Before I start today’s blog, which is about my love of the beach, a quick note about yesterday’s. The Guy I Am Currently Dating shared my link with Amanda Palmer’s Twitter account, and it was retweeted!! It was really awesome to see people come to visit this page because I talked about the book and how it aligned with my personal beliefs and experiences.

Today’s blog is a more personal one, one that is about past experiences, but is largely about daydreams…and how what you want most in the world isn’t always what you thought when you were 5 or 10 years younger.

We all have daydreams, and for me, a lot of them involve being somewhere other than where I am now. When I imagine where I might want to be at any given time, I usually think of the beach. Often, it’s a beach I’ve been to in the past, but sometimes, it’s an entirely new place my mind has invented. It’s strange that I like the beach, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble doing “nothing” and that is largely what people go to the beach to do. Ever since childhood, my family would be relaxing, and after 10 minutes of quiet, I’d ask “What are we going to do next?”

I have always been a city girl. I like bars, restaurants, things to do, people to meet, adventures to have. But there is also this feeling you get when you lie on the sand and look up at the sky, or take off your shoes and walk near the ocean at midnight, that the world is so big with possibility and you are so small that it would take you 100 lifetimes to do, to be, to see everything. It makes all your problems seem insignificant, or at least small enough to handle.

Even as adults, my family, and eventually just my brother and myself, would take a trip to the Jersey Shore. It’s not the Jersey Shore you see on MTV, although there are bars and restaurants and a club or two. But there’s also the fudge I loved half a lifetime ago, getting a henna tattoo on the boardwalk and playing games for stuffed animals like I’m still a teenager, riding the tram car up and down the boardwalk, stopping at a 1950’s Doo-Wop place for a milkshake and getting a slice of some of the best pizza on Earth. It is a place I love, and one of the saddest things about getting sick is that I’ve been unable to go back.

Of course, the last trip to the Jersey Shore is what made me sick. I was happy, healthy, energetic…and one day, I mixed an orange Izze with some vodka, sipped it on the beach while listening to music, and fell asleep. I woke up sunburnt, but had no idea how badly. I took a shower, walked around for a few hours, and by the end of the night, I could barely crawl home due to blisters on my legs. But I made it, and the next day, my luggage and I had to make it all the way to the bus. Later that night, it wasn’t a pretty picture. I had my first panic attack, which felt suspiciously like a heart attack, and afterwards, kept shaking uncontrollably. I thought I was going to die. Instead, I rested for a few days and traveled back to Atlanta, with 2nd degree burns over half of my body.

My parents said “Don’t go to the hospital”. “It’s sunburn”. “It’s no big thing”, so I believed in my tendency to make a bigger deal over things that need be. It took 2 weeks before I ended up in the ER, leaving an event early and crying because I was sure I was going to die and never see anyone again.

The ER rehydrated me, noticed my resting pulse of 120 was not good, put me on sedatives and beta-blockers, and sent me home. But it didn’t take long before the panic attacks started again, and the constant dizziness. 4 visits to the ER, a drug that tried to kill me, and weeks later, there was still no diagnosis. One doctor put me on a heart medication that still to this day causes weight gain. Another determined it was an inner ear disorder. Another said I had an anxiety disorder, another said I had late onset bi-polar disorder. At one point, I had to stop the doctor merry-go-round, because the motion of the car would trigger adrenaline rushes so bad I would rationally consider jumping out of a moving car on the highway to make it stop.

Nobody knows what is wrong with me, or what happened that day on the beach to trigger it. One doctor even said I had brain damage to my hypothalamus as a result of heat stroke. But that one day changed my life forever, and I can’t help but think, “If only I’d stayed in and worked”, and “If only I’d waited until dinner to have a drink”. I hope one day they do find out, and I hope I’m alive when they do. But I don’t count on it. Being sick has become a new normal, and being alone isn’t as lonely as it was when I was healthy.

So, you’d think I’d be terrified of that beach. You’d think I’d have a panic attack just remembering the place where this happened. Instead, I think “If there is every a way for them to identify and cure my mystery illness, and I can go back to being me, I’m going to the beach for a month”.

I don’t care if I’m 40. I’m still getting a henna tattoo and going to the fortune teller and eating too much fudge on the tram car. It turns out that even one of the worst experiences of your life can’t cancel out years of great ones.

It can teach you, though, the value of small things…and being healthy enough to walk on that beach at midnight again is priceless in my world. It is priceless enough for a small town of 10,000 people to seem more interesting than cities with ten of millions, because the things that remind you of when you were younger, happier, and healthier are what you remember when you journey throughout life….even if you’re drinking apple martinis and covered in glitter.

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately, and that some of my older posts are no longer with us. Sadly, for the 3rd time in nearly 16 years of blogging, I lost my blog and all of my entries. The Guy I Am Currently Dating was determined to save my posts for immortality, and hunted down many of them. However, a big chunk of 2014 is gone, and I am hoping to find it again bit by bit.

When you create, and you lose something you’ve created, it is a genuine loss. It can make you not wish to create new things, or re-create the old. I recently learned I am not alone in feeling this way; a friend of mine is a designer and programmer, and he recently lost a great deal of work. Fortunately, he had backups, but the process of re-creating something he was excited about the first time didn’t appeal to him. He is still in the “reluctant to create” space. Sadly, that’s the way I have felt about this blog.

So, I’ve decided to rekindle my interest in sharing thoughts with the Universe by participating in the A-Z Challenge! The rules are very simple; in the month of April, every day except Sunday is a different letter. By the end of the month, you should have 26 stellar, publication-worthy essays on the great issues! Right? 😛

I’m kicking off the blog challenge by writing about a book I enjoyed reading, “The Art Of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. For those who don’t know, Amanda Palmer is a talented, unconventional, and bizarre musician who was lead singer for the Dresden Dolls. She then later became an indie artist and helped revolutionise the idea of people using Kickstarter and other forms of crowdsourcing to create art, becoming the first artist to raise over a million dollars for a project. She is also married to the equally talented, unconventional, and bizarre writer Neil Gaiman, who clearly has a thing for unconventional redheads (see: Tori Amos). Amanda Palmer has been on my radar and in my links list for a long time, so it always surprises me when people ask me “Who’s that?”. Fittingly, the book was a birthday present I asked for, and one a lot of people might benefit from reading.

By most accounts, I have lived a fairly unconventional life, having traveled extensively and having jobs/interests ranging from business professional to “it may or may not be legal to discuss that”. I have slept on the couches of strangers and met people from other countries in pubs and clubs, and ended up having adventures. I have gotten into a little trouble. I have gotten into A LOT of trouble. I have had to start over again so many times, I should be eligible for some resilience award. I have been stuck in a city where I did not live and had no place to stay and a budget that allowed for a soft pretzel and Coke for dinner, and spent the night in Port Authority and been just fine…but had my stuff stolen from my own apartment by a roommate when I was out of town. Life has been an adventure for me, and most people don’t even know half of it. So, when I find the memoir of someone who has lived an even more adventurous, unconventional, risk-taking, trusting in strangers kind of life, it absolutely fascinates me.

Amanda Palmer is that person. She discusses having a variety of jobs, from waiting tables to working as a dominatrix, but focuses a great deal on a job that lasted for many years: working as a living statue. Oddly enough, her years as a street performer not only launched her career and introduced her to her husband, they formed her beliefs in a way most people find challenging: seeing asking for help as not just getting something you need, but allowing someone else to do a favour for you helps another person feel useful and access their generosity.

In her book, Amanda Palmer discusses the generosity of people around her, and how the world happens to be a loving, giving place. I have seen that. I have seen people want to take care of me because I had nowhere else to turn and was scared and alone. I have had people want to buy me a drink or coffee or dinner because they liked the way I looked, and bartenders often give me free drinks because I’m good company. I have had people I don’t know ask to draw me. I have been an active Couchsurfer for a long time, and never once had a horror story. I largely met people who were nicer and more giving people than people in my life back home. I have had strangers come up to a friend and I and want to buy our meal, or ask to take my picture wearing my bizarre headpieces and then send over a bottle of vodka. A lot of the strangers I encountered along the journey, I still am friends with on Facebook or send Christmas cards to every year.

On the other hand, I’ve also had people tell me, on hearing I was publishing a book, “I wouldn’t BUY it or anything. I don’t buy books.” Running a Meetup for over 8 years, I’ve had people tell me my time and effort wasn’t appreciated, wasn’t good enough, or even had them run out on the check. I’ve had guys in my life tell me I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t witty enough, wasn’t interesting enough to keep their attention. I’ve seen the opposite of generosity and lifting people up in every way. It makes it hard to believe that Amanda’s observations are true; that the world is a nice place if you open yourself up to it.

Like many people, I live in a very corporate city. Prior to that, I’ve lived in other large corporate cities. The mentality in these places is one of self-sufficiency. I have had good friends suggest I take 2.5 hours on public transport to get to them, because I’m 10 minutes out of the way for them to drive to me. I have had some of my best friends in the world not offer me crash space because their apartment was small (if you have the choice between sleeping on the floor and in the bus station, the first is preferable) and it was inconvenient. I have had roommates who charged $5 for a ride to the store a half-mile away. And on some level, these things always outraged me, and I never knew quite why. It isn’t that I expect the world to revolve around me or that I am an exception to the self-sufficiency rule. It is a deep seated idea that “People are meant to be generous and giving when it comes to their friends and family.”

Last year, my mother had to be put in a nursing home, and my aunt, who once had quite a bit of money, went shopping to buy my mother everything she needed. She then sent my brother a bill, knowing my brother lives on disability and is caring for my terminally ill father almost alone, saying she couldn’t afford not to be reimbursed for these things. The bill was $150. My brother paid her back, although it meant going into debt that month. He asked when she’d be by to visit my mother. My aunt and her family couldn’t, because they were going on a ski trip. She hasn’t been to visit my mother since, despite living 40 minutes away.

The sense of injustice at this, at this Ayn Rand-esque “I earned my money and do everything by the book, go take care of yourself and don’t ask for favours” idea makes my blood boil. How can you have that attitude towards society and still like people? How can you cut people out of your life when they are struggling or not successful, and really like anyone but yourself?

It seems to make Amanda Palmer angry, too, the idea that “asking for a favour” is shameless. There are people who won’t ask a stranger for a tampon or to borrow a dollar in a crisis. There are people who will come to your parties empty-handed when the invite says “Everyone please contribute”. There are people who think they are somehow “better than”, and buying someone a drink or a coffee over conversation is looking for a better return on an investment.

In her book, she tells so many positive and uplifting stories of how cool the world can be when you are open to experiences and people. But she tells one that she describes as a soul-crushing experience, having overturned her ankle and being unable to walk on a busy city street in the Northeast U.S., and in need of help. She went by three older women who assisted her, and offered to call an ambulance. She said she was fine, but she needed help from the cab to her apartment to retrieve cab fare and asked the ladies to go with her, offering to pay their fare back. They wouldn’t help. She asked for a variety of other small ways they could be of assistance, and they wouldn’t do anything except say, “We’ll call you an ambulance”. She was in tears hobbling to her cab alone, because she felt the cruelty of what they world is like when you can’t trust or help anyone, not even people in distress.

Throughout my life, I have had people not wish to be a part of my life because my level of openness exceeds their comfort zone. I have had people not want to be talked about on this blog, written about in stories, or have picture on FB and Instagram. I have had people not want to be with someone who likes living in such a big and public way (and they should know me now, as I am quite the opposite.) I have had people tell me I’m crazy, the chances I’ve taken in life. But, for the most part, they haven’t been reckless. They have been based on reading people and knowing not everyone shares this “Money, Success, And Self-Sufficiency Defines You” dogma. Many people have a “Generosity Of Spirit Defines You” attitude, and believe, like I do, that when you put things out there in the world, you get them back.

When I first became ill, back in 2012, I was convinced I was going to die. And I became interested, because I couldn’t go out much, in sharing myself with strangers beyond this blog and FB and e-mail. I started becoming involved in a mail-swap community, and it filled the need to share pieces of myself with the world. Some of the things I got back, I really value, including one girl who wrote a letter about needing to come out to her family, but being afraid that whether she did or didn’t, she would never get the love she felt she deserved. I often wonder what happened to her.

Over the years, I have had to learn that many people are not like me. They don’t send 4-page handwritten notes just because they care. Sadly, I have started to become more like most people on many occasions, not returning e-mails and phone calls because I could do it later, and not making people smile quite as much. Being an open-hearted, open-minded person has gotten me a lot of things, but it’s also left me disappointed when my boyfriends or best friends didn’t show me the same loyalty I showed them, or people stopped reaching out when times were tough because nobody wants to be around someone depressing with all of their crappy life struggles. I think it’s a reminder that “Life can be crappy and unfair to you, too”, and that really kills the buzz. I have found myself de-friended in life and attacked online for expressing my opinions and my world views…and wishing people would be open and kind and giving in just listening and getting to know other people.

Amanda Palmer talks about this, too. She writes: “With every new connection you make online, there’s more potential for criticism. For every new bridge you build with your community, there’s a new set of trolls who squat underneath it.”

It reminded me that when I was in Washington D.C., I had an issue with my bank and it was a weekend, and I had no money, and a friend drove across town during his lunch hour with $750. I’d like to think that people can be really awesome if you can get over fear and doubt just enough to let them be. Amanda Palmer thinks so, too, which is why this book is worth reading. (and the preface is written by a conservative Biblical scholar.)

Friend in D.C. from many years ago, thank you for saving me and not letting me get murdered. <3

Yes, it’s me! I am still alive and well, although I’ve been remarkably absent. For many reasons, I’ve been feeling less than positively about life, and some of the people in it who are very important to me have been quite absent. They always say that the holidays are a difficult time for most people; more people struggle with depression or attempt to commit suicide during the holiday season than any other.

I never really understood that, because I love the holidays! I was born between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I love the lights and the carols and putting up all the decorations, and sharing Thanksgiving with friends, and while I wish I were in NYC and Philly over the holidays, there is plenty going on here to make it feel like “home for the holidays”.

However, it’s kind of hit me that this year I will not be seeing family during the holiday season. This is not the first time; last year, I was relieved to avoid the travel stress and the even colder temperatures. What has affected me is knowing that there really isn’t a family that can get together and celebrate anymore. Even though this may not affect them too much, as I got older, I always made sure we had the biggest tree and the coolest decorations and spent Xmas eve singing and baking cookies and playing board games. I always felt sad that I was the only one who found this time special, and decided that when I was older, I wanted to make sure I was surrounded by people who loved that, too.

That, of course, never happened. You can’t replace your lack of family when you don’t have the desire to start your own, and now that my friends are getting older, it’s a case of “We have our own families and aren’t going to be around.” I never did acquire that sense of home and stability I always wanted, and it is something I miss a lot at the holidays.

It doesn’t help that even amongst my friends, I’ve gotten the impression I’m not so important or beloved by people I’ve let into my life over the years. I get that we’re a generation that routinely doesn’t return phone calls on time, who will answer your texts later, who will have falling-outs over Facebook or Twitter, who doesn’t fall over themselves to make time to see others when they pass through town, for whom “Can we postpone this?” has become a mantra. I sometimes think it is hard to be part of my generation, not be married or have children, and live in a very transient city if what you value are the people who are “like family” and the experiences you share with them. We all grow apart, and it’s very easy to miss the people who have distanced themselves, not out of dislike for you but because their life is just always busy.

This sense of isolation, of the world moving on without me, it makes me sad. Because when I was a little girl, I remember wanting a small house with a big tree and music and a lot of people who loved me all gathered together. Nobody explained to me that such things are only for movies.

In other news, I have a new article up at Nerdy Minds entitled So, You Want To Date A Geek?. It is far less serious or controversial than my other pieces, and hopefully shows a more light-hearted, endearing side of my personality. However, since it was published on Friday evening (the worst time to publish anything you want anyone to see), it’s gotten far less readers than my pieces normally do. Please stop by and visit, and give some feedback!

Happy November, readers! I’ll be back with some other updates and stories soon, as the holiday madness approaches. :)

When I was 19, I was in a fairly well-known musical called The Fantasticks. I’m not sure why, but the other day, I began blogging about this musical–specifically, the people I worked with, and how it affected me sense of self. It was the first time I realised the way I saw myself–both positive and negative—was not how others saw me. I only saw all the ways in which I wasn’t good enough, the ways in which other people around me were better than me. Granted, the entertainment industry is not the best place for teenagers and 20-somethings with this issue, which is almost everyone. However, there are few aspects of life that are much better. Somehow, however unique and wonderful we are, most of us end up with a sense that our adult selves are somehow never enough.

In any case, I may or may not post my theatre-related reflection another day, but in The Fantasticks, there is one female character. She is a 16 year-old girl who is the epitome of your average girl-next-door, but her spirit is rebellious. She wants pretty much every life experience there is. She delivers a brief monologue before her well-known song, in which the final line is
“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

It is not a mystery why I played this role, as it was perfectly written for a high-spirited, rebellious girl who just wanted to live an extraordinary life and be someone special. People found me endearing as this character, despite my lack of inexperienced-girl-next-door stage presence, because I really only had to be myself. I happened to find myself landing the job over some far more experienced, talented, and prettier young women, and I never knew why. I know now, and the answer is simple: authenticity is charming. In the eyes of much of the world, it is more charming than perfection. It’s a very difficult thing for someone who has a mental list of imperfections streaming at all times to make peace with, but that summer of my life was the first time I learned people would still see you, still love you, still appreciate you—even if you couldn’t be perfect.

That brings me around to the point of this post, which (no,really! Seriously!) is not about me. I love this blog, and its tagline, “Ideas For A World Out Of Balance”. I especially enjoyed a recent post,
Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked
. The daily struggle so many of us engage in–to be liked, to be successful, to be accepted, to be like everyone else, to be respected, to have money, to be found attractive, to make others jealous, to climb ladders that don’t exist and think that ‘sameness’ means ‘respectability’– it all comes at a very great cost.

When I look at many of my friends, I can separate them into two different groups: one full of free-spirits who have always elected to take the “road less traveled”, and another full of those who took the “right path” and did what was expected in order to be an acceptable, respectable, and above all, successful, person in today’s society.

The irony is, I see both groups of people in my age range (mostly Gen Y-ers, but a few late Gen X-ers, as well), struggling with the same problems. The first type of person has gone through life valuing authenticity over everything else, only to end up oblivious to the fact that wearing a mask called “non-conformist” is no less authentic or free than making any other choice. The second type of person has been willing to compromise personal authenticity and freedom in order to make the choice that will be rewarded through money, status, and recognition.

Neither group seems happier than the other. Everyone’s problems sound alike. And, no matter what, few people get to be who they really want to be or live as they really want to live.

I have a few close friends who have been in my life a long time, and by and large, they are quite unlike me. Over the years, it has hurt me to see these people give away pieces of themselves. They abandon idealism for a paycheck and a corner office. They abandon romanticism for someone who is a “really suitable partner” instead of a soulmate. They abandon hobbies, dreams, visions of who they once wanted to be, because there is little time left in the grown-up world for passion. They do not post what they’d like to post about the reality of their lives on social media because they are afraid of what their bosses will see, how future employers will judge them, how their peers will judge them. They spend a lot of time living a carefully-crafted presentation called “What My 30-Year-Old Self Is Supposed To Be”.

And it hurts me to see that so many are dreadfully, and painfully unhappy. The corporate ladder-climbers feel like they’ve compromised their happiness, and aren’t nearly as successful as doing such a thing promised. The free-spirited artistic types wonder if there will ever be any value, appreciation, or stability in what they do. Those who have married and had children secretly miss being free. Those who are single and without children secretly wonder what’s wrong with them. But, when you get them all together in a group, everyone is happy, glowing, charming, the picture of “What Our Generation Is Supposed To Be”.

It is painful to me when I see someone I love change abruptly, because while people do change, a very abrupt transition usually signifies the point where someone has relinquished a bit of their uniqueness and has figured out that it’s just so much easier to do what’s expected, what everyone else is doing. There is comfort in feeling “normal”.

What people seem not to see is that giving up what would really make you feel happy and fulfilled in life for what the world tells you creates happiness and fulfillment is just another version of lies we tell ourselves to be liked, to be successful, to erase doubt and confusion. And years later, we are shocked to realise that we are not happy, not fulfilled, doubt and confusion still reign.

In some ways, I see so many people (myself included) living as prisoners of their own lives, but we are the ones who create our prisons, our limitations. We do not see ourselves the way others see us. We do not live freely. We do not create and work freely. We do not love freely. And, for all our technology and social media, we do not represent ourselves honestly.

The more people I sit and talk to in a very open, one-on-one fashion, the more I see this is a generational epidemic. We do not value our own authenticity. We do not value our own emotion. We are willing to compromise things that should never be compromised, because we are taught that colouring inside the lines and making ourselves monochrome is the only shot at success. And when we are old enough to know that success and fulfillment and happiness are different and distinct things, we often think it is far too late to do things differently. It is too late to change course, to threaten any sense of stability, to break someone’s heart, to shock the world, to reveal who we really are, what we want, what we dream of, and reveal the loving, idealistic child that lurks inside that only wants to be told he or she is accepted, loved, and good enough.

It is never too late to stop compromising. It is never too late to strip away all the carefully-crafted lies. It is never too late to post that horrible photo of you on Facebook, because nobody is beautiful all the time, and why should we spend so much time forced to pretend everyone is? All it does is create pressure to keep up, and the same feelings of inferiority almost all of us had at teenagers, looking at the perfect lives of those around us.

We lied a lot then, and we lie a lot now, and it’s not only accepted, but encouraged. If you don’t play along, you may never be liked. You may never be loved. You may never get a good job. You may always be perceived as weird, or a troublemaker, or less than respectable. You may risk being alone. You may risk not having all the material things everyone else has.

Or, you may realise you’re the happiest person you know.

I’m, of course, as hypocritical as everyone else because I’m not the happiest person I know, and I don’t always have the courage to be whoever I want to be. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid I will always be the person who isn’t taken seriously, who isn’t special, who isn’t good enough.

And I wonder, what happened to the 19 year-old girl who felt liberated by understanding that strangers loved her because she wasn’t afraid to be herself in a world that largely is? Is authenticity something we have to sacrifice in order to grow up? Do we need to keep our mouths shut and our images perfectly maintained to be liked, to have someone fall in love with us, to be successful, to be respected? Or do we just need the courage to start being human beings?

When do we stop compromising the things that matter the most, in order to be “normal”?

“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

Many people I know complain that laziness and complacency are their enemies. “I’d get so much more done if I didn’t want to stay home and watch TV”, “I know I should try to cook more, but it’s way easier to order a pizza”, “I went to work today and still didn’t get anything done.” I can absolutely understand this feeling, but I have identified that my enemy in life isn’t being lazy or getting too comfortable with routine.

I come equipped with a built-in sense of restlessness that is rarely ever focused or satisfied. The Zen folks who talk about “Living in the moment” may quit, trying to teach me the art of being “present”. Wherever I am, I’m so often really excited about wherever I’m planning to be NEXT, while also enjoying where I am NOW.

I don’t neglect doing work because I am lazy and would rather do nothing (most of the time.) I neglect work because when I start on one project, my mind wanders, and I end up somewhere else mentally…and I would rather be anywhere but where I am, doing anything other than what I am meant to be doing. I have 70 billion ideas rolling around, and some days, if I try to focus on one, the noise of all the others makes it impossible.

It isn’t only work that is affected by restlessness. On Friday, I had a rare day with no plans, and was feeling tired, so The Guy I Am Currently Dating came over and we were just going to “hang out”. By 10 PM, I was a little bored and wondering what to do with what seemed like endless hours of free time. I have always felt guilty in my various long-term relationships, because somewhere in the back of my head, this seed was planted that “If people are really right together, they’re happy doing nothing.”. I’m a horrible person with whom to be in a relationship. After 15-20 minutes of cuddling, if we’re not doing something or talking, I start thinking about everything else in the world. I start wondering at what point it becomes not rude to want to get up. Sometimes, when I’m considering this problem, I just fall asleep.

I’ve suffered from this problem of “restlessness” ever since I was a kid. I was the one who, three days into summer vacation, was tired of “relaxing”. I was the one who’d insist on seeing and doing everything possible on family vacations, who never wanted to sit still. I drove my mother insane, because she’d happily sit on the beach watching the ocean for an hour, or chill out on a patio to “people watch”. After 20 minutes, I was over it. I wasn’t interested in watching life, I was interested in experiencing it…and when there was nothing to experience, I’d retreat into a world of imaginations. Books, television, theatre, dance—pretty much any form of self-expression and experiencing another person’s story appealed to me, when I couldn’t experience my own.

It is something I thought I’d eventually grow out of, but I haven’t. The odd thing is, I’m not a type-A person by nature. However, there are wheels in my mind that are constantly spinning. The only times this doesn’t happen are the moments when I am really 100% consumed by whatever I am doing, either creatively or activity-wise, or when I am sick and/or tired out to the point of exhaustion.

One of the largest struggles I’ve faced with being ill off and on during the past two years is that I still have the mental and spiritual energy of a teenager. Unfortunately, I do not have a body that will keep up with that. I’ve learned to make the most of things by doing everything I can do to enjoy life during the “good times”, and when the “bad times” hit, when simply riding in the car will trigger a panic attack or I can’t go out with friends without wanting to collapse, it is hard for me. Because, even when I feel at my worst, part of me just wants to break out of whatever is keeping me trapped and *GO*. “Bad times” are often accompanied by very childish outbursts of self-pity and bouts of tears, because I find it heartbreakingly unfair that I don’t feel in control of my life, and that there is no outlet for my restlessness.

It has been suggested to me throughout my life that I suffer from some form of ADD or ADHD, although this doesn’t seem to be the case (my mother took me to be tested as a kid, and I had a neurologist discuss it with me as an adult.) I am actually capable of intensely focusing on things for hours, and grow irritated quickly at any interruption. However, it is often the case that my brain is so overwhelmed by daydreams and things I’d like to do and things I *should* do and all these things that want to be expressed all at once, that I end up doing nothing at all. It’s almost as if I try to ignore the chaos, because it is too hard to organize it.

I have always wanted to live a life “bigger” than my own. I have always had this incredible need for memorable experience, as often as possible, in the way that only someone who has a strong awareness of the inevitability of mortality early in life develops. I am often panicked by the idea of death, not because death in itself might be the most frightening experience in the world, but because I don’t want to run out of time. There is so much world, and so many experiences, and so many people….and such a small amount of time. Especially as you grow older, or start struggling with health, this becomes so much more obvious.

I once had an ex-boyfriend tell me, when he was tired of me looking morose and bored because he was so busy working that we couldn’t go out and do anything, that only boring people were bored in life, because there was so much fascinating about life. For me, the most fascinating thing about the world was being a part of it, interacting with people, going new places, having new experiences, forming new relationships. This ex, who grew up as a very self-sufficient, responsible introvert, could not understand why I was frustrated to the point of tears at being told that my restlessness should be contained and directed towards solitary, intellectual, and creative pursuits. I grew terribly unhappy (and consequently, became a very difficult person with whom to spend time.) because I found it couldn’t. The more my restlessness was constrained, the more it took over everything; I would feel frustrated with and hate everyone and everything.

A decade later, I’m still battling demons having to do with restlessness. The work I do is monotonous, repetitious, and easy. There is no reason I should not be incredibly productive, other than I find myself staring at the computer screen, thinking of other times in my life, other places, other people, other dreams. I have never learned how to enjoy the mundane, or at least, to tolerate it. I’ve read anecdotes about many creative people working in extremely dull, tedious jobs because the nature of a repetitive job helped boost creativity or clarify highly intellectual problems. This is not me. My mind seems to take any opportunity to escape, mentally, if not physically.

The worst thing is when I have all the time in the world and someone asks what I want to do, and I just don’t know. All the answers are unrealistic. I want to do something different, exciting, something that engages body, mind, and spirit 100%. I want to do something I’ve never done before. I want to meet someone who may turn my life upside down. I want to experience really powerful emotions as often as possible. I want to be not here, because I’ve grown tired of here for now, but I’ll probably want to come back in a little while. The kind of life I want requires a lot of money, a lot of robust health and energy, and plenty of willing partners-in-crime. I lack all of the above.

I have packed a LOT of life experience, positive and negative, into the first part of my life. I always thought by now, I’d be happy with the simple things, appreciate living a calm and quiet life, see the value in “alone time”.

Nope. I’m still ready to go. But I know that the $1.25 in my pocket won’t get me terribly far, and at some point, I’ll have to take my medication and want a nap.

It is, indeed, a conundrum. I wonder at what point restlessness will turn into internal stillness and peace. People told me that once I turned 30, a shift would happen, and I’d desire this more. It was true, for about two years.

Now I’m ready to do things, experience things, feel things, affect the lives of others, explore new places, and generally turn the world upside down with the force of being that is Hurricane Alayna. I am ready for more dopamine and all that good stuff. I like when my somewhat fragile body is lying in an exhausted heap, but on the inside, I still want to “go go go”, because it reminds me I am not dead yet. *laughs*

I think I’d rather be lazy and complacent than waking up thinking, “What cool experiences are we going to have today?”…because the answer is usually, “We only do things on Friday, and today is Monday.” :P

On some level, I never stopped being 23. I just drink a little less, my life is much less complicated, and sadly, make less money. My spirit, however, is as inexhaustible as ever. I just wish it wanted to write about lawyers and plastic surgeons on a regular basis. :P

Today, the United States government has entered a state of partial shut-down, and I anticipate that things will be at a standstill for some time before they begin to look up. I’m not intending to write about this very current issue, even though it is relevant to all of us. However, I did post a statement on my Facebook page explaining why I’d be keeping oddly silent through a period of controversy, something that is not like me at all. It reads as follows:

“I don’t comment on political things much. It isn’t because I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have very strong opinions. But I also have the irritating ability to see both sides of a situation and discuss a problem from that perspective, which seems to annoy both “sides” of any issue. I look for ways for people to compromise and work together whenever possible, and those who see things in black and white tend to get angry with me, because I rarely do. So, I will spend tomorrow avoiding all commentary on the current political issues or partisan “blaming” conversations. I will say, though, if there were more people like me on our Congress, we wouldn’t have an “us vs. them” mentality that eliminates the idea of compromise for the greater good, in favour of behaving like children playing a game where winning is the only thing that matters. That is all I have to say about that.”

So, yes. Although I do not work for the government, it feels a bit like it should be a holiday today. I mean, why I am I meant to sit around being productive today? Instead, I thought I’d head over here and say hello to you guys. I haven’t done as well with keeping up on my blogging projects as I should, and I’m appreciative of the regular readers who drop by to look for new stories, even when there are not any.

For those who missed it, my latest project has been an involvement with Nerdy Minds, an online magazine for all things geek-culture related. They were initially delighted to have me as a contributor, because they really didn’t have someone on staff who wasn’t your “typical geek” writing about the culture from somewhat of an outside perspective. My very first post,
The Myth Of The Geek Girl
, stirred up a good deal of controversy and debate on Facebook and amongst the geek community at large. In fact, the response (both of a positive and negative nature) was so immediate and inspired so many strong opinions, I was asked to write a follow-up piece.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: writing for an audience that is not yours and expressing opinions on the internet is a bit like wandering into a minefield. When you write on your own blog, you have a bit of a security net. When you write a book, you have a finished work or a character or something to hide behind. When you write an opinion piece based upon your own life and share it with the world, there is no hiding. People judge. The commentary can get personal. You need to be a thick-skinned person to put yourself and your opinions out there in an authentic, vulnerable fashion and not be affected by the backlash. I, admittedly, am sensitive to the point of being overly sensitive. I take things personally when they are not meant that way. You might imagine how I react to the things that are most certainly meant that way.

Yet, throughout my life and my writing career, I’ve had the following pointed out: “You know how to make friends. You know how to get people to like you. If you just employ those strategies and hold back on sharing so much of yourself, you’ll find it easier to ingratiate yourself with any group of people. You’re a charming person; does it matter so much to be authentic and to have your voice heard?”

The answer is yes, of course it does. I addressed this issue in a snarky piece about
Surviving The Social Scene In 2013
at the beginning of the year. If you are an artist in any way shape and form, you understand that none of the aforementioned suggestions apply to you. They simply cannot co-exist with your identity as an artist without one suffering greatly. As an artist, it isn’t your job to make people like you. It isn’t even your job to pay attention to what your readers say, what your critics say, what your friends and family say. It isn’t your job to explain yourself and become a more beloved person. The job of an artist is to get people to examine how they think, how they feel, and how that is reflective (or not) of society. The job of an artist is to evoke a response and initiate dialogue. If acceptance is always the ultimate goal, one must embrace conformity much more than I am willing to do. I like acceptance. I like to be liked. However, the comments that meant the most to me were hearing from women who’d encountered all sorts of experiences that made them uncomfortable, and thanked me for sharing mine. The comments that meant the most to me were from people who wanted to reference my pieces in their own work and discussions on the topic, the people who validated me as an artist with something to say, not as a likeable girl.

Perhaps I don’t need to be liked enough that I believe the only important thing I have to say is on the topic of “Why Yellow Is Out In 2014″. Yet, the truth is, I do care, and when people make personal comments or actively dislike me, I cry. It doesn’t matter if I do not know or will never meet that person. Judgement hurts. However, it doesn’t hurt enough to make me believe toning down my personality, expressing myself a little less strongly, or working to keep the peace and making certain everyone will like me is worth it. I dislike conflict, but I cannot mold myself to the expectations of others to avoid conflict and live a life where I am more “accepted” by all. I cannot refuse to stand out because it makes others uncomfortable.

A good friend told me yesterday that he was quite concerned about me, because he always sees me as a bright shining light in the middle of a world that isn’t equipped for such a thing. He is afraid that the people around me who are not as open and adventurous as I can be, the people both in my personal and professional life who’d like to see me knocked down a peg or two, the pressure to live in a society whose mantra seems to be “conformity and pleasing others is the ticket to success”, and the difficult situations in my life one might characterise as “The Challenging Process Of Growing Up” are all things that will ultimately dim that light. It was the right thing to say, because my reply was along the lines of, “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be too strong or too special, but I’m a fighter. You never have to worry. I will cry and feel bruised and battered, but I’ll always get back up. I have to. ”

I do not consider myself “provocative” or “ballsy” or even “confident”, but I thank those who give me credit for being such a strong type of person. I don’t think there is anything particularly special about me. I write about things that are relevant to me, and things I believe others might read and think, “I can relate to that.” I say the things I think people should be saying, even if not everyone wishes to hear them. And, however much it hurts, I can’t change that desire for authentic self-expression simply because someone doesn’t like me or judges me. After living my life online for 13 years, I’m quite familiar with what it’s like to be a polarising personality. I’m also quite familiar with how important it becomes when someone tells you that you’ve left a positive influence in that person’s life, simply by being yourself. If you have that gift, and most of us do, why should fear keep you from sharing it?

In fact, the experience has rekindled my passion for blogging, and reminded me to pay more attention to my own. In October, I will be bringing back the ever-popular “Literary Libations” segment, and will be creating a group on Goodreads to bring together authors, bloggers, and others who realise that building a brand, marketing a book, or getting traffic to a blog isn’t something that can be accomplished in a bubble.

I’ll also be attending the annual SIEGE Conference this Thursday through Sunday, where I’ll be helping to handle registration and bringing my own unique version of sunshine and rainbows (i.e., snark, vodka, and glitter) to a really diverse and fun crowd of people.

And did I mention it’s October? That, of course, means Halloween—more events, more costumes, and more zany adventures when possible. If you’re not yet my Facebook friend, I urge you to come on over and join me and my unique crew of peeps, and share in the adventures.

See you all soon!:)

Every girl has a weakness, and if you either know me in person or read my blog frequently enough, you likely know that I have quite a few. One of the healthiest and least destructive is my addiction to reality TV. Indeed, I’ve always had a great love for TV, in general, ever since childhood. While I’ve never seen many classic movies everyone else has seen, I remember that show that was on the air for less than a season. While some people say “I don’t watch TV; it’s a waste of time.”, television has always been more like a consistent friend in my life. When I am sad, it can lift my mood. When I am worried, it is a story that distracts me from my problems. Characters on television or contestants in reality shows I will likely never meet become real enough for them to feel like part of my day. I invest in them. I care about what happens to them. When a show comes to an end, it’s a little bit like losing a friend. The same way some people are passionate about movies or books or music, I’ve always felt that about television. It’s ironic that I spent more than half my life as a stage actress (my obsession with musicals is pretty close to my obsession with TV, but there simply aren’t as many of them readily available.), but my earliest childhood memories involve being fascinated by stories I saw on television.

In any case, I’ve blogged about my love for and experiences with CBS’ Big Brother in the past, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m one of the devoted followers willing to watch the TV Guide channel for two hours a day just to see what’s happening in the house. Since my favourites have all been voted out and the season is almost over, I thought this meant the end of my relationship with the TV Guide channel. (I mean, it’s an annoying channel. Half the screen shows a scrolling guide to which you eventually become oblivious, and at night, they show advertisements for cat toys and ways to make perfect pastry pockets. During the day, you see these horribly tragic commercials about abused pets, thanks to the ASPCA.) However, since Survivor premiers the day Big Brother ends, they’ve been showing seasons from Survivor past.

Again, as many of you know, I have a friend who appeared on Survivor–and through her, have made a network of acquaintances who are part of the CBS Survivor family. (I do give them credit; they are an interesting and resilient group of people.) However, it occurs to me that while I may have never watched Survivor before going through the Big Brother audition process (I was not a fan of Real World or any other reality shows before CBS came on the scene with their shows.), I associate the first season of Survivor with a number of important memories in my life.

They happened to air the first part of the first season of Survivor today, and I was reminded that I liked it because it seemed so different from the way reality shows are today. The show premiered when I was 20; I’d just gotten my college degree and had hoped to be spending my summer in the CBS Big Brother “house”. When that didn’t happen, I was disappointed, but interested in watching the girl for whom I was an alternate, and quickly found the show compelling. At the same time, Survivor: Borneo premiered, and I remember being skeptical about whether or not I’d like it. By the end, when someone had their torch snuffed out and had to leave, I found myself crying. I’ve been a fan of both shows ever since.

Both Big Brother and Survivor changed formats incredibly since the 2000 seasons. Contestants are now largely edited, everything is overly produced and edited, and fans of the show know what challenges are likely to show up. Re-watching the first season of Survivor, I’m reminded why it was the only one that was emotionally charged enough to make me cry when someone was thrown out of the game. Neither the production team nor the cast seemed to know how to act or what to expect. Instead of the highly-produced, well-edited shows we’ve gotten used to in the intervening 12 years, the original Survivor seems a bit like a documentary of people who signed up to play “Lord Of The Flies” or “The Hunger Games”. The people were not overly fit, glamourous, or Hollywood in any way. They were truly diverse. They were not made into characters, but shown as real people with both positive and negative attributes. They were not given make-up touch-ups and didn’t walk around in cute bikinis all season. Sometimes, they *looked* like people having a rough time on a desert island. Looking back, I realise that honest way of creating reality TV allowed you to empathise with the people on the show in a way that isn’t as easy anymore. These days, any illusion of reality is gone. You don’t suspend disbelief; you remember it’s a game staged by a network. But, at the beginning, there was so much more reality to TV. (it took most of the participants a majority of the game to figure out that by voting together, you could form “alliances” to get rid of one person. On one episode I saw today, nearly every person had their name put down, and when one woman realised that a group of people had voted against her, she remarked in a heartbreakingly honest, shocked tone of voice, “Oh, my God. It’s me.” For a moment, you had the sense that something more dramatic was going to happen to her than simply walking off a CBS set.

In the summer of 2000, since I was not locked in a set on the CBS lot, I was off on auditions looking for a job. My first was for Disney World. I’d auditioned twice in NYC, and was finally flown down to Orlando for a final callback. I didn’t get the job (which is a different story for a different time, and most of you have heard it.), but I spent a bit over a week in a hotel in Orlando. (Sadly, it took that long for me to get out of a rather depressed and directionless funk, and finally phone a friend in Miami…and thus started a whole new set of adventures for me.)

I’m not sure why I decided to do that, except I didn’t know where to go or what to do, and I’d never been to Florida when I was younger. To save money, I was in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of town, the kind of place where the only things in walking distance were a Wendy’s, a Piggly Wiggly, a gas station, and a Goodwill.

I thought I’d feel free and adventurous when I finally got there, even when I didn’t get the job. I was still determined to look for adventure and experience, but instead, I surprisingly felt dreadfully alone and lost. It was the first time I realised the world was this big place, and I was just this average girl right out of university who’d been turned down for every major audition she’d landed, and didn’t want to go to NYC to wait tables like everyone else. I had a small suitcase, a laptop, a cell phone, and a CD player (yes, there was a day where there were no iPods. :P ). The hotel room I was staying in was sad. In general, my life felt sad.

(Strangely, this phenomenon has never left me. I love traveling, and unless I’m with one of a handful of people in my life, I prefer to travel alone. However, when I get there, I will feel immensely sad for the first day or two at being alone, and not being near anything precious to me.)

There were a few things that weren’t sad about that trip. One was the fact that it rained every day at 3 PM. I loved watching the downpour. Another was the fact that I was talking online to two different people I didn’t even know, but were highly important fixtures in my life (and remained that way for a very long time.), and things like my blog and internet chats with strangers who didn’t feel anything like strangers helped me through feeling quite isolated. The last thing I remember was Survivor. As soon as the show came on, it lifted my spirits, and for just a little while, I was transported into someone else’s adventure and felt stronger just by vicariously watching.

To this day, I hate Orlando, and it’s amusing that I ended up making my home in the South, when I’ve never been particularly fond of much, outside of New Orleans and perhaps Savannah. But, on rainy days when Survivor is on, I am 20 years old and utterly lost in the world again. Yet, I am happy with the memory, because I can recall what it’s like to feel that young and have that belief in adventure and know that anything in the world is possible. It isn’t a feeling that I have these days, and haven’t for many years—but years of method acting have left me with the ability to recall it, and small things are enough to evoke that memory.

Although I’ve traveled such a great deal since then, lost and rebuilt so much of my life, and in many ways, had the lifetime of adventures that 20-year-old me so desperately saw herself destined to have, that particular week of my life is terribly easy to recall. And, while I’ve also lost and replaced suitcases and their contents, the contents of apartments and storage units, and many of my possessions throughout life, it seems fitting to me that I still have all of the items I purchased at the Orlando Goodwill. (regretfully, I am not the size I was at 20, so the day I’m able to wear them to something will be a proud one. *laughs*)

That one week of my life was not in any way a happy one, but it was one that really affected me on some strangely deep level, and the original Survivor will always be a huge piece of that memory. :)

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much for the past 6 weeks or so. Perhaps you didn’t notice, and I give myself more credit for having consistently interested readers than I deserve. *laughs* In any case, I haven’t been around the blogosphere too much. I’m not sure why, other than I have been feeling overwhelmed with actual day-to-day life. While my usual compulsion is to share all these things, it just hasn’t been that way. Frankly, I haven’t felt much like writing at all. My bank account looks sad and desolate, my paper journals haven’t been touched by ink in weeks, and while I did manage to start a short story for my upcoming collection (short story currently 20 pages and counting), it’s looking like my goal of having another published work out by December isn’t a realistic one.

I wonder if we all go through these crises of being, where we wonder if we have anything worth saying or creating, or if we are in fact people that anyone else cares about at all. I’ve been struggling with feeling irrelevant. Perhaps I haven’t been inspired to write because I’ve given up the idea that there’s an audience that cares, or that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said before, and in much more compelling and eloquent ways. I’ve been struggling with feelings that in my everyday life, I am not only irrelevant but inadequate, and it’s turned me from a vivacious extrovert to someone who has become resigned to being a wallflower. I have not been as social as usual, preferring the company of my closest friends to parties, and feeling as if organizing things to do has become an obligation rather than things I can look forward to each week. I feel I am not interesting enough, not intelligent enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not likeable enough, and not skilled enough in social situations to keep being the me I have always been. I do not know where this self-doubt comes from, but I have been paralyzed by it in many ways. I have this feeling that those in the world I love do not love me in return, and if they do, they should not, because I am too damaged and inadequate that anyone should spend time, emotion, or anything else on me.

Thus, I have been largely quiet on the blog, because people read blogs for interesting and inspiring stories—or at the very least, to be amused. I’m terribly un-amusing lately.

I will catch everyone up in longer posts on individual subjects, but here are some of the things that have happened to me during the past two months.:

* I’m sure I haven’t been gone thatlong, but I spent half of July reviving Alayna’s East Coast Tour. I was able to spend a week at the beach, visit my family, and see some of my favourite people who don’t live near me in Philadelphia, NYC, D.C., and Raleigh-Durham.

* Shortly after returning to Atlanta from visiting my family, I got news my mother was in hospital. She had yet another stroke and possible cardiac event, and for almost two weeks, did not know simple things like what year it was, who anyone was, and was unable to speak coherently without effort or get around without a wheelchair. Fortunately, she recovered, and was moved to a rehab facility. After she completes rehab, my mother will be moved to a permanent nursing facility. I cried after I left my family home, not only because of how they were living, but because I felt I’d never be back. I am an intuitive person, and it was a loss that hit hard, even before my mother ended up in hospital.

* All sorts of family drama ensued regarding power of attorney over my mother’s medical and financial decisions, her personal wishes, who pays the bills for her treatment, my 92-year-old grandfather’s will, etc. It is sad that when something happens to someone, the response from others seems to be “How does this affect me? How do I benefit?” I do not want to be involved in any of the family drama, and for all intents and purposes, I am happy that I was “written out of everyone’s will” many years ago. In my mind, it was the price of freedom and being able to live life on my own terms without being accountable to the idea of how others would have liked me to live. (yeah, how’s that working out for me? :P ) Yet, it makes me sad to hear how selfish and petty people are, people who are my blood relatives.

* Once all the family drama settled down, it was time to concentrate on costumes, house cleaning, event planning, etc. for DragonCon. I am very thankful that a good friend of mine was able to stay at my place and look after Trixie (my 13-year-old Lab/Beagle mix.), and that The Guy I Am Currently Dating took care of a lot of the trip planning. It was fun, but exhausting. It did push me past my physical limits right now, and was a reminder to be more careful about doing what’s best for my health and well-being, rather than being concerned about being a disappointment or liability to others.

* September is the month of events, as I have something going on every weekend until mid-October. Then, a short break, and it’s time for Halloween!

* As always, I’ve been addicted to my summer TV shows, and have watched a lot of Big Brother. It is the 15th season (the 13th year), which makes me feel quite old, because it was Season 1 when I was an alternate for the show. It’s funny to remember how young I was then, and what I would have been like to watch on reality TV at the age of 20. I thought I was the most interesting person in the world back then, and for many years following. Now, I feel inadequate in almost every way possible. It’s interesting how things change.

Sadly, my favourite contestant will likely be given the boot from the show tonight (marking the first time that my favourite hasn’t ended up winning in a few years.), and my original favourite contestant will likely be following her shortly. Just like in life, the smartest or most determined people don’t always win.

* Other shows I’ve been into include Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and “Dance Moms”, MTV’s “Catfish” (I still have a huge crush on Nev Schulman, and find it amusing that his older brother went to school with me, something I didn’t know until sending out a friend request on FB! What a small world it is!) and “The Challenge”, and a few others I watch sporadically. I’ve been reading, although not as much as I usually do. I finished Phillipa Gregory’s “The White Princess”, and am currently working my way through the letters of Simone de Beauvoir, after reading a biography of Sartre and de Beauvoir given to me by a friend. (although polyamory and open relationships have been around as long as time itself, it seems these two were the first to really define it as a lifestyle that worked—well, most of the time– they needed some work in the honesty department, it seems. *laughs*)

The Guy I Am Currently Dating got me into two shows we watch together: “Wilfred” on FX, which ranges from crude to absurd to philosophical, and “Ray Donovan”, which is the kind of drama I like quite a bit. If you get Showtime, I highly recommend it.

I haven’t yet seen “The Great Gatsby”, but I’d like to, as soon as I have some free time. I know it isn’t fabulous, but I do love the 20′s and Leonardo DiCaprio. *laughs*

* Oh, and yes, I finally did get money refunded from the hotel fiasco in Manhattan. It only took a month, and you can count on the fact that there will be a blog about that coming up shortly. ;)

For those who also follow me on Facebook, I’ve definitely been around, even while kind of ignoring my blog. I’ll have to try to be a little more inspired in the future. ;)

Of course, I’d like to open up my blog post today by linking you to a blog that discusses one of my all-time favourite topics: me.*laughs* While I’m perhaps not quite *that* egocentric, I did enjoy the interview that the lovely Megan Cashman posted with me, earlier in the week. She typically only interviews novelists, and while I hope to have that particular title one day, I’m glad she found me fascinating enough to make an exception. If you haven’t, please visit her page and read as we chat about what it’s like to be someone who is still publishing poetry in 2013, and believes that crowd-sourcing is the future of the indie artist. (In fact, perhaps it’s the future in general, as it gives established artists the freedom to *become* indie artists and pursue projects and passions that aren’t considered widely marketable.)

If you missed it, I also participated in the All-Authors Blog Blitz, where I was interviewed by a charming woman across the pond in Dublin named Paula Black. Her site, Raven & Black, is really geared towards readers of gothic erotica–and while I neither read nor write gothic erotica, it’s safe to say there’d be nobody on the planet shocked to learn that I did. Yet, I had the strangest writer’s block in trying to do a guest introduction for the page. I simply decided to share that struggle, and it came out in a rather humourous fashion, if I do say so myself. Hop on over and visit me in what seems a little like home, surrounded by black and crimson. ;P

Thanks so much to Paula and Megan for having me as a guest!! I’ve really been slacking on my Sunday author interviews lately, but it seems there are only so many hours in the day, and on my introverted days, I spend a majority of them writing. Earlier today, I began communicating in one word sentences along the lines of “Words. Difficult. Tired. Brain. Point. Unimportant”.

Why have I been working so much, you ask? As I alluded to in the last blog entry, but did not fully explain because it was another author’s day in the spotlight here, I had some last minute news tossed in my direction. Perhaps about a week ago, I was informed in the middle of July that I was going on a family vacation, and then home to visit my parents. I was also informed I’d be expected to pay for my part of the trip and backing out of going home was not optional, as I hadn’t been in two years, and my mother’s health is very bad. I’m not sure if it’s her physical health or her mental state, but her last stroke left her unable to walk without assistance and talking with her is certainly a labour of love, as it takes her ages to find the words to string together a sentence. It is one case in which my highly intuitive personality and active listening skills come in handy, because I’m able to finish her thoughts for her. Still, for a highly impatient person like myself, it’s a challenge.

On top of paying for the trip, the expense is compounded by the fact that I need to find a dog sitter. When I first agreed to take care of my dog, whom I love (but let’s face it, I’m not terribly good at taking care of things, nor am I the most nurturing person around.), I had plenty of people who were willing to take her when I was out of town, help out with getting her places, etc. These days, not a single one of those friends is available, and I’m left in the position of being a single parent. I have numerous things on my calendar each year that take me away from home for at least a few days at a time, and I can’t give up my life because I have a dog and everyone who was so eager to help is suddenly like, “I’m sorry, I wish I could”. So, the result is that the cost of every trip effectively doubles, because I have to find a pet-sitting solution. This has most definitely sent me into “working overtime” drive, which for me, means putting words on the screen as frequently and eloquently as possible.

I’m a bit nervous about the trip, because I’ll be returning to the Jersey Shore, and then to Philadelphia. This is where I got very sick in the first place, and because I didn’t get treatment when I needed it, my body had a particularly rough time with panic attacks and unrestrained adrenaline. I also didn’t get much support from my family, who thought I was being dramatic and inconvenient and attempting to be the centre of attention (when in reality, I needed to be in the ER, hooked up to IVs and heart monitors.) It was the beginning of one of the toughest experiences of my life, and I am afraid that, having a history of suffering from PTSD, revisiting these places will trigger negative physical symptoms. I understand this is simply a fear and there is no logical reason to assume this will happen, but I still have very bad days, health-wise. Thinking about this trip causes me anxiety in advance, but I feel obligated to do it, because when someone says “Your parents may not have that much time left”, you can’t just continue to ignore the fact that your family exists because you don’t get on with them too well.

There is an intuitive voice in my head that tells me it is time to go home, because it may be my last “normal” trip home. I do not know if this is because of my mother’s deteriorating health, or because I wonder if I am the one who may not be around next summer. All I know is it seems a lot like saying goodbye to something I lost a very, very long time ago. “Home” hasn’t been something I’ve had for a large part of my life, and so it’s hard to visit my family’s home and pretend it is in someway mine. It feels so much like visiting strangers, and I realise that’s because sadly, they are.

Of course, I’m still on flight restriction due to my inner ear disorder, which means taking the bus everywhere I go. So, I figured that if I have to do all this work and deal with things I’d rather avoid, I’m going to take my time coming back and spend a few days with people I really *want* to see. I planned a route that allowed me to visit some of my favourite people in four different cities, even if not for a terribly long time (I must say that I appreciate good friends and free Welcome Rewards points for making the trip easier, and people who like me enough to rearrange busy schedules just to see little old me. It’s definitely not the quantity of time you get to spend with the people you value, but the quality. :) ) I’m actually a pretty organized, logical trip planner—a quality that also comes out when I put together events—which is contrary to how I live much of my actual life. I don’t necessarily like being informed I need to travel at the last minute, because I plan my life in advance, but when last minute things happen, I like to make the most of them and enjoy them. However, every time I travel, there’s always an unexpected something going awry…and a lifetime of travel has taught me that organization is a huge way to cope with the unexpected.

I’m also planning to be a minimalistic traveler this time around, as I’m not as strong as I once was, and have no intentions of schlepping 50 pounds of luggage up and down the East Coast. If finances were not a concern, I’d likely take the advice of a friend of mine and “always just take an empty suitcase. You’ll find new things to bring back, and you’ll value them more because they’ll remind you of the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, and the things you’ve seen.” A wonderful perspective, but, well, she makes more money than I do. Once I become famous for…you know, whatever I’m destined to be known for….perhaps this will be the perspective for me.

So, there’s that, and in between, I have some events for my social group, catching up with the people here in Atlanta I like, and of course, the return of “Big Brother”.

Every so often, there’s a season that makes me glad I didn’t reapply for the show that year (I was a finalist for Season 1, which tells you exactly how old I am. *laughs*), and each year, I get a correspondence reminding me that I am on file with CBS and asking me to submit updated materials. This year, they’ve managed to pick a lot of shallow, vapid Hollywood kids (even if they come from all over the country), and the “old lady” of the house is 37. In addition to lowering the average age by a decade, it’s obvious that many of these people are obsessed with their physical appearance and the physicality of others, and talk about little else. I love Big Brother, but I have to wonder if they accidentally swapped buses with MTV and got the finalists for “The Real World”, instead?

Rachel Reilly, one of my favourite redheads (and former winner of the show), is not on this season. However, her spirit is there, somewhat, in the form of her sister Elissa. Sadly, like Rachel, Elissa seems to be a divisive personality and people are already campaigning to get rid of her in the first week. I truly hope that doesn’t happen, because I need some valid reason to watch the show this season. I’m sure it may improve over time, and once some of the more vapid characters are sent packing, but it’s truly shaping up to be a weak season. On top of that, Showtime dropped its 3-hour per night “Big Brother After Dark”, which was one of the main reasons I started subscribing to Showtime two years ago. The show is now 2 hours and on the TV Guide Channel, which is just atrocious. They censor everything, and half the time, they simply cut conversations. If the show was a B-plus on Showtime, it’s barely getting a passing grade on its new network. It will be quite sad if I completely lose interest.

There’s my recap, and what’s been going on in my world! If I have any reason to look forward to vacation, it’s that sitting on a bus is definitely much needed “downtime” (if only “down” meant asleep!), and I will need to recharge my batteries to get excited for all the fun (albeit tiring fun) that goes on in September and October in my world. I just need to convince myself that sun will not kill me, and I am not *actually* a vampire. ;P

I’ll see you all on Sunday, when “Literary Libations” will be back with a charming and interesting author you’ll be delighted to get to know! (nope, it’s not me. ;P)

On Thursday night, I experimented with sleeping half-naked on the floor of my apartment. It was kind of like camping at Burning Man, but without a tent, and completely sober. It was, for the record, far less fun.

This sounds like a classic Alayna-type story of “Something that should not have happened”, but it was definitely not my fault.

As always, life has been a little crazy lately, and so today’s “Literary Libations” is not getting itself posted today. It will be postponed until Monday, when I’m a bit more awake and stuff. I think I exhausted myself a little, between some fun social events, deadlines, and what was likely the most uncomfortable night in recent history. Not sleeping is OK for a little while, but at some point, the gas tank most definitely hits “E”, for exhausted.

Thursday night seemed like an ordinary, low-key night. I had a bunch of articles with a deadline of Friday afternoon, and needed to get everything out of the way before my events on Friday night. I had also been set to participate in the “All Authors Blog Blitz”, basically a day where independent and self-published authors each posted a guest post on one person’s blog, and hosted another author on their own blog the same day. Obviously, that didn’t work out for me, but more about that later. I will be posting about the Blog Blitz, and featuring my guest author on Monday’s blog.

I managed to get my guest blog written at somewhat of the last minute, and made my way through about half of my assignments, when tornado warnings began to come through. Tornado warnings and strong thunderstorms are common here; nothing at all like the storms I’m used to in the Northeast. I actually *love* thunderstorms, as long as I can watch them from the inside or under a covered porch. I think they’re romantic and beautiful and never fail to remind me of some of the better moments of my life. (Ironically, I will always remember watching rainstorms from a daybed in New Orleans, and feeling wistful and sad and happy all at once. I thought it was really the kind of city I wanted to call home, even though it was small and Southern. I didn’t, of course, but New Orleans had some problems with water that were not at all romantic, so it’s interesting that I think of that city and remember how beautiful the rain is. Most people will always remember the devastation in following years.)

Tornadoes are a different thing entirely. We get a lot of warnings regarding them, but I don’t take them too seriously. I once threw an event in the middle of a tornado, thinking nothing was going to happen. Meanwhile, across town, the tornado hit Downtown Atlanta. I’d like to think my penchant for not taking things too seriously helped keep people safe. *laughs* On Thursday, I saw the alerts on TV, heard thunder, and assumed there was a storm.

Then, of course, the power went out. Fortunately, it was still somewhat daylight, but I became alarmed when the thunder started to shake the floor of my apartment. Ornaments fell off my Christmas tree. I went to hide in the little area of space that serves as a “closet” in my Zen room. Of course, I could still see the storm from my window, and my phone made the horrible emergency alert noise that always makes me feel really anxious. It said, “Emergency alert—danger imminent. Take cover now.”

That did not make me feel better, as the giant tree in front of my window started to shake, loud thunder seemed to be in the apartment, and the blackest storm cloud I’d ever seen was staring me in the face. Even on my beta-blockers, there was definitely an adrenaline problem, because I was alone in a closet and went from “Oh, storm, la la la…” to “Holy crap, we’re all going to die!”. My dog hates storms, so she’s really not a calming presence when a tornado comes through.

The storm ended, nobody was hurt, but the power was out. It was, of course, hot. It was 92 degrees that day, like it has been every day, and humid, and not a fan or AC unit to be had. At 8 PM, they said the power would be on by 9:15.

By 12 AM, I was starving (realising I had no food other than candy that didn’t require cooking), and walking around lighting up the apartment with my Kindle. By 1 AM, I was annoyed that The Guy I Am Currently Dating didn’t come to rescue me, because I’d used up my phone battery with the sporadic messages I was allowed to send (cell networks were also down) and calls to the power outage hotline. At some point, they didn’t give an ETA and my phone went dead.

By 1:30, The Guy I Am Currently Dating scared the hell out of me, because I’m sitting in a pitch black apartment and hear someone rattling with the knob at the door. I immediately think of every horror movie I’ve ever seen, but fortunately, he showed up with McDonald’s, which I ate in about 7 minutes. (If you know me personally, you know it takes me forever to eat food, so this is an important indication.) He also brought a flashlight, which was good, because the phone died and the Kindle was down to 15%. (I did read a book during the power outage, which was kind of nice. If it had not been hot and dreadfully uncomfortable, I would have appreciated the alone, non-electronic time.)

By 3 AM, I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t. The porch door was open, because it was 10 degrees cooler outside than inside. Walking the dog was particularly weird, because the lights were out EVERYWHERE. It was rather like a post-apocalyptic scene in a movie, and I felt like I needed a bow and arrow or something in order to channel my inner Katniss. The Guy I Am Currently Dating later told me that 200,000 people lost power, and there was not a light in the entire area.

I tried to sleep in every room, on every piece of furniture. I think I successfully got about 4 non-consecutive, uncomfortable hours. It really sucked. I am not a fan of summer power outages, for the record.

The next day, it only got hotter, with the apartment reaching 82 by 1 PM…and no power. The Guy I Am Currently Dating showed up again, drove me to McDonald’s, and tried to find a place to charge my phone. The parking lot was full of people who looked like they hadn’t showered, brushed their hair, eaten, slept, and were aware it was 90 degrees out. It was a cranky day. Finally, by 5 PM, a little girl shouted “The power is on!”, and you could hear a huge cheer throughout the apartment complex. I was lucky, as I had enough time to shower and get ready to go out, but I was exhausted.

Not everyone was so fortunate. On Saturday night, we saw a news headline that said “Parts of Atlanta Still Without Power”, so it could have been worse. I don’t know if I’d have survived another day.

(Interestingly enough, as I’m writing this, a thunderstorm is running through the area….)

While I still had access to my phone, I got the news that winners had been chosen in the short story contest over on Mysti Parker’s blog, and my little story I wrote at 4 AM one night won first place. YAY!! I’m totally honoured that my story, appropriately entitled “All That Glitters”, was something that stood out and captured attention. If you haven’t read the story or visited Mysti’s site yet, I totally recommend it.

In an example of synchronicity, Mysti is one of the mentors for the online writing class I’ve been doing at Writers’ Village University. I am not in her class, but it was one of her posts that pointed me to the community. Since she’s my friend on there, and my screen name is “PrincessAlayna”, I figured she knew it was the same person.

She laughed when she found that out, because she didn’t put the names together. (there aren’t that many Alayna-s floating around, and I have a photo posted, so that makes it even funnier.) An even greater example of synchronicity is that I received copies of books written by people I’ve actually met through the class, which I only started two weeks ago. Even cyberspace can be a small world.

Writing isn’t always something that gives you much validation. You publish a book, and as someone posted recently, “Oh, I sold a book this year, which is one more than last year. Things are looking up.” is not an uncommon scenario. For all the promoting people do, nobody is actually BUYING books, which makes it seem like a gigantic exercise in ego-reinforcement. I am not sure whether anything I write is good or not, ever. I am also not sure it matters, because everyone with a computer is an author these days, and what I’d really like is a paycheck. The things you receive paychecks for are often written in a drone-like fashion, without your name attached, and feedback is rare and almost always focused on punctuation. (Apparently, I suck at adverbial clauses and the use of commas.)

So, small things like someone you’ve never met liking your story actually count a little in the “You don’t totally suck” department. :) Are all the little bits of positive feedback enough to convince me I’m talented enough to actually be a successful writer…and does it matter if people don’t really read? I don’t know. But it’s cool to be appreciated now and again.

It’s the little things, like ice, Chicken McNuggets, and winning short story contests that make a hot June day without power a little bit better.

For the record, electricity is my new favourite thing.