“I had internalized messages during my youth—messages of being too big, too loud, too passionate.I had been told by my experiences that people stayed around longer if you made your needs as brief and palatable as possible, and then went about your day becoming exactly who they need you to be.

I remember the exact day when I realized that I could, instead, choose to be myself.”

—-Mara Glatzel,Medicinal Marzipan

Being yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in a world full of people who look at the concept as something that’s weird, scary, unconventional, or something worthy of shaking your head at disapproval. For a world full of people who all want to grow up to be celebrities for one reason or another, there’s a total lack of awareness of what it really means to put yourself out there. You know when you put yourself, or some public image of yourself, out for public consumption and people tear you down just for being you? Multiply that by tens of thousands, and that’s what it’s like to be a celebrity or public figure.

Being yourself requires you to be a strong person. Remember when someone told you, as a kid, “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” Well, it took you five minutes of social interaction in the world to realise that person straight out lied to you. What they really meant you to learn is “Smile, conform, fit in, and pretend to be just the same as everyone else, and you’ll be accepted.”

Accepted, maybe. But will you stand out, make an impact, fulfill your dreams, make the most of your potential, take chances? Never. You’ll get sucked into a quiet comfort zone of acceptance and security, and as you grow older, that translates into a seemingly secure and traditional career path, a car you can’t really afford, a house, a spouse, a dog, a cat, and a few interests you mostly keep to yourself. If you’re young and single, you’ll spend your time looking flawless, making your life sound exciting and perfect, and remind the recently-Botoxed ladies sipping martinis at your table that you are someone to be envied. If you’re a bit older and have children, you’ll sip lattes with the even-more-recently Botoxed crowd, and smile perfectly while you point out that your child, whom you’ve named Kieran or Brendan or Madison or something that implies your child will never pick up a dirty sock in his/her life, is so far advanced for his/her age. That is life, of course. Conformity, playing nice, following the rules, and realising the reward is “I get to pretend I’m better than you whenever possible.”

When is the last time you spent time with someone, even a close friend, who stripped away all the bullshit and was completely honest, authentic, and willing to “be themselves” with you? Look around your world. It’s less common than you think, unless you intentionally make it otherwise.

I happened to, recently, cross paths with a 21-year-old sorority girl, properly coiffed dyed blonde hair and perfect manicure in place, along with an attitude that said “I’m not here for your approval”. Yet, despite my attempts at conversation, she pretty much ignored me, looking at me like I was the most boring person in the world. When, after the group had a few drinks, I turned up the charisma a little bit to include off-colour comments and snarky remarks, she actually told me “Shhhhh. People can hear you”., as if I were a five year old child in need of correction.

This girl, who tried so hard to exude enough confidence that other females would believe she wasn’t in need of any approval and loved her perfect life, was made uncomfortable by the fact that I would say anything I wanted to say without really giving a shit if a total stranger overheard me. That’s when I realised this: I am old. I don’t spend my time faking confidence and pretending to be comfortable around people. I have spent so much time “being myself” in social situations that I don’t even remember how often that can be scary and off-putting to others.

Not shockingly, she immediately re-seated herself at a dinner party to talk to the only two single, available men who were interested in making her the centre of attention, and convinced them to leave the dinner, and the rest of the group, which was too “lame” for her tastes. Prior to her re-seating herself, I’d been having conversation with these people, and it obviously didn’t occur to her that it was more rude to interrupt someone’s conversation to deflect attention to yourself than to tell a joke in a loud, boisterous tone that made old Southern women scowl at your lack of class.

Whatever. I know I’m a classy bitch. New York *totally* wants me back. :P

I remember being that girl, in some shape or form, always needing to compensate for some insecurity by making others think I was unapproachable, remaining a little aloof, to give the impression that “I’m just a little out of your league”. I would hijack your party and take people elsewhere, turning it into my party without a second thought that I was being disrespectful to the host. It didn’t occur to me that it should matter, honestly. Being that girl was a way to deflect any kind of insecurity; “As long as you pay attention to me, I have the validation I need.”

Except, the thing is, there’s never enough attention in the world to provide the validation that comes from “being yourself”.

One of the harshest things anyone ever told me, back when I was 25 or so, and still approached the entire world as my stage and every time I left my apartment, it was a public appearance…was that I wasn’t real. This actually came from someone who was sufficiently charmed by me, regardless, to invest time and energy and affection in me…so it proves men can be a little hypocritical, and still want your company when you’re 25 and attractive, “real” or not….but he said, at an event, “Every time I spend time with you, I feel like I’m spending time with a character, and not a real person.”

That person isn’t someone who I kept in my life, or I’d care to say hello to if we ever crossed paths, but he did provide me with that one sage-if-hurtful piece of advice. I knew that “being myself” was being someone who didn’t fit in here in the South, someone who was loud and boisterous and weird and flamboyant and covered herself in glitter and says “Ooooo!” to stuff a 6-year-old girl would love. So, I tried to reinvent myself, to put on a version of me that would be socially acceptable to a world I found very judgmental, very superficial, and very insecure.

Long story short: That didn’t work. That didn’t work to such an extreme I almost ended up being driven out of town by hate and judgment and gossip, about less than half of which was true.

After that, I said, “Fuck it”, and took “being myself” to a whole other extreme. If I couldn’t be accepted and perfect and flawless, I was going to shock everyone with my unconventional ways.

That was actually pretty fun, for awhile. But it also didn’t work. I felt there was nobody in my life, save a handful of people, who really knew me or cared about me. I didn’t trust anyone. And while you can combat the scandal of a bad reputation in a small town that pretends it’s a city (like Atlanta) by exaggerating your notoriety and making jokes at your own expense, at some point, you realise that what you need is a new perspective.

I never decided I was, one day, going to wake up and “be myself”. I was just too tired of caring what everyone else thought to do it anymore. And once I did, I found a whole group of people who never would have been scandalised by any of my behaviour—past, present, or future. I found friends who stuck around for years and years. I found people who made fun of my quirks, but still loved me and supported me. As soon as I bothered to be who I was, I found it easy to invite people in my life who liked that person.

I can still be a little guarded, a little insecure. I’ve learned the hard way to choose my friends wisely. I don’t open up easily. I have thousands of acquaintances, and a select group of friends. Some people still don’t like me because I’m “too much”, or flamboyant, or downright odd. They don’t think my stories about dating equally odd, “high-profile” people or anecdotes about the silly situations I got myself into before I was older and wiser are entertaining, and I don’t blame them. You can’t please everyone, and “being myself” does often mean being weird, unconventional, flamboyant, and saying things that cause others to turn bright red. I get how some people, especially in the South, especially those who aren’t particularly secure in themselves, don’t like that. I get how my snarkiness annoys others in the same way overly perky, upper-induced people make me want to go home and listen to Nirvana. (I think one of my favourite people, Dorothy Parker, would highly approve.) Some people just don’t like me when I’m “being myself”. And, yet, some people are devoted admirers because of those things.

Being sick over the past year really put things into perspective for me, made me seek out different kinds of friendships, forced me to become more introspective, gave me the opportunity to see things in other people I’d previously missed. I’ve become not only more self-aware, but generally more intuitive and perceptive as a result of needing to take time out from the world. I’ve become a huge fan of one-on-one interactions with others, and realised just how much I hate “clubbing”, and maybe, I secretly always did. I’ve learned that most of my insecurities over the years weren’t real (if you think you’re fat at a size 6, there’s nothing like gaining 30 pounds and five years to make you re-evaluate that girl you judged so harshly.) I’ve learned that most of what was off-putting to people wasn’t that I dared to be my unconventional self, but because there were so many times when I didn’t. I was a social hypocrite, like so much of the world, living one way behind closed doors, yet putting on another face for social occasions. I didn’t let anyone in, didn’t let people get too close. Most of my relationships had an element of superficiality to them I wouldn’t tolerate now.

Yes, as it turns out, I am kind of old. Because I can’t go back to being that faux-perfect-looking, alpha-female, “slightly too good for you” 21-year-old girl, mostly because I know I’m not going to grow up to be that same, even more successful, more socially appropriate 31-year-old-woman. I’m going to realise that’s not me, it never was, and if that means I’m not as appreciated as I should be as a consequence, it’s more likely because I’m in the wrong setting than anything about me is flawed.

Out of all of life’s lessons, “be yourself” is the hardest to learn, mostly because we’re conditioned at such an early age to learn there are social repercussions if yourself happens to be kind of not like everyone else.

Here’s the memo: Everyone else isn’t like everyone else, either. They’re just more people who are scared to be themselves, and believe there’s safety in numbers.

Conformity and blending in isn’t happiness. It’s just one more way in which you’re doing the world, and yourself, a disservice. I have a magnet on my refrigerator, with a quote reading “Stop spending your time trying to be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

I got fired from my “regular” job yesterday, a primary source of income and responsibility in my life for well over two years. I’m still processing, and not ready to write about it, or deal with the sudden lack of security and constancy this represents in my world. Strangely, it feels like a loss, yet a loss that has freedom as a side effect. I slept 12 hours in a row last night, peacefully, when I should be worried as hell about my future.

Instead, I wonder if someone taking away the safety of being regular is what it takes to remind me that I’m extraordinary, and should be focusing my energy on doing extraordinary things…or at least living a life that makes me happy, instead of settling for one that resembles “secure adulthood”.

Despite the fact that I’m hardly a dating authority, it amuses me that I get questions from both real life friends and readers of this blog whom I’ve never met, regarding the big questions pertaining to dating and relationships. I do hate to disappoint, but I don’t actually have the answers. I just have some viewpoints based on personal experience, and my own unique personality. You may be nothing like me, and find out that what works for me doesn’t work for you at all. :)

Nevertheless, I received an interesting note in the comments section from a young lady who is bothered by the fact that she’s spending time with a guy who always looks around the room whenever they go out together, and wonders if being bothered by this makes her too sensitive.

You’ve come to the right place for advice on this one, friendly blog reader. As it happens, I have a personal pet peeve regarding spending my time with guys who suffer from “wandering eye syndrome”.

Obviously, this habit of looking around all the time, turning the head or body away when an attractive woman walks by, not paying attention to a word you’re saying because the guy’s eyes are staring at someone else, or actually getting up and leaving you to talk to an available attractive female is unacceptable in a committed romantic partnership. However, I find it unacceptable behaviour in virtually any context, and that’s just how it is with me. I’m not going to allow myself to feel diminished by someone saying, via words or action, “I like your company, but I’m going to pay attention to someone who interests me more”.

I shouldn’t have to. Why in the world would I? My company is way more valuable than that, and I know it.

Most girls don’t, so they tolerate it. They worry that demanding more makes them bitchy or “oversensitive.” It doesn’t. It just means you’ve set standards for yourself, so kudos on that. I’ve ended up never going out with someone again or ending a friendship over some of these more extreme examples, because if there’s one thing I don’t enjoy, it’s being disrespected.

Certainly, there are levels of tolerance for this behaviour based on your relationship with someone. If it’s coming from a husband, fiance, or monogamous male partner, it’s way more of a problem than if it’s something that happens when you’re out with a platonic male friend.

However, there are many different types of relationships, and many different situations where “wandering eye syndrome” is a problem. For instance, if I’m on a first or second date with someone, I realise this person is obviously keeping his options open. However, if you’re that open that you can’t focus on getting to know me because you saw boobs walk by, you’re probably not for me. I’m not going to be calling you back, 100% guaranteed.

Likewise, if I am in an open relationship and have a secondary partner or “friend with benefits” in my life, I’m well aware I am not the only female in this person’s universe. However, when that person is spending time with me, I am. If we’re not in a monogamous relationship, you can do whatever you want (as long as you respect our agreed upon guidelines), but NOT EVER when I am in the room. Sorry, but I have to insist anyone I’m involved with, even if it’s not exclusive, or we’re not going to end up getting married and living happily ever after, shows me a certain amount of respect and interest. It’s freaking rude to hit on someone in front of anyone you’re currently sleeping with, and you have all the time we don’t spend together to meet other attractive women. This kind of relationship can be very complex and full of drama, or it can be very simple. I prefer to keep it simple, by having “relationship rules” that work for me. One of them is, “You may be seeing other people, and we may even discuss it, but respect me enough to keep that out of our time together.” If you don’t have the attention span, interest in spending time with me, or level of self-control where that guideline works for you, we’re not compatible, and probably should not have any kind of romantic involvement, period.

Of course, there are exceptions to the romantic relationship rule. You may be in a happily monogamous relationship with a guy who is a hopeless flirt, and it doesn’t bother you…except, the truth is, sometimes it does, but you don’t mention it. You may be in a happily poly relationship that’s going so well that it’s time for your primary and secondary partners to meet, and maybe they just happen to hit it off fabulously. In these cases, you’re just going to have to expect that someone paying attention to others is part of the package. But, for the most part, whether you’re committed, seeing other people, or just open; married or dating; on your first date or your fiftieth, you should expect that the other person has gone out with you to spend time with you and connect with you, not scour the room for other objects of interest. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. I know other people who disagree, and are apt to categorise my way of looking at things as “high-maintenance” or “oversensitive.”

The place where it starts to get confusing, for many girls, is when it comes to spending time with male friends. I have some male friends I actually used to date or have hooked up with at some time in the past, some that I’ve been attracted to at some point, some who’ve been attracted to me at some point, and some where that kind of chemistry never once entered the occasion—and the disinterest in anything beyond friendship has always been mutual and obvious. So, whatever your past history or current feelings towards your friend, is it rude when your friend stops paying attention to your presence because someone else has caught his attention?

In a nutshell: yes. This doesn’t just apply to male friends, but all friends in general. If I’ve taken time out of my life to have dinner with you, I expect a little more regard from you than “Sorry, I didn’t hear you” because you were staring at something or someone else. I mean, I didn’t have to go out to dinner with you, and I certainly didn’t do so to feel invisible.

Again, there are exceptions. I’ve gone to singles’ bars with single friends, with the express purpose of helping them meet someone, and as a result, had to find my own way home. I invited an ex-boyfriend, a shy guy who hadn’t had luck finding any serious potential dates since our long-term relationship ended, to a party where he didn’t know anyone. He ended up leaving me as soon as we arrived to talk to a girl who caught his interest, and is now his wife. I can’t really fault him for that one. If the purpose of an outing with friends is to meet dating prospects or hook up, you can’t feel ignored, abandoned, or slighted when this happens…even if you have a huge secret crush on the friend you accompanied to the singles’ bar. (and why would you do that anyway?)

On the other hand, I’ve been on first dates where the guy I was with kept looking at the door like he was expecting someone the entire time. This clued me in that either he wasn’t interested, was a player, or was married. I’ve been out at a dive bar with a platonic friend who began rudely ignoring me to talk to a stripper who worked at the establishment next door, leaving me sitting completely alone and out of my element for some time. I’ve traveled 800 miles to visit a friend, who then pretty much ignored me the rest of the evening because he was more interested in talking to another single friend I brought out with me. I’ve gone to visit a friend in another city, attended a party with him where I didn’t know a single person, and had him abandon me for the night because I wasn’t as attractive of a girl as he was looking for, but he met someone who was. All of these were incredibly uncool scenarios where I ended up feeling as disposable and insignificant as the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, while simultaneously knowing I deserved a little more respect and regard from anyone who called me a friend. And, incidentally, these are all examples of situations that occurred with male friends with whom I didn’t have a romantic or physical relationship. You can imagine how colourful some of the others are. :P

Time is a precious commodity, and we don’t have unlimited amounts of it. I generally look to populate my universe with those genuinely interested in spending time with me. If someone isn’t, is halfhearted about it, or is always putting the potential hook-up above friendship, I don’t know that I’m that interested in keeping the friendship as part of my life. I don’t really spend time going to dinner or having drinks or catching up with acquaintances. That’s just me. I’m kind of hard to get to know on a one-on-one basis, and while I know a lot of people, I’m not very invested in those I know socially. I know I’ll always see them around. If I’m spending time with you one-on-one, it’s because we’ve achieved a certain level of respect, friendship, and emotional intimacy. It’s because, for one reason or another, I care about you or you interest me in a way that puts you amongst a select group of people. Because of this, I tend to develop extremely strong, long-term friendships…but am very choosy about them. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And if I turn down your dinner invite, it’s not personal. :P

I used to be as bad about disrespecting friends and romantic partners as anyone on the planet. I didn’t have the “wandering eye” problem, but I’d go to a party with one person only to leave with another. I was so inconsiderate that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, before we were actually dating but I knew he was interested in me, offered to drive me to another guy’s house—as well as the other guy—because the other guy was too drunk to do so. I had a friend come visit me, declare his attraction to me, and in order to deal with the uncomfortable situation, I got drunk and made out with some guy I didn’t even know or like very well. I’d have friends invite me to lunch or for drinks, and incapable of introverted communication, would immediately turn the event into something I invited 5 other friends to. It is clear that genuine intimacy terrified the hell out of me at this point in my life, and I went to all lengths to avoid it…but I was really hurtful towards others throughout the process of growing up.

Looking back, I see how reprehensible this behaviour was, and how I generally had no respect for the feelings of others, or concern for anyone but myself. I really was honestly one of the most self-absorbed and callously hedonistic people you’d ever meet, and it took a swift kick in the ass from life to get me to grow up. I think this is why I judge this behaviour so harshly in others, and have very little tolerance for it. I see not just the behaviour itself, but the selfishness and disregard for others that lurks behind it…and no matter what our relationship, I tend to not have space for that in my world. It’s something that’s going to piss me off, make me cry, or leave me confused because I know I deserve better from people, but am not getting it.

So, in reply to the person who came seeking advice about the “guy who looks around the room all the time when he’s with me”, I can only say that I don’t know this guy or what kind of relationship you have with him, but you deserve better, too. If the relationship is romantic or physical in any way, take it as a “He’s just not that into you” sign. If it’s a friend you’re interested in, find someone else worthy of your interest. If it’s a friend who is a purely platonic friend, realise he’s more interested in looking for dating options than your friendship, and take it or leave it as you wish.

No matter what, it’s worth having a discussion about. I once considered not spending time with someone because whenever we were out, his eyes would constantly move around, or he wouldn’t make eye contact, and I’d feel I wasn’t being heard. I finally brought it up, and expressed my frustration. He apologised and explained he had ADD, and sometimes, it was hard for him to sit still and focus on any one thing, task, or person for too long. It isn’t always personal, so if someone really matters to you, don’t just jump ship before bringing it up.

However, if someone abandons you at a bar or a party, or you’re out on a date and you excuse yourself, only to find them elsewhere, talking to a hotter/more interesting/more sexually available person, just move on. If you’re dating someone who flirts with others in your presence, including your friends, to the point that it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably time to move on. There are enough people out there who will assign you greater respect and value that you don’t need to try to make excuses for that behaviour. It hurts when this happens, but there are many people who will move heaven and earth to spend time with you.

Why not demand that level of value, instead of trying to convince someone who doesn’t see it that you’re worth it? You’ll never convince that person, whereas someone else may offer it freely, just because you’ve put it out there that you don’t intend to settle for less.

I haven’t gotten to see The Hunger Games yet, although I’ve read the book, and am really totally excited to do so! However, I’m kind of sorry that the movie came out so close to Halloween, because it’s difficult to find costumes from the movie for dressing up purposes.

I realised that I would make a perfectly awesome Effie Trinket! She really is a modern-day Marie Antoinette, with splashes of every colour of pink and purple, which is lovely for me. Someone needs to make these costume FOR me. Or, at least the headpieces. *laughs* You all know how fascinated I’ve been by fascinators and awesome headpieces this year! I’ve sent my butterflies into retirement for 2012. *laughs*

I could use more costume designers in my life. My circle of fun, frivolous, and theatrical friends isn’t anything close to what it used to be in New York. In fact, I know very few people who work in theatre that I could call on for costume help if I wanted to.

I definitely should have learned to be more crafty back in the day. *laughs*

About a month ago, when the show started, I blogged about my obsession with the CBS reality show
Big Brother
, and subsequently, “Survivor”, which came out of my having gone through the audition process for the show a decade ago. One of the reasons I get so drawn into these shows is that human behaviour tends to fascinate me, and figuring people out is a little like figuring out a puzzle. When I’m not emotionally invested in a situation, but can watch others play out little dramas with one another, it’s compelling to me.

One of the things I talked about is how reality TV sparked a strong belief in the Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality inventories, as CBS (as well as many other reality TV casting crews) rely on this test to get a feel of who someone is, how they interact with others, and how they can be expected to interact with others. The formula started out with 16 contestants, equating to the 16 personality types. When you throw in other differences, such as upbringing, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and general outlook on life, the task of assembling the right cast is kind of the ultimate psychological experiment. (for instance, while I made it to the final round of casting for the show, I didn’t get on. The girl who was chosen in favour of me shares my Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality type: ENFP. )

After posting about this, I started getting Google searches asking what the Meyers-Briggs typology for current Big Brother 14 houseguests is; in specific, people seem to wonder about Ian and Danielle. While the answer is, I don’t know—only the houseguests and the CBS psychologists know for sure—I can hazard an educated guess regarding most of the contestants, beginning with Janelle. The others simply weren’t around long enough and didn’t get enough air time for me to make a fair assessment. I will say, I don’t think there’s one of each personality type in the house this season, likely due to the returning players throwing off the balance. There are more “N” (intuitive) types than average, and many of them have demonstrated they’re very strongly expressed “N”s.

To answer your question, Ian is actually the easiest for me to type, because I seem to have a soft spot for this personality type in my life. Consequently, I have a soft spot for Ian, and despite his social awkwardness and perhaps being the geekiest guy I’ve ever seen anywhere, there is something that makes your heart really go out to him. He has so much passion, and treasures every little moment and experience and victory, while needing to be coaxed out of his shell every step of the way. Ian is undoubtedly an INFJ, despite his background in chemical engineering and brilliant mind, as well as his love of strategy, which would make him a “T”. He’s clearly introverted, but when comfortable with others, has an uncanny insight into people, as if he sees things in people that not everyone does. You get the sense he’s a lot deeper than what he’s putting out there. He’s deeply invested in things; for instance, crying when his coach gave him money as a prize, not really having ambitions to win Big Brother, but wanting to make it to the jury, being affected when the girl he is crushing on in the house (who is his exact opposite, unsuitable for him in almost every way, but epitomizes the idea of “free-spiritedness” he so wants in his world) goes on a “date” with a guy who’s more of a match for her. He’s also fussy about certain things; yelling at Britney for leaving half-eaten candy in his space, and fastidiously showering multiple times a day, and straightening up his space.

Danielle is a little harder to read, because she attempts to play games, putting up a different face for different people. Yet, she’s hopelessly transparent and unable to put her rational side above her feeling side when it comes time to make moves, although she swears she can. She is clearly an “F” personality, and her stubbornness when it comes to opinions she holds about certain people and situations makes her less flexible than she appears to be. She is not a pushover, although she can be mistaken for one, and is one of the hardest people in the house to get to change her stance on something once she’s made up her mind (usually for personal reasons.) These are trademarks of a “J” personality. She is clearly not intuitive; she seeks out physical companionship from Shane without being able to read his feelings about her accurately, and she seeks out Britney to fill the intuitive space in her game play, asking Britney “how she feels about so-and-so”. This makes her an “S”. While she’s outgoing and personable and loves attention, she seems to thrive in one-on-one or small group conversations, like most “I”‘s, but this is probably the least strongly expressed of her traits. So, Danielle is an ISFJ. Reading the description, it’s pretty spot on regarding both how she’s playing her game and who she is behind the game.

There’s no ENFP in the house this season; I suspect that there probably was, but the person was eliminated (players were dropped a week before the show’s airing, or evicted very early. So, I’ll have to root for the person closest to my personality type, the snarky-yet-emotional, and spot-on intuitive Britney. She’s a very typical INFP, although she can lean towards the extroverted when it suits her, and can temporarily switch into “thinking” mode when it is necessary. Her greatest strength, like most “NFP” combinations, is her ability to adapt; her greatest weakness is a tendency to avoid making waves, even when her intuition says she’s not making the choice that’s best for her. However, as long as she’s around, she’ll be resilient and come up with an alternate plan. Her snarky sense of humour, generally unthreatening physique and demeanour, and appearance of not spending too much time plotting and planning makes her endearing to most, and if not, she is underestimated by those who will be voted out first because they overestimate themselves.

I’m pulling for the unlikely alliance of Ian and Britney to make it to the end, although it’s not so unlikely. It turns out Britney’s not the superficial, dumb blonde type that’s there to be easily manipulated; she started off as pre-med in college. And her husband is a geeky guy who she discusses bringing out of his shell and falling in love with him. It’s natural that Ian looks up to Britney, and Britney sees him as a younger brother she may develop a genuine attachment to. In the end, she would choose him over her good friend Danielle, or her former teammate Shane, likely because Ian plays a similar game…intelligent, less than threatening, and aware of what’s going on at all times.

Oh, and for the record, tonight’s evictee, Wil, is another NF personality type; ENFJ. He shares a personality type with some of Big Brother’s most memorable players, people who didn’t win on multiple occasions because they had the intuition to figure things out, but couldn’t find a way to emotionally process the information and come up with a plan that would work. Last season’s Rachel Reilly (who did win, on her second try) and Jeff Schroeder are both ENFJ’s, although Rachel probably borders on ENFP.

Although it seems that an INTJ (the Mastermind) would win the game, Mike Boogie is actually an ENTJ who fancies himself a mastermind. He’s just a little too talkative to be the true INTJ he needs to be, sharing information he doesn’t need to share at times. His arrogance and need for attention keeps him from playing the game that Will Kirby, the ultimate INTJ, played and won. ENTJs and INTJs are not the same, and can’t play the same game successfully. Frank, (ESFP) who charms people by being the ultimate “P” (if he were any more laid back, you’d believe he was stoned), clueless Ashley (ISFP), information-gathering Jen (INTP), and alpha-male Shane who is willing to go with the flow (ESTP) are probably going to stick around longer. To round out the cast, compassionate but aware Dan is an ISTP, loud, opinionated Joe is an ESFJ, and scheming, manipulative Janelle was the other side to his coin, ESTJ.

Is there one of everyone? Just about. Unless Frank is truly an ENFP, they’re missing me this season. Most likely the season’s ENFP was the one who turned things upside down by demonstrating ENFPs gone wrong can be downright scary: Willie Hantz, or brash New Yorker JoJo, who was not willing to compromise her authenticity for anyone or anything.

An interesting question for CBS: Which personality type has won Big Brother most often? What about Survivor?

I bet somewhere, a psychology student thinks that’s an excellent topic for a paper. You’re welcome. :P

Sometimes, the things that you miss most in your life aren’t the big, life-changing, extraordinary things that happen to you. They’re the small things, things you didn’t even pay much attention until they happened to be taken away from you. They’re being able to look great in a dress you love, to walk three miles like it’s no big deal, to have a martini at 5 PM on a rooftop just because, to meet someone new who makes you feel excited about life all over again.

The other day, I happened to get a notice that all my photos from the old Kodak Gallery site were being transferred to Shutterfly. Since I stopped using Kodak in 2006 when they deleted 7 years of memories because I didn’t click on a link in an e-mail I’d never even seen, I was surprised. I was also curious to look back at the old photos that somehow made it back to me.

Some of them were taken just two or three years ago, reminding me how much life can change, so very quickly. Others were taken when I was 24 or 25, reminding me of a person I used to be, a person I’m not even sure I recognise.

I’ve always been so hard on myself. I remember looking at those exact same photos when I was 7 years younger, 30 pounds lighter, and thinking I was the most unattractive person on Earth. I was convinced I was fat, ugly, and nobody would ever love me, or even like me, because of it. Now, I see a young, vibrant, thin, attractive girl in those photos, and I can’t remember why I felt so insecure in my own body, why I felt so constantly judged—and I was, but not for the reasons I imagined—, and why I let those insecurities hold me back from seizing opportunities.

Why didn’t I ever feel good enough? Why did I not take chances because in my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t special enough?

I would kill to have that 25 year-old body back now. When I look in the mirror, I’m filled with the same sense of self-loathing, the hatred of the toll that illness has taken on my body, my self-esteem, my sense of possibility. Only now, the reasons for what I feel are real. I’m not the person I used to be, the person I could and should be, and I don’t know how to get to the point where I’m a person who is happy being exactly who she is, where she is, doing what she loves in life.

I used to wake up in the morning, even in my darkest of days, believing anything was possible. “Today is the day I’m going to have an adventure”, “Today’s the day I’m going to travel”, “Today’s the day I’m going to take a chance”, “Today’s the day I’m going to fall in love.” I didn’t have a lot of the practical skills one needs to succeed in life, I didn’t have focus or ambition, I didn’t have much faith in myself or sense of self-worth, but I did somehow believe that my life was destined to be a great adventure. More importantly, I had the energy and the no-obligations, devil-may-care mindset to take the chances that would make my life a great adventure.

I was always hard on myself, because I wasn’t born looking like a supermodel, I didn’t have clear career goals and plans and aspirations, I was the kind of person that people talked about behind my back just for being myself, and it hurt. It amazes me, because I see a very young, very attractive person who had a lot of opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them.

I think the thing that hurts the most is seeing someone who was healthy, energetic, attractive, personable, and intelligent avoid following dreams and taking a conventional path because she was afraid of failure and rejection.

I would give absolutely anything to feel that free and vibrant again. Some days, I can’t leave the house without feeling inexplicably dizzy and wondering if I’m going to die. The person who used to fly around the world on a whim with nothing but a backpack is a mystery to me. I miss her, terribly.

I’m no longer young, or attractive, or thin, or healthy. I no longer wake up in the morning believing in possibilities, or that today is the day something awesome is going to happen to me. It’s sad in a way, because I’m far too young to have lost so much in the way of hope and enthusiasm and energy and self-love. The thing is, my life has been an adventure, but it’s been a hard road. Maybe some people are candles that burn brightly for a little while, and then simply hang on, unnoticed, hoping for the best.

Life can change in an instant. A year ago, I was wearing a bikini on the beach, walking 5 miles a day, appreciating the strangers that honked their horns at me when I walked by. A week later, I was having convulsions, feeling my heart stop in my chest, and starting a 6 month journey of seeing specialist after specialist, only to get no clear answers. “It’s all anxiety”, or “You have an inner ear disorder”, or “You have high blood pressure” were all common diagnoses, and I’ve been able to function on a handful of pills each day. Yet, all of the sudden, my body can’t control its temperature, I feel like I can’t breathe when too many people are around, and every time I have a dizzy spell, I can’t help but be reminded that my intuition knows there is something in my body that is ruining my life, and one day, it’s going to kill me.

I’m still vain enough that the extra 30 pounds I put on due to heart medication makes me cry when I see myself, and that my body is a literal road map of scars is enough to convince me to check myself into a nunnery. I’m still vibrant enough on the inside to want adventures my body can’t handle. Mostly, I’m not strong enough that I don’t feel sorry for myself from time to time, wondering what happened to me, and screaming inside that it isn’t fair. I was supposed to have a lot more time left to be the person I wanted to be.

Life isn’t fair. And one day, maybe soon, it will come to an end. I imagine that death, too, is this single moment that changes everything, that you didn’t see coming.

Pictures make me sad, because I remember being 25, and living independently and how awesome that felt. I remember being 21 and moving to a place I’d never even seen because I believed in the possibility that my soulmate was this person I barely knew. I remember being 17 and graduating from high school, and not feeling the slightest bit of sadness or regret at moving on, just being excited about the future. I remember being 13, and the biggest concern in life was what to wear to the Friday night dance or whether a cute boy who said he’d call me actually would. I remember being 8, and decorating the Christmas tree and baking cookies. I remember being 4, and sitting next to a quirky, introverted boy in pre-kindergarten, one with a far brighter future than mine, who passed away nearly a decade ago.

I sometimes feel like life is over, because it’s this adventure in which I’m no longer strong enough to participate. I’m just another struggling, middle-aged, anonymous person without any special talents or any remarkable qualities, and I would give anything to go back to a time where that wasn’t the case. I can’t imagine anyone seeing anything special or attractive or of value in me anymore; I’m more like the tattered Velveteen Rabbit waiting to become real.

People say they never say this when they get older, because they know better, but I’d give anything to do it all over again. Even if it were exactly the same, even if it were just as hard, just as painful. It would be better than the concept of living in a world where anything and everything isn’t possible, because your own body says so.

Sometimes, I spend time hoping I make it to 35, 40, 50. Other times, I wonder why, because I don’t know if I’ll ever have the quality of life that makes life the adventure I need it to be in order to feel fulfilled. I wonder if the best days of my life are behind me, and I wasn’t even aware they happened.

I don’t do well with change. But what terrifies me is how easily change is forced upon you, how it can all be taken from you in a second. And, in comparison to the lives many lead, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I would do it all over again, just to remember what it feels like to wake up with this restless energy in my heart, and think “Today’s the kind of day I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.” For the past year or so, I wake up thinking today is going to be like every other day, or simply utterly shocked that I woke up at all.

Whenever I see really young people, I want to remind them to take every opportunity that ever comes knocking at the door. It doesn’t always come back, and after awhile, you realise that you only have a short window of opportunity where you’re young, healthy, vibrant, attractive, energetic enough to make “anything is possible” a reality. One day, someone will press the pause button on your adventure, and nothing will ever be the same.

I spent so much time in my life being restless, I never knew how much I’d look back on and miss. I thought being bored was the worst thing in the world. It wasn’t. I thought being alone meant I was the only one in the world who was, at the core, totally unloveable, and independence was just a sad way of hiding the fact that you were alone in the world. It didn’t.

There’s a song I used to sing at auditions; for a year or so, my standard 16 or 32 bars came from a piece from the musical “Ragtime”. The final line of the song is “We can never go back to before”.

It turns out, the most painful lesson life has ever taught me is that the line is absolutely true. There are no do-overs.

When it comes to the history of my dating and romantic life, I’m not really in any position to complain. When I look around at the number of single female friends who are constantly bemoaning the lack of eligible dating partners and end up getting hooked up with people who clearly don’t treat them in a way of which they are deserving, I can both relate and not relate at the same time. Many of these girls come to me for dating advice, because my story is not theirs. It doesn’t make it a better or easier story, mind you, but just a different one.

I’ve never had problems meeting people. Perhaps it is because, as discussed in a different post, I take a different approach to dating and relationships, in that I don’t really invest myself in strangers. It takes work to get to know me, and anyone who is really interested is going to put in that work. Whether that way of doing things means I end up with a good friend, a lover, a committed romantic partner, a confusing yet positive life situation, or some combination of the above, what it does mean is that I don’t surround myself with people who treat me in a way that is less than I deserve. I am not disposable, a one-night stand, an object of amusement, or someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with, regardless of how our relationship operates. I’m pretty happy with that. The result is that I have some awesome folks in my life.

I also tend to be more open-minded when it comes to who I choose to spend my time with. Like everyone else, I have my superficial side, but things like looks, money, what kind of car someone drives, and what they do for a living is rather an afterthought when meeting someone. The thing that’s going to get me to call or e-mail the day after I meet someone is “It was awesome to meet you, because it seemed like we had a sincere emotional connection.”

If I’ve had a downfall in my dating life, or a masochistic tendency, it’s my penchant for falling for unavailable people or idealising impossible relationships. I’m rarely interested in those who actively pursue me with compliments and flowers and e-mails telling me how great I am. I’m appreciative, but whatever inspires someone to spend way too much time thinking about another person, that doesn’t light up that particular switchboard for me.

On the other hand, I have no tolerance for chauvinists who approach women as objects or conquests, people who are too shallow to care about anything other than getting drunk, hooking up, and never talking to one another again, and people who outwardly show disdain or disrespect. They say there’s a fine line between love and hate, but I know where the line is, and I’m not foolish enough to fall for anyone who doesn’t think I’m awesome.

No, my particular downfall is the person I *think* may be interested in me, but I’m not sure. Or, it’s the person I *know* is interested in me “but”, and “if only”. “If only I were single when I met you”, “If only we fit together better on a practical level”, “If only it weren’t impossible to make this work”.

I actually have awesome intuition when it comes to these things. If I *think* someone is interested in me, but they refuse to acknowledge that—because they don’t see it turning into a relationship, because they’re already in a relationship and trying to observe boundaries, because I somehow scare or intimidate them, because they’re playing a game where they’re counting on indifference to get my attention—I’m almost always right. And because I don’t take the most traditional approach to relationships, indifference and uncertainty does not dissuade me. It actually makes me feel more interested and more attached to someone who may or may not be the best choice for me.

A wise friend of mine told me it’s simply because I’m a natural-born huntress; I enjoy the chase, the idealism of a relationship that could be over the reality of a difficult, messy one that actually is. I enjoy the attention of those who are unavailable—friends who can never become lovers, lovers who can never become committed partners, committed partners who may not be lifetime soulmates—because I am at heart committmentphobic, easily bored, and enjoy the thrill of infatuation.

This may be true. For instance, I recall once taking a class every Monday, and looking forward to it because there was this guy, and I couldn’t tell whether or not he was interested in me. Yet, for three hours every week, I was interested in finding out. I wasn’t yet the person I am today, the one who’d just come out and ask, or actively pursue the guy, but I knew how to read people. I knew that if he were totally indifferent to my presence, I wouldn’t bother looking forward to seeing him every Monday. Yet, he never made a direct move. It was like a game, and one I looked forward to participating in every week. (As a side note, we did end up dating for awhile. It’s one of my more memorable and life-changing experiences, but we were far from right for one another. If people who are extremely opposite in personality and approach to life struggle to make it work, people who are effectively the same person struggle even more.)

I have another friend, one I’ve known for many, many years. I really don’t know if he’s ever found me attractive. Neither of us has ever made a move, or asked one another out when we were both single at the same time. Yet, for years, I’ve always been thrilled to run into this person when I do. It’s that weird thing that always makes you smile when you see someone, and you don’t know why. I don’t even actually think I’m attracted to him—he’s not my type, on so many levels. But I enjoy our friendship, and I enjoy the unspoken knowledge of “There’s something a little different in the way we relate than just being friends who get along.” If I *did* know he were attracted to me on more than an intuitive level, it would really create some weirdness and dysfunction and potentially ruin a friendship. Likewise, if I found out that over the many years we’ve known each other, he was never once attracted to me, I’d doubt myself, my intuition, and my ability to read others. Therefore, our friendship will always stay exactly as it is, at least if I have anything to do with it.

I also have people in my life who, in the world of polyamorous relationships, would (or have in the past), become ideal secondary partners. These relationships have oddly been the strongest, least complex, and emotionally fulfilling relationships/friendships in my life, despite by nature being something that should be complex. Sometimes, it’s just easy, and it’s because you know where and how someone belongs in your life, at least at a certain point in time. There is a certain freedom in those relationships that is important to me, and even during my monogamous relationships, I’ve somehow kept what I term “romantic friendships” in that particular space in my life. Yet, if we were both single, available, on the same page and in the same place in life at the exact same time, attempting to have a more committed, exclusive relationship would probably do irreparable damage to all the good things we share.(yes, lessons learned the hard way.)

Not all of the soulmates you encounter in life are those you’re supposed to consider white-picket-fence-marriage-and-babies material. People are in your life for different reasons, and if they’re unavailable to you on a certain level, it’s probably because they’re never going to fit into the convenient little space you wonder if they might—and it has little to do with other people, other relationships, practical obstacles, and whatnot. If someone is the right person for you, you’re going to move the world around to fit them in your life. Otherwise, you should be content with knowing they are meant to fit into your life in some other way…even if everyone’s feelings are utterly confused about the situation.

Knowing this does not keep me from being most interested in those when I’m not quite sure how someone feels about me, or what the possibilities are moving forward, or whether or not life circumstances will be subject to change in the future….but my intuitive sense and simple enjoyment of the time I spend with someone tells me there’s more to the story than “It’s really awesome that we’re friends”. This is a dangerous habit, one The Guy I Am Currently Dating would most likely prefer I did not have. I think I might consider myself a more monogamous person by nature if I did not have this particular tendency, and did not feel consistently energized and intrigued by the emotional uncertainty of these situations. On the other side of the coin, these situations and people always affect me on a deeper level than they should, so you think I’d want to stop developing serious emotional bonds with people who exist in my life as question marks.

The thing that always throws me is that I’m so infrequently wrong in how I assess a question mark situation, and the type of relationship I end up having with someone….or at least, getting some clear resolution on how someone feels about me.

Sometimes, the answer really is “It’s complicated”, and you need to learn to back off, let go, and have a less emotionally bonded, more platonic friendship…which is difficult, if you’ve never really shared that sphere of existence with someone before. It’s like learning to relate to someone in a whole new way, and it’s not easy, and it feels like a genuine loss for everyone involved. But, sometimes, if you treasure the friendship, it’s necessary (which is how I’ve managed to stay friends with a large percentage of ex-es who have moved on and are now married or committed to other people.) Somehow, it’s easier to move on when you know how the story ends than when something remains an eternal question mark.

Other times, the answer is “It’s complicated”, but there’s something beyond friendship worth exploring, and simply ignoring it causes confusion, emotional angst, and has the power to destroy a friendship. At some point, you have to take chances in order to find out what someone means to you, how they really fit into your life. I think it’s important to assess and appreciate all relationships for what they are, not what you’d like them to be, or how they most conveniently fit into your life at any given time. Sitcoms in the 1990′s loved to address this “friendships-that-are-more-but-nobody-ever-talks-about-it” dynamic; we were all intrigued by Ross and Rachel, Jerry and Elaine, Daphne and Niles. While the situation in real life is just as present and complicated, the answers are not always as black and white as in sitcom-land. It’s possible to fall in love with your friends, be friends with people you once dated, have lovers that are amongst your best friends but you’d never want to spend your life with in a monogamous relationship. It’s possible that most relationships are, a majority of the time, a question mark.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Women are, by nature, attracted to and most likely to be seduced by uncertainty. While many men I know have told me they’ve been attracted to me as a result of being direct and straightforward and not flirting and playing games “just because”, I’ve more than likely been attracted to them because they once existed as a question mark in my life, and there was a need for me to be straightforward, direct, and figure out intuitively how someone felt about me before making a move that can’t be rescinded. More proof that, on a fundamental level, men and women are wired differently and respond differently to different approaches by different types of people.

Sometimes, it amazes me that anyone ever gets together…or stays together…or has clear and simple convictions about the nature of relationships. I actually don’t know if anyone does. We’re all pretty much just winging it here.

But me, I’m hopelessly attracted to things in the shape of a question mark. Fortunately for me, most of life is just that. I’m unlikely to get bored with living anytime soon.

As a pretty strongly expressed “P”(perceiver) in the Meyers-Briggs world, nothing stresses me out more than this concept of “running out of time”. Specifically, nothing stresses me out more than *other* people not being able to relax about deadlines, running late, something bad happening if I’m not there. I realise this is not a self-imposed feeling; when left to my own devices, I’m actually pretty-laid back. I enjoy life more when my schedule has room for a change of plans.

Life doesn’t feel the same way about time as I do. If I don’t meet deadlines repeatedly, my boss threatens to fire me. (“We’d rather have someone who does average work and consistently meets deadlines than someone who turns in superior work but is not dependable.”). If we’re running 15 minutes late because it took me longer to do my hair and makeup than expected, The Guy I Am Currently Dating will sit in silence in the car on the way to wherever we were supposed to be, angry and refusing to communicate, because running late stresses him out. If I’m late for an event I’m coordinating, my phone rings off the hook, as if a group of 20 people over the age of 25 can’t figure out how to sit down and have dinner without me.

I’m actually not a flaky person by nature. I’m never going to stand someone up, blow off work just because, decide to change plans on 10 minutes notice. I have too much respect for the people in my life to behave that way, and I’m aggravated to no end by people who *do* behave this way. A friend or prospective romantic partner is going to hear about how disrespected I feel if he or she does not show up for something without bothering to call, and I’m going to seriously re-evaluate whether or not I have room in my life for someone who clearly doesn’t make me a priority. I’m pretty flexible when it comes to “I’m at this other place, and such-and-such ran late” or “Can we do this an hour or two later than expected”, because that’s pretty much how I roll. I’m never going to flake on responsibilities or make the people in my life feel as if I don’t prioritise making time for them. I’m just probably going to be late, no matter how hard I try not to be. I operate on AlaynaTime.

The level of anxiety involved with “rushing”, missing a train, missing a deadline, knowing that if things don’t fit into a well-defined window and everything doesn’t work perfectly, it feels like someone is going to be really pissed and/or let down, and there will be consequences….well, I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m on anxiety medication. It doesn’t help. I *hate* feeling rushed and discombobulated and as if the world is going to come to an end if I don’t arrive at a certain place or do a certain thing according to the clock. And I really have a hard time with people who are the type who stress out immensely at running 15 minutes late. Sometimes, I think I’m clearly not the only one in the world who needs the anti-anxiety pills. Life is so much more enjoyable when you get to chill out.

This is why I enjoy traveling so much, and why others do not enjoy traveling with me (and vice versa), unless they happen to be of a similar mindset. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually *made* my scheduled flight without having to reschedule, and missing the bus, train, or cab I need is a pretty regular occurrence. I’m usually not terribly bothered by these things. What bothers me is the reaction of other people when I don’t get where I was planning to go at the time I originally planned.

When I travel to visit friends and family, I will typically plan one or two events I really want to attend, and do things like buy tickets or make a formal RSVP. That’s it. I’ll have a list of possibilities regarding what I want to do with my time, but I prefer to live in the moment and consider everything subject to change. Most of the coolest life experiences I’ve ever had come out of that openness and that mindset of “Let’s just see what life throws in my path.”

In fact, the more I plan, the more obstacles life throws in my path. I remember buying tickets for an ex-boyfriend and I to attend a fancy NYE gala in Atlanta, for which tickets were non-refundable. His car broke down on December 30th in Ohio, and we spent NYE running around Columbus looking for something interesting to do. Last year, I bought tickets for the closing weekend of a Broadway show, and missed it because the bus was late getting into NYC from Philly (there had been a blizzard that weekend.) Moving to Atlanta meant I spent 5 days in an airport, having my flight rescheduled 17 times, due to September 11th. I’ve had to learn that a willingness to be adaptable is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of my better traits, even if I’m disappointed when things don’t work out “my way”, or “like I planned them”. I tend to get over it a little faster than most. I think my fondness for martinis helps. :P

That being said, I’m definitely not a laid-back person. I’m that person who tends to micro-manage life, probably because of an inherent belief in “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. I’m not an organized person, but my chaos makes sense to me. Ever since I was much younger, I’d get mad if someone tried to be nice and clean up my space for me. I don’t really like people in my personal space that much, or messing with my organized chaos. I’m adaptable; I’ve lived with roommates and significant others, and I’m pretty good with the art of compromise. I’m actually a pretty thoughtful living companion. I’m not the person who’d get thrown off of “Survivor” first, just for being annoying, complaining, and whining. I don’t, by nature, like change that throws me out of my comfort zone. But after a little while, I’m there, and I just adapt. I work with what I have.

Being interrupted stresses me out. I blame this on the possibility that I may have some form of ADD; my mind tends to run a thousand miles a minute, and I can’t multitask to save my life. The only way I get things done is to get into a specific space and focus on that one task. Since we live in a world full of phone calls, messages, Facebook, and other distractions, this is a tough one for me. Sometimes, I sound like I really don’t like my friends when they call me on the phone and they’ve interrupted something I was doing. It’s more just that I don’t like my concentration being broken. I’m the kind of person who may not get it back for the rest of the day.

Yet, nothing on the “stress-o-meter” compares to the feeling of needing to rush, and dealing with those who become angry and resentful if you do not successfully get places on time. Friends and significant others have employed all sorts of strategies over the years, from setting the clocks back to telling me that an 8 PM event starts at 7:30.

It turns out, goat farming and the like aside, there might be a perfect place for me in the world, one where rushing and deadlines and the concept of time doesn’t dictate the enjoyment of life. Honestly, it sounds really cool.

And, no, I don’t own a watch. My living space has one clock, and the time it reflects is wrong. If I want to know what time it is, I look at my cell phone or my computer. If I forgot my cell phone, I’m sort of screwed.

Yet, I inevitably get where I’m going, and the world doesn’t come to an end. It’s kind of important for me to keep that in perspective.

Thank you to everyone who donated to Ophelia’s Wayward Muse, and to everyone who gave me advice about the publication process! My goal was to raise $600 towards publication of my poetry compilation, and ended up raising $625, so it means a lot to me that my friends believed in this project, and in helping me cross an important goal off of my bucket list. :)

I’ll now be spending the next few weeks working on editing, typesetting, cover design, and making sure that the finished project is something to which I am thrilled to lend my name. I anticipate that publication of the book will be in completed in November, and I’ll also be releasing an e-book format, and listing the book for sale on Amazon.

Of course, we’ll be throwing a huge event in honour of this achievement, because any reason is a good reason to get together with friends and celebrate life, right? It may not be the world’s biggest achievement, but for someone who has spent a lifetime writing poetry and hiding it under her bed in hopes nobody would ever read it, it’s a monumental step. Self-confidence and not diminishing dreams, however small, are an essential part of happiness.

I have never been emotionally fearless enough to put myself out there, because the inevitable criticism and judgment and “You suck” is always hard to take. Acting is a little different; it isn’t *you* who is being judged, so much as a production, a director, a character you’ve been hired to play. Writing, especially the kind of creative stuff I put out there, is intensely personal.

Earlier in the year, I decided that’s exactly *why* I had to start putting myself and my work out there. I have a voice, and a story to tell, which makes me just like every other human being on this earth. Yet, most choose not to tell their stories and not to share their voice with the world, because insecurity and criticism and fear of rejection are really strong demons.

This year, I decided it was time to prove I was stronger.

Some supportive friends have told me this may just be an important and transformative step in the journey of my life, one that admittedly doesn’t have a map. I’m not nearly that ambitious, but it touches me to be reminded that people believe in me. Some people believe in me a lot more than they ought to, and give me more credit than I deserve (I often pretend otherwise, but deep down, I’m a pretty humble person). I think that has been the best part of this process, being reminded I have a support system out there, and that’s a pretty remarkable gift. I may have left New York a long time ago, but a lot of the New York mentality has remained with me: I have the gift of mistakenly feeling I am alone and isolated, even in a crowd of people. I tend to be a bit distrustful, to think the worst of people, especially when it comes to what they think of me.

I woke up really happy this morning, after having a dream in which I was perfectly content and happy. It was an unrealistic dream; in real life, the things that made me happy would never work out that way, but it was a reflection of my idealistic self peeking through.

Being reminded that sometimes, people care about you and believe in you is important, for everyone.

So, a huge thank you to everyone who reached out to me to show support, encouragement, friendship, and to remind me that my friendship has touched them in a positive way. All of you have touched me, as well, or there’d be no inspiration behind this book in the first place. :)

Stay tuned for the occasional update on how Ophelia is progressing. :) Now, time for possibly the least exciting weekend ever. *laughs* (What happened to those days when I was not ill, and lived in a walkable part of town, and downtime was a rarity? I’m not as young as I used to be, but I kind of miss that.)

One of my favourite creative voices in Atlanta, Melysa Martinez, posted a link to an article that struck a chord with me on her Facebook page today. It explores the idea “Can we be exclusive?”, examining the idea of whether or not our popular culture eschews the idea of exclusivity in relationships in favour of the idea of being “free”,”independent”, “having fun”, or “focusing on your career”….or simply eternally holding out for something better. Even many of those who trade in their exclusivity for the benefits of a committed relationship have one eye on the idea of “trading up”.

You may argue this is a New York/LA/Miami/other large, self-centred city problem. After all, many places in America still think it’s pretty normal to marry your high school/college sweetheart, and live happily ever after. And, maybe it is. After all, the more you see of life, the more options you have, the harder it is to choose what’s right for you.

I posted a reply on this friend’s page (as an aside, like many awesome people, she’s abandoning ATL for a larger, better city in the very near future. Boo.) regarding my viewpoint on the subject. Here’s what I wrote:

“I’ve found this a really hard thing to deal with in life. As someone who has always been in one or more committed relationships at virtually any given time, I’m actually kind of terrified by committment. But I also realise that without it, the idea of emotional intimacy can’t exist. Too many people live lives with no strings attached: I see it when I have a roommate who just skips town with little warning, a dinner party where only half of the guests show up, the fact that people flake on plans 10 minutes before you’re supposed to meet up. We can’t have friendships living that way, we can’t have relationships, and we certainly can’t have “emotional intimacy”. Physical intimacy is easy. It’s like deciding to go to a friend’s club one night or not. You’re probably going to do something else the next day, so, whatever. Investing yourself is hard, and people do it less and less often. There are all these excuses, from other people being “the wrong people” to “being too busy” to “things just not falling into place”, but the truth is we’re a population of people terrified to emotionally invest in anything—especially one another.”

As expected, it didn’t take long before I got a response from a mutual friend via FB e-mail. It basically pointed out that this person was surprised by my response; as someone who has spoken openly about having poly relationships and advocating the idea of “open” relationships and marriages, it struck this friend as hypocritical for me to be commenting on a culture of committmentphobia.

I’ll both agree and disagree. I agree that it’s a little hypocritical for me to condemn a culture of committmentphobia, when it’s a struggle to get me to follow through on anything. I stay too long in bad relationships, and leave good ones because I’m terrified of choosing the wrong thing. I’ve been engaged and unengaged more times than anyone I know. At one point, I changed apartments, jobs, friends, and the like every two years. I show up late for everything, and have an honourary Ph.D. in procrastination. When things don’t go right in my life, my natural inclination is to run somewhere else, and fantasize about me starting my life over again in a tiny little place where nobody will ever know me. On the committment scale of things, I’m pretty much Kim Kardashian.

Yet, there’s also something fundamental about me that builds permanent emotional attachments with people. They aren’t always permanent, and not always easy to develop, but once they’re there, they are hard to shake. I think that’s why, for my many failings, I have a fantastic and fabulously loyal group of people in my life. I’m willing to emotionally invest, once you demonstrate that you’re not going to hurt or abandon me because I happen to care. When I say that I’m going to have a monogamous relationship with someone, I don’t lie or cheat, even though that state of relationship-being often feels unnatural and complicated and difficult for me. However, I view it as a gift I’m willing to give someone else…exclusivity. I may show up late for everything, but I don’t stand anyone up. I don’t forget birthdays or anniversaries or other special events; in fact, I’m the first one to plan a party or make a big deal about it. I don’t necessarily like committment, but I like the emotional intimacy and security that goes along with knowing—unless there’s some unforeseen calamity—someone is in your life for the long haul. I’m not that interested in hosting a revolving door of friends, lovers, and acquaintances in my life. At one point, I think I was. I wasn’t really much into the substantial back then. I was a little careless and selfish and hurt people. Karma got me back big time, and I learned a valuable life lesson. Once I did, I started meeting people that are “substantial” enough that they’re still in my life many years later.

As for advocating the benefits of polyamoury, or “open” relationships and marriages, while also believing in the power of committment and emotional investment, I don’t see any hypocrisy there. Most poly relationships are built on the idea of having multiple committed and loving relationships in life. They don’t all work the same way, and some people have open relationships and marriages just to have the best of both worlds, and think it’s a convenient way to have a loving committed relationship, plus permission to screw around. However, that’s not what I advocate in that kind of relationship. I think that, regardless of your relationship status or outlook on what makes good, healthy relationships, the moment you decide to sleep with someone, you should be making some sort of a committment. Maybe it’s just to treat that person with respect and esteem, or maybe it’s that you’ll be good friends down the line, or maybe it’s that you’ll continue to be lovers for a longer period of time. Maybe it’s that you’re going to date, be exclusive, get married, and make a death-do-us-part committment, but for most of us, most of the time, it doesn’t work out that way. (Imagine if you ended up marrying every person you’ve ever hooked up with!) Regardless, you should be willing to invest yourself in getting to know that person emotionally as well as physically. As I’ve said, physical intimacy is the easy part. Why do it just because you can?

I don’t, anymore, and that’s just a personal choice that’s resulted from growing as a person, and having a hell of a lot of life experience. I require emotional investment, committment, respect, friendship, a certain level of interest and compatibility. I do not require exclusivity, because not all relationships are the same, and I personally don’t know I believe that love and exclusivity have to go together. Everyone looks at relationships a little differently, and if “exclusivity” fits into your list of relationship wants and needs, that’s a good thing. “Committment” and “emotional intimacy” are related but different concepts. I personally value the latter two, and make them a non-negotiable part of my life, in any kind of relationship with any physical/emotional/romantic context. The former is open for discussion.

So, in answer to the question: “Can We Be Exclusive?”, there is no doubt in my mind that of course we can. However, between the number of people who are too emotionally unavailable to offer things like “committment” and “emotional intimacy” to any kind of relationship, and the number of people who see “exclusivity” as an optional component of loving, committed, emotionally intimate relationships, the old relationship paradigm isn’t as black and white as it used to be.

As with all relationships, it all comes down to who you are and what you value, more so than who you’re looking for and what they’re willing to give. If “exclusivity” means a lot to you in a given relationship, and you’re afraid to bring it up because you don’t want to lose someone or scare them away, you’re with the wrong person…or at least, with someone who doesn’t share your relationship values. It doesn’t make one of you demanding and unrealistic and the other a jerk and a player, it just means you’re incompatible on a very fundamental level. While it may hurt to learn that, it hurts more to learn that later, or to hide your feelings about knowing you’re not the only one in your partner’s life, when you feel you deserve to be.

If we could all speak about these things honestly and openly, before getting involved with one another, and during the course of our relationships—well, just imagine how much easier, better, and less dramatic our relationships would be.

There are only 72 hours left to help rescue Ophelia’s Wayward Muse and keep it from becoming a wayward project! :(

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been working on an exciting new project: publishing my own book! I know quite a friends and readers have done so, and I’m ready to join the ranks of the fearless willing to put their stuff out there to be mercilessly judged by all. *laughs*

In order to raise money for this endeavour, I’ve spent the last 30 days fundraising on Kickstarter! (a great site for anyone looking to support the arts, or raise funds and awareness for their own artistic vision.) It’s an all-or-nothing platform: you set a goal, and if others help you reach it, you’re set. If the goal is not met, you don’t get a penny in donations pledged.

I am currently $88 away from reaching my goal, and have 3 days left to get there. If you’re a supporter of the Atlanta arts scene, enjoy reading poetry, think there might be a poem in there about you and are insatiably curious, or you just like me a whole lot, please consider donating! Those little $5 contributions here and there add up in no time at all.

If you enjoy Jaded Elegance and reading the little blurbs I’ve been bringing into your life for the past decade, I promise you’ll enjoy me in poetic format!

And, of course, should I meet my goal, there will be a huge party to celebrate publication…so, a win-win for everyone. ;)

Ready to learn more about my project? Check it out and donate!. The page is chock full of information about the project, the vision behind it, and why it’s a project I’m so dedicated to completing.

Thanks for the encouragement and support so many of you have thrown my way so far! This certainly couldn’t happen without my friends and supporters. :)