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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, it’s been a particularly tough two days for me. I’m trying to be as strong as I can, to tough things out, but honestly, I realise I’m not a strong or tough person in a lot of ways. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve survived some dark times, but I always had a sense that ultimately, my survival and how I navigated through the world following those dark times was up to me.

When it comes to illness, it’s not up to me. It’s up to science, up to medicine, up to God, up to the sheer luck of getting the right doctor who might prescribe the right thing, make the right diagnosis, order the right test. I do not always feel confident that I am going to be able to pull through this particular time in my life, I do not always feel confident that I received the correct diagnosis from the correct doctor. I waver back and forth from agreeing that it’s all a simple psychological problem, it’s all “in my head”, to feeling that the unexplained symptoms that doctors try to hide with pills or dismiss as unimportant because they don’t fit with any logical, simple diagnosis are important, and that I am in fact a very ill person that isn’t being heard.

Over the weekend, I made the resolution that on Monday, I was going to start dropping the amount of beta-blocker, a particularly side-effect-laden pill called Atenolol, I’ve been taking for about 6 months. A quick search on the Internet turned up countless message boards from people on this drug, wondering how to deal with the side effects. I made it through the initial phase of feeling to exhausted to move and actually became functional on Atenolol. However, I gained 25 pounds in 6 months, and when doing a Google search on this, found numerous medical studies that suggest a link between beta-blockers, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. I learned one in 5 adults today is currently on a beta-blocker; they slow down your heart rate and your BP, they treat anxiety, and are essential to people suffering from certain heart conditions.

The problem is, they are overprescribed, and once you’re on them, it’s very tough to get off of them. The withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant that it hardly seems worth it to get off a drug whose major side effect is making you fat and sleepy, when the alternatives include heart palpitations, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, and a host of other “rebound effects”.

I was prescribed a beta-blocker because I had a pulse of 120 for an extended period of time, and my body was releasing adrenaline constantly, causing me to have sometimes as many as 8 panic attacks a day. I do not know if this was a result of the infection I had that doctors claimed led to the development of my vestibular disorder, or due to an anxiety-related condition. My blood pressure was only slightly elevated, and since being on the beta-blocker, my panic attacks have ceased, but my blood pressure has become exceptionally low. Meanwhile, weight gain and being tired all the time are making it more likely I’ll develop heart problems.

A while back, two different doctors had given me the OK to cut my Atenolol dose in half, to see if this decreased the side effects. I’d never done this, because I was scared to mess with what was working. I’d been able to function like a normal person much of the time lately, stopped feeling convinced I was going to die, but hated myself for feeling fat, lifeless, and dependent on pills. Yet, I was afraid to make a change because I didn’t want a huge setback. I never found out why I mysteriously had heart problems when I’d always been active, energetic, and at the time of my illness, walked miles every day. I was at a relatively healthy weight, didn’t have the best dietary habits, but also didn’t have any significant health issues—mental or physical.

There was no explanation for why my heart should suddenly go out of control, not even the vestibular and panic issues the last doctor diagnosed me with, and it causes me a lot of anxiety to think that it might happen again…or, worse yet, suddenly stop.

Yet, reading about other people going through stories like mine, how a drug that helped them feel better was actually destroying their health and quality of life and ability to live life fully…it was enough for me to decide that I had options. One was to cut down on this pill to see if I really needed it, and if I do, why? What’s wrong with me that I need a heart-related medication to feel well and function properly? A visit to the cardiologist yielded no answers back at the beginning; he didn’t examine me, and ran a test to see if there were any physical abnormalities within the structure of my heart, and dismissed me with “You have anxiety. Go to a psychiatrist.”

I am still anxious, still scared. I’ve made it through two days on half a dose of this drug, and nothing about it has been easy. Every hour feels like three. Just moving makes me feel exhausted. I wonder if I’m going to wake up in the morning when I go to sleep, or my heart is just going to get tired and stop. I am afraid I won’t have enough time left to do everything in life I want and need to do.

I am afraid I am dying, and unlike those who suffer from something that is sometimes actually fatal, I have nothing to base that on except an internal feeling, and the fact some scary medical problems happened to me that countless tests and doctors couldn’t adequately explain.

I feel like there are too many things left for me to do in this world to die now. There are too many loose ends, things (good and bad) I never said to people that I’d want them to know, things I never took the chance on because I believed in myself too little, mistakes I never recovered from and others won’t let go.

I want a second chance. I want to be healthy, mentally and physically. I want to do more and be more and share more and touch the lives of others more. I want to make a difference, to be here for a reason, to be loved.

People my age, and far younger, die every day. Nobody is immune. But there are phases where I become convinced I need to get my affairs in order, that I won’t be here for as long as I need to…and maybe I won’t be healthy enough to make the most of those days during the time I’m here.

I worry that one day I won’t wake up, and all these people will never know how much I loved them, or respected them, or thought the world of them, but never said so, because people just don’t say things like that…and when they do, it is so often misinterpreted. I worry that people will say things like “She was a girl who had so much potential”, meaning I never actually accomplished anything of note with my life. I wasn’t all the things our society values; a rich, hot girl busy climbing the corporate ladder, or a loving wife and mother who took care of everything and everyone.

Instead, I lived my life like it was a never-ending 1920′s salon, full of art and witty people and intelligent conversation and food and cocktails and music and sex and life. Someone once told me my best quality was my joie de vivre, the ability to enjoy life when the world around me is going to pieces. In retrospect, that seems a little shallow to be one’s best quality. I don’t think I ever had it in me to be the kindest, the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented and accomplished girl in the room, but I think I have something rare I should have made better use of, but didn’t. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what to do, or was afraid of rejection,of being ridiculed and used and gossiped about, or because I just didn’t believe I was special.

Looking back, that seems silly to me. Once upon a time, I had health and energy and youth and vitality, and could have taken a world full of chances I didn’t. Now, I don’t know if I have enough energy to get out of bed, or I can make it to dinner without falling to pieces.

Sometimes, I’m really scared. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately…just scared, and alone, and like nobody understands. Yet, I don’t want to be alone. That’s my greatest fear in the world, dying alone when there’s still so much more I want from the world. When you’re ill, everyone seems to disappear, save those few close friends and family that will always be there, and most friendships seem remarkably shallow.

I wish I’d been the kind of person in my life that bothered to connect more; not just to know people or to be recognised or admired at parties, but to get to know people on a level that really matters. It took me three decades to figure out that being the most popular girl in the world didn’t mean being the most well-liked, and it doesn’t mean feeling the most loved and supported. It just means you’ve met a lot of people. I wish more people had known me, the real, authentic person who always felt too much and loved too much and cared too much about everything.

I wish I hadn’t made so many mistakes and acted as if life is a party destined to go on forever. Inevitably, it won’t.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, or how to fix myself, or how to find peace when every day is a struggle. All I know is that if life is a party, it’s still early, and I’m not ready to go home yet.

Earlier this month, I came across a great book called 365: A Year Of Journal Prompts, and promptly added it to my Kindle. It was one of my intentions this year to focus on my writing as something I like to do, rather than something I need to do, which is often what I feel when a specific deadline is looming over my shoulder.

When I had my tarot cards and my astrological chart read for the upcoming year—by two different sources, incidentally—both told me that 2012 was going to be a year for life to be put on “pause”, rather than one of adventure or decisive action. This made sense to me, since I knew a main focus of my year would be concentrating, little by little on improving my well-being, on getting on a path where managing my illness doesn’t have to zap my strength or dictate my mood or my life. At first, I was extremely depressed about this. I’m the sort of person who likes big gestures, fast solutions to problems, impulsive reactions, instant gratification. Learning there was no surgery, no magic pill, no quick fix that would take me back to the person I was plunged me into a state of depression for about two weeks. To some, it would be encouraging to hear that with time and patience and the willingness to face fears and anxieties, life would steadily get better. But for me, the eternal realist (and often pessimist), all I heard were words like “chronic condition” and “permanent damage” and “physical and emotional rehabilitation.” All I heard was that I wasn’t going to magically get my life back, I wasn’t going to be able to just ditch the drug that caused me to gain over 20 pounds and zap my energy level, I wasn’t going to be the person I used to be for a very long time.

I didn’t react very well to learning that it would be a year of “pause”, because there are so many things with which I am discontent, things I’d like to change about my life. Shortly after the disheartening news about my life came disheartening news about my job, which no longer gives me the economic and practical sense of stability it once did. I am again a starving artist, uncertain about the future, not sure where life will take me. I used to enjoy that uncertainty at one point in my life, but now, it causes me anxiety. Ironically, both my tarot reading and astrological chart for the year told me that I could expect to experience setbacks, which were necessary to my greater success in life.

Another thing that my tarot reading mentioned was that I have a lot of “success” aspects in my cards, in my natal chart, in what’s perceived to be my personality in general. Countless times, psychics and astrologers and tarot readers and other intuitives have told me that I will have great material success in my life, thanks to my ambition and determination. I always laugh at this, sitting there with no long-term career prospects, a retired actress that no longer has the looks or charisma or talent to perform, a chaotic dreamer with little business sense, a person who keeps getting knocked down by life every time success gets anywhere close. Yet, year after year, they tell me this same thing. Contrary to what my mother always advised me to do, it is not that I will marry well. I will be the one in control of building an empire for myself.

I can’t say I put a ton of stock into all that sort of thing, but it’s amusing to have someone predict your fortune. Sometimes, though, it goes beyond uncanny to relatively specific details that don’t necessarily apply to everyone..and then you have to start to wonder. Is there really such a thing as someone with the gift of intuition enhanced to the point that they can see into who you are, as well as who you might become?

This success thing has always baffled me, because I have always seen myself as someone ill-equipped for success. At this point in my life, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that sometimes I have so many dreams and ideas and thoughts and things I wish to communicate swimming around in my head, that I’m not sure what to do with them. More often than not, I ignore them, and go back to my daily routine. I take my anxiety pill and try to relaaaaaaaaax.

I read somewhere recently that anxiety was an artist’s natural response to pent-up emotion, to not being given an adequate creative outlet. After that, I got this idea in my head that I was going to compile my poetry, even if I never published it. I was going to write a book of fiction, even if I never let another person read it. And I was going to use my blogs and journals to release whatever it was that was hiding, causing my sudden shift from free-spirited example of joie de vivre to being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by too much life. Is it really as simple as a nerve in my inner ear that doesn’t know how to calm down, that freaks out when it’s given too much information to process, and responds with demands for anti-anxiety pills and alcohol and silence? Or is it some other newly discovered fear in my life that’s erected a road block, one designed to keep me from living too freely.

All my life, I’ve fought tooth and nail against those who would constrain and limit me, who judged and disliked me for living too freely. Ironically, the largest fight seems to occur from within, as if those people, those voices, have set up shop somewhere inside my essential self.

Hence, when I found this book, giving 365 prompts for the journal writer, I decided I would spend a year answering the questions presented in my posts; whether telling a story, reflecting on the question, or doing some soul searching. The questions appear to be for the personal journal-keeper, but I can never seem to remind myself to write in my handwritten journal on a daily basis. The thoughts flow more freely here.

The first day’s prompt is this: What strengths have you developed over your life?

It isn’t as easy as I’d think, answering this question. I have always been smart, but not particularly ambitious or motivated to make good use of those strengths, so it’s more a positive quality than something I’ve developed. I’ve always found it easier to make friends and find lovers…but I’ve found it equally effortless to make enemies and incur hatred from those who don’t even know me, so I’m going to disqualify people skills from the list. There are other ways I could describe myself; unconventional, free-thinking, uniquely attractive, quirky, humourous, well-traveled, well-read, a talented performer, a good friend…but sadly, many of these have been transient qualities. When difficult times hit, at various points in my life, I found myself essentially abandoning many of these qualities, replacing them with inhibition. Uncertainty went from meaning possibility to signifying danger. I was no longer as young, as fun, as attractive. I stopped performing, stopped traveling, stopped making as much time for those I care about as I’d like to. I stopped seeing shows, listening to music, reading books I like. I found how easy it was to lose myself.

Yet, I am not lost. I know who I am, if I sometimes forget. I am sensitive, fragile even, but I am also strong, something I never considered myself to be. The quality life has instilled in me…often with me fighting every step of the way….is resilience. When life knocks me down in a way that disables others, I always find a way to get back up. I always find a way to begin again, to reinvent myself, to replace old dreams and circumstances and ways of life with new ones. I do not handle these defeats with grace; I cry, I scream, I hate the world and everyone in it, I sulk in a depression for awhile, listen to emo music and refuse to get out of bed, wonder what it would feel like to close my eyes and never get up…but I always do. I always find a way to survive, even in situations that seem to unbearable for me to comprehend muddling through. I’ve always come through, one way or another. It’s as if the word survivor is encoded in my DNA. Some of these experiences, I still can’t think about. They terrify me. They give me nightmares. They make me feel unbearably alone. But I always remember, “I am here, and somehow, I am supposed to be successful”.

Part of what the tarot reader told me regarding 2012 was that I needed to make peace with my past, because not doing so was keeping me from my future. She did not know I was working on a collection of short stories that are loosely based upon some of my own life history, nor that I had more of a past and less peace than most.

Perhaps the lesson I’m learning now is that you can always move on, you can always adapt, reinvent, thrive, prosper…but wherever you go, everything you’ve ever been and done, everyone you’ve ever loved and hated, it all goes with you. I’m not sure how to let go, or even if we’re meant to. I think that maybe, making peace and practicing forgiveness and non-judgment towards yourself and others is one way to begin.

Life has taught me that on the outside, I might appear a little delicate, a little high-maintenance, a little less likely to adapt to new circumstances than others. But beyond that exterior, there’s something in me that’s a fighter. Even when I’d like to simply give up, that piece of me won’t let me take the easy way out, walk away, let others win. I’m strong and resilient, words that I’d never apply to the somewhat pampered, oversensitive, overemotional, histrionic person I’ve always been. Other people have called me narcissistic, and I firmly reject that label: but sometimes, I wonder if there’s an element of truth to that off-handed characterisation often applied to people that others simply don’t understand, those who seem to live in their own little world.

Maybe there’s a tiny piece of narcissism and pride that will fight tooth and nail to help me survive virtually anything, when a majority of me simply doesn’t feel strong enough.

The next time someone calls me narcissistic, or an egotist, I will inwardly remember to thank them. Without that tiny piece of my psyche that may very well be those things, I might not be here today. It’s much harder to survive and come back from difficulty than it is to simply let things fall apart. That knowledge is, I think, the most important strength I’ve learned throughout my lifetime.

As many of you know, after becoming ill over the summer and consequently not being able to go out as much, I managed to channel some of that energy into creativity. In fact, at certain points, my need to create became almost manic, my need to connect with other human beings more intense. The result has been somewhat impressive; over the span of two months, I’ve rescued hundreds of poems that I’m in the process of editing and compiling into volumes, I’ve revised short stories I’d forgotten, and the process of doing so has given birth to the idea of my first novel, an idea that’s currently spawned nearly 60,000 words.

In addition, something has changed about the way I’m interested in pursuing friendships. I’ve always been the type happiest in a crowd; the more, the merrier. As a result of my extroverted yet guarded nature, I have a very large network of acquaintances, but a much smaller number of good friends. I don’t always take the time to get to know people one-on-one, which comes off as a bit snobbish, indifferent, aloof, whatever you want to call it. It isn’t that I don’t care, it’s simply that I’m too busy getting to meet as many people as possible and to play the gallant hostess that I truly get to know very few people. Recently, that’s changed, and I think the change is a positive one. I’m making more of an effort to keep up with friends and family. I’m more frequently reminding myself to check in with those important to me, even if it’s just a Facebook comment here or there. I’m more actively taking the time to open up the lines of conversation with acquaintances I find interesting in some way, and in the past, never took the time for a one-on-one dialogue. I’m opening myself up more, and noticing that perhaps there are people all throughout my life, people I’ve been too self-absorbed to endeavour to get to know fully. My social group, of course, is suffering due to lack of interest on my part, but I’m suddenly looking for something deeper from my interactions with others.

One of my recent interests has been Swap-Bot, a site that allows crafty people, artists, writers, etc. to create and swap everything from art to correspondence to packages. It is immense fun, receiving little pieces of mail from all over the world, and I enjoy the feeling of somehow being connected to a greater world out there, even if, for the time being, I’m confined to a relatively small piece of it. It is also refreshing to be able to create, even something small, to send to a stranger who genuinely appreciates both the end result and the process of creation.

I’ve communicated with many different people from all walks of life, and while there aren’t many with whom I found I have too terribly much in common, that’s par for the course for me. However, I did have a swap partner by the name of Melynda, who I found utterly fascinating, from the beautiful handwriting to the style of communication that lets on someone isn’t just crafty and creative, but an artist. After reading her website, I realised what I was struck by was that she is truly a gifted writer, and one who observes the world in a full spectrum of colour.

Oddly, and not just because of the name, she reminded me of a poet I used to know by the name of Melinda, one whose presence and light and talent I’ve missed for a very long time. Anyhow, this Melynda sent me a quote, one that I believe sums up so much of how I view the world, particularly through these days of illness and struggle for normalcy:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and a failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create–so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency, he is not alive unless he is creating.”

Pearl S. Buck

Tonight, a long-time acquaintance and new friend of mine said he feels as if he needs to see live music in order to be happy. I told him I thought this was a good thing; it shows a passion for life, a need to feed the soul. The way all of us need food, drink, love, shelter, and all the basic necessities of life, some of us need creative energy.

I am reminded of a few relationships in my life where I was not free to be myself, I felt required to mold myself into a certain role, a certain vision—and during those times, I did not create, and walked through each day feeling as if I’d sacrificed pieces of myself in order to make something work, this idea of relationships that it seems everyone else has and desires, and I should share as well.

I am also reminded of a few relationships with artists, passionate souls who put the desire for creation above virtually all else, and who consequently were able to not only accept and embrace, but encourage my unconventionality, and push the boundaries even further. These were typically the most creatively successful periods of my life; however, the relationships always inevitably ended up failing because the stability and certainty of not being abandoned that i crave was never present. I don’t like coming in second to anything, not even creative passion.

When I am happy, content in that mundane way where nothing is provoking any extreme emotion, it’s as if I forget I am an artist at heart. When I am too concerned with my daily workload, my household chores, my social group, my responsibilities, I forget to have passion for things; I grow complacent, disinterested.

Ironically, being more limited in my ability to spend time with others, to go out and experience the world, has renewed an inspiration, a zest for life and love and making new friends and having new adventures, and knowing that when I get through all this, there will indeed be more chapters to my story.

There is a hidden up side to even the most challenging of times in life, and the up-side of my recent struggles is that I’ve been reminded of who I am, on the most simple, essential level. I don’t always remember to take time to be that person, because I’m too concerned with success vs. failure, with being liked by others, with being like others. I’m not, in many ways, and that’s OK.

I have chosen to limit myself to please other people too often, to be accepted by a culture that still sees me as “too much”, even at my most toned down. If I lived in New York still, would I feel the pressure to do this? Somehow, I don’t think I would, because I purposely surrounded myself with the unique, the intelligent, the creative, the people who saw the world differently. Here, I’ve found great friends with different unique and wonderful attributes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the focus on individuality and self-expression.

I am more actively seeking out these attributes and making them a part of my world, through getting in touch with myself, and meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, and staying more open to experiences and growth and possibility. I think it’s a positive change.

There once was a woman who had one hundred faces. She showed one face to each person, and so it took one hundred men to write her biography”.

—Anais Nin

I must say, people end up on my page looking for some bizarre, dark, and morbid things. My analytics program has told me that recently, people found my page by Googling for “Amy Winehouse casket photos”, “Amy Winehouse autopsy photos”, and “Deaths On Atlanta Subway”.

Ugh. For those who don’t know me, I might have a very dark, Gothic kind of streak that runs through me, and I might think vampires are sexy (the Anne Rice ones, not the 16-year-old effeminate boys that glitter.), but I’m actually possessed of a pretty fragile constitution when it comes to blood, death, gore, and all that other stuff. I haven’t seen a horror flick since I was 11. You’ll never see any sort of blood or graphic violence on these pages. In fact, I’ve had to recently start de-friending well-meaning people on Facebook because they’re putting up pictures of cute dogs saying “This is Fido’s last day on earth. He will be executed tomorrow”, or because they’re putting up photos of abused children to let us know this is what happens when we don’t care. I’m all for the well-meaning causes, but my sensitive nature can’t handle seeing the photos and being reminded of the cruelty that surrounds us every day.

Anyhow, I’d originally meant to write about a topic that’s gruesome and heartbreaking in a completely different way: rejection.

I don’t think rejection is an experience any of us takes particularly well, because the natural response to being rejected is one of “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough?” Sometimes, there are answers to that question: there are reasons you didn’t get the job you wanted, or a guy/girl you liked never called you back, or you put yourself out there and things weren’t a rousing success. Other times, though, that’s just the way things are, and nothing about you or how you handled the situation could have changed the outcome.

I have a number of talented, intelligent, beautiful friends in the world that I see limiting themselves due to fear of rejection, and this behaviour is so ingrained in them, I don’t think they recognize it. I have a friend who is one of the smartest people I know, but never puts himself out there to get rid of the job he hates, allowing him to find out what he really wants to do. I have another friend who is so physically attractive that there is never anyone who doesn’t notice her when she is in the room…but she lacks the confidence to go anywhere by herself, or to approach strangers without the company of a friend. The more I look around my world, the more I see tons of examples like this.

Growing up in the world of performance, I experienced a lot of rejection at an early age. It’s one world in which going on a job interview is liable to give you feedback that is hurtful enough to make you cry on the spot, but you don’t. It hurts everyone in the world to hear you’re not talented enough, not attractive enough, not graceful enough, too short or too tall, too fat or too skinny, or that you should consider cosmetic surgery to improve your image. It hurts every single person who’s been told they’re forgettable, or come across as someone the average person will dislike. But it’s part of the job, so you go home, you cry, you think mean, negative things about yourself, you think mean, negative things about everyone else, and you go to the next audition, and the next, and the next.

I also didn’t necessarily grow up in the healthiest, most loving family environment, and hearing a list of the ways in which I failed or wasn’t good enough was a weekly, if not daily, concern. The result was a tendency toward perfectionism: I told myself I would keep on working and unfailingly try to improve myself until everyone loved me and found me irresistible.

Of course, this is a far from healthy mindset, particularly when it leads you to secret, in-the-closet self-destructive behaviour, as it did for me…and many like me. But it never occurred to me that I couldn’t handle rejection or I didn’t like myself. Instead, I spent a lot of time looking at myself from a cold, almost removed point of view, seeing everything there was not to like about me and vowing to become a more perfect person. I thought being perfect would lead me to being loved, and until I got there, I didn’t deserve love or appreciation.

It wasn’t until after I moved to Atlanta and stopped performing that these issues became apparent. I didn’t love myself, and I didn’t truly expect anyone else to love me, but I’d gotten so used to hiding behind a wall of arrogance and fearlessness that said “Fuck you, I don’t care if you like me or not.”, that I didn’t consider it a problem. When a relationship ended or I got fired from a job, I didn’t handle it well. But I had no doubt that life would go on, and that jobs and relationships were replaceable. And at the same time, I was crumbling from the weight of my own imperfection.

At the end of a particularly difficult and intense relationship, I asked my partner how he didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t the right person for him. (He’d suggested we “take a break” and “see other people”, which, in my years before discovering the world of polyamoury, translated to “I’m really just over you”…which, in many cases, it does.) I remember standing in front of the coat closet in my apartment, and him saying, “I know, because when I look around the world and see attractive, capable, confident women, I find myself wondering what it would be like to be with them instead of you.”

And that was the first time I realised just how brutal rejection can be for certain types of people. It isn’t just about hearing “no”. It’s about something more personal, all the ways in which you’ve failed—failed to be perfect, failed to live up to “potential”, failed to make someone else happy. That failure has always been something I can’t live with, something I struggle with on a daily basis.

People often tell me I’m socially fearless. I’ll go up to anyone and introduce myself. If I’m attracted to someone, I’ll let that person know in a pretty straightforward way. I’ll sit in a formal restaurant by myself, and take the NYC subway home at 5 AM alone. I’ll travel the world myself…and in some ways, prefer that. There are few “dares” that get a flat refusal from me.

On the inside, though, I’m constantly struggling with the fear that someone won’t like me….and it’s no accident that I’ve not only gone through my life encountering people who don’t like me, but despise everything I embody and actively work to humiliate me or bring me down. I’m constantly struggling with the knowledge that I’m not as beautiful as this person, as smart as this other person, as gracious and likeable as another. Some days, I wonder how or why anyone could love me at all…because I never figured out how to be perfect. I never figured out, even, how to look in the mirror and see someone others will like.

I still often have the desire to act out in self-destructive ways nobody ever has to know about, to add to my list of imperfections. I often wish I could just escape from the world at large for a few months, and re-emerge as a happier, skinnier, more attractive, more accomplished, healthier person. I never do these things, but the desire for that to happen doesn’t disappear…and the belief that I’m surrounded by people who love and support me despite being so imperfect never quite sinks in.

I’m writing about this topic because recently, a few people have talked to me about how hard it is to meet people, how dating is a challenge, and even approaching people can be difficult. I do understand. Particularly in Atlanta, a city besieged by the “If everything about me appears perfect, everyone will love me” mentality, the tendency to get to know others for who they are is often not there…because it requires a vulnerability people aren’t willing to reveal. I understand just as well as anyone. In some ways, this is the worst possible place for someone with my particular set of issues to live (though Dallas is very close behind, and Miami even worse.) , because it’s filled with people with the same issues and insecurities who also have the money and the dedication to do something about what they don’t like in themselves, whether it’s apparent in a high-powered job, a new car, perfect teeth, discrete nips and tucks, or the need to appear like a carbon-copy of their best friends.

I’m not socially fearless, by any means. But what I’ve learned is that if you don’t forget about yourself long enough to reach out to others, you’ll spend your life by yourself. Nobody is perfect, nobody is out of your league, and even if rejection hurts, it doesn’t always have a single thing to do with you. No matter how great you are, everyone will not like you. Everyone will not be charmed by you, find you attractive, or even care to converse with you. Some may even instantly dislike you, for reasons that don’t matter and you may never know.

The important thing is that some people WILL like you, find you attractive, want to get to know you, see something special in you. And the person you’re afraid to talk to? Well, he or she has a secret list of insecurities and fears and baggage just as long as yours.

So, talk to a stranger. Go to a movie by yourself. Apply for a job you don’t think you’re good enough to land. Ask that person you’ve had a secret crush on to go out on a date. And if there are things you’d like to improve about yourself, whether it’s getting in shape or going back to school, it’s never too late to make those changes. In fact, if you’re like me, you try to re-commit yourself to building a better life pretty frequently.

Being open to whatever comes along seems to work the best for me. Trying too hard to make things work and beating myself up over my repeated “failures” is a personal self-destructive trigger, and will send my life in a direction I’d rather not go. In the immortal words of a legend, “You can’t always get what you want..but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

Life has a way of pointing that out…even if you don’t know what you need, the Universe sometimes seems to.

Forget about yourself for a little while. Try. Take a chance. Put yourself out there. And whatever comes back, know that you’re better for the experience, because it’s never about the results. It’s about knowing you don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved, liked, appreciated, or successful. If you did, none of us would ever be happy or do anything worthwhile.