Standing Up For Valentine’s Day

Well, pink is in the air. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.

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I’ve always been kind of meh about Valentines Day. If it’s your jam, I’m not knocking you for one second, I just never really got into the whole thing, even though I’ve had several serious relationships in my lifetime… But I always believed that if you love someone, show them every single day rather than just once per year, and that I by no means need an excessive gift to prove that you actually care.

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Commercialism is stupid, and I agree whole heartedly with that. Greeting card and chocolate companies all over the country are seriously banking off of this silly little holiday.. But, as I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized something else. Silly can be fun, and there are never enough excuses to celebrate love. Valentine’s Day is fun, and it always has been, ever since we were forced to make Valentine’s Day mailboxes in second grade. If you’re in a long-term relationship, I don’t see any harm in putting on an actual dress or tie to go out to a nice dinner. Charlie and I do really well as far as date nights go. We go out together all the time, and at least once per month splurge on a nice dinner out for ourselves. We work hard, long hours. We deserve to sit back now and then and just celebrate us, Valentines Day is just that. A day to embrace your relationship. Yes, you probably do this other times of the year (if not maybe you should just entirely re-evaluate your relationship.. Not the holiday) but why NOT do it again February 14th? Why NOT?

You don’t have to buy your significant other jewelry, or even flowers. You don’t have to make a reservation at a 5 star restaurant and spend your income from the last month. It doesn’t have to be this extremely big thing. Why not just make it fun again, like it was in grade school? That’s what Charlie and I have sort of done, accidentally. I’ll be at the corner store and see a heart shaped box of chocolates for $2, notice its a candy he really likes and pick it up. He saw Breaking Bad valentines and snagged me a box. Little, stupid, dorky things like this are fun and show that you’re thinking about one another.

We both close at work on Friday, so we picked up a bottle of wine to split after. We’re also going to go out on Sunday night since we are working on the actual holiday. You don’t HAVE to do this, though.

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Life is about the small details, not the big giant grande gestures… I think that’s where we went wrong with this holiday. Expectations can kill literally anything. Maybe if we stop thinking of it as this big stressful occasion, where anything short of a dozen long stem red roses or a diamond ring means they don’t love you, and instead make it personal and fun we can embrace the day  for what it is; another excuse to celebrate love. & really…. are there ever too many days to show your significant other how grateful you are for them?

There’s precious little love in the world left, and I for one am all for cherishing the love that exists. If you’re single, celebrate self-love and appreciation. In fact, take care of you and treat yourself with love, honor, and respect — single or coupled. ‘I’ve come to realize that Love is our God(dess)-given right. We are born in a state of Love and we will leave in a state of Love.’ It’s pleasant to be surrounded by heart-shaped reminders to tell each other we love one another — romantically or not, that we are important in each other’s lives. If you can stock up on cheesy cards and hearts with sayings on them, giving them out to friends and family because, hey, they are actually deserving of your affection as well — it’s actually a rather pleasant day.

“To love is to be vulnerable.”

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Wild Things DO Run Free, And They Never Really Stop

I toyed with the idea of throwing WildThingsRUNFree.com into the garbage. Abandoning it, and moving on with my blogging life. I hadn’t really felt a connection to this website in quite some time. That became quite apparent when my promises to keep updating were continuously broken. It became even more apparent when writing about my running seemed mundane, unimportant. There seemed to always be much more important things going on in my life and the world than what my brain was buzzing about during the 2 hours I was doing my Long Run on Town Lake Trail. Wild Things RUN Free felt like it had become a home to both training for races, and Zack.

However, reading a post this afternoon that Carla Birnberg had written, made me realize something:

I am who I am. Hear me roar.

I was reminded why I started Wild Things RUN Free in the first place. I am a person who runs. Not even pertaining to the sport of running. I have always been a runner. I ran from every serious relationship I’ve ever had. Including Zack, if you really think about it. When things didn’t work out I would jump ship to another state, almost every time. Because the feeling of being FREE has always suffocated my ability to be in one place for too long. Sabotaging every decent relationship I’ve ever had. It’s part of what made leaving Zack and our promised life together, that much easier (Not that it was easy. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, and the hardest consequences I’ve ever had to deal with after making a responsible, smart decision. Though one I am the most thankful I’ve ever made. My brain is complicated. You shouldn’t try to get in there) I ran from my problems. I ran from my insecurities and fears. I ran from my past.

There are so many things that I wanted to say, and I knew would help me grow as a writer as well… But I was afraid. I was too concerned with offending someone.. But guess what? I’m not always the most PC person in the world. I curse frequently. I sometimes want to write about how my ex-fiance and I had sex 3 times in the 3 years we were together. How that was incredibly frustrating for me (whatever, I’m a modern 25 year old woman. Deal with it) and while what he did is what ultimately broke us up, how that was probably the true catalyst. I laugh at inappropriate moments. It’s just who I am.

The most recent time I wrote something that I felt like was my true voice, was “The Ridiculous Case of Bad First Dates” that I wrote back in JANUARY OF LAST YEAR. Actually, almost exactly a year ago (slightly creepy) However, even then I felt like I had to edit the post and almost apologize for making humor out of my own silly life… Because somewhere along the lines I made the mistake of not showing my readers just how much I’m constantly laughing at myself, at life, at everything. I try to see the humor in all.  I wasn’t upset like a lot of readers thought, I was endlessly amused with the trials and errors of meeting new people in a new city full of people from all over the world.

And that’s ME. Awkward. Happy. Energetic. Emotional. Stubborn. Determined. Always Laughing. Clumsy. Quirky. Neurotic. Etc.

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As the ever-so-wise Carla puts it so elegantly and yet simply; I am “Unapologetically Myself” And really…. At the end of the day, haters gon’ hate. No matter what. Besides:

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It may have taken me 25 years, but I am finally 100% comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am, and there is nothing wrong with that. Wild Things RUN Free is MY home. So of course it is going to store some not so wonderful moments from the past. Of course it is going to highlight each phase of my journey through this madness we call life. Quite frankly, I find that beautiful.

“Live, travel, bless, and don’t be sorry”

Living & Loving In Austin; Chapter One

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Today marks 1 full year in Austin; and I can honestly say I made the best decision of my entire life by leaving Zack and life as I knew it behind in Maryland.

It’s scary to leave everything you know in the dust and start your life over. it’s also one of the most empowering experiences I’ve had the opportunity to go through. I’ve learned a lot through this journey to find myself…. I honestly think I can say that within the last year, somewhere along the way that mission became successful!

Home for me, used to be a cut up map. Places pasted together with no in betweens. They’re all the same, these places that blend together, its the people that change. And its the people that make them home.

There is no doubt that this journey took me on many wild adventures where I continually pushed my boundaries to overcome fear and build strength. (there is also no doubt I’ll go on dozens more of these adventures) Yet, what I now know as strength is in our vulnerability. This enlightenment is something that has just come to me in the last year. I took on the biggest climb of my life. I’ve been working to place myself in a completely receptive state and give myself permission to make mistakes, feel what I feel whether it be fear, anger, sadness, happiness, grief; I’m learning to ask for help when I need it.

The act of being vulnerable has broken down walls and armor that I’ve spent a lifetime building, it has cleared debris and given me permission to simply be.

We truly don’t know the depths of our own strength until it is tested. I’ve learned everything from how to prop myself up on a bad day to how to assemble every piece of furniture sold at Ikea…. Fact of the matter is, happiness comes from within…. It took finding my own happiness to be ready to jump in, full throttle, into an adult relationship. I can honestly say, I am now in the happiest and healthiest relationship of my entire life…. A place I could not have been in a year ago. I owe Austin a huge thank you for aiding this growth.

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The work I have done with the tools of writing, self-forgiveness and freedom have been invaluable for me. Over the course of the year, I have created a platform from which I can stand on as I continue to follow through with my decision to relocate and start over.

What I now see, is that all of our strength is the willingness to simply show up—messy, hurting, soaring, grieving, being our perfectly imperfect human-selves.

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HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS

Lessons I will Teach My Daughter Someday

I am no where near ready for children. I mean, I think when the idea of not wanting kids until you can (easily/affordably) scientifically ensure you have a daughter it prooooobbbabbbly means children are far far far into the future. That, is quite alright. However as I get closer to my 30s I find myself warming up to the idea of kids more and more.

As a human walking through the whole human-experience, I always wished I had a woman other than my mother, who could guide me through the journey to femininity. Lets face it though, as my mother proved true, I was too stubborn to listen anyway.. The only way I was willing to learn was to run blindfolded and occasionally (more often than I like to admit) run into walls.

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Along the way I learned some incredible things that I wish all women, of all ages knew. Lessons I will be sure to share with that daughter I genetically engineer. 😉

  • True beauty comes from within — never forget that. Always look there first!
  • Forgive, forgive, forgive…. But that doesn’t mean you have to forget. However, try. Resentment kills.
  • Mean Girls doesn’t end after high school. Bullies are everywhere. Ignore them!
  • Pay attention and be present. Life will vanish before you know it.
  • The world needs your story
  • Food is NOT the enemy. Food is joyous and should be viewed as such.
  • Washing your face every night is the best beauty routine
  • Eyes really are a window into the soul. Pay attention!
  • The movies lie. Passion isn’t a contorted exercise on a marble staircase, it’s doing the dishes together and lying with your feet touching in bed at the end of a long day.
  • The comparison game only hurts you.
  • Saying sorry first is a sign of strength not a weakness.
  • With that being said, don’t apologize for things that don’t need a ‘sorry’
  • Travel. Travel as often and far as you can.
  • Men want a wife, not a second mother.
  • Call me at any time, I will always answer.
  • Womanhood is a gift, treat it as such.
  • Music can fix literally everything. Also duct tape.
  • WebMD will convince you that you have a rare blood disorder. You’re most likely fine!
  • No matter how often you hear it, diamonds are not a girl’s best friend.
  • Halloween is not a free-pass to wear next to nothing. Dress up. Have fun!
  • Accept yourself for who you are. Not everyone will love you, that doesn’t make you any less wonderful!
  • Heels don’t have to go with every outfit. No one likes the girl all dressed up in the airport or worse, walmart.
  • Laugh at yourself, often. It truly is the best medicine
  • Home is where your heart is
  • When you ask a man, “What are you thinking?” and he replies, “Nothing.” It’s true.
  •  If you love someone, tell them. Don’t hold back.
  • You don’t always have to be in a relationship. In fact, you learn the most about yourself when you’re on your own. Embrace it.
  • Life is far too short to waste on people who make you feel awful, or simply don’t care.
  • Whether you think you CAN or think you CAN’T.. You’re absolutely right. Always believe.
  •  Never regret a night at home with a good book
  • Learn from the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And always remember that the story is never over.
  • Marry your best friend
  • Don’t fear failure… It’s the only way to ever succeed.
  • True love will never turn its back
  • Educated women are the sexiest and strongest.
  • Learn how to say no. You don’t have to please everyone, all the time.
  • Ask for help when you need it… It doesn’t make you weak.

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What life lessons do YOU want to make sure YOUR children learn?

The Day I DIDN’T Get Married…

July 20, 2013. It was supposed to be a momentous occasion — the day I would walk down the aisle in my lace wedding gown, sunflowers in hand, my best friend at my side, with everyone I’ve ever truly cared about watching…. However the world had different plans for me. For us.

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This past Saturday will forever go down in the history of my life as the day I did not become Mrs. Charlotte Fowler. The day I did not put on the beautiful white dress. The day I did not meet my future husband at the end of the aisle. The day I did not say I do.

But it will also go down in history as the day I buried that horse in the ground.

I think that whenever you have something happen in your life that brings you to your knees and breaks you down and apart and into what feels like a million pieces, regaining some kind of balance can almost feel impossible. I know now, that it isn’t. I believe that as I sit here, a very different person from when this all began, everything, and I mean all of it, saved me in some way.  I’m significantly healthier and although the fine-tuning of feeling better is still going on, I’m learning to really be myself.  For the longest time I felt trapped somehow, unable to feel ok in my own skin. Walking away from my engagement was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’ve grown into a better human being.

I celebrated July 20th, not with tears and pain, but instead with a smile, fond memories I will never forget (and will always carry close to my heart) and surrounded by incredible people who love me. Happy events we know how to celebrate. Weddings, new babies, Bar Mitzvahs. Got it. There’s a whole infrastructure in place: what to wear, what to say, what favors to dispense. But when it comes to the “bummer” times, it’s easy to feel a little lost. Recently people have begun throwing Divorce Parties so why not a Cancelled Wedding Day Celebration?

Ann Patchett once described her broken relationship as a train she could no longer imagine jumping off. Patchett married her train. I decided to jump off…. But I had no idea what it would actually feel like once the “big day” finally came. Would I fall apart? Would I talk to him? Would I make the guy I’m dating now uncomfortable? When I pictured broken engagements, I saw distraught brides in already-purchased Vera Wang, drinking the now-melted ice cream out of the tub of Ben n Jerry’s in their lap. I thought it was something you suffered in private, like an STD.

My friends, did not see it this way. Instead they saw the day as a reason to celebrate. A day to toast to the past and where it has brought me. A day to get it all out so I can resume life as previously scheduled…. and I can only thank these beautiful people for helping me go from the girl I was when I decided to leave Zack and move to Austin, to the girl I am today. 🙂

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On Letting Go

Moving on can be some seriously tricky business.

When Z and I became engaged, much like any other Mr & Mrs. to-be, I expected to be done dating, forever. I thought I was going to die of old age with him by my side. Man and wife. Partners in crime until the very end… When that kind of bond is broken, it really is hard to imagine opening yourself up to the prospect of love, ever again.

(The spaces between the fingers of the boy who’s hand you’ve been holding? My fingers fit perfectly there once.)

Trust becomes a term that you seldom use in a sentence, especially in reference to others. But remember that you have to move on, somehow. You just pick your head up and stare at something beautiful, like the sky or the ocean, and you move the hell on. Take a deep breath, see you’re alive. That’s all you need to make it through the night.

At first, I boxed all of Zack’s stuff, every piece that attached me to the pain. The ring that meant “forever”, the pictures, the hand-written cards from the supposed-to-be in-laws, my wedding dress. Phase II, is in my opinion, the most important part in ‘moving on’ after serious heart break… After moving to Austin and settling into my new city, I truly set out on the journey of finding myself again. YOU WERE HAPPY BEFORE HIM AND YOU CAN BE HAPPY AFTER HIM.

Things didn’t work out because, bigger things were in the works. It’s so incredibly difficult while we’re blind and hurting; don’t know which way is up. But, if you have faith in anything, have faith that the universe has a way of straightening things out far better than we ever could imagine. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back one day and be awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful. You will be grateful that things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.

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Letting go and healing takes time. There are still days I feel guilty for being happy with someone else. There are still days I’m embarrassed for planning a beautiful wedding for nothing. Then there are days I just get lost in the beauty of my new home city and all of the wonderful people that surround me and feel over-joyed for every little aspect of my life. Including the painful setbacks that brought me here. You know that monologue from Lester Baggins at the end of American Beauty….

“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

The biggest lesson that all of this taught me, is that the secret of being free is not revenge, but letting things unfold in their own way and own time.

What A Difference a Year Makes

A year ago today, my life changed in one flashing instant. A brief phone call and my life would never be the same. My brother was dead. I remember everything about that moment. That day. What I was wearing. What I was doing when my mom called. The near miracle it was that Zack actually had reception on campus for once. The exact amount of time it took for my dad to drive from Virginia to pick us up (3 hours 56 minutes)

I can relive the details as if it was just yesterday.

I have come so far in the last year. I let losing him swallow my life and quite frankly, quit caring about things that were important in my life. My work. My relationship. My Self Esteem (mostly thanks to the first two) It took me half a year to get my shit together and start crawling out of the hole I dug.

But here I am one year later. Happy, strong, independent, hopeful.

I felt guilty earlier this week. It’s the week of the anniversary of his death, and here I am being happy and laughing all the time. Enjoying my job, and how natural/easy life feels down here. I should be in pain, I should want to just cry all week long and long for him.

My natural instinct was to crawl into bed Wednesday night and not get out until Friday… But, that’s just not me, and it’s certainly not Matthew. He would be pissed to know that instead of celebrating life I was mourning his.

Matthew was the life of any crowd. His smile could light up a room and that energy drew everyone in.

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So instead I celebrate Matthew today, and hopefully every day. I am going to live loudly and tackle the day. I am going to surround myself with positive people, laugh and smile as much as I can and try to brighten the rooms I enter. That’s the kind of person worth remembering, and boy was Matthew exactly that.

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Matthew Howard Neitzel
03/07/1984 – 02/07/2012