Vanessa Torre
Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. IG: vanessaltorre

These ideas seem mutually exclusive. I’m not having it.

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I just got out of bed and it wasn’t easy. My whole lower body is screaming at me. Clearly, we are having a fight. It’s a result of an hour in the gym yesterday getting beaten into oblivion by my trainer. 4x6 squats maxing out at 175 pounds and then lunging the length of the gym building. Twice.

It’s the kind of morning pain where I check myself in the mirror in my bedroom. …

Neither one cancels out the other.

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I’m one of the few people in my circle of friends that is completely unattached. I chalk this up to having extraordinary friends that are the kind of people others either never want to leave or want to snatch up.

Being the outlier doesn’t mean I’m not extraordinary. It just means I’m in a place right now that is different. Generally, I move through the world joyfully. Most people see that joy. I don’t keep it hidden.

“Don’t you get lonely?” people ask me. Of course, I do. I feel lonely about 70% of the time. …

What does that even mean, anyway?

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When asked about my religious beliefs, I clam up. Last year, some friends of mine who have a band did a prayer circle before hitting the stage for a show. They’re not a Christian band but they’re a group of guys whose faith is important to them. I respect it.

They invited me in because I’m the person in the back of the room selling their t-shirts, records, and beer koozies. The sixth unofficial member.

I froze. I had no idea what to do. Did I belong there? Do I pray? Do I close my eyes? Fake it? Look down? What. Do. I. Do? I grabbed our friend Robert and made him join me. …

If I ever did it a third time

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Shortly after people find out I’ve been married and divorced twice, they end up asking me the same question. Maybe they’re testing my resiliency. Maybe they’re just curious if I’m a glutton for punishment. They ask whether or not I would ever get married again.

I always find it amusing. …

My strength means I stand my ground regardless of who stands with me.

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I’ve never been a huge fan of stoicism. I never finished reading Marcus Aurelius. Instead, I’m a highly sensitive person. At times, it’s my best quality. I easily empathize with people. Other times, it’s my Achilles heel. The words and actions of others can tear me apart.

I’ve tried to change my internal makeup and become less emotional. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t just flip a switch in my head and turn the emotions off. I don’t think I’d want to if I could.

When emotions rule our lives and behaviors, it causes suffering. That doesn't mean emotions are bad things, though. We need them. They make us human. Joy and pain are part of life. We can’t have one and not the other. I don’t want to live in a world where I have neither just to spare myself the pain part. …

But, I’m on the last leg of this run and it’s unsettling me.

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Photo by Elly Fairytale via Pexels (and yes, I totally chokehold my kid like this…)

I’ve never been one of those moms. I don’t understand those moms. The moms whose lives have completely revolved around their kids. The moms who lived for the PTA. The moms whose emails included some kind of moniker that noted they were “so-and-so’s mommy” like it was the only identity they had in the world.

I always suspected that those were the moms that would go into full-blown crisis mode when their kids left the house.

Because of this, I thought I was going to be just fine when my daughter got close to adulthood and I became an empty nester. I’d be cool. I wasn’t going to be one of those moms. I could travel the world and play old Linda Ronstadt albums really loudly on the record player without moans or groans. …

Reclaiming mental health is more important now than ever.

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After college, I took a writing class with a local author who lived off the grid. I thought it was unusual behavior in 1998, even for an artist. I was working full time as a teacher, taking grad school classes in the summer, and struggling to figure out how my writing would get the time and attention that it needed with all this going on. I asked her advice on how to do it.

“Listen to me very closely,” she said, leaning in. …

It serves us well to recalibrate our lives and priorities when needed.

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I have a lot of goals for the next couple of years. They’re not necessarily measurable but that’s okay. They’re nebulous ideas that surround one universal concept. I just want to be a happier person.

I consider myself happy now, but on most days it seems a surface level happy with a couple of truly satisfying days here and there. It’s those days I want more of. I’m looking for pure joy and deep contentment. The unfaltering kind that rarely leaves you.

I’ve intentionally removed one part of life off the table in this pursuit. …

A desperate plea for you to do something that matters instead.

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No one has forgotten that thousands of people were tragically killed on 9/11. No one has forgotten where they were when it happened. No one has forgotten the smoke billowing from the buildings, the image of the Falling Man, or the raising of the flag at the site by the firefighters.

We don’t need to see the images or hear more stories we’ve already heard. We know the numbers. So, instead so flooding social media with empty posts that merely demonstrate our ability to read a calendar, I ask you to do something different.

What we’ve forgotten isn’t the event. It’s everything else that happened after it. I want you to help fix it. I’m asking you to rekindle a sense of community that we desperately need. …

No list of signs to look for is ever going to tell you the truth.

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I have seen many relationships come and go. Some of those were mine, some were those of friends. Friends come to me when they hit a bump in the road in their relationships. It’s not because I have learned all there is to know about relationships. It’s because I’ve been there enough times to be able to commiserate. They tell me this. It’s fair.

There is one commonality I hear when I listen to people who are frustrated with their relationship. …

What’s supposed to be inspiring is going to ruin your mental health.

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Imagine the world for a minute if we had no idea what anyone made as to their income. Sure, we understand that salary ranges exist, and we need that data to make informed decisions about our careers. But, what if we took all that personal income information, stuck it in a box, tied it up with a pretty bow, and threw it off a cliff?

We’d be more content with that we have. We’d do a better job of planning our lives for the future. Our self-esteem and self-worth would improve.

We’d be able to celebrate our own successes.

That’s not what I see happening. I see people working multiple jobs, burning out at a very young age, and setting unrealistic expectations for themselves that leave them feeling like failures. …

Your absence is conspicuous and I’m losing faith in you.

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Last Saturday I sat in a small darkened room, nervous, waiting for others to arrive. There was only one person there on a couch adjacent to the one I was sitting on. She was a little older than me.

I knew the program had a cap of ten people and the room seemed small for that number. One by one people filed in until there were five of us. I looked around the room. Five women. All between the ages of 35 and 60.

There were no men. Not one.

The reason we’re here is not centered around anything gender-specific. We’re here to learn how to heal from loss and grief. …

We need to see the humanity in them as much as they need to see it in us

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It was 102 degrees out in Phoenix yesterday and the heat coming up off of the parking lot blacktop could melt the soles of your shoes. It was the kind of day where no number of water bottles, pulled from a huge chest full of ice, felt like they’d make a difference.

This is September.

The only reprieve from the heat is inside a tiny room cooled by a small air conditioning unit in the wall. …

I feel like I have a lot of explaining to do.

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My friend Brandy is a big texter. We text just about every day. The same goes for my trainer. He checks in on me each evening to see how I am and to let me know if I did well that day. I love them both. I’m not sure how I feel about their phones, though.

The contact is great but I have about three texts in me before I hit my limit on a conversation. While the frequency with which I leave people on “read” causes concern, there are reasons for it.

Reason #1 — Some people are huge fans of technology. They’ll send you a text, a video message, a Snapchat, and post memes on your Facebook. Disclosure: Snapchat is above my paygrade. You’re better off sending a carrier pigeon to get a message to me. …

How I helped heal my heart by writing words I’ll never say.

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For my birthday this year, my friend Kelli got me a small spiral-bound journal with an image of Frida Kahlo on it. It sat unused for five months until the day after a recent breakup when I picked it up and wrote a message to my now ex-boyfriend.

“I’m thinking of one of these two rugs for my living room. What do you think would work better?”

It was random. A weird passing thought. I had been online and saw an ad for a rug and I’d been considering one for my living room for quite some time. …

I thought grief was reserved only for death. I was wrong.

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Photo by Danielle MacInnes via Unsplash

I hit rock bottom in April of 2018. I was at the tail end of a divorce that had gotten nasty and I had just lost my job. My future was uncertain. Life had become too much.

My company was trying to find me a new position and part of them taking care of me was our HR director nudging me to talk to a professional. This had come after having a near-complete breakdown right in front of her. She was compassionate.

Her nudging took the form of checking in with me almost daily to see if I was taking care of myself and if I had set my first appointment. …

It’s not where the grass is greener. It’s growing more grass.

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Lately, I’ve been noticing many people seem to divide life into two sections: before and after. What the momentous occasion is that splits time varies. In most cases though, it’s one thing: marriage.

I noticed it first two weeks ago, talking to a woman in my living room that I didn’t know. She had come to buy some shelves I was selling through Facebook.

She saw we had a friend in common. A DJ and bass player in a popular local band with a solid following. …

It’s not a fine line. It’s pretty heavy and definitive.

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Photo by Nicolas Ukrman via Unsplash

Heading out to a concert last year, I realized only one of my headlights was working. I pulled into an auto parts store that was closing in 20 minutes, popped the hood, reached down, and twisted out the headlight.

It took me five minutes to get the replacement in the store. It took another five minutes to get the new bulb in there, close the hood and drive off without so much as a smear of dirt on my white jeans.

This stuff is easy. What I can’t do is change my brake pads. I can’t change out the belt that is making that weird whuuuuuuring noise when I accelerate. …

We want a seat at the table because we deserve it, not because you need a woman.

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Several years ago, I worked for a company where the higher-ups were predominantly male. They were the ones with the biggest offices, the highest pay, and the most important titles.

It didn’t take me long before I realized this was by design. Of course, some of my male co-workers had extensive experience. Our CFO had successfully run the finances for a multitude of large companies. Our president, however, had no experience in our industry before coming to the company a few years prior.

I started out in my industry as an administrative assistant and worked my way up to being a vice president of a publicly-traded, worldwide corporation in the span of 15 years. …

Partner or no partner, I need adventure in my life.

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My love life has been a case study in meeting men, telling them a harebrained idea for adventure and the discussion being met with resounding enthusiasm that would give me the idea that I’d get do it someday. With someone.

Yet, most times, that someday rarely happens. Life happens. Men come and go. What remains are the harebrained ideas. I’ve collected a number of them over the years. It’s led me to a major decision.

Everything I wanted to do with them, I’m going to do without them. …

Little Things You Can Do to Not Feel Miserable All the Time

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This year has wreaked havoc on everyone and everything. I don’t know anyone who has been impervious to this. We’ve been stuck at home for months, people get in fights in grocery stores, protesters dot the landscape more than trees, masks cover our smiles, and our televisions are a never-ending parade of campaign smear ads.

All of this is enough to make us lose our minds. …

A work in progress is just as lovable as the end result.

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There is one piece of advice that seems to be handed out to single people like it’s a welcome packet for the new ones or a gold watch for the veterans. Regardless of how long we’ve been single, people frequently tell us, “Just keep working on yourself. Love yourself. Then, the right person will come along.”

Oddly, I have found that this advice is doled out mostly by people who are not single and whether or not they love themselves is irrelevant. This is their way of comforting and supporting us. It’s also total horseshit.

We can have a significant amount of work to do on ourselves and still be deserving of other people's time, attention, and affection. …

If you need to see someone, here’s what you need to look for.

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Making the decision to seek professional help is incredibly difficult. If I had a dollar for everyone I know that has said, “Yeah. I should probably talk to someone,” and then didn’t, my copays would be a lot easier to afford.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in realizing that life is currently bigger than you and going it alone isn’t working. Therapy is not stigmatized like it was when I first went to see a therapist. Insurance coverage is readily available and apps and online services make it easily accessible.

You have little to no excuse for not seeking the help you need, but it’s hard as hell to take that first step. As a huge proponent of the benefits of therapy, I scratch my head when I hear people admit they probably need it and still don’t seek it. …

It’s the Stop button that we need to avoid.

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I have worked long and hard at being happy. I’ve had to bend it and twist it and shape it so it fits into my life. It was a frustrating endeavor and I can’t tell you how many times I’d be left exhausted and tell myself the same thing over and over. Being happy shouldn’t be this much work. But, sometimes it just is. We need to know that.

In this process, I also came to realize there is another truth about happiness that is just as difficult to accept. …

We take comfort where we can but this is immense.

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I feed people in times of grief. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t process illness and death well but no one does. My instinct is to take care of people. Spending hours in the kitchen with my grief and every pot and pan I have brings me comfort. I hope the end result does the same for others.

Tonight I made a huge mess of my kitchen and used every pot and pad I had. I wish I didn’t have to. It broke my heart to do it.

Monday morning I got a call that sent shock and sadness through my whole being. My friend Dave was taken to the hospital late the night before with bleeding on his brain. …

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