This Mercury retrograde, which lasts from November 6th through the 26th, is one that’s particularly well-suited for looking back, for reminiscing, for getting and keeping in touch with people from the past while still knowing how to move forward. Oddly enough, this has turned out to be a time where life’s circumstances have conspired to have me do just that. I’ve been reminiscing in a way that makes me run the entire gamut of emotions in a relatively short period of time; a way that makes me wonder how I’ve gone through so much in a period of time that seems like a lifetime, yet will hopefully only be a fraction of my life.

I am an odd person in many respects, and when it comes to interpersonal dynamics, there is certainly no exception there. I am a “highly sensitive personality”; when I choose to, I feel things on a level that most others don’t. I am extremely loyal, extremely loving, extremely unforgiving when I deem it necessary. I am extremely intuitive when it comes to some people. I will sense things from them from a tone of voice or a simple gesture, and be emotionally affected by what most would dismiss as “nothing”. It doesn’t happen with everyone in my life, but with those with whom I happen to share that connection, I can’t help but notice and I’m usually right.

Yet, most of the time, I don’t let that level of feeling colour the way I interact with others. I am the queen of the flirtatious quip, the witty comeback, the sarcastic remark. I often brush my own feelings aside, if they seem messy or uncomfortable, choosing the option that makes it possible to laugh and view life through more light-hearted glasses. Inadvertently, it often seems I brush the feelings of others aside in the same way, and it isn’t that I don’t care. Quite the contrary; I’m often afraid of caring too much.

I’ve always been like this. I’m the girl who will catch you off-guard and have you telling your life story to someone you never considered opening up to, or who will seduce you or charm you and leave you wondering why, and what the hell happened. Yet, I’m also the girl who will make a great show of not letting anything mean too much, of being emotionally inaccessible to others. I can remember spending time, a few years ago, with a guy who had a reputation for being a player. Knowing this, when he pursued me, I used my wit and rather aggressive sense of sexuality to let him know I’d beat him at his own game. I don’t think he believed me, but I did. Weeks later, I heard through the rumour mill that he was gossiping to mutual friends about my rather unfeminine “player”-like behaviour.

I remember being surprised, because in my mind, I was playing a game on terms with which he was very familiar, rules where “Don’t get invested” and “Emotional connection is not applicable” were necessary to avoid being hurt. It never occurred to me that I might have hurt him in the process by not making myself available, by dismissing him as a person, by making him feel as if I didn’t care to know him. I am not that person, by any means. I simply find it easy to deal with relationships on another person’s terms, if they seem mutually in line with my own. It didn’t ever occur to me to think that *I* am the one who has multiple tactics for deflecting vulnerability, for avoiding complex emotions and feelings that have no easy explanation. “I’m an emotional person” always seemed to be explanation enough to make it unlikely that *I* was the one avoiding emotional intimacy.

In fact, I invite emotional intimacy. I thrive on it. It is an essential ingredient in every single meaningful friendship or relationship in my life. I view those uncomfortable with it almost as a challenge, and it is not unusual that emotional intimacy turns into physical or romantic or intellectual intimacy.

As it turns out, I then do the oddest thing…I back off. I seem, as a dear friend of mine once characterised it, “aloof”. In some cases, I genuinely hurt other people in an attempt to make it clear that I don’t need anyone getting too close, and I have no desire to be hurt by the repercussions of getting too close to anyone else. In some ways, I wonder if this is why I’ve so adamantly refused to be swayed by arguments for monogamy over the years, why I don’t “fall for people” and behave as my friends do as the result of a new relationship. There’s something about me needing to maintain a certain level of control and autonomy and reassurance that I will not be left wounded and unprotected, when all is said and done.

Looking back, I realise there have been a number of people in my life whose feelings I should have taken more seriously, handled with greater respect. There are people in my life, both in my past and in my present, for whom I have a greater level of feeling and attachment than I will ever admit. It is easier to keep such things to myself, to not take chances on things that “probably aren’t meant to be”, and keep the people in my life, and my feelings for them, in their proper places.

Sometimes, this is wise. Some of these people are individuals whom I clearly see, looking back, had a fundamental incompatibility with me. Others, we just never got the timing right. But, in so many cases, people have affected my life more deeply than I ever let on, as if letting someone else know I cared and believed they might occupy a space in my life–past, present, and/or future—was a weakness unworthy of me. Many of these people went on to marry other people, build families, build connections. Still others went on to become secondary partners with whom I’ve had more enduring and loving relationships than any primary partner, something that leaves me wondering “Why did we never pursue this before it was too late?”

Sometimes, you don’t listen to that intuitive voice, because it tells you things that are scary or don’t make enough logical sense, and it’s easier to dismiss it. Sometimes, you realise just how different your life would have been if you did listen, if you’d told someone else to wake up and pay attention and listen, too.

I always thought I was the kind of person who took chances, but the truth is, there are so many I didn’t. Perhaps it was intuition telling me it was a road better avoided, but more likely, it was just the decision of a rather directionless, emotional girl afraid of the consequences she associated with being hurt. That can lead to a lot of roads-not-taken, or even to active destruction of the path that you see ahead.

Someone told me recently I would never be the type of writer I wanted to be if I kept placing restrictions upon myself. He doesn’t know me, at all, but he’s right. Even at my most trouble-causing, devil-may-care, consequence-free way of living, there’s always been something in the back of my head that reels me in, that places limitations, that tells me how far I can go.

I have had a lot of great relationships in my life. Some people claim they’re not settled down because they just never met that right person. I’ve met a lot of people who could have been that person, if the timing was right,if the circumstances were right, if there weren’t obstacles and incompatibilities, and every other “if”. The truth is, I never settled down because I never met the person who made me want to feel emotionally available enough to make that happen, who saw the world as I did, who viewed relationships and personal growth as I did. I can’t feel too sad about that, but every now and then, you realise “If only we’d met when I’m at this point in my life, not where I was a decade ago, I think the story would be slightly different.”

I think I’m more emotionally available now, but I still keep my guard up. I still have a lot of defense mechanisms designed to convince others—and myself—that I care less than I do, as if somehow, caring less simplifies things and makes relationships stronger. The right person always sees through those attempts, and no matter what you do, the truth is the truth. Feelings are feelings. You can’t explain them, or rationalise them, or decide why it’s most advantageous you make them disappear. Sarcastic quips and keeping things on a superficial level aren’t strategies that work, not with those who are truly meant to be in your life.

I don’t understand, always, why certain people are meant to be in my life, and what space they’re meant to occupy. I realise that mostly, only time will tell, but that requires being open to options that don’t exactly fit with how you see things. It requires the lack of hubris necessary to admit that how you see things may not always be right, and your perspective skewed or limited or coloured by where you are in your personal life journey.

Looking back, I wish I knew many things then I know now, because there are some different roads I may have ended up traveling. Yet, everything happens for a reason, and I think the lesson I’m learning is that for all my insistence on openness and authenticity and taking chances, I have a long way to go. I may be a sensitive person who understands feelings a little better than many, yet when it comes to true and authentic bonds with other human beings, I freak out a little. I avoid, I deflect, I make them less than they are. I see potential in things, and if it isn’t convenient, I will make it less than it could be to avoid the emotional impact. In doing so, I actively don’t take the chances I think I’m taking.

I talk the talk, and don’t walk the walk…and I think it’s taken me 10 years to realise that. Perhaps that’s some of the reason certain people have avidly disliked me over the past decade. I’m not comfortable with any situation where the definition of the rules and parameters of the relationship or emotional investment isn’t under my control.

Hi. I’m Alayna. I’m a control freak, even though I’ve spent my whole life thinking I’m anything but. And I think that just maybe, keeping myself from getting hurt is keeping me from possibilities that have great potential to change my life. I’m spontaneous, but I dislike genuine change. I’m overly dramatic and over-romantic, yet I am uncomfortable with real and honest emotions. I’m unconventional and want to refuse to play by society’s rules, yet I feel a tremendous amount of guilt and conflict and fear over defining my own.

I am hypocritical, or maybe just scared and confused. Part of me wonders if it’s time to grow up and move past that. If I don’t now, another 10 years may go by, and I’ll be looking back in exactly the same way.