotage welcoming love into my life but i can't seem to stop from doing it. i use the excuse that…someone who really wants to know the loving vulnerable me will allow me enough time to show them that side but thats a ridiculous expectation to expect from someone that doesn't even know you.

  26. Stephanie, this is a great post. I have a friend who pretty much could have written this herself. She is a wonderful gal, the best, but has been hurt by past relationships and became set in her ways, as they say. Seeing me and others close to her find love and move away from the one-bedroom life has been hard. She has always wanted it, but was too scared to go for it before now. She met someone quite recently with a very questionable past but seems to be ignoring it all because he wants to be with her. Talk of love, marriage and baby carriages abound. It's troubling for me, and for several other close friends, to watch this unfold– we want her to be happy, to find someone who loves and values her for who she has been, as well as who she wants to be. This guy is not right for her, because she is not herself with him, or even a sliver of the woman she once was. I think that because she's still trying to figure out what she wants out of life she is going along with everything he wants and says because he projects himself as so certain and adamant about the way things should be.

    My question to you, and to all the readers, is what do you do when you decide to take this leap from me to we– but it's with the wrong guy? I don't want to stand by and watch her world crumble down, but talking to her has been of no use. Is there anything we can do, or just be there when the castle crumbles and help her get back on her feet again?

  27. As a long time reader and lurker, I just wanted to let you know how much this post resonated with me. I am a jr. in college and I watch the people around me in serious relationships make compromises about themselves and their lives, not all of them albeit, it only pushes me towards a single life. I am fiercely protective of my independence, but it scares me too. It scares me that I deny myself a relationship that I truly want because I let my fear take over me. My parents are in the process of a long and messy divorce and I think witnessing their struggles my beliefs have only been solidified. I tell myself that when the right person comes along, I will know it and magically be able to change, who knows if that is true. Anyways I am getting off topic, I just wanted to let you know that I am envious of your ability to put these emotions and fears out onto paper, to unjumble them from your mind and purge them on to the page. Thanks for doing what you do.

  28. I'm in safe mode now. I think there comes a time in life when safe is needed especially after a pile of disappointments. Like you, I know it's only a stage in life that will pass. I look forward to the next stage, but I know I'm not ready to leave this one just yet.

  29. Obviously there are quite a few of us feeling the way you felt that day, three years ago. At 25, I had to 'learn to be single' again after almost six years straight of serious relationships (two separate ones, respectively). What a lesson it has been, full of the 'messy' and 'reckless', as being single at 25/26 and in the Real World is quite different than at 18/19 and in college! In general, I've loved the messiness I never got to have, but also loathed it at times. Around me I see my friends married and starting families; I want that someday, I don't want to settle. THAT is what I'm really afraid of. Compromise, I can understand (even though I'm not a huge fan). But settling is different.

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