Working to get v3 back soon
Working to get v3 back soon
You may have noticed there haven’t been too many articles promoting my writing, interviews, and other creative projects. Sadly, I think the illness that’s kept me inside has robbed me of a good deal of inspiration. There are so many blank pages staring back at me.
Fortunately, I think I went and broke the cycle by doing a guest blog spot on the lovely Mysti Parker’s blog, where she hosted a writing challenge that featured different authors and bloggers doing personal essays on every letter, A-Z. I’ve been fortunate to cross Mysti’s path a few times, as she is not only an accomplished author I met via Goodreads, but a mentor over at Writer’s Village University. I even won a little contest on her blog last year, writing on a flash fiction prompt. She has a wonderful community of friends and writers out there, and I highly recommend checking her out.
My letter was “Y”, and I chose to write an essay on youth, and growing older. It is an odd subject for someone my age to tackle, I know. Such reflections are usually done by writers in their 50’s and 60’s. I thought it might be interesting to approach the idea of lost youth from the perspective of someone who is suddenly what the world would consider “an adult”, and doesn’t always feel equipped to handle such a responsibility.
I’d love if you’d read the essay here!
Please show us both some love with likes, comments, sharing, and all that jazz….:)
And, as a bonus, I’m sharing a poem I wrote almost as a joke a few months ago. It’s “Ode To The Trolls”, and designed to teach children (or people of any age) to deal with bullying and being made to feel “less than”. It is both real and satirical (you know, rather like Stephen Colbert), so it’s best read to a Dr. Seuss sing-song rhythm, either aloud or in your head. Enjoy!
“Ode To The Trolls”
“There’s a problem today
That makes everyone mad
Angry and quiet,
Disgusted and sad.
You’ll notice one day
People don’t often agree
And being disrespectful to others
Is something you’ll see.
I don’t recommend it,
You shouldn’t really try it,
But you don’t have to listen
And you don’t have to keep quiet.
You may be a child, an adult
Or a teen
But at some point and some time
You’ll meet someone who’s mean.
She may think she’s funny,
He may be aggressive
But bullies are awful
Really, truly offensive.
On the playground, at work,
Or an Internet troll,
Bullies don’t fit
One particular role.
When one makes the decision
To come after you
You’ll wonder what you did wrong
And what you should do.
The truth is it’s nothing,
You’re perfectly fine
(Though we all do embarrassing things
From time to time.)
And though it may hurt you,
This moment will pass.
Just handle yourself with grace
And with class.
When it comes to people,
It’s easy to see
There is really and truly
Not a right way to be.
When people are angry
And cause a commotion
It’s them and not you
That create this emotion.
People aren’t always good
And they aren’t always bad,
But in the heart of a bully
You’ll often see someone sad.
There isn’t one way to be
That is never a crime;
We’re all going to get picked on
From time to time.
Maybe you’re really smart
Or always willing to help
Others out in a hurry.
Maybe you have special talents
Are the head of your class,
Have lots of friends,
Or can kick a ball down the grass.
Maybe you’re that one person
That others can find
When they’re sad or they’re scared
Because you’re humble and kind.
Maybe you don’t even know who you are,
What is real, what is true,
But lurking inside
Is something special, creative, and new.
And when people can see it
They become really jealous,
Trying to erase all the great,
Wonderful things people tell us.
Maybe you’re black, and
Maybe you’re white;
Maybe you’re Muslim
Maybe you’ve made mistakes
Or you’ve spoken too loud,
Or you’ve done something silly
In front of a crowd.
You might feel too short,
Or you might feel too tall;
Or you might feel like no one
Ever sees you at all.
Maybe your hair is curly
Or red like a fire,
Or you’re bad at sports
But great in the choir.
You might be a guy
Who knows how to dance;
You might be a tomboy
Who always wears pants.
Maybe you’re Asian
And still bad at math,
Or you live with two moms,
Or you live with two dads.
Whoever you are, there’s a stereotype
Of who you should be
And what you should like.
But girls can play football
And boys can like pink.
You must learn to ignore
Those who speak and don’t think.
People may gossip or call you names
Bullies play mischievous,
It’s not your fault,
It’s not your decision.
You don’t deserve all the
Scorn and derision.
You may think it’s you
That you’re stupid, or weird
When the truth is we all have
Our doubts and our fears.
There isn’t one person,
No matter how strong
Who doesn’t look in the mirror
And find something wrong.
When people are bullies,
When people are mean,
They don’t like themselves
And so, make a scene.
People are perfect
In all shapes and all sizes
From all races and countries
Friends are remarkable prizes.
They make your life better,
They make it seem fair
That you are who you are,
That you are here and not there.
But no matter how special you are
Helpful, modest or nice,
Someone will say something mean
Without thinking twice.
Words can hurt deeply,
But whatever they say
Nobody else has the power
To ruin your day.
Whatever happens, and
Whatever you do
You must never, not ever
Once stop being you.
Maybe you’re skinny,
And maybe you’re fat;
Maybe you like dogs
Better than cats.
Being yourself is
To live unrepentant
And having opinions
Is what makes you authentic.
But whatever you say,
And whatever is real
Leads people to judge
The way that you feel.
They’ll tell you you’re wrong
That you should keep quiet
And you may be utterly
Tempted to try it.
When you are yourself,
You’re much criticised;
Supported and loved,
But also despised.
I’ve lived and I’ve learned,
And this much is true:
“Just be yourself”
Isn’t easy to do.
Deep down you must know
There’s no reason for shame,
But you will hear judgment
And you will hear blame.
Whoever you are
And whatever you do,
Doesn’t like you.
So, why should you care?
Really, what does it matter?
There will always be people
Who will make your heart shatter.
You take a deep breath,
You count to ten-
Then you put the pieces together
All over again.
Kindness and love
Are still everywhere
But the courage to share them
With others is rare.
People today, they
All want to fit in,
As if being different
Is the world’s biggest sin.
Different is pretty,
It may make someone’s heart
Skip a beat.
People may tell you
Your thinking is wrong,
But they are narrow-minded and scared
Because you are strong.
You don’t have to tell me,
I really do understand
Fitting in with the world
Should be part of the plan.
Going along with the crowd
Makes you feel protected,
Accepted and liked
Instead of rejected.
But those who are different
Help the world change;
Some of the best people ever
Were remarkably strange!
You might be an actor, inventor,
You might fight injustice
Love others, and show it.
You might make new music,
Find a cure for disease,
Travel the world,
Rescue kittens from trees.
You might be a pilot,
The first girl aboard submarines,
Or help save the world
By keeping it green.
Or, maybe, one day,
You’ll be a mom or a dad
And deep in your heart
You’ll be awfully glad
That although people hurt you
Or mocked you with glee
You had the courage to say
“I am me!”
Because what makes you so different
Is what makes this all true:
There’s nobody better
Than irreplaceable you. “
~ February 28th, 2014
Today, I came across an article on Facebook that really resonated with me. It was by someone who didn’t believe in pressure and limitation of New Year’s Resolutions, and just wanted to be a happier individual that didn’t obsess over things that really don’t matter that much. So, instead of creating a bucket list, she created a “Fuck It” list; a list of worries, concerns, anxieties, drama, and nonsense she wanted to remove from her sphere of existence.
I used to be much, much better about managing stress and anxiety, which is also to say that I was much better about living life in a fairly irresponsible way and not freaking out about situations I couldn’t handle until they actually descended upon me. For instance, even during the most challenging time of my life, where I’d lost all of my friends and was being kicked out of my condo and didn’t know where I was going to live, I managed to not freak out. In fact, two days before having to leave my home of years thanks to a very spiteful acquaintance-turned-enemy, I hosted a goodbye party for anyone who still cared enough to show up. During that evening, I drank multiple bottles of wine, went skinny dipping in the pool, hooked up with a friend’s ex-something-or-other, and skipped through the rather fancy lobby in front of the security guards, who were also from the Atlanta PD. In the midst of the chaos of trying to find a place to stash my stuff and figuring out how not to live on the street, I was more focused on this rather senseless and crazy fling than on things that mattered.
And when things went even more wrong and I moved in with an ex-boyfriend, and had no sense of how to get my life together, I approached everything with a “one day at a time” attitude. Everything was falling apart, and I was still listening to my iPod and tanning by the pool and playing online poker. I was trying to figure out my future, but didn’t wake up with the sense of “If I don’t fix this today, I might as well die.” I was still happy when I woke up in the morning and saw the sunshine. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware that I should probably be closer to suicidal than thinking I was Paris Hilton recovering from a little “oops”, but it was a coping mechanism I’d always employed. Concentrating on the moment always made me more appreciative of the little things. If you’re aware that next week, you can lose everything, small things like trips to Cracker Barrel or being able to watch TV in my PJs or going out in the sunshine become things that really make you happy. For most people, most days, the little things are remarkable and life seems boring if you don’t set the bar higher for “interesting things that can happen to you”. When your life is really falling apart and you have no sense of stability, you don’t want interesting. You don’t want adrenaline rushes. Everything you have, even time that is so free of stress that you can dance around your room with your earbuds in, seems so much more valuable. I think the time in my life where I most appreciated how many good things I had in my life immediately followed the shock and trauma of having everything taken away.
These days, I can’t cope that way anymore. When things are not good, I am terrified of the consequences; I lie awake at night thinking about what it’s like to die, or what if I didn’t wake up the next day, or if I became homeless or got arrested or something happened to someone I love. (not that I have any reason to believe these things will happen.) When things are good, I rarely remember how to live in the moment. Instead, I’m stressing about the next moment and the next.
My doctors tell me I’ve struggled with symptoms of anxiety most likely my entire life. However, I never had any idea. Nobody did, because my way of coping with life was to appreciate what you have today, and if tomorrow sucks, deal with it then. In fact, except for my health issues, my life today is about 1/10th as stressful or dramatic as it once was. I’m no longer getting myself into “situations” wherever I turn. I no longer think of the future as “planning for next week”. And when things make me unhappy, I do not remember how to push them aside and live in a way that’s even more fearless or even more appreciative, because they may be temporary. Instead, I cry for the possibility that the worst might happen, and I don’t appreciate the little things I do have so much as mourn for things I used to have but no longer do.
Somehow, my coping mechanisms disappeared, and it left me an anxious, worried, frightened person. The person who used to handle situations that would cause other people to break down for me is suddenly a person who does not routinely wake up feeling joy anymore. She is a person who feels like a failure, who is scared her health will limit her or kill her and doesn’t know which is worse, who can’t remember “Today is a good day simply because nothing bad happened.” Some people might say I simply grew up and started thinking like a responsible adult, but I don’t feel better for the change.
I kind of miss those days when the worst things in the world were happening, and I just kept on living and dealing and moving forward. I don’t miss the horrible things that seemed impossible to handle, but I miss how wonderful it felt just to appreciate one of life’s small pleasures without fear or anxiety. It would be the highlight of my day to walk down the road for a slice of pizza and a rum and Coke, just because I could. I remember once, after not only barricading myself inside in the suburbs for months but also not drinking alcohol at all, taking the train over to Decatur and having a martini at lunch at one of my old haunts. I wasn’t worried about being seen in public and having an egg thrown at me, and it felt like freedom. I remember thinking I was too young to feel so worried and so scared about the future, and it gave me the courage to move on. Moving on wasn’t easy. As soon as I started to take small steps and appreciate the little things, though, the more I rebuilt my life.
I’ve had to rebuild my life often. Different cities, different friends, different jobs, different relationships. Long-term doesn’t seem to work well for me, and living with a life of little stability is something that takes courage. Now that I am not living that way, there is so much more time to think, and everything is so much more difficult to handle. I think about the future, I think about my relationships, I take every failure, every heartbreak, every loss, every personal deficiency so much to heart.
So, honestly, there’s probably something to be said about completely not giving a fuck about most of the stuff that adults are supposed to spend time worrying over. What do I think about myself? What do other people think of me? Am I with the right person? Am I loved? Am I successful at anything? Am I on the right path in life?
Life used to be an adventure, and you accepted that you’d have to adapt and change as it went along. That’s just life. And in the meantime, a quiet day where you got to sit by the pool or go dancing with your friends or watch your favourite TV show with pizza could be a pretty good day. As we get older, our requirements for things that make us happy seem to get higher and higher, and the definition of things that will ruin our days become a much broader spectrum of things. For instance, the past few New Year’s Eve’s of my life have been spent with me crying, because of arguments over relatively small things, like silly string and forks…whereas horrible New Year’s Eve’s in my 20′s were defined by very dramatic, life-changing moments that said “This is an end to a chapter of your life; you have to change course now”.
I do not think that seriousness and responsibility is bad, but life isn’t necessarily something to be mapped out in an obsessive way just because you become an adult. And, if you spend most of the good times thinking about the future and most of the bad times crying about the past, and most of the unremarkable times worrying about everything and everyone, you miss out on a lot of appreciation of the present. You miss out on the little things that can create a feeling of security and freedom and peace in your life, and that feeling isn’t something that should only be reserved for the very young, for those still naive enough to feel hopeful.
There are people in my life—very few people, and not those I’m able to see as frequently as I’d like—who put me in this frame of being, and as a result, help me cope with some very trying times and still look forward to finding happiness in the small things. For instance, one of them is a friend who has made a very conscious decision to live life without caring about the minor drama, without having life ruined by small mishaps, without being affected by what people think or say about him, without being bothered by 85% of what most people are bothered by. He’s truly decided to adopt an attitude of “Life is too short to only give a fuck about the really important things”, and as a result, he puts other people at ease. His lack of emotional delicacy and unwillingness to sugarcoat things is something that actually comforts me, and puts life into perspective.
There are a few others, but for the most part, a majority of the people I know seems just as stressed and unhappy and anxious and worried and care about just as many irrelevant things as I do. People care so much about image, about prosperity, about the future, about what others say and think, about having enough, about being better than others, about judging others—and it’s so limiting, and so stressful.
There comes a point where you realise that you can de-clutter your emotional space the same way you clean up your living space. You put things away when you don’t need them. You throw away things you won’t ever need or only serve to make you feel negatively. You realise that tomorrow, something great might happen, or something horrible might happen…but it doesn’t matter, because now you’re perfectly fine. If you’re not, you will be.
Giving a fuck about everyone and everything can be toxic, as toxic as not caring about anyone or anything at all. Not every moment is worth treasuring, because, yep..it’s just a moment. But once in a while, you’ll feel a sense of freedom and like everything that weighs you down has been stored in the closet, and when that happens, that moment is a good one. It doesn’t matter if it happens when you’re travelling the world, or when you’re making Kraft Mac & Cheese.
Fearing the unknown and being paralyzed by mistakes of the past are two really simple ways to make sure you never go anywhere, do anything, appreciate a single moment, because you’re so hung up on yourself and stuff that doesn’t matter. All of life is uncertain and unknown. And every day will be a yesterday eventually, and there may have been a mistake that day. There will be more.
I wish I could remind my anxiety of what it used to be like when it wasn’t consumed by being afraid of everything that didn’t have an explanation, or controlling the future, and was just a little piece of baggage along for the ride.
I wish I could remind anxiety that there are things worth being excited about and adventures to be had, and even if my “mystery illness” turns out to be a fatal five-years-to-live thing, they can still be a really worthwhile 5 years. When I was outside of Atlanta traveling this summer, strangely, life seemed to take back a sense of perspective. A little sunshine and good company and time out appreciating the small things, and I actually woke up every day feeling 10 years younger and looking forward to life.
I wish I knew how to do that in the context of my actual life, because I think I’m missing out on a lot, not feeling that excited about life every day. I wish I knew how to be happy about my ordinary, every day life, rather than feeling crappy about all the ways in which it isn’t the life I want, I’m not the person I want to be, and I feel powerless.
I think it would change a lot, if home felt the way I do when I travel…or if home actually felt like a safe, comforting place and not a temporary stop haunted by a lot of negative memories. I wish I could remember that my life is still full of possibilities, and not obstacles that all say “No” forever.
So far, I must say that 2014 has been off to a less-than-stellar start, despite all my determination that the upcoming year was going to be an unforgettable year of adventure, and the best year yet. Sometimes I suspect that there’s a small black cloud of doom that follows me around; if something negative is going to happen and you’d say, “Wow, that’s bad luck; what are the chances?”, it happens to me.
After a trip to the doctor and 5 days worth of antibiotics allowed me to recover my health enough to go out and celebrate my birthday (which was a wonderful outing with friends that made up for a very quiet rest of the month), and to make it to dinner with a small group of some of my closest friends on NYE, we made the mistake of attempting to ring in 2014 at one of our favourite clubs. It was also the last night for this club, which was closing its doors for good.
Here’s where things went awry, and it’s my own fault. I have a confession to make: I don’t even *like* clubs that much. I like them in theory; I like drinking, dancing, music, people…but somehow, you mix them all together, and you have this experience where I *think* I should be having fun, but I realise I’m not. By the time we all got to the club for NYE and parked, it was after 11 PM. My friend spills a drink on the silk top of my dress. I get mistaken for the coat check person. (this is not the kind of club that has EVER had a coat check person.) The music is loud, people are smoking, and because this was the last night of the club’s existence, it was elbow-to-elbow people. I couldn’t find any of the friends I arrived with. I rang NYE in while waiting in line at a bar. I used the men’s restroom because the women’s restroom had a 30 minute line, and angry lesbians yelled at me for being a girl and taking too long in the stall. Then there were cans of silly string, and an almost-relationship-ending fight with The Guy I Am Currently Dating provoked by the spraying of silly string. A friend of mine called yet another friend, who’d already left the club, for a ride. He drove all the way back to get us, and they were annoyed when I wouldn’t go with them because The Guy I Am Currently Dating came back. Somehow, in the parking lot, there was an incident with the car getting keyed, with my friends inside of it…and it was a case of mistaken identity. The angry attackers were looking for a similar, but different, car. Other friends got into a physical altercation in the parking lot. I walked what seemed like a half-mile, sobbing in the freezing cold, to get to the only place The Guy I Am Currently Dating could park.
No, New Year’s Eve was not fun. But New Year’s Day, when I woke up feeling heartbroken, with a hacking cough, and a temperature of 102, was even worse. Over the next week, I steadily got worse, to the point where I was coughing so hard that my ribs were surrounded by little greenish-blue bruises. (It turns out that all that vocal training back in the day has strengthened my diaphragm to the point where I not only have breath and vocal power, but the power to bruise myself from the force of coughing.) Finally, we went to the Minute Clinic, which gave me 7 days of antibiotics, an anti-cough medicine, and the diagnosis of a sinus/ear bacterial infection as the result of a cold. Somehow, I managed to pick up two viruses in the span of 6 weeks. What are the chances? Well, if it’s me, the chances are really, really awesome.
I learned that the second illness was a different germ when all my friends seemed to have it, and 10 days later, are still not recovered. I had also been excited about scheduling an audition for a musical, something I haven’t done in years. I’d decided months ago to put myself out there, and convinced friends to audition with me. A week before the audition, I had laryngitis.
I still went to my first audition for something I thought I might actually stand a chance of getting cast in, and after trying every “vocal helper” for laryngitis known to man, I could still barely squeak out a tune. Half my range was missing, and the part that worked cracked and I’ve never been so horribly embarrassed in my life. It may literally be the most humiliating audition I’ve ever been on, and for a local black box theatre with an oddly intense amount of talent.
Of course, the audition started out with a dance audition, and I’m no stranger to musical theatre dance auditions. I know they are not my friend. I am a “singer who dances” as compared to a “dancer who sings”, which means that I’ve had my requisite “Intro To Not Falling On Your Face 101″ classes in everything, and with 4-6 weeks of rehearsal, I can pick up an intermediate routine enough to sing and dance in an ensemble without being the one person who trips and falls.
This dance audition was clearly an advanced audition. The choreographer showed some very quick steps and then expected everyone to copy them. Almost everyone had a high kick, and some people were stretching in full splits on the floor when I entered. There were a few dance instructors auditioning in my group. For someone with vertigo, who hasn’t seen a heart rate above 100 since 2011, it was a horrible “someone is trying to kill me” experience.
This can be forgiven, if you’re a singer, because no one expects 4’11″ singers to be ensemble dancers, anyway. They want to know if you can pick stuff up, given the chance to work on it, so I was not terribly devastated by how far out of my league I was in an audition with women who were a foot taller and 40 pounds skinnier and had been high kicking since the age of 3. I’m very familiar with that situation, and strategy of hiding in the back row and trying to turn, kick, and move in the same direction as everyone else.
However, I was a singer with laryngitis. The sad part is, the staff of the musical really seemed to like me. I made a few quips about being dizzy after the dance audition and singing with laryngitis, and everyone laughed. A few of the staff were excited pointing at things on my resume while I was croaking out my 32 bars, and the director asked me if I had any recordings or videos she could see that were representative of my non-laryngitis filled voice. (My friend, who was able to give a great vocal audition, mentioned that the same director seemed largely disinterested during his audition.). Had I been able to perform with full vocal power, I doubt I’d have ended up in the show, but I’d have made a pretty good impression for a musical theatre actress who has been out of the game for a very long time.
Needless to say, I didn’t feel good about the audition. Instead, I felt humiliated. While there’s something to be said for perseverance, I should have canceled. I was not expecting a tiny little theatre in the back of a shopping centre to have New York-level talent, nor was I prepared for the crushing impact to the self-esteem that comes from being surrounded by young, pretty, talented girls. I later told The Guy I Am Currently Dating that one of the real reasons I stopped performing was a crisis of crippling self-doubt. I could have dragged my heartbroken self back to New York or Philadelphia after my relationship here didn’t work, or started auditioning for things anywhere in the country. But somehow, I lost any sense that I was good enough to do the thing I’d spent my whole life training to do. I saw friends who were much more gifted than I, much prettier, much more in possession of that natural “star quality” that causes people to light up a room, needing to work 2 jobs in NYC and go on auditions in their spare time, just waiting for the opportunity to have two lines in a commercial or to end up in the chorus of a musical somewhere. I felt like not only could I not hack the competition, I didn’t want to have to fight so hard to accomplish anything, to be someone special. Our professors always taught us that when we started to have doubts about our ability to make acting a career, it was time to move on. I loved, and will always love, the world of theatre. But I was never going to be good enough to be as successful as hundreds of thousands of gifted young people want to be, and I thought I was still young enough to find something I could be really good at.
The truth is, I never did find that thing that I’m really good at. I never found what it is that makes me special. Growing up in the world of theatre, it doesn’t occur to you that you might be ordinary. If you have that in your head, you might as well not bother showing up, because nobody notices or cares about the ordinary. You have to be special. You have to be larger than life. You have to be the person everyone pays attention to when they enter the room.
In the real world, being this person means making enemies. I once heard someone say, “When Alayna walks into a room, she sucks all the air out of it. It’s like all attention has to be on her at all times”. I had someone else tell me, “No offense, but you almost don’t seem like a real person. We hang out with you and stuff, but it’s more like you’re a character on a TV show than a person.” It turns out, all the world isn’t a stage. In the real world, most people ARE perfectly ordinary, and that’s OK. It’s even to be expected. And if you happen to be ordinary, too, you can be quite happy. Over the years, I’ve had to learn a different way to be, one that doesn’t suck all the air out of the room. Going back into an audition situation, therefore, with experienced performers who are still working at being as fabulous as possible…it’s strange. And it of course reminds me why I walked away in the first place; I just never had what it took to be that person who stood out.
If you look at my resume, you’ll see someone who was a moderately successful, well-trained actress, and if I had made different choices, I might still be that. But I didn’t want to live a life of moderate success at something. I wanted to be special. I wanted to live in more than 500 square feet.
The truth is, I hate the suburbs, and I miss New York. I miss acting. I miss putting myself out there on a stage, where it’s acceptable to be larger than life. I miss pretending not to be insecure and my own worst enemy, because the more you acknowledge that, the harder it becomes to keep out of other aspects of your life. But I always wanted everything; I want the nice apartment, the social life, the pretty clothes, the happy relationship, the being someone who is admired in some way. I wanted everything except being exactly what I was: a plain, ordinary person.
Now, in my early 30′s, I have to come to terms with the fact of being just that…and it’s hard. It’s hard to relinquish a lifetime of being told you have certain gifts, certain things that make you special…but in the end, you grew up to be just like everyone else. There is still a part of me that wants to be special, that wants to be recognised, that wants to be good at something in a way most people are not.
Yet, that kind of talent is simply something you were born with, or you weren’t. And, in so many ways, it appears to have skipped me. Looking at yourself in a very honest, down-to-earth way can be a bitter pill to swallow.
In the musical “A Chorus Line”, there’s a character who is a dancer in her 30′s, old for that line of work. She was a star in the making at one point, a principal dancer who just couldn’t hack the competition. She comes back to audition for the chorus of her ex-lover’s musical, and he tells her the chorus is about being just like everyone else, blending in, and that wasn’t who she was. He doesn’t want to see her let go of her dreams of something greater. She replies, “It is now”, because she truly believes it. She’s too old to have the illusions of being anything fabulous that everyone has at 20.
I understand that mentality, a great deal. I suppose the question I have to ask myself is what makes your average,ordinary person content with all the small things, and not restless? Because I am that, all the time. I know I should be doing something more, because I have gifts to offer to the world, and I want my life to mean something. I want to be remembered when I am no longer here. I want to actually be missed.
I just don’t know how, or why, or if I’m actually truly good at anything at all. I suppose most people don’t think about that, don’t have jobs where having any special ability or unusual talent comes into play…and those parts of a person’s life often go ignored and unfulfilled. That seems a little sad to me, but I’m learning it’s how the world works. Perhaps, in time, I’ll get the hang of being happy being just like most other people. I’ve just never known life without really big ambitions and unrealistic delusions of grandeur and a rather narcissistic sense of self-importance, combined with a lot of insecurity.
I’ll take being ordinary and living quietly in a heartbeat, if it means being healthy and gainfully employed.
Today, I woke up remembering that when I was 20, I ended up in New Orleans, waiting to meet a guy I’d never met but knew very well at the airport. I’m pretty sure I’d never been so nervous about meeting a person in my life. I remember that, always self-conscious about my almost translucently pale skin, I’d attempted to use sunless tanner. What looked like orange Ben Nye pancake makeup was all over everything and it took a very abrasive exfoliating wash and a loofah to remove most of it. Yet, for all my trying, I ended up showing up at the airport wearing a cute white and blue butterfly dress and had orange streaks on my legs. It was, of course, laughable later. Looking back, it was the unfortunate side effect of caring too much about how others might judge you, and it was ridiculous. It was also an illustration in what happens when you take risks. They don’t all work out, but sometimes, it doesn’t matter much. That particular person was so nervous about meeting me, he scarcely noticed my failed experiment in becoming a Jersey Shore cast member.
I’m not sure why I woke up thinking of that day, except maybe that last night, I wore a wig that I bought during that trip. Last night was full of heartbreak and tears, and discussion about ending a 5-year relationship that has meant the world to me, all prompted by silly string. And, there I was, thinking about a younger version of myself who literally dyed herself orange.
I’ve been relatively quiet over here lately, and my poor little blog has been feeling neglected. You see, although I managed to spend the majority of December stuck inside my apartment—something that has led even my most introverted friends to say they’d have gone stir-crazy— I also felt too unwell to write. It’s odd, the feeling that even the thought of picking up a computer (or a pen and journal) might make one feel completely exhausted. I didn’t do much work, to the chagrin of both my bank account and sense of accomplishment. I certainly didn’t do much on the creative front. I even left my Christmas cards until the very last minute, because they are like all of my correspondence, not simply a name scrawled on a card. I write long and often heartfelt messages to the people in my life on occasions that merit cards, and even some that do not.
This year, whether due to illness or some sense of heaviness in my heart, I simply have not wanted to write. For me, writing is, above all, a type of catharsis. It fills the same space in my life that music or performance or any other type of self-expression does for me. For whatever reason, I have not wanted to handle the overwhelming idea of self-expression. That, of course, means that I have been largely disinterested in confronting and examining my own feelings.
About what, I do not know. On the whole, 2013 has been kind of a roller-coaster of a year. For a majority of the year, I seemed much healthier and energetic than what I was used to. In my second year of dealing with what the doctors call a “chronic illness”, there were times I forgot I was ill. I was able to host social events, hang out at clubs and go drinking and dancing with my friends, and reclaim a bit of that adventurous spirit I used to have. I was able to spend over two weeks traveling the East Coast on a bus during the summer months, dealing with challenges such as a crazy heat wave and going back to the beach where my illness first began. I was able to push through the anxiety of dealing with the reality of what my family was going through, and I cried a lot because although my family hasn’t offered me anything resembling home or affection in a long time, the realisation that the shadows and comforts of your childhood are gone and you’re really, truly alone, it’s a hard one.
Through it all, I was also able to visit old friends I see rarely, but all of whom mean a tremendous amount to me. Although they all seemed to be going through something in their own lives, they were also all there for me in their own way, and remembering I have an extensive and varied support system out there– even in the form of old friends whose lives have taken a different path from mine, and others who imagine that might not always be the case— it made me a stronger person. Coming back to Atlanta also made me appreciate the love and support I have here, because family is not always determined by blood ties. I hadn’t been back two weeks before getting news that my mother had a stroke, either her fourth or fifth. This one was rather debilitating, and led the doctors to the conclusion that she should live out the rest of her life in a nursing home. It is difficult to speak to her, as both her speech and hearing are affected, but I try to remember to send letters, cards, packages, and photos, little things that cheer her up. I know that if I were facing illness and isolation for the rest of my life, it is those little things that would be a bright spot.
I managed to handle DragonCon, marching in the parade in incredible heat, going to the SIEGE conference for the weekend, helping The Guy I Am Currently Dating with his annual fundraiser, and throwing a huge party for him where I sang in public in Atlanta for the first time in a few years. I managed to help my brother try to get help dealing with all the responsibility on his shoulders, and to be someone who is there for him. I managed to make it through fun Halloween celebrations, and even attending a concert with loud music and flashing lights. All signs pointed to the idea that I’d be better. A check-up with the doctor yielded good results; my blood pressure was so low, it might soon be time for me to come off medication, and possibly have energy, vitality, and the ability to lose weight again.
Then, in early November, I seemed to have a relapse. Driving in the car would cause an out-of-control sensation near my kidneys that would move to my heart, my lungs, and eventually my brain. I had panic attacks and blood sugar crashes that my normal medications could not control. Thanksgiving, although a lovely holiday tradition of visiting my former roommate and her family (including two beautiful little girls, two dogs, a cat, and a husband) for turkey and Black Friday shopping, left me physically exhausted in a way that is not normal for someone my age. Nevertheless, I kept on going, singing karaoke, playing trivia, and wandering around the Botanical Gardens for four hours in the freezing cold to look at Christmas tree lights.
After the first week of December, I contracted a really bad cold/flu, which turned into an infection that kept me in bed for almost three weeks. As of today, I am still coughing up a lung, as my body’s immune system seems to have no defence against this particular germ. The illness affected my ear, which meant return of panic attacks and migraines, and the prolonged inability to go back out in the world meant a return of the social anxiety symptoms. I was afraid that every time I went out, I’d have a panic attack–which often happened–not as a result of people, but riding in the car. For a month and a half, the feeling of depression returned, which happens every time I get better and then I get worse. I feel like I will never have my life back, never be the person I used to be. I look at photos of a girl who was young and vivacious and desirable and had a certain spark about her, and I do not remember her. I cry because I feel too young to have lost her, and because it is unfair that the doctors have never been able to tell me why. I cry because I want answers; even if I only have a year, or three, or five left to hang out on this earth, I want to know what to do to make them the best possible. I cry because feeling helpless and not in control of anything, not even your own body, is terrifying and lonely.
During this time, I found out that my uncle—one of the only people who helps in the care of my family—was diagnosed with metastatic osteosarcoma. It is the same disease that attacked an ex of mine, so I unfortunately know more about it than I should to believe, “It’s not a big deal; it’s most treatable”. The long-term odds of survival are a dice throw, and my uncle is only in his late 50′s. After that, my friend’s cat passed away. I started to see things as signs; signs that validated my theory that the next year of my life needs to be a “bucket list” year.
I had a wonderful Christmas and birthday weekend, surrounded by people who matter to me, and really just having fun in the kind of way that–for just a little while–reminded me of what it felt like to be me ten years ago. I barely remember that naive, life-loving person who would wake up in the morning and feel genuinely excited about the world and the anything and everything that was possible. But, once in a while, there is a glimpse and a memory—and when that happens, I am honestly happy.
I expected New Year’s Eve to be a fabulous night, and planned dinner with friends, followed by a trip to a club that I’d visited every month I was in town over the past year or so. Ironically, the only place to get dinner reservations for 10 people on short notice was a restaurant that is personally memorable to me because I’ve been there on the “break-up dinner” with people in my past. Twice. I even joked about the bad karma that seemed to be associated with that place, but I wasn’t seriously concerned.
Fast forward to 2014, and everyone has toasted with champagne, done shots, and cans of silly string are being passed around. In order to celebrate all the good memories, we sprayed each other with silly string and danced. It wasn’t until 15 minutes later that I went to see why The Guy I Am (Or Was) Currently Dating wouldn’t dance, which isn’t out of the ordinary. He told me in a very cold voice that I had hurt his feelings (by spraying him with silly string), and a fight ensued. Fast forward, and he is leaving the club and my friend, who was sweet enough to not want to leave me, is consoling me while I cried a LOT and getting another friend to come pick us up. Fast forward again, and The Guy I Am (Or Was) Currently Dating has returned and closing out the tab, and my friend is angry that she called for a ride for us and I’m going home with the guy that made me cry on New Year’s Eve. But it is almost physically impossible for me to just let things go and forget them; I need closure on everything. Fast forward again, and I am home, and we are talking about how different we are and how, after 5 years, there is not necessarily any sign of moving forward in the relationship. I tell him he deserves more than to settle for someone who isn’t right for him and doesn’t make him happy. He says I make him happy, but for the second year in a row, we’ve rung in the New Year crying and barely speaking, so I disagree.
Now, we’re talking about the details of ending the relationship and changing Facebook statuses, and it’s almost absurd to think a 5-year connection can be broken because of silly string. But, that’s precisely what happened, and today, I have barely moved out of bed.
2014 was supposed to be a really awesome year, and frankly, it’s not looking that way for me.
The reality is, I call this my “bucket list” year because at the end of 2014, I really still hope to be both alive and healthy. If I manage to accomplish that, I’ll have made it to a “milestone birthday”, one of those where you realise that whether you like it or not, you’re the grown-up now. It sometimes still seems hard for me to wrap my head around that. Inside, I still feel like that little girl in the blue and white butterfly dress who wanted so badly to be sophisticated and impressive, and thought she knew everything about everything at the age of 20.
When you are ill, and you’re not sure why, and you’re not sure about either the quality or quantity of your life, milestones matter. New Year’s Eve celebrations matter, and not spending them with tears and heartbreak matters. I have had a good life. I’ve also had a hard life, an adventurous life, a life that some judge and others secretly envy. I’ve loved often and lost often, and my heart and my body have enough scars for someone twice my age. I have packed a lot of living into what many might consider not that many years. In some ways, it seems like it’s been 70. Some days, when everything inside my body seems out of control and all I can do is cry and beg someone to help me and find the answers, I do not know that I am going to be there with my friends or loved ones to celebrate a brand new year. You only get so many chances, so many clean slates. If something should happen to me, I know that nobody will be quite certain why, or they’ll find they didn’t do the test for the right thing, and it’s simply too late. I know that part of my “bucket list year” is being a responsible adult, and planning for that day when I won’t be here anymore.
I am the type of person for whom no amount of time would be enough time. I try to be as vibrant and enthusiastic about life as I can. I am growing more comfortable with being alone, but not for too long. It isn’t something I like in too great a quantity. I am trying to become the kind of person I want to be, regardless of whether or not other people like her. I am no longer willing to dye myself orange to impress anyone.
I feel sometimes like I am working against a clock, and I do not want to spend the years I have left being afraid. If there is anything that would be the most meaningful thing to me to accomplish in 2014, it’s learning to find whatever strength I have deep down inside that allows me to be less afraid. If I am less afraid, I can actually make a difference in the world. More than anything else, I cry when I imagine that I will be forgotten, that I will have left nothing of value behind, that I will have touched no one for being here.
I want to live the next year of my life with all the health and energy I can come up with, so that if somehow it is my last, I will be filled with love and memories and feelings of accomplishment and having mattered to the world. I need 2014 to be full of life and experience and emotion and vitality and challenging myself to be that person I always thought I could become. I want all the moments to matter, no matter how small. I know that’s a tall order to ask from a new year, but I am going to try, because it means a lot to me.
One thing that has changed about me is that when I was younger, I was much stupider, but far more fearless. I took a lot of risks. They didn’t all pay off and they weren’t all intelligent, but in some ways, it is much better than never trying. I wasn’t about to wait around and let life happen to me; I went after it. It didn’t always lead me to the best places, but it didn’t keep me standing still, fearful of choosing the wrong thing or suffering painful repercussions.
If I could have just a little of that back, I think I’d feel like the old Alayna again. That person is just this flighty little redhead who doesn’t see an adult when she looks in the mirror, because even though there are now tiny lines and crow’s feet, she will never reach 5 feet tall or have that “serious face” that comes with a lot of responsibility. She will never be beautiful, or delicate, or understated, or made of the same stardust that most people seem to be made of, and she will not be the one in any social situation that everyone misses when she is gone. But she is intelligent, and imaginative, and lively, and believes in soulmates and impulsive adventures and being overdressed and sparkly, even if others dislike it. I try to keep in mind that girl is the kind who is crazy and determined enough to be certain she’s going to be here to see 40…even if she doesn’t have any more stability or certainty in her life than the day she showed up in New Orleans with a blue and white butterfly dress and orange streaks on her legs. It never occurred to that girl that she would not be loved by many, that she would not be successful, or that she would not be strong enough to grow old. It didn’t occur to her to be afraid or feel inferior—she needed the harsh judgment and actions of other people to teach her that—-and I envy her for being that unencumbered, in a way only the really young are. I would like just a little bit of that back in my life.
I am not having a happy holiday season. I got sick with what appeared to be a cold on December 6th. It’s the 20th, and I am still not better. I had a glimmer of hope when my doctor agreed to call in an antibiotic prescription. I gave the medical assistant the pharmacy’s number, but she never called it in. You can’t get it touch with anyone or leave messages, so the best I can hope for is to get help on Monday. If I don’t, I will likely be sick for Christmas Eve, Christmas, my birthday, and maybe even NYE.
Earlier today, during an online conversation about health care, where I attempted to humanise the benefits the ACA has for those the insurance companies refuse to help, despite medical need, by telling my very personal story—someone wrote, “Alayna seems to get her fair share of partying in, so she must be OK.”
When I elaborated on my story and said it was wrong to judge people based on photographs put up on Facebook, I started to be accused of being a drunk, and was told that I was ill because of my own bad choices (completely false.). The person painted me as a crazy, liberal alcoholic, and when I mentioned that the friend whose page this discussion was on warned me that this person was a troll who didn’t like liberals, I then got yelled at for repeating something someone said in private. Because it’s OK to think those things about someone, to warn your friends about them, but not to say it out loud or defend other friends who are being maligned. This friend said “He didn’t want to get involved” in the conversation.
Sadly, those who don’t like you enough to get involved..well, they just don’t like you enough, and that’s that. In my world, when someone is being mistreated, you say something. It’s amazing, the number of people who choose to look the other way, or call out those who are being bullied…rather than those who are doing the bullying.
Words hurt, and I cried a lot. Just once, I’d like to talk with people who are on my wavelength, respect my intelligence, and don’t result to personal attacks. When I lived in NYC, I was the kind of girl with a lot of guy friends…and some of them got into fights defending my honour. It’s been a long time since someone has come along and said “Alayna is an awesome person, and you have no right to say those things about someone you don’t know”. Honestly, I miss that.
Two weeks ago, there was another internet debate where people were rough on me, and there was no one to stand up for me. It feels incredibly lonely.
I read an interesting article recently about sociopaths, empaths, and apaths. The premise is that, even in logical arguments, empaths (about 30% of the population) tend to get bullied by those with sociopathic tendencies (according to the article, about 20% of the population) because they refuse to keep quiet when they feel someone is being treated unfairly.
Most of the world falls into the “apath” category, people who don’t want to get involved, who want everything to be peaceful, and want to avoid negativity. So, it’s hard to see people just lashing out at you and judging you, and knowing there’s nobody who is going to vocally say “Making those statements about a friend isn’t cool for anyone to do”. is very hard. If you noticed, your friends made judgments about me and my personal life long after I’d left the conversation. I had no more to say…they are the ones who felt entitled to judge me. I didn’t make personal remarks about their lifestyle or their choices. It hurts when you realise people inherently don’t care whether you are sick or well, alive or dead, after you had the guts to put yourself out there and be honest and vulnerable.
The last thing I need is to feel there’s one more person whom I’ve met that doesn’t give a crap if I am alive or not, and will think, “Well, it’s her own fault.” That’s exactly how I feel right now. Words hurt people greatly.
Now even The Guy I Am Currently Dating is yelling at me and speaking to me in a voice that suggests everything I say is wrong or annoying. From the moment he got here, he kept talking to me in this very hurtful voice that said “I’m tired and you’re annoying.” When someone is crying and hurt because of a bad day and a lot of disappointment, the last thing they need is more reminders of how lonely life can be when you’re almost middle-aged, broke, and single. So, screw December. I’ve spent most of my time alone wrapping presents and mailing Xmas cards with thoughtful messages and trying to be a thoughtful person. I’ve missed two weeks of fun stuff that I planned for those around me, and nobody has hugged me or come anywhere near me during that time. My Xmas trees both have burned out lights. The only time I’ve heard from my family is that my uncle has cancer, and my mother wants to talk to me from the nursing home, but she’s deaf. My friends are too busy to return something as basic as “hello” once I’m not really needed anymore, leading me to realise I only like people who find me disposable. I think this might be the loneliest I’ve ever felt, but talking about it just gets me yelled at and asking for the physical proximity of another person I’ve dated for 5 years gets an angry, “Fine, I’ll just get it over with and get sick.” I feel so amazingly loved and cherished. I guess when you’re not married, “In sickness and in health” becomes “In sickness, as long as I can stay far away from you that you don’t get me or my mother sick.”
I did my part for a happy holiday season, but it seems incredibly one-sided. Wake me up when it’s 2014 and I can figure out what to do with my life and how to be one of those sweet, pretty girls everyone just loves and wants to be around and how to find one of those relationships where someone totally wants to live together after a year because you’re that freaking awesome and not disposable in any way. I have concluded those girls have it much, much easier. I have never, ever been one of those girls. I look at them, and so many of them are plain, ordinary, kind of unexceptional, uncomplicated women…and yet, people love them because they are so “nice”, and they don’t end up with people in relationships that are going nowhere for years and years, because when you’re that adorable nobody wants to let you go. (Meanwhile, I spent 2 years with a guy who was planning how our relationship would work when he met the right girl and got married, 2 years with another who told me I wasn’t witty and after 2 hours, the veneer of charm that makes people like me wears thing, and 5 years with a guy whose mother lives with him and enjoys saying the most hurtful things to me possible, like pointing out that we’ll never live together or get married because he just “settled” for me–and so far, I haven’t seen indications to the contrary.)
One day, I will be so fucking sweet and adorable and unopinionated that you just can’t stand it. I will, of course, discontinue expressing all my feelings and modestly avoid attention in a ladylike way that is approved of by all.
It’s obviously just not today.
This story starts off predictably, with the anecdote “I was on Facebook today”…..
I was just called an “egocentric cunt” because I discussed my shocking radical feminist views (like that we should have rights, not accept rape culture as funny, and both expect to be treated with respect and treat ourselves with respect.) on the thread of an acquaintance who proudly calls himself anti-feminism, and a friend of his (who he called out for poor treatment of women) who apparently thinks women have value as sexual objects and are “walking vaginas” when he meets them in bars and clubs. Then, when I proposed perhaps meeting people in the meat market that has become American bars and clubs is not the best way to judge, where people often do not present themselves at their best, I was called condescending and told I was part of why feminism doesn’t work (by another woman).
Someone in the thread directed me to a website I found appalling, one that depicted “poems” with graphic descriptions of rape, humiliation, male “privilege”, and it is simply horrible to read. I’d post it here, but I honestly don’t want it to get more views, and it is itself a walking trigger warning. Expressing that it was appalling to me led to it being explained “It’s a joke and it’s supposed to be horrible”.
I don’t understand. In what way is rape and humiliation in poetic form “a joke?” You’re not making up limericks here, but describing what it’s like to humiliate and violate others. The fact that the website was sent to me by a woman is even more odd to me.
I may be a condescending and egocentric cunt, but I often feel I am in a generation where I do not belong. 40 years ago, I think I may have been treated differently, had I been around during that time. I happen to be part of a generation that largely does not demand social progress in a time when most of us should be pissed off and fighting, and becomes angry and wonders what is wrong with you when you do.It upsets me that so many my age, male and female, are proud to be “anti-feminist”, claim that “neo-feminism” is tearing the country down, and state they do not believe in gender equality. And of course, stating that feeling leads to being called a word reserved to demean and offend women as highly as possible. Is that funny, too?
It often feels like fighting a hopelessly losing battle; but I look at our society and how so many people my age are unhappy and unfulfilled and bitter and angry on many levels, and I know I’m not wrong. The things the hippies in the 1960′s were fighting for are not so much reflected in 2013 culture. I guess the lesson to take away is “I ruin everything” when I speak (something a woman wrote about my opinions). Not the first time I’ve heard that, but thanks for the ego boost!
I have loved visiting the great state of North Carolina and made some great friends visiting. But I see why, outside of the tiny little liberal enclaves, it is certainly not a place I belong. I imagine the same is true of most of the Southeast, and I’m certainly not going to change society. But it’s shocking that some of these views come from people my age, who are supposedly my peers.
I wonder if we’re slowly becoming dehumanised, and it is painful to watch. (as determined in previous posts, I am an empath and an idealist.) Also, a condescending and egocentric cunt. It’s like being called “mean” and a “bitch’ at a bar because you’re there to drink with your friends, not to hook up with someone who has had too many and feels “entitled”.
Do I think the fact that our society routinely does this to people shows remarkable lack of empathy or interest in building real relationships and friendships? I absolutely do.
“”The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.”—Deepak Chopra
It is kind of sad when you realise that someone to whom you one meant something has moved to a different place in life, and you’ve moved from being a valued part of that person’s world to a space where you’ve become incidental.
I suppose this happens to everyone and it is ultimately the nature of allowing other people to occupy space in your life; friends fall out of touch, relationships end, acquaintances move away, people who once found you intriguing are over it or vice versa. I always take it more to heart than most people, yet it seems to happen more frequently. I am fortunate that I have a very loving and supportive network of people in my life, including many who have been in my life through all the years, all the various phases and lifestyles, all the places I’ve called home. They’ve listened to me complain about every heartbreak, every disappointment, every friend who stabbed me in the back, every sucky job that didn’t work out, every idea that turned out to be incredibly stupid or unrealistic.
On the other hand, I have a revolving door of people with whom I was once very close, and then things changed. It is a side effect of a lot of things, from frequently changing social circles and personal ambitions, to years of polyamorous relationships. I remember once upon a time, someone who once mattered a great deal to me and is no longer a part of my world, explained it this way: “Everyone shows up in your life for a reason and when you need what that person brings into your life the most. When people move on, it is often because you already learned and experienced what you were meant to via that person. There is a difference between love and attachment. They do not always go hand in hand. One expands your heart and the other breaks it.”
Of course, this person was a very insightful Zen Buddhist, and at the time, I became very angry at some of the things he said. It is difficult when you consider yourself an important part of someone’s life, and he constantly talks about non-attachment and solitude as the natural condition of people. I made the mistake of taking his philosophies on life personally, a remarkable reflection on my tendency to make virtually anything about me once my emotions get involved.
I will never see the world through the same looking glass my friend did, but I’ve come to see he is right. Love endures many things, and continues even when a person is no longer in your life. Becoming overly attached to everyone who affects you on some deep level is a recipe for a consistent feeling of dissatisfaction with the human race, and eventually, an unwillingness to invest in anyone at all. I have more than one friend who suffers from the side effects of this “for most people, no attachment is permanent” mindset, and can come off as hurtful and insensitive. The truth is, they are this way because, being too sensitive and caring too much, the world has consistently let them down. Sensitive people are often forced to become harder on the outside, more self-protective. Whenever I meet a jaded, somewhat misanthropic person, I know that 8 times out of 10, I’ve encountered a sensitive human being who has been hurt.
I am shocked by the way most of the world seems comfortable with creating and breaking personal attachments to others. It is ironic, because I’m always the one who is dispensing advice to less worldly friends; “Just because you slept together doesn’t mean there’s relationship potential”, “Friends who only call you when they need things or want to talk about their own lives are not your friends”, “If someone treats you like an option, you’re not getting the love and respect you deserve”.
Yet, although I know these things, it is more difficult when it happens. My attachments to others don’t happen as often (I don’t find a new best friend every week because I am bored, or develop a new infatuation every time I come across an interesting person), but when they do, are less easy to discard. I don’t let my guard down for everyone, and so it affects me when I start to feel as if I invested in the wrong person, the kind of person who didn’t care that much and found me disposable.
Of course, life is not that simple. Attachments and emotions and life choices are messy. Someone becoming less attached to you is not always a reflection of apathy, and it’s strangely taken me all these years to learn that. Not that it matters, of course, since it doesn’t change how you feel about that person no longer being such an integral part of your life. Sometimes, the change is temporary, and other times, it isn’t. It’s all very convenient to dismiss someone who has decided to no longer make you a part of his or her life by saying, “That person obviously sucks, and never cared about me. I’m an idiot for not seeing that and caring in the first place, and for still caring”.
But, while a convenient way to detach from others and convince yourself the attachment is not worth missing, it simply isn’t true. As painful as it is, few attachments are forever. The ones that are tend to go through phases, and are frequently very complicated.
As much as I would like every person I ever really invest in and genuinely care for to be part of my life forever, and to make the effort to show I am important to them, it’s an ideal. It’s an ideal that, when it happens, it’s the exception rather than the rule.
However, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I purposely choose to get close to those I believe are sensitive, substantial, and see something in me that’s worth keeping in their lives for the long haul. When it doesn’t work out that way, it saddens me. I have a history of investing too much in others, and keeping attachments in my life that no longer really bring me joy or help me to grow as a person (Meyers-Briggs claims this is a common ENFP trait; we have a hard time just letting go and moving on.) But because I don’t always make the effort to bond with others in a meaningful way, I also don’t see anyone as expendable. I’m never that person who ends a friendship or relationship with a “respectful” e-mail, simply stops calling, or makes one person less important to me because another person has become important. I’ve never been that person who passes through town without visiting, or forgets to send happy birthday wishes, or stands people up because something came up at the last minute. Sometimes, I fight with people in my life, but I don’t threaten to discard them unless that is what someone really wants.
Unless someone really hurts me in some way I can’t get past, once someone means something to me, it means until we’re 80 and sitting on rocking chairs in the nursing home watching Matlock.
I suppose there’s something to be said for those who allow more people to pass through their lives with less attachment, but I’ve had enough acquaintances for a few lifetimes. When I am old, it is not those people I am going to remember, but those I actually allowed myself to love and attempt to understand, no matter how “complicated” it all got.
Life is certainly easier if you don’t believe much in attachment, and virtually everyone is replaceable. Perhaps we’re not all wired to live a life that is easier. I know I don’t seem to be, and I don’t even wish I were, most of the time.
I’m a little bored today, because it seems there are no projects for me to work on. This seems to happen the week of every holiday; instead of the offices just being closed the day before and day after, there is a general slowdown of all projects during the week surrounding every holiday. I suppose that’s good for the spirit in some ways, but my spirit is restless and feels like it should DO something. It also feels it should have money for all the fabulous things it wants to do.
It doesn’t help that it is the coldest day of the year so far, and the wind chill is killer, even inside the apartment. I have the heat on, but I can feel cold air through the floor, the walls, the windows…it’s what happens when you live in a building that’s as old as you are. And, seeing as I’m falling apart, I should not have more unrealistic expectations of the building.
Something you may not know about me is that I’m a firm believer in the power of intuition. While I don’t take things like astrology and tarot and magick and my “psychic dreams” seriously enough to plan my life by them, I do think that some people are naturally more intuitive than others. I have always had an extremely high level of intuition and perceptiveness, to the point where I know things others wish I didn’t know, or I will have emotional reactions to things that haven’t happened yet (but they do.). I have been known to have “visions”, photo-snapshots of life that simply present themselves, when I am in a quiet and meditative state, and dreams that are extremely realistic and turn out to happen exactly the way they appear. I don’t *really* believe in psychics; it would be odd for an agnostic who is skeptical of everything to believe in something even less likely to be proven. I do, however, believe that some people have a more highly developed level of intuition than others, and there may be people out there who can tap into those parts of their brains in ways that the rest of us can’t. And, because life has an odd way of lining up exactly with my tarot readings and my moon phase calendar, I continue to consult them.
For those who read tarot cards for fun, as I do, it’s a wonderful way to learn the meanings of all the cards so that the readings you do for others aren’t quite so general.
Card 1 (The Lovers) : How you feel about yourself now »
You want love or a new love in your life and a new relationship is in the offering. Even if you are not thinking about love, you’re in for a surprise. If faced with a choice this is an important one and could affect the rest of your life.
Wheel Of Fortune
Card 2 (Wheel Of Fortune) : What you most want at this moment »
The cards suggest that what you most want at this time is a turning point in your life and positive change – well expect it now. Life will go up a gear or two and events will accelerate forward. Destiny is at play here – have you noticed a number of events that seem rather a coincidence? This is synchronicity, trust it and go with the flow.
Card 3 (The Moon) : Your fears »
Lies and insecurity are likely to be prominent in your life at the moment, you are afraid of being deceived and feel that you are being misled. Trust your instincts and let them guide you away from those who may seem charming but are only out for their own gains. Your turbulent emotions are muddying the waters – step back and try to find clarity of mind, although this may seem difficult. The Moon does help to illuminate the way and don’t worry, it will turn out alright in the end.
Card 4 (The Tower) : What is going for you »
Sometimes sudden disruptive change is inevitable, and as painful as it may seem, we come through it a stronger and better person. No matter how disruptive things are at the moment, or if you feel life is really against you, re-evaluate and move on – often a new direction can bring new opportunities you never dreamed of. If you have been planning to move home you will be experiencing setbacks.
Card 5 (The Magician) : What is going against you »
Someone, most likely male, isn’t quite what they seem. Trickery and deception cleverly disguised as charm and friendliness, so be sure that this person really does have your best interests at heart. If someone who you feel wary of is presenting you with a business opportunity, be cautious and trust your instincts.
The Hanged Man
Card 6 (The Hanged Man) : Outcome
You will in time know what decision to make about who or what must be given up. This is a time of passage from one phase of your life to another. It may be a difficult choice, and self-sacrifice is never easy, but if you look for truth and integrity and don’t be too materialistic or hang onto things or people for all the wrong reasons, everything will turn out in your favour.
It’s official. I cannot stand the way the society we live in is marching down a “Big Brother”-oriented road.
It is easy enough to blame the rules of corporate America, who have decided it’s no longer enough for someone to give you a suitable reference or vouch for your character and talents to acquire a job, an apartment, a loan, a car, or anything else you might want in order to live like a grown adult. That’s quite a change since 1950, when a willingness to go to work every day, not live in your parents’ basement, and to engage in personal hygiene was all it took to find a place of employment, or a new place to live.
Now, you need to not only be a person, but have a stellar “I’m A Person!” Resume. Credit check, background check, medical history, assurances that you’re not only going to be a good tenant or employee, but that you’re never going to embarrass anyone or cost anyone a dime with problems like getting sick, (which are just annoying to everyone; if something is wrong with you, keep quiet and deal with it on your own time. Why should I care about your problems?) or having made poor life choices (for which you deserve to be homeless and branded, obviously. If you want to exist in society, learn to conform and make sure you have the same moral compass as everyone else.)
We live in a “right to know” state, where everyone feels entitled to know everything about everyone at all times. Remember that time you were arrested for joyriding in your neighbour’s car when you were 18? No? You forgot, because you’re now 48 and a responsible adult?
Well, *I* deserved to know. I can’t look at you the same way ever again, knowing you’re that kind of person. And I feel so betrayed that you didn’t tell me. I should have been smart enough to internet search every aspect of your life so you wouldn’t hurt me by never telling me how much you suck as a human being.
Facetiousness, of course, but it is the mentality behind the world we’ve created for ourselves. The “information age” has turned every person out there into the morality police. How dare you put that photo up of you drinking at a bar? It embarrasses the company that what you do on your personal time is so offensive. And what would your mother think? If you’re going to do things like that, make sure nobody knows, because everyone will judge you…and that could destroy your life. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you, showing the world that you’re a real person. We don’t want real people. We want cooperative drones who think, look, and behave properly, and don’t need a sense of privacy. After all, if you want privacy, you must be doing something wrong.
The key to success in life is passing the “judgment of others test”, over and over again. And, if you don’t, you’re not the kind of person we need around.
The government and big business may have started us down the road of “you’re not a person, you’re an image”, but we’ve certainly perpetuated it. People post every movement of every day on social media, and if you’re not on social media, because you’d like to protect your privacy and your reputation, that, too is a red flag. People run background checks on everyone. It’s not as if the world has gotten so dangerous that people need to do this; in fact, the same safety measures that kept you from getting murdered in the past still apply. However, now, if you want a date with someone, it’s not enough to bring her flowers and meet her at a nice restaurant. You should also assume you will be Googled, and somewhere before the 3rd date, you’ll have to pass the requisite background and credit check. After all, how do I know you if I don’t know everything about you?
You can, of course, use social media and the power of information to destroy your enemies. You can find anything and everything with a paper trail to dig up and put out there for the entire world to see, and you’re not slandering anyone or trying to destroy anyone’s life. You’re just engaging in the freedom of information we all deserve.
Because we are all meant to be so perfect that it is up to us to expose those who aren’t, and judge them as they deserve. We are the morality police.
I have had an incident with someone out there I met in an IRC chatroom in 1998. We were not friends. The only thing I know anything about him was because he began a relentless campaign to stalk me. He went from chatting to me like we were friends, to sending me threats that he would harm himself—or me—because of me. When it got too upsetting, I asked more than one ex-boyfriend to intervene. He promised to stop. But then I’d find he was posting things about me on the internet; true, untrue, things that were out of context. When I moved to Atlanta, I didn’t broadcast my forwarding address to the world. But there was a card waiting for me when I arrived.
At some point, I told him to never contact me again. He became obsessed with the fact that I’d misrepresented myself on the Internet, because I’m not English (I was living in the UK when I met him), because I’m not an actress (just because I’m working in a different field now does not mean I was not once an actress), because I changed my name (you know, like half of Hollywood and New York celebrities), because I have a past that doesn’t conform with his expectations of being a good person. He’s done everything he can to make sure that any sense of stability I acquire, he can tear apart easily. Anything good I do, he can point out, “Too bad you’re a horrible human being and I can prove it”. For years, I’d block him on AIM, and he’d just create new identities to torment me. I’ve had to block him from communicating with me in every way possible. Yet, somehow, the guys I’m dating always end up getting anonymous notes, the details of my past are “outed” to every potential friend and acquaintance, and this guy has made it a personal mission to get me as close to being suicidal as possible. Even then, on my memorial page, he’d probably say “Why are you crying over this girl? Don’t you know what she’s like?”
I’ve attempted to reason with him. I’ve pointed out, ““If you don’t like me, just stay out of my life. My life is not your business. It never was. We never had any sort of relationship. I talked to the wrong guy in a chat room 15 years ago. That’s it. We never have to communicate, ever again.”
That, of course, is not good enough. We live in a “right to know” world, and he feels that because he didn’t have the luxury of knowing everything about me and my life when we met, anyone I cross paths with should know what kind of person I am. You shouldn’t hire me. You shouldn’t be my friend. You shouldn’t like me as a person. You shouldn’t be attracted to me. You shouldn’t applaud anything I do. You should do what you’re meant to do, in this day and age: judge me as harshly as possible.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve atoned for my mistakes. Mistakes have consequences; my life hasn’t been an exception. It doesn’t matter that I’m more empathetic and understanding of others because I myself am far from a perfect person. It doesn’t matter that karma has attacked me ten-fold, and I’m not quite the selfish bitch I was at 18,or even 21, or 25. It doesn’t matter that my mistakes have turned me into the person I am today, and my journey has given me a perspective on the world most people don’t have.
No, what matters is that you look at my past, and judge me…because the world is full of two kinds of people, obviously, good and bad. That can be easily determined with a background check, credit score, and internet search.
Every time this happens, I cry. I feel violated. I feel like I will never be allowed to live a normal live. And then, in true victim mentality, I remind myself that I deserve all of this and I am to blame for those who want to destroy me. If I hadn’t been a bad person, if I had behaved like everyone else, if I hadn’t had anything to make amends for in the first place, if I just kept a low-profile and lived a quiet life, this wouldn’t be necessary.
As many of you know, I have a friend who holds a position at Twitter. He is well-respected and rather high up in the chain of command there. The last time this person attacked me, and I cried because I felt so helpless and violated, I contacted my friend at Twitter. My friend knows of the existence of this person in my life, and promised he’d help get the post removed.
He then contacted me to say that the final word was that Twitter couldn’t just remove things because they were defamatory or revealed information about someone. I could block the person who was talking about me, but there’s no tool available to keep him from referring to me by name, linking to me, or anything else. He agreed that everyone didn’t deserve to know all the details about my life, and that I deserved a modicum of privacy and respect, but “it’s the Internet age. Nobody gets that. If every post on here that tore someone down was removed, half of Twitter would disappear. And people would go elsewhere to go off about how much they hate other people.”
He then told me a story about how he was personally victimized by Twitter and “reputational harm”, at the hands of someone he used to work with. These tweets were picked up by a writer and spun into a story. The story got around pretty quickly. He’d love to sue, but his lawyer has told him he doesn’t have grounds. Free speech, no invasion of privacy, and a “right to know” world.
It’s the society we’ve created. Anyone can say anything about you, and even if part of it’s true, you deserve any public judgment or reputational harm that comes your way. And, really, there’s nothing you can do about it. Learn to be tougher.
That’s why I was absolutely appalled to read in the New York Times about this app. Yes, we all want to know that a certain person is not a serial killer and isn’t abusive. Yes, I can joke with the world about how my taste in men once got so bad that I dated a guy dubbed “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” by a local publication.
But this, this takes invading privacy and finding ways to do harm to someone you may have negative, bitter feelings toward and putting it out there in public to a whole new level.
Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is private anymore, not even in the bedroom. And although I live much of my life online, there are ways in which I am certainly a very private person. This road we’re traveling down, the one paved with judgment and the right to condemn, rate, and malign others under the guise of “freedom of information” and “I deserve to know.”, it’s a dangerous one. It’s harmful. It does so much more harm than good.
A few years ago, I joked that I was going to develop a social networking tool based on all the people with whom I’ve ever hooked up, dated, had a relationship, etc. I would then send it to my friends, who could build their “tree”. You’d eventually see that your friend actually dated the guy you slept with once, and bond over it. This tool, of course, could be equally useful to men and women.
It was a sarcastic, joking idea…because it could never be implemented. First of all, it’s kind of appalling to erase all shreds of privacy in the world. Secondly, people lie. People get hurt and want to get even. People just want to hurt others because they don’t like them. “Apps” that are used to rate things and discuss people can be used maliciously, very easily. How many restaurants have suffered because someone didn’t like the owner and got all their friends to trash the restaurant on Yelp?
If anything, the Internet seems to prove that people are, at heart, judgmental and have no qualms about seeking revenge. And if there’s a tool that enables that, it will be used to cause harm to another person. And since society has agreed the only thing that matters is how someone looks on paper, the Internet is a great equalizer. We’re all equally defenceless against someone who’d like to destroy us.
Unless, of course, you’ve never hurt anyone, done anything wrong, and are perfect in every way. After all, that’s what you should be, and since you have nothing to hide, sleep easy.
The truth of the matter is, unless someone is an important part of your life, most of another person’s life isn’t something you have a “right to know”. If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you. Yes, you deserve to know your potential nanny doesn’t have a history of abusing children. Yes, you deserve to know before you give a loan to someone whether or not they are likely to pay you back. Yes, if inviting someone into your life may put you in physical danger, you deserve to know.
When it comes to who is gay, who’s been arrested, who is bad in bed, who isn’t liked by others, who has left a mysterious past behind them, who has colourful stories that might shock you, who has a bitter ex, who voted fow whom in the last election, who left their previous apartment a mess…well, frankly, you don’t deserve to know. That’s the whole point of getting to know someone; the more they trust you, the more they open up. Demanding that everyone deserves to know everything about everyone else without bothering with the trouble of establishing trust doesn’t just leave people feeling violated, it *is* a violation…and we are all potential victims. Twice, I had someone I thought was a friend print out entries in a “friends only” journal and share them with the entire world. These were grown women, not high school girls.
You think you won’t be violated that way because you know who your friends are? You don’t. And you don’t know who your enemies are, either, and what “app” is being developed that can really ruin your life, your business, or your all-precious “reputation”, until it’s too late. I hope the world thinks about that the next time it wants to use the Internet to take someone down, or to Google someone before even getting to know them.
9 times out of 10, what you think you deserve to know, you don’t. Three decades ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to you that you did.
And yet, we wonder why things aren’t so great. People don’t have jobs, corporations interfere in the private lives of citizens and make outrageous demands, we can’t get loans for college or mortgages to buy a home, less adults own property than ever, we’re fighting over the right to access care when we get sick, the economy sucks, and people are finding themselves either single or divorced in their 30′s,40′s, and 50′s. Nobody can ever meet the right person, even though we know almost everything about each other, thanks to “freedom of information”. So much of what ails us, we’ve created ourselves. Before we continue down this road of hypocrisy, every person should look at his or her own life, and ask: How’s this new society working for me?