“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
Tomorrow will be dying.”

~ Robert Herrick

I’m feeling a little melancholy tonight, something that hit me pretty suddenly during an otherwise positive week. The reason for this is that after I got home from our usual Tuesday night trivia, I checked my Facebook as I always do, and saw a post that shocked me.

It was a post announcing the sudden and unexpected death of someone in my relatively wide circle of friends and acquaintances. I did not know her very well, but people to whom I’ve grown close over the years did have that opportunity to share a genuine friendship with her. She was someone who I’d enjoy reading commentary from on Facebook, who was unfailingly loving and supportive to her friends, and really left a positive mark on the lives of those around her.

I think what hit me hard was not the passing of someone that so many people in my life knew and loved— I only wish such incidents were isolated, but the past three months have been filled with such shocking announcements and loss and close calls involving impetuous decisions— but that this person was someone to whom I could relate. She was an ordinary girl, around my age, who didn’t pass away due to any prolonged illness or a drawn-out battle with self-destructive behavior or because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was just an ordinary girl whose heart decided to stop working properly, and by the time help arrived, she had been deprived of oxygen for too long.

It is selfish, but I want to cry because I see how easily that could be me. I too am just an ordinary girl who happened to become ill, to have a scary period in life where her heart didn’t work the way it should. I take medication to keep that problem from recurring, but for a majority of a year, I was terrified of dying alone. My world is not one that involves me being surrounded by other people much of the time. If my heart stops, I will die. I’ve learned from experience that it takes 15 minutes to get an ambulance when you call 911. By that point in time, there is nothing anyone can do.

I feel sad because of how easily that girl might be me, and because I don’t want it to. I feel sad because of the loss of someone who made the world a better place is not fair, and it is a loss that so many will feel for such a long time. There’s something shocking about death when it happens to someone young and vibrant, someone who assumes they have a lifetime to chase dreams, to follow passions, to love others. It is shocking because it’s a reminder that it can happen to any of us, or anyone we love, at any time. There is not always a warning.

There is not always another day to tell someone how you feel about them, or to make things right, or to make the changes you need to be brave enough and strong enough in life in order to be a happy and fulfilled individual.

There is always the possibility that every conversation, or e-mail, or Facebook status, or night out could be the last one you’ll share with someone—or others with you.

There is no guarantee that tomorrow exists, for anyone, at any age.

When you’re 10, you don’t focus on anything too far beyond tomorrow, but you assume there will always be another one . When you’re 20, you think the number of tomorrows you have are limitless, and you take stupid chances and procrastinate and self-destruct, and still come out OK most of the time. By the time you’re 30, you start to have an awareness that not only is tomorrow not a guarantee, that every single being on this Earth, however wonderful and unique, is temporary.

I can only imagine how much more importance that knowledge takes on at 40, or 50, or 60.

I hope I am around to find out. It’s odd that I should wish that more than anything, coming from the girl who never planned to live past 30, who thought dying young never meant having to disappoint anyone or hurt anyone or fail to do anything remarkable in life.

The oddest thing happened. I passed that point in my life, and all of the sudden, life became valuable. Death became less glamourous, and far more frightening, and real. I didn’t want the story to end the way I’d always planned. Now, I can’t stand the idea that I’m not going to be here forever, because however much time I have, it will never be enough.

In “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World”, Keira Knightley remarks to Steve Carell that she wishes they had been able to have more time together. He responds by telling her no amount of time ever would have been enough to erase the need for that wish.

I feel terribly sad because the relatively small part of the Universe I inhabit lost another special piece, and it doesn’t seem fair that there wasn’t enough time for her to truly live the life she loved. I am also sad because I know there will never be enough time, for any of us.

People often accuse me of being too straightforward. I say what I feel. I yell when I am angry. When I absolutely adore someone, I always let them know. I cry when I am hurt. I want every disagreement with a friend to be over quickly, and result in us still being friends. I follow my heart, even if it isn’t logical, even if it accidentally hurts others. Yet, I wish I had still more courage than I do to put myself out there, to take chances, to say what I feel, and do seems right for me. I wish I had more meaningful connections in my life than I do, because at the end of the day, that’s far more important than nearly anything else.

I realise that part of the reason I am this way is because I’ve spent so much of my life approaching it with a focus on the present, not the future. I didn’t want to be the person who endlessly planned for a future that might never happen, at the expense of experience and life that might happen today. In some ways, that’s irresponsible. That is not how we, as adults, are meant to live. Yet, in other ways, it’s realistic and showing respect and value to life, to the idea that the past can’t be altered and the future can’t be determined—but you can change your life, and touch the lives of others, with what you say and do today.

I know that when the day comes that I am not here anymore, it will ultimately be a surprise for me, and I will recognise that I still didn’t have enough time for all the living I wanted to do. I know that if I’m lucky, I’ll have more time than most people. I also know that perhaps I won’t be that lucky, and if I am, it will mean losing a lot of special people along the way.

Sometimes, I want everything life is planning to throw my way right now, because I don’t know what it has in store for me—and there never is going to be enough time. There is not enough time that I should feel I have the luxury of hitting the “pause” button, and thinking I’ll get around to dealing with life tomorrow.

I have seen bits and pieces of my future, in the form of various psychic dreams and visions. I don’t know how much I believe in all that, but I am not discounting the power of my intuition, a gift that’s served me very well throughout my life. If any of that is to be believed, though, life has unplanned surprises and twists and turns for me, and none of them involve dwelling on the idea of mortality.

Yet, life is so fragile and so temporary, it’s hard not to. Why should I, or anyone I love, be an exception?

When I think about it, there are a few people in my world I simply can’t imagine living without. They are very few and far between, but the world without those few special individuals would seem to stop for me, and I don’t know how it would restart itself in the same way ever again.

Every time someone in my circle of friends and acquaintances passes away, I remember there are a handful of people in the world who feel that exact same way about someone who is no longer around, and that sense of grief touches me immensely. I don’t know how or why, since it is not my own personal grief, but I have a tendency to feel emotions on behalf of others, and it’s not always a positive or endearing trait. I have to detach myself from focusing on many of the world’s greater problems and tragedies because I don’t have enough emotion to feel for every person who is suffering, and I inevitably end up trying.

Nobody is permanent, and that is perhaps the most frightening bit of knowledge I’ve ever come across in my life.

So, yes, today—I am sad, and cried for the loss of someone I didn’t know well at all. Perhaps I cried for me, and all the people I have lost, and all the people I will someday lose, and all the people who will turn out to represent a path not taken in life, a person who might have made a huge difference but never did. Perhaps I cried because I understand the magnitude the loss of this person has left on people in my life, and I do not wish that type of sadness on anyone. Perhaps I cried because I just don’t think it’s fair that we all search so hard for love and family and friendship and connection and romance, only to find out that every single one of us is a temporary fixture.

Reality is harsh, and sometimes it makes me cry, because the little romantic idealist inside of me has never been quite ready to handle such harsh truths.

I’d like to go on pretending there are endless tomorrows for as long as I possibly can. Yet, I think I passed that point in my life a long time ago.

I hope there is a tomorrow, and that it is just a little happier.

I’ve been feeling a little better the past few days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had a really laid-back weekend with a lot of rest and catching up on TV. In fact, all I did on Friday night was watch sitcoms and episodes of Shameless with The Guy I Am Currently Dating, while eating dinner from Moe’s and dessert from Dunkin’ Donuts. (NOTE: Even if you try really hard to stick to your diet, Dunkin’ Donuts will undermine you by giving you free donuts. You can’t ignore free donuts.) During the rest of the weekend, I highly enjoyed only seeing a few friends who I enjoy being around, because there’s really no pressure hanging out with them. It’s less like a social event, and more like when you were a teenager, and would just chill out with your friends doing nothing special. Except, for us, “nothing special” means playing trivia at our weekly pizza place. We did have to get up early on Sunday, because The Guy I Am Currently Dating had his monthly brunch/Meetup. That was followed by us doing a bunch of errands, but then I spent Sunday evening in bed, watching reality TV and “Mean Girls” on cable for the 30 millionth time.

After that, I got out my long-ignored paper journal, and decided to start writing about some of the things that were bothering me. I’ve had things on my mind, and they’ve been interfering with my sleep, despite the Valium that’s supposed to make that not happen. Whenever I talk to someone about them, I end up just feeling depressed, anxious, and angry. So, I decided to write three pages in my journal about whatever was on my mind. Three pages turned into 6, which turned into 8. I only stopped writing because I ran into a page where I’d just randomly decided to stick an entry last October. (even my diary isn’t in logical order!!) In any case, the result is that I had a very good night’s sleep, and pleasant dreams, and woke up feeling fairly positive about life.

Years ago, I did a class based on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, which is about exploring yourself and your creativity and helping you get “unstuck”. For many people, it eradicates the fears surrounding “What if I create something that sucks?” and “What if I’m not good enough to ever do anything right?”. Artists have a reputation for being laid-back, flighty, Type-B personalities, and many of us are—but many of us are also hopeless perfectionists, insecure narcissists or even more insecure misanthropes, and feel like we live in a world where nobody’s listening to those who are marching to a slightly different drummer. The Artist’s Way really helps with that. One of the things it recommends is writing three pages in the morning of whatever pops into your head, in order to release what’s weighing you down. I don’t write in the morning, since I am not a morning person, but I used to make time to do that before bed. I find it incredibly helpful, and think it’s a habit I need to stick with for a little while, at least until I feel in a more positive place about myself, my life, and my relationships with others.

At the same time, I’m working on a chapbook of short stories and poetic musings, and I hope that taking the time to write every day means this is a project I will be able to finish. Writing, for me, involves a state of high emotional awareness and willingness to address emotions that aren’t always pleasant to access. As an actor, I was trained in “the Method”, which relies on the ability to relive experiences and have unguarded access to often painful emotions, which can then be related to the scene you’re acting in order to feel as if you’re living it, rather than acting it. I suppose writing for me is much the same, and the consequence is that when I am too happy or too sad, I tend to avoid it. It requires a vulnerability from me that I’d rather not have, although I do. Sometimes, I’d rather not go probing around my emotions and my psyche with a pointy stick, so projects get put on hiatus. Then, when I return to them, I decide that they suck, and I am not particularly talented. As a result, my hiatus gets longer and longer. Therefore, I try to make the most of my introspective periods, while they happen to be around.

I think I may be slightly happier because I’ve started taking my vitamins again, another thing I need to do, but tend to forget—for weeks at a time. I am not only anemic, but deficient in D and B vitamins, which are linked to energy and mood. Less than a week into taking them again, I feel more energetic and happier.

Perhaps I’ve just come to terms with some things in my life I’m not terribly happy about. Sometimes, friendships don’t work out, and you invest in people who abandon you. Sometimes, it’s really hard to relate to other people. Sometimes, you get really attached to people who don’t see or value everything you have to offer in the way you wish they would. Sometimes, friends and lovers and family are mean to you, and make you cry, or make you doubt things about yourself and your life. I’ve been dwelling in the bitterness and genuine anger about the “disposable, disconnected mindset” people have in the way they treat one another, and how I so frequently get hurt because I do not share than mindset. But, I can’t change other people….and the reality is, I don’t really want to be a harder, less accessible person. I don’t want to invest in others less, fall for people less frequently, take fewer chances. I want other people to be willing to do those thing more often, but I can’t control that, which is why I often feel angry as well as hurt. I need to remind myself frequently that I have no influence over what other people do, beyond the ways in which my presence in someone’s life affects them. And if it doesn’t affect them that much, either because that person puts up too many walls, believes others to be replaceable, or simply didn’t care about me as a person that much to begin with, I have to make peace with that.

That is terribly hard for me. I’m a little controlling. I’m a little used to getting my own way. I’m a little used to thinking of myself as charming and having an odd quality that draws others to get to know me, so why should someone ever find me disposable or of minor importance or be “just not that into me”? Yet, it happens, and if someone chooses not to invest in me, or to be a part of my life at all, or to set limits and build walls that prohibit any sort of real emotional bond from occurring, I have to accept that and move on. It isn’t my job to convince anyone else how freaking awesome I am. It’s just my job to remember *why* I am, and that there are always going to be people in my life who appreciate those things, and want to be a part of my world.

Every time someone hurts me, or a friend betrays my trust, or a lover breaks my heart, or a crush turns out to be little more than that, I swear that I’m going to become a different kind of person, the kind who doesn’t care too much and doesn’t get hurt. The kind who keeps relationships frivolous, and sees the word through self-centred, opportunistic glasses. I tried that for a number of years. Not only did I find myself lonely and incapable of truly connecting with other people at all, I caused a lot of drama and heartache. I hurt people, including myself. I earned a lot of bad karma. And, on top of it, I was doing it in order to protect myself from being hurt. Instead, I just made certain I was always alone.

I don’t really want that. I don’t want to change. It’s just easier to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me why I don’t like who I am.” than it is to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me what I don’t like about who that person is.” The first, I can control, but the second is totally something I can do nothing about.

I remember, during my brief journey into therapy, my psychiatrist telling me I didn’t understand anger. When I yell at people, I cry. When people hurt me, I feel like something must be wrong with *me*. I used to be a pretty self-destructive human being, even if I kept my feelings inaccessible enough to not realise that my behaviours were destructive and self-destructive. I remember being told I was this way because I was angry, and too spirited to simply be “depressed”. I always directed anger at me, because I felt powerless over my emotions as they relate to other people. I have too many, and many times, I’d prefer to have none at all. It’s taken me a long time to explore a healthy middle ground.

But I still think that when someone makes me cry or treats me badly or I start to think they aren’t the right person for me, it’s a failing I direct at myself…even if I logically see it is not. I know how to be angry at others, but I don’t know how not to be sad when such things happen, how not to wish I were a different sort of person entirely. It is easier to understand “I feel sad” than “I feel angry”, or “I want something you won’t ever offer me”.

At some point, I have to realise I don’t feel sad, and I don’t want to change. I am just angry when other people hurt me, and reinforce the idea that people, even those you love and who claim to love you, sometimes suck. I can’t take the whole burden of “What’s wrong with humanity” and make it my responsibility. I can only be who I am, even if that person is too sensitive, or will always be too easily hurt or open up to the wrong people or idealise others in a way that is perhaps unrealistic. At some point, I have to believe that being who I am is as much of an asset as a detriment, even if people continue to suck. Because, the truth is, people are all sucky and hurtful sometimes, and everyone makes mistakes. Nobody really understands friendships and relationships and emotional connection and how to cope. We’re all just doing the best we can with who we are.

Maybe it’s not about being perfect, but about finding people who either have matching baggage, or know how to help you carry yours.

I’ve been short on blogs for the New Year, and I’m not sure why. It’s likely the same reason that I’ve felt inexplicably sad, something that started around the holidays, and has not lifted. That sadness has made me feel more introverted and less excited about the idea of talking to people, especially in today’s world, which seems to have a motto along the lines of “If you don’t have anything happy to say, keep your damn mouth shut.”.

I suppose I have reasons to feel sad, and yet, then again, I don’t. None of my problems are so big that they should cause a frustrating cascade into the world of loneliness and depression. Nothing has happened to make me just want to turn on the electric blanket and hide there until the day comes when I wake up feeling happy.

When I was in my adolescent years, I was particularly moody. I was never difficult enough to cause any real problems, or sad enough that feeling “bummed” got in the way of everything I was supposed to be focused on. Yet, there was this awareness that behind everything I did, even “happy” things, I did not feel like a happy person.

I remember talking to my mother about this, who would constantly hound me about my sad face and hiding away in my room for hours. It was not pleasing to her that I seemed to be doing everything “right”, and yet, I wasn’t a happy person. She would ask what I was sad about, and I’d always say, “I don’t know”. Because, really, I never did. I would feel sad simply because I didn’t feel happy, and I wanted to feel happy. The response was, “That’s immature and stupid. People don’t just feel sad whenever they don’t feel happy.”

I didn’t understand this, because I did feel sad for no other reason than not having any particular reason to feel happy. I never learned that most of the time, emotionally well-adjusted people can feel “fine”, “OK”, and “blah”. There was really no middle state of being for me. It seemed very simple: sadness is what you feel when there’s no reason to be happy or excited or look forward to the future or feel invigorated by some adventure or achievement. Perhaps, biologically, sadness is to me not actual sadness, but how I feel when nothing happens to create that endorphin rush that makes you all excited about life, or something you’re doing, or falling in love, or traveling to a new place, or having a once-in-a-lifetime romance, or achieving something you’ve always wanted to conquer. It is possible that I am an endorphin junkie.

As a teenager, this way of looking at the world earned me a trip to the psychiatrist, to see if I was depressed. My family has a major history of depression, specifically bi-polar disorder, so it was a concern. A number of my aunts and uncles and cousins suffer from it. My mother had a strange ability to detach from her emotions, and make herself feel better with food and smoking, which has contributed to her constant lifetime of yo-yo dieting. My grandfather, who is 90, will tell you that nobody ever promised life would be happy, and the secret to getting by is hard work every day, and two Manhattans at the end of it. My father, whom I don’t know much about as a person, is a narcissist with a temper and pretty dramatic mood swings. The only interest he’s ever had in anyone is the way in which that person can validate him or make him feel happy or important. Needless to say, life in my family wasn’t full of stability and sunshine. So, when my mother asked the psychiatrist if I needed Prozac because I wasn’t happy, he said “No. You’re dealing with a highly sensitive personality who is capable of feeling the emotions of others as if they were her own, and she’s surrounded by negative emotions. You need family therapy.”

My family didn’t do therapy, and it turned out that a treatment for “feeling bummed” was to move away, which I did. Yet, my “moodiness” followed. It was less pronounced as I got older, but I would often feel sad “for no reason”.

An ex-boyfriend, who believed in such things, noticed that whenever I felt sad “for no reason”, a difficult life event or loss would follow. There was always a “something bad” after one of these moods would hit, and he chalked my moods up to the combination of my habit of feeling the feelings of others, and an intuitive, almost psychic nature. He took everything in life pretty seriously, and although I don’t believe my “unhappy spells” are attached to the premonition of something bad happening, it often does seem to have coincidental timing that way.

Last year, while going through my illness, I saw many doctors. Some medical doctors believed there was nothing wrong with me, and it was all in my head. I was anxious. I was depressed. I was bi-polar. It turns out, I was just sick, and anxiety is a common side effect of being sick with something that turns your world upside down.

I went to see a neurologist/psychiatrist, a very intelligent guy who had knowledge of your brain from both a physical and mental perspective, but lacked any ability to bond with patients whatsoever. It was like having Sheldon as your doctor, which turned out to be a strangely reassuring thing for someone who was having anxiety issues that, decades ago, would have been called “hysteria”. (And, strangely, I received the decades-old solution for unhappy women with first-world problems: Valium. ) I asked him if I was depressed. I told him about my habit of falling into moods where I’d feel sad simply because I didn’t feel happy, and that people told me these extremes were not normal. I told him people thought I might have bi-polar disorder, even borderline personality issues. He did a lot of tests on my brain and bloodwork, talked to me, and said “You’re not depressed. You’re very intelligent. You’re anxious because you’re receiving answers that don’t seem to make sense, and being diagnosed with ailments you don’t have. It’s tough to be smarter than your doctors.”

He assured me that all my brain functions were fine, that I was relatively emotionally stable, that I had the right amounts of seratonin, norepenephrine, and dopamine in my body, and didn’t need chemicals to mess with them. I just needed to chill out. He didn’t even suggest I find a therapist to help me work through anything that might be bothering me…not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because I think going to that doctor was like going to see Dr. House for your flu. There was no challenge for him, because I was “normal”.

So, I learned it’s “normal” to feel sad just because you don’t feel happy, and to only feel genuinely happy when something different, exciting, and life-changing was going on. It’s “normal” to be an endorphin junkie who thinks too much and feels too much. Yet, I realise perfectly well it is not normal, because most of those around me are not like that.

I have been sad, and I have some tangible reasons to feel sad. Over the past month or so, I’ve lost some friendships I really valued, and because I care too much about other people, that hurt a great deal. Since November, my circle of friends and acquaintances has seen 7 people pass away unexpectedly, and dealt with a suicide attempt. The nation has dealt with the shock and tragedy of realising you can go into a public place, and not make it out alive, simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t have the time, money, or good health to spend the holidays with friends and family elsewhere. I didn’t have any of those people wish to visit *me*. I spent the holidays feeling forgotten, unloved, insignificant, and generally sorry for myself. I’ve wondered why it is that people don’t like me, why I am so temperamental, why I am moody, why I get attached to people when I know I shouldn’t, why I trust people despite the two million reasons I have not to, why I feel peripheral to the lives of everyone around me. I’ve spent time wondering what happened to all the endorphins that made me want to dance around my house every time I thought of the exciting possibilities life had to offer. Am I now so old that possibilities and spontaneity and unforeseen romance and unplanned adventure are no longer meant to be facets of my life?

There is, of course, the possibility that I am just SAD. I am greatly deficient in sunlight and Vitamin D, two indications that I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’ve always been SAD in the Winter, but learned to overcome it by traveling and filling my life with friends and parties and fun. This year, that didn’t happen. I didn’t travel. Christmas Eve, I fought with my boyfriend and ended up in tears. Christmas Day, I spent with people I barely know. New Year’s Eve, I was in by 9 PM, and fought with my boyfriend and cried until 11:45, when I watched Times Square and wished I was there…the same way I did when I was a little kid who longed for a bigger, more exciting, more glamourous world.

Maybe I am sad because I still wish for those things, and despite all my worldly adventures, I never found them…at least not in a way that allowed for both adventure and security, for being free AND having close relationships with people in my life. But I think that I have allowed my world to become too small, and while some of my limitations are of my own creation, it doesn’t mean I like feeling limited. It is hard to find friends and family who understand, because most people don’t have that same sort of restless and curious spirit that I do, one that’s always looking for new ways to “feel alive”.

There’s a certain feeling I get every time the car or bus or plane allows me to see the skyline of a major city, especially if I’m there to visit people I care about and wish I could see more frequently. It is something I don’t feel often, but it’s akin to the same feeling I’d always have before stepping onto a stage and seeing a room filled with people. It says, “This is the real you, the one that feels alive and energised and ready to take on the world.”

I want *that* feeling more often, and I suspect the lack of that is what makes me feel sad “for no reason”. I have always had a spirit that wants something bigger than my life, that wants epic romance and adventure and stories I will tell for years to come. It may get me into difficult situations, it may make me impulsive and irresponsible, it may make me a horrible person with whom to attempt a relationship, it may turn my world upside down now and then…but I really like it, and I don’t have that in my life here, not too often.

I think I need a partner-in-crime who thinks and feels the way I do. All of my friends are far more “settled”, far more introverted, far less likely to embrace the unknown. There are too many things I don’t do anymore, simply because I don’t have the people around me to do them with—and, well, I miss that, too. This isn’t New York or London, where you can simply get on a train and have your own adventure. Here, you need cabs or a driver to go anywhere, which is expensive, and even if your friend wants to go out, you can’t just drink and dance all night long because you can’t get home without a car. Perhaps if I lived back in the city here, I’d be a little happier, which is a goal I’d like to see happen in 2014. Perhaps I just need more money, because this is the sort of place where being financially self-sufficient means you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, because you can afford to have a driver take you.

Yet, somehow, I just don’t know. I know I am a city girl who has been stuck in a small town for too long, and I am independent spirit who has been too reliant on others, yet simultaneously felt too alone, for too long. I can’t even pick up and travel for the weekend, something I once enjoyed doing, because being abandoned by my roommate means I have no pet sitter…and I simply can’t afford pet sitting whenever I don’t want to be at home. I hate the feeling of “limitation”. If there are excitement endorphins left in my system, the burden of obligation quickly squashes them.

So, I have not been blogging because I’ve been sad. Also, every time I open my mouth, I seem to make a new enemy, so it’s safer just to talk to myself.

I want to have an adventure. In fact, this year, I wanted to have 12 of them. I don’t know if I see that as a possibility.

You may have noticed there was a blog here updating the world on my life over the past week or two, and now it’s gone. On Friday night, a friend of mine contacted me to say “Talking about your problems with other people on the internet isn’t likely to win any friends or help you solve your real-life inter-personal disputes.”

Since I’m usually blogging about people who have no longer decided to be my friend and why that decision was made, I was very confused by this. He then went on to remind me how much he did not like it when I blogged about issues with him, and that, really, nobody likes when I do that. So, I said “Whatever”, and took the blog down. Peer pressure means a lot.

I then went on to do some thinking. The thinking went like this: “OMG! I’m nice and sensitive and smart and entertaining, and yet, people don’t like me. I am shunned by social groups, have people stop talking to me for reasons I don’t understand, have been threatened in order to get me to leave town, embarrassed socially by strangers, know more than one girl who has made “not knowing Alayna” a relationship condition, don’t get invited to parties all my friends are attending, and generally have a small circle of people who really “get” me. What am I doing wrong? I’m a great friend! I should be adored and loved by all! Why is my awesomeness and love of life not apparent?”

I have to admit, I am very perplexed by the world. Apparently, self-expression in the form of sharing what’s happened in your life does not win you friends. Discussing your feelings does not win you friends on FB, because people remind you to stop complaining and how the world has bigger problems. (Yes, but I don’t know the world. These are *my* problems and feelings? Why am I not entitled to discuss them?)

There are a lot of things that don’t win you friends, and I’m afraid I don’t know what they are. However, here’s what I’ve observed during my time in Atlanta regarding the kind of person you’re supposed to be if you want to be someone who is invited to parties and whom others can actually tolerate in a social setting. Please note, this advice is written with a heavy dose of snarkiness and sarcasm (you’ll see this on the list as a quality others may not like about you.). Perhaps, in the future, I will write a new etiquette book, “Surviving the 1950′s Social Scene In 2013″ (or whatever year it happens to be finished.)

1)Don’t have any secrets in your past that may cause other people to judge you, or reflect scandal, impropriety, or imperfection in any way. One of my favourite books is Edith Wharton’s “Age Of Innocence”, about New York society in the early 20th century. One of the characters, Countess Olenska, is charming, beautiful, cultured, well-traveled, and many people secretly admire her or fall in love with her. Yet, as far as society goes, people incessantly whisper about her and are not inclined to invite her to social functions. Despite the fact that she brings a sense of life and adventure and refreshing honesty to those around her, she has “scandal” in her past, and her disposition is too “free-spirited” to suit those around her. She generally feels terribly alone and misunderstood, especially because some of those in her social circle are her relatives, and she can’t figure out why being a charming and lovely person does not win her acceptance, and even her admirers keep their admiration to themselves in “polite society”.

It’s 2013, and society has changed little. Unless you’re famous, having disreputable secrets from your past is the curse of death. If you tell people about your colourful and scandalous life, they are shocked and don’t wish to get to know you. If you wait until you know someone and then thell them, they feel betrayed, because they never would have been friends with someone like you if they’d had all the information that allowed them to judge you based on your past actions, rather than who you are today. This is especially true if you live in the Bible belt, but have broken most of the Commandments. If you want others to like you, don’t do anything wrong. And if you do things that are wrong, either have the good grace not to be caught like everyone else, or act as suitably shamed for your life of sin as your society deems you should. Some people may actually like you and admire you for your colourful life or unconventional outlook, but don’t count on them to ever express that in public, because that is not how society works.

2)If you have feelings, don’t tell anyone. An instant way to not win friends is to have feelings and express them. If someone has hurt your feelings, if you are annoyed, if you feel disrespected, if you are sad, if you are going through a tough time in life, only your close friends and perhaps your relatives will care. (I say perhaps because my relatives made it clear they didn’t care, and told me to take my whining back to Atlanta when I was sick and in need of medical attention.) In social situations, being hurt is “oversensitivity” and being displeased is “high-maintenance”, while being sad or expressing negative thoughts makes you a “downer” and discussing your life openly is just “too much information”. This is especially important on the internet, where the people who know you want to know more about you, as long as it’s suitably happy and superficial and doesn’t allow anyone to really know you.

3)If you have thoughts or opinions, don’t express them. Again, people care about what you’re thinking, but if you start talking about literature or philosophy or the meaning of life, you’ll immediately become “boring”, “heavy”, and “depressing” to those around you. If others are discussing politics and religion and you don’t believe in either, it’s best to nod and smile. If others are talking about their happy personal lives, and you happen to have a happy yet non-conventional personal life, it’s better just to not let anyone know you at all. This will make you liked and socially acceptable. Remember, it’s always better to be boring than scandalous or offensive. If you are a woman, smiling and talking to other women about perfectly neutral topics is the best way to go. Do not flirt with the men around you, even in jest, because you will immediately make estrogen-fueled enemies. Also, do not give the impression that you’re “one of the guys”, unless you actually are a guy, as the idea that you can bond with a guy in a way his wife/girlfriend cannot is threatening and cause for social banishment. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself in an attempt to get others to relate to you or to get them to open up, or because you misguidedly think “People will like me if only they understood me”. False. They will simply think you are egocentric for talking about yourself, and weird for being open about the “real you”.

4)Cut down on the free-spiritedness. You may think your crazy adventures are entertaining because your friends laugh, but every story you tell or crazy night out you plan, there is someone who is judging you for your unsuitable behaviour. Enjoy life within the constraints of the society around you, lest you be disapproved of for being “different”. Don’t talk too much, too loudly, flirt, tell off-colour jokes, try to be witty, or express your personality. Remember when your mother told you “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” She lied.

5)Make sure your dress, personal style, and mannerisms don’t stick out. You may think you’re perfectly ordinary and non-objectionable, but if you wear skirts when everyone else wears jeans, or polo shirts instead of t-shirts, you’ve provided an instant reason for others not to like you. Conformity, conformity, conformity. It is also helpful if you have a job that others respect or can relate to, yet is interesting enough that others don’t avoid you in case you’re discussing your latest project. If you have a job that is odd or unconventional, avoid mentioning it too much, or others will stare blankly and wonder why you can’t be steadily employed by a respectable corporation, school, or government agency. However, not talking about your job at all is also a recipe for disaster, because people will get curious and Google you to find out if you’re really a drug dealer, car thief, or stripper. These professions may seem interesting, but it turns out, they are not socially acceptable.

6)Do not be snarky, sarcastic, witty, or rude. Most of the time, people will not understand you, and if they do understand you, they are not likely to be impressed. First of all, many people are so self-conscious, they’re afraid that your “joke” may cause them to be judged in the future—as we’ve established, the one thing that brings about social disapproval and ostracism—or that you’re passive-aggressively saying you don’t like someone. This is even true if you’re known to be the sort of person who will just say “I do not like you.”. Secondly, others are likely to feel stupid if your particular brand of snarkiness is something they don’t get, and that makes you wrong. Thirdly, you may think you’re witty, but in reality, others find you obnoxious and tiring. If you write a blog like this one or keep a constant stream of banter going in your conversations with others, you can count on pretty much never being invited to anything, by anyone, ever. Also, you’ll have the vague sense that people don’t like you, but not know why. This is why. Unless, of course, you’ve already done one of the things mentioned above. Then, they already didn’t like you before the snarky remarks you made, so you might as well.

7)Like doughnuts and M & M’s, life is best when sugar-coated, at least in social situations. If people wanted to hear the truth, they’d turn on the news or read a book. Making other people feel like they are the most awesome people in the world and avoiding being the centre of attention is important. When you do speak, you have to be extra careful to ensure that nothing you say may accidentally have a double meaning, or can be taken in an insulting way. For instance, I personally have been de-friended for using the word “crazy” in conversation, and because I proudly called myself an “uber-liberal person”. Ooops. If there is something about anything that you dislike, it’s best not to mention it, because nice people like everything and everyone, at least to their faces.

8)Don’t talk about other people, unless they’re the socially unacceptable individuals everyone else is already talking about. Because that’s just rude, isn’t it? It’s also important to remember that you will call unwanted attention to yourself by expressing you like or admire someone that other people do not. It’s fairly obvious that being socially acceptable means liking and disliking the same people everyone else likes and dislikes, even if that’s not exactly how you feel. Did you not learn anything from high school?

9)Don’t assume that because you think you’re “nice”, others will like you. You may be a very kind-hearted individual who makes an effort to know others and do nice things for them, but there are still things that are fundamentally wrong with who you are and possibly worthy of judgment. You may not even know what’s wrong with you as a human being until you hear it from other people. After all, people are not *born* knowing why they should not like themselves, they must be taught by society to recognise their inadequacies.

10)Know when to concede and accept defeat.If you know that others do not like you and all attempts to win them over or make others see the “real you” have failed, or you’re just so scandalous and/or insufferable that you’ve alienated large groups of people, you have a few options. You can become a really happy misanthropic introvert, use your disenfranchisement from society to launch a career in the arts, or you can become so intimidating to others that they may not like you, but they’re going to shut the hell up about it. Also, you can move someplace where people don’t care about whatever it is that makes you so disliked in your current surroundings, or where people find your personality “normal” rather than “objectionable”. This is not recommended if people have confronted you and tried to bully you into leaving town, because why would you give someone who dislikes you the satisfaction of making their life easier? That would not be a self-respecting behaviour.

Alternatively, you could decide you just don’t care what others think of you or anyone else. However, don’t be surprised when you realise you’re suddenly the least popular person you know. Caring is essential, even if you don’t, not really. After all, deep down inside, you really do. Just don’t tell anyone, because your honest emotional vulnerability makes others uncomfortable 99.5% of the time.

I’m sure these useful tips will ensure I continue to not be invited to social functions throughout 2013, but it’s cool. They may just save you from that social faux pas you were accidentally going to commit, and make certain that you are still seen as acceptable by those around you. And, you don’t have to worry about me. I know that somewhere, someone is reading this…and that person may like me. And if that person doesn’t like me, well, my comments are disabled.

Let the fabulous self-delusion continue! ;)


newyears2013

Well, somehow, we all managed to make it through 2012, and it’s a New Year. Here in Atlanta, 2013 is starting off the way so many Atlanta days do: it is grey and rainy, and because it’s winter, it’s colder than I would like it to be. It’s the type of day where you plan not to leave the house and to do absolutely nothing, which is what I plan on doing.

2012 wasn’t the easiest year for me, but it was one of small improvements rather than major setbacks and that’s definitely a positive. It was a year where I needed to be consistently reminded, as a good friend likes to tell me, “Two steps forward and one step back still leaves you moving forward, one small step at a time.”


new-years-eve-2013

At the end of 2011, I had my tarot cards read. At that point in time, my major life concerns centered around health and money, yet the tarot card reader told me the focus of 2012 would not be on either of those. She indicated that 2012 would be a year of “pause”; one of self-reflection and healing and thinking about myself and my relationships, and what it is I really want out of life.

That, of course, was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, “You’re going to get better in no time, you’re going to have enough money to live a comfortable life, you’re going to find the type of relationships and friendships you want in your life.” And, indeed, much of 2012 seemed incredibly frustrating because, for me, it was defined by inertia. All around me, 2012 was the year of people falling in love, having babies, getting married, getting great new jobs, moving to new cities, winning honours and recognitions for what they do, stepping outside their comfort zone…and I felt so often stuck, and unhappy. It isn’t pleasant to feel as if you’re watching life move on without you.

Yet, in 2012, I *did* start to get better. If you asked me a year ago what today would be like, I’d tell you I didn’t think I would be here. The symptoms of my illness were that physically and emotionally disabling, I really didn’t see myself recovering: and if I did, I’d never again be the adventurous and passionate and high-spirited person I once was, a realisation that was just as painful. I felt like I suffered a loss that couldn’t ever be rectified.

Of course, like all losses, you slowly learn to adjust and live your life differently. The past year has been filled with loss, really. The passing of two very well-loved and special people in my own little Universe, the random tragedies that are all around us, friends being diagnosed with difficult illnesses—it’s hard not to see loss and contemplate mortality often. The past year has been highly difficult on my relationship. The Guy I Am Currently Dating tells me I’ve changed, that I don’t like him anymore, that the way I communicate with him doesn’t make him feel positively. Yet, from my perspective, I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells, where doing the wrong thing is cause for him to speak to me in a tone of voice that is mean, sarcastic, and condescending. It might be text messaging when he’s around, or paying a bill late and getting a late fee, or saying something twice in an attempt to be helpful, or losing something I should have not lost, or running late to an event, or not showing the right emotional reaction. It seems almost anything can trigger these arguments, which turn into arguments because I refuse to be spoken to in that way, and I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who will sit and glare at me whenever I’ve done something that doesn’t meet expectations. I have to stand up for myself, even though there are usually horrible fights involving yelling and crying and just wanting to disappear. It reminds me too much of how I grew up to feel comfortable and positive to me. I will remember that 2012 is the year Christmas Eve was ruined by this communication impossibility, and so was New Year’s Eve.

I don’t believe I’ve changed. I think he is angry and resentful towards me and it comes out in the way he treats me, quite often. But I can’t change to make him happy, and I can’t spend all my time trying to be perfect or to mollify someone into liking me. I do feel like it shouldn’t be this hard, and I am so sad that it’s taken 4 years to figure out the person in my life is capable of—and will—treat me in the one way I absolutely can’t take: the dysfunctional way in which my family communicates. Obviously, I am equally to blame; he is angry and feels hurt and wants me to be someone different than who I am, someone closer to what he imagines is right for him. He tells me this is not the case, but a more logical, introverted person who is by nature more relationship-oriented might be what it takes for him to find someone who “gets” him, and vice versa. I don’t think we want the same things the long run; I want to leave Atlanta, and he does not. I believe he’s a naturally monogamous individual, and I am not. I need a large circle of friends and acquaintances to be happy, and he does not. He is a nice person, and I think he cares greatly about me: but for some reason, he’s stopped remembering why he likes me…or stopped expressing it.

I feel like I’ve been in this relationship before, and the problem isn’t ever really that I have changed. It’s that I haven’t, when someone else, deep down, expected that I would. I’ve started to pick up on signs that he is acting in an insecure manner about my wanting to have close relationships with other people in my life, something that never occurred in the past. My friendships are very valuable to me—I consider a few of them to be of equal importance to any relationship I’ve ever had—-and I have always been that sort of person. I asked The Guy I Am Currently Dating to give me examples of how I’ve changed in the past year, but everything he mentioned is something I’ve always done, and all the ways in which I make special time and effort in my life for those who matter to me, I do for him, as well. Somehow, he doesn’t feel that way, or doesn’t feel appreciated…and it makes me feel a little like me *not* changing is an issue for him. Or, perhaps it’s simply that he’s changed, and sees me and our relationship differently now.

Either way, I don’t want my life to be defined by conflict and fear of earning someone’s disapproval, because they will visibly withdraw any positive feeling from you, speak to you in a tone designed to make you feel like something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, and if you fight back, you’re starting an argument. I also don’t want to be the cause of someone always feeling bad and unloved and insecure, just because I am who am, and that isn’t naturally compatible with who that person is. It’s always been an issue in our relationship, but it used to be one that happened once every few months. Now it seems to happen every other week. The fact that it happened an hour before 2012 ended—well, I just don’t know that I can spend another year with that same source of anxiety and unhappiness in my life. I want to be loved, but more than that, I want to be understood. I know there are people who can tolerate my presence in the world, who understand my sense of humour and how I view relationships, who empathise with the tough road I’ve traveled, and accept me as a flawed human being. I know I am capable of offering that in return. Maybe neither of us is a bad person….we just don’t bring out the best qualities in one another, and as hard as it is to admit something isn’t working, it’s harder to imagine spending a lifetime in a relationship that makes both people feel badly on a regular basis.



champnye
I feel the same way about friendships in my life. As much as it’s hurt me, I’ve had to realise some people aren’t right for me anymore.We don’t hang out simply because they’d rather not hang out with me. In 2012, I was greatly hurt by some people I trusted and gave second chances, despite better wisdom, and paid a pretty hefty price. I’ve come to realise loyalty and knowing someone will always be there for you and be honest with you, no matter what, is the greatest attribute you can find in any friendship. Yet, while I’ve had to go through the sadness and anger of losing people who were once important to me, I’ve also come to expect more from my friendships. I’ve taken the time to really know different types of people, many of whom have been somewhere in my extended friend circle for years, yet not terribly important in my every day life. The fact that two or three of those people have become important in my everyday life has meant a lot to me, even if I had to take chances or face uncomfortable personal issues to allow those people in my world. I think that 2012 was the year that “friendship” was redefined in my world, and reminded me that what I look for in those meaningful friendships differ very little from what I look for in a meaningful relationship. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned a decade ago, or I’d possibly have taken a very different life journey.

During 2012, it didn’t occur to me that my health was improving. I still couldn’t lose weight, largely due to the medication I still have to take, which affects my self-esteem on a daily basis. I still couldn’t go shopping, or sit in the booth next to the neon sign at Dagwood’s. Yet, all of the sudden, I’d be out at a party and notice that not only was I dancing in flashing lights, but hadn’t worn my sunglasses all night. I took multiple trips to new places by myself, and by the end of December, was sitting in Steak & Shake and neon diners with friends. I went into stores by myself, took the city bus alone for the first time since my illness, and am able to walk more than a mile. Other people have told me they can see a difference, and that makes me happy. The doctors told me I’d never be cured, but within 2-3 years, my symptoms would be manageable. It means a lot to me that about 14 months after getting a diagnosis, I am getting parts of my life back.

I crossed things off my bucket list. I published my first book of poetry, and while I don’t flatter myself that anyone cares, it makes me happy that I’ve done something I’ve always wanted to do. I got up in front of people at Write Club and not only entertained people without being overwhelmed by dizziness, but won my round via the applause of people I never met. Later, I came to meet some of those people, and wished I knew people like that existed in Atlanta 10 years ago.



nyechampagne
I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, but I know there are some things I need to focus on in 2013. I need to be a healthier, more independent person. I need to find a job I’m passionate about, or at least have some ability to stick to without getting fired. They always say “Do what you love, and the money will follow”, but what I truly love is having adventures and life experiences that require money. I like enjoying life, helping others enjoy life, and creating or doing things for which I might one day be remembered. I’m not terribly practical or work-motivated, I suppose, and never have been. I’ve never had any idea what my career path might me, and honestly, I still don’t. However, to be self-sufficient, I need money, which means I need a career path and self-discipline. I really feel like that’s something that should be of primary focus for me in 2013. All the goals I have that are centred around me, and not relevant to other people in my life, are goals that require me to have a lot more money than I have in order to be happy. I just don’t see the path right now.

I’d like to meet more people, and spend more time with those who are important to me. Of course, working a set schedule can really interfere with my freedom to do that, but without money, you can’t afford to do that…so there’s a Catch-22. Maybe I’m rather dumb for being the only person who doesn’t approach running a Meetup as a business venture. I’d like to publish another book. If I start now, just by writing a page a day, I’d have a novel in a year. Yet, we all know how tragically bad I am at that sort of long-term focus and self-discipline.

I am not going to the tarot reader this year, but the Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a set of “faery Oracle” cards, and I am going to do a reading today, to see what the cards predict for the next year of my life.

I have a sudden desire to start cleaning things and throwing things away, just to get rid of all the junk and clutter and baggage in my space, and eliminate all the negative energy that’s still taking up space in this apartment. However, I’ll probably just eat lunch and watch a movie.

Happy 2013 to everyone out there, wherever you may be. I hope the next year brings you much love and happiness and prosperity!!