As I briefly referenced, but didn’t really explain in my previous posts, I’ve found myself suddenly unemployed.

As a freelancer, it’s hard to be “unemployed”. You understand there are times when you’ll have more work than you can handle, and other times when the jobs aren’t there. However, my time working as a freelance writer has been filled with a series of fortunate happenstances that have allowed me to avoid the struggle and worry that many experience.

With my typical lack of humility, I thought this was due to some sort of talent on my part, as well as the tendency I have to approach any new project with extreme enthusiasm. Within a few weeks of deciding to become a freelance writer, I landed a gig with a company that taught me all about writing for SEO gigs, as well as putting out well-written content for websites. I applied for every “content mill” (places with plentiful projects that want you to write for virtually nothing, often for a penny a word or less, but pay promptly and are known to be reputable) that other writers were using. I was accepted at all of them. Bolstered by this success, I started to apply for jobs for which I wasn’t particularly well-qualified, having a month’s experience in the industry under my belt.

Two of them panned out, and became reliable sources of income that have enabled me to work for myself for the past two years. For awhile, they were even allowing me to thrive. I had sub-contractors working for me, because I had more work than I could ever handle. I eventually dropped almost everything, choosing to work full-time for a company that seemed to believe in me. There were people above me on the food chain that were full of praise and positive feedback regarding my writing. I was told clients were specifically asking for me. I was promoted through the ranks, and people in other divisions of the company sent me their overflow work. In short, I was very proud that I was succeeding at work.

Then, everything changed. Unfortunately, it changed right after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, one that left me unable to work as quickly as I might have liked to for some time. Right after that, my roommate moved out with no notice, effectively doubling my expenses. I went from being on a path to improving my life and correcting mistakes I’d made with my finances and lack of focus to being beaten down lower than ever.

All of the sudden, all the people who encouraged and supported me either left the company or were told to leave the company. Everyone took a 60-70% pay cut. Then, the work dried up, turning my full-time job into something that paid less than working at McDonald’s. Unfortunately, being ill, I didn’t have the stamina to go seek full-time employment outside of my home—I still don’t—and it seemed like opportunity was just nowhere to be found.

I stuck with the company, even as new people were brought in, and more and more “guidelines” and “24 hour deadlines” were implemented for less pay. A “rating” system was implemented, as well as new editors brought in, and I went from being one of the most praised and valuable writers to crying because an article that earned me $3 was torn apart by an editor. To add insult to injury, my communication with the editor made it clear I was a far superior writer, and being judged by someone who couldn’t do what I do as well (or better) was a slap in the face. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t worthwhile anymore, why nobody praised me or rewarded me, why I couldn’t pay my bills, but didn’t have time to look for other projects.

Last week, I was late with an assignment. My last trio of assignments for the day was turned in 90 minutes late. My immediate superior told me that he’d made it clear that if I missed deadlines, he wouldn’t send me work anymore, so effectively, I was fired. I appealed this decision to one of the owners of the company, someone I thought was fond of me, but she wrote back a bland e-mail telling me she was sorry my immediate supervisor and I were unable to come to terms over these issues and she appreciated my loyalty and hard work over the past two years.

It sucks to be fired in a passive-aggressive way, one where nobody uses the word “fired”. You just happen to not receive work from your place of employment anymore. To be honest, I felt a little betrayed by this company. Once upon a time, I felt valuable and essential and as if working for them meant something. By the end, I felt thoroughly expendable, and I was.

I have a problem in life that’s consistent: I never know when to leave. I don’t know if it’s a fear of change (even letting go of something that causes me distress, like my former roommate, who was blatantly toxic to my way of life.), a belief that I can always make things better or that things will get better if I wait it out, or just a sense of loyalty. (I don’t have very many views that fall into categories like “morality” and “ethics”; I’m mostly a walking grey area. However, loyalty is something I demand from anyone wishing to be in my life long-term, and so I deliver it in return.) I stay in relationships long after it’s clear to me that things are over, that there’s no future. I stay in an apartment I dislike because moving is an expensive hassle. I stick with choices that don’t further me in my life goals or make me a happier person because I’m afraid the next choice will suck even more than the previous one.

At the same time, in other points in my life, I’ve been downright impulsive. I was reminded this year that I still have some of that quality lurking around in me. I seem to be an impulsive person who wants security, so refuses to let go of anything that resembles it.

I would love to decide I’m not going to work for the next year, that I’m going to travel and write my novel and step outside of my comfort zone and regain my health and focus on achieving dreams. However, none of those things pay the bills, and I don’t really have the energy to devote to all of those things, plus paying the bills. The end result is me stressing out over paying the bills, and wishing I could live a different kind of life, one where I was healthy and didn’t have to concern myself with frivolities like money and could view life as an experience, not an obligation. I used to live that way, but it came at a pretty heavy price. I am older and wiser and no longer have the luxury of viewing the world that way; responsibility has to be more important than dreams. Yet, living that way robs my day of joy, makes me feel so much older than I am.

I haven’t felt like me in a long time, save for little periods of time here and there where I realised “I’m happy because I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day obligations of life. I’m just living.”

Apparently, I’m a girl who needs to work for a living who was born to be either an aristocrat or a starving bohemian. *laughs*

I am anxious again, about finding work that pays the bills, about the future. I am anxious that time is slipping away from me, that my health and youth and vitality are disappearing. I am anxious that I am struggling so through what are supposed to be the best years of my life, and if I don’t do something, accomplish something soon to ensure my security in this world, I’m going to be a 70-year-old woman who has been cast aside, has no money, poor health, and nobody who truly cares. That thought terrifies me, because I didn’t spend my 20′s thinking about my future or building my career. All the things that truly make me happy are transient, insecure, valuable for the moment, but later just memories.

I have a supportive group of friends, people who tell me that I feel doors closing all around me because it’s time to make dramatic changes, to let go of what does not help me grow as a person. These people look at me and see potential I do not see, see a person I do not see. What I look at as a loss of security or a rock to lean on, they view as letting go of an albatross keeping me from doing something great and valuable.

I don’t have time to do something great and valuable. I am no literary genius, no celebrity, no great talent or beauty or intellect or charmer. I am just like everyone else, simply more lost. I don’t know how to live a life I love without starving on the street, because what I love is beauty and luxury and elegance and fun. In many ways, I am a frivolous person who likes being amused as much as possible. In other ways, I’m a creative and intelligent and highly sensitive person who loves thoughts and ideas and using my energy to create, instead of working for survival.

I don’t know what to do with my life. I wish I could do something I loved, that also gave me a sense of security, as well as some of the little luxuries that make life an experience. But I’m a grown-up; an ill person with seriously ill parents from which I am somewhat estranged. I know that I’ve been alone in my life for a long time; when all my friends had family to help them finance their dreams, set up a new apartment, or move to a new city, I was on my own. However, I can’t help but feel that someday soon, I’ll be even more alone, because the family that isn’t really part of my life won’t even be there.

The future frightens me. The uncertainty frightens me. It never used to, because I always thought I was young and had the luxury of doing whatever I wanted, and mistakes didn’t have consequences. I’ve learned otherwise, and as a result, learned to fear uncertainty. I am no longer young and out there “experiencing”; I’m an adult who is supposed to have goals and plans and stability.

I wonder why it is not in my nature to be that person, especially if I have gifts and talents and potential that others see in me. I don’t think I am lazy, because when I love something, I throw myself into it wholeheartedly. When I have an ambition, little can stand in my way. But I am largely uninspired; acquiring the tools for day-to-day survival doesn’t seem to motivate me as it does everyone else in the world.

I don’t look at life the same way everyone else does, I think. While some find this charming or think I am somehow interesting or unconventional or wise, I don’t know it serves me well in a practical sense.

I might want to permanently trade in my joie de vivre for practicality, or actively look to marry well. Yet, doing the first left me with an anxiety disorder, and I’ve failed at the second, multiple times. I seem to pass up opportunities that may provide me with the security I claim to want, in favour of independence and freedom, something I haven’t been aware until recently was that valuable to me. Yet, to be independent, you need the tools and temperament to survive independently. I don’t possess either.

So, again, what is it that I want to do with my life? *sighs*

“I often think about
Where I went wrong;
The more I do,
The less I know.
But I know I have a fickle heart,
And a bitterness,
And a wandering eye,
And a heaviness in my head.”

—Adele, “Don’t You Remember?”

Today was yet another extraordinarily stressful day, waiting to see what’s going to happen to me with my apartment/living situation. I was initially quite encouraged, as the lady in the rental office made it seem as if it were a done deal….there just remained the technicality of getting my roommate and The Guy I Am Currently Dating to the leasing office at the same time to sign the paperwork.

The problems started when my roommate, who initially said he’d move out in 2 weeks, decided he wanted to leave in two DAYS. At first, he mentioned the possibility of driving all the way to Jacksonville, and then driving back to take care of the lease and pay me the almost $400 in back rent he owes me. I instinctively know this will not happen; if he leaves without taking care of things, he never will.

Now, of course, I’m terrified that’s precisely what’s going to happen…even though The Guy I Am Currently Dating is willing to put his name on the apartment for me, he can’t do so without my roommate being present to transfer things. They’ve set up an appointment with the lady in the leasing office to do this at 7 PM tomorrow night, but my roommate left nearly 12 hours ago and said “I know you’re stressed, but you need to have faith that I’m not going to leave without this being taken care of.” Of course I don’t, and it isn’t helping that he sent me a text saying he would be home late since he was “going to spend the night with a hottie”. In the many years we’ve lived together, he’s never done that, and either it’s the oddest timing ever…or my intuition is right to be distrustful. I just want this all taken care of so that I can cease feeling anxious about the future each and every day. :(

Yesterday, I mentioned I’d tell you the story of how I met a friend for the first time this past weekend; in fact, a friend who was really a stranger who turned out to be a friend. I’d know of this person and heard many stories about him over the years, as he was the roommate of one of my best friends while they were both at Berkeley. However, this guy and I were never friends; in fact, he advised my friend to kind of move past dealing with me and get over me when we had long periods of time that were filled with a lot of drama and emotion. In turn, I dismissed this guy as exceedingly judgmental, and formed a pretty solid idea, based on our contrasting characters, that we’d never get along. We were all in our early 20′s at this time (though me a bit later than the two of them. *laughs*), and as intelligent people in our early 20′s, thought we knew everything about everything. :P

Of course, when I went through some negative things in my life, my friend went to his roommate to share/vent about things I’d done, things that had happened to me, and his generally troubled emotional state. When this old friend and I would spend time together, and things wouldn’t go as well as planned, it was his roommate who would inevitably be around to listen to the drama. So, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that said roommate had a certain picture of me that wasn’t altogether flattering, yet was aware that I had some charming and quirky attributes that made me an interesting person to get to know regardless.

On my end, I’d heard (and seen) that the roommate was the kind of person who was not only introverted and academic, but liked a certain amount of solitude, and disliked clingy or emotionally needy people. Meanwhile, I am the sort of person who can’t be alone for too long, but needs a certain amount of personal space, and also to be reminded that I am liked and admired on a regular basis. Logically, there was never any reason to assume we’d have cause to be friends.

Yet, somehow, we started talking, via Facebook and text, in a way that was very infrequent and somewhat impersonal. However, it seemed the more we started to talk to one another, the more I noticed similarities within the differences. 8 years after we’d first been made aware of the other person’s existence, I found out he was planning a tour to some of the Southeastern cities (he attends school in another Southern city, about 7 hours from here, so while it seems on the map we might be close, we’re really not…unless you’re on an airplane.) , and wanted to visit Atlanta.

The visit was interesting, as he changed his plans and abandoned a stay in Macon to meet up with me and some other people at a burlesque show. It was a good time, and he seemed interested in getting to know different people, but I didn’t feel we particularly clicked in any extraordinary way. It was more of the sort of thing that came off as, “You’re interesting enough, but there are people I might have more fascinating conversation with”. It also didn’t hurt that one of the members of the party was an extremely attractive young burlesque dancer; as I told a friend of mine, “Who am I to think most people I’d know would choose to talk to me over taking the opportunity to get to know a highly attractive burlesque dancer?” Yet, I am me, so I do of course think that…and was rather put off by that whole situation. When he left the festivities fairly early, I wasn’t even certain if we’d meet up the next day.

However, we did, and it appeared to be the case that we communicated much better and found one another more entertaining company in a one-on-one scenario. That’s not typically the case for me; I tend to feel less at ease around new people one-on-one, rather than in a group, unless I somehow feel a connection with them in some way. It’s the primary reason I have a horrible history of turning friends into lovers and vice versa; I just really need to feel drawn toward a person to spend any length of one-on-one time with them.

I certainly didn’t expect to feel that bond with my friend after the burlesque show outing, but was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to talk and laugh with him for hours. In fact, I believe I talked and laughed so much that I delayed his leaving town by several hours; long enough that he had time to meet The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and as expected, the two of them seemed to get on very well almost immediately.

Somewhere, between the hours of talking about everything and laughing at nothing, I realised this person with whom I felt I’d nothing in common and whom I sensed disinterest from upon our initial meeting was actually neither my polar opposite, nor indifferent to my friendship. One of the observations we made was that although we seem to take completely opposite routes to get a certain place, we seem to end up at the same destination. Although the way we live our lives in completely opposite ways and by almost opposing philosophies, much of who we are is fundamentally in sync. It’s a weird sort of synchronicity, that someone who not only doesn’t look at life through the same sort of world view and has opposing personality characteristics and ambitions, and is in fact someone who challenges you in some ways, can also be someone with whom you feel a connection.

Sometimes, I have a sense about people. I know a lot of people, but genuinely trust and connect with a select few, and it’s a largely intuitive process. Sadly, it’s why I don’t always spend as much time calling people up and asking them to dinner or if they want to see a concert or do whatever, and some people mistake me for unapproachable..or as an old friend of mine would term it, “aloof”. I am easy to get to know, but difficult to befriend. Yet, I often have an unmistakable sense when someone is the right kind of friend for me, and is put in my life’s journey for a specific reason.

I do not know the reason, of course, but I am glad for the odd way that life works out sometimes, by putting people in your path you never really saw being there. I have a strong intuitive sense that there will be another 8 years of either connecting, or mis-connecting, or both, in the future. And it makes me happy to have unexpectedly stumbled upon a person with whom I see a genuine friendship developing, either despite, or because of, the fact we continue to live a safe distance apart from one another. *laughs*

I will say, overall, I’ve had some of the most memorable experiences possible with meeting strangers, whether through friends or via the internet or whatnot. They aren’t ever people from across town, they aren’t ever people with whom I’d cross paths if not for synchronicity…and they have all either impacted my life a tremendous amount, are still an important part of my life, or both.

There’s something to be said for taking a risk or two, after all…*laughs*

On a final note, Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody I Used To Know” was briefly dislodged from my head for nearly 24 hours by a listen to Adele’s “21″. Today, it was put back, by friends pointing out that I’d gotten it stuck in their heads. :P It was solidified by a friend sharing this uber-funny video, which is a parody of a cover of the song. Even if you’d never seen the cover (I hadn’t, but watched it before the parody.), it’s great and worth a watch.

Parody On “Somebody That I Used To Know”

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.

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.

I meant to spend some time posting a well-crafted update on here today, but instead, I spent a lot of my writing energy sending e-mail to friends and actually doing work, which is important, too. So, although I know you’re all devastated, part two of yesterday’s story is simply going to have to wait. (yes, yes, I know…nobody actually reads this enough to care about my stories. :P )

Over the past few weeks, I’ve become involved with a site called Swap-Bot, which I love. It gives me a no-pressure, random approach to creativity, as well as a chance to share with people from all over the world. I loved getting mail from abroad when I was younger, and I still have that certain little thrill when I open up my mailbox and see something from halfway around the world. It’s like a glimpse into a world you may never see. I imagine that The Guy I Am Currently Dating probably thinks this new hobby is silly, since it requires more frequent trips to the post office, and he never comments on any of my handmade/decorated envelopes, or asks what’s inside. However, since I can’t go out in the world as much as I’d like lately, it makes me happy to have the world come to me. It makes me happy to know that if I am not here tomorrow, there are pieces of me out there somewhere….and perhaps they briefly touched someone. I suppose that’s what I’m looking for…I suddenly have this desire to share, and connect, and create, and leave an indelible mark on the world, as if I don’t have that much time in which to do it.

Part of me is convinced that perhaps I don’t have as much time on this earth as I always assumed I would. Another part of me just believes living life to the fullest means living each day being aware of the possibility that there’s never enough time. Say the things to the people you need to hear them. Express your feelings. Put yourself out there. Make someone that touches your life feel valued. Put aside ego and fear of rejection and failure. Share love without wondering if it will be taken the wrong way. I think if we all tried to live that way, we’d be so much happier.

In any case, someone on SwapBot left me a lovely photo today. If it were a poster (which perhaps it is), I’d probably frame it and put it in my living room. It’s just that sort of beautiful, to me.


Only four more days until my visit with the ear specialist, and I’m hoping it’s good news, even if “good news” for me means surgery. A diagnosis, the ability to do something to improve how I’m able to live my life, is “good news for me, whatever it may be. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping myself busy with helping The Guy I Am Currently Dating with his annual Serenity screening on Sunday, and perhaps playing some trivia. I wish I were more inspired to work, seeing as the insane medical bills keep piling in, but I’m not. It’s part of that whole “life’s too short” thing.

Instead, I’ll spend another hour on so reading my biography of Dorothy Parker, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I notice that the people that fascinate me, the ones that have had crazy adventures to rival some of mine, are also typically rather disturbed individuals in one way or another. Brilliant, vivacious, often loved by many…but disturbed. I wonder if that’s a trait I recognise in myself and feel a kinship with, or most interesting people are simply kind of crazy. ;P

One of my long-time favourite bloggers, the charming Gala Darling, has started a frank and open dialogue on her blog this week about body image issues, and how the media affects how we perceive ourselves and others, and how the blogosphere is as much of a culprit in the war against self-acceptance as any other form of mainstream media. It’s a very thought-provoking topic, and brings me to my personal challenge for the day.

Day #6:

 

Refuse To Be Ruled By Insecurity

Obviously, unlike some of the other “less ordinary” ideas I’ve posted recently, this isn’t something you can check off your list in a day or so. For most of us, insecurity is a problem that’s taken a lifetime to develop, and nothing is going to cause you to magically love yourself. However, taking the time to work on feeling better about yourself, accepting your uniqueness, and making the most of what makes you special is far more productive than standing at the mirror, mentally pointing out all the things that make you feel inferior.

Getting involved in the world of the performing arts in childhood, for me, meant being exposed to body image issues and insecurity is something that happened at a fairly early age. It’s one thing to go through life feeling inferior, always mentally reminding yourself that you aren’t that special, that you’re not as thin, not as pretty, not as talented,, not as interesting as the next girl. That’s tough on the self-esteem, naturally. But,as a performing artist, you’re repeatedly putting yourself out there for criticism, living in a world that will tell you it doesn’t want you because you’re too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, too plain, too All-American, too ethnic, too virtually anything that you might be is enough of a reason for someone to tell you straight-up they’re not interested in you.

It’s a harsh world, one that aspires to not only perfection, but even then, a type of perfection that’s never attainable. In reality, the most successful performers are those that own who they are, rise above the feedback, and have enough confidence to present an unabashed version of themselves. There are, of course, ways to compensate for that confidence, if you lack it—as the old saying goes, “Fake it until you make it”—but showing insecurity or fear of being judged is the best way to ensure you don’t hired. Even Lady Gaga, the most well-marketed pop sensation since Madonna, hides behind flashy costumes, outrageous makeup, and being as scandalous as she wants to be, while telling an audience full of admirers what she wanted to hear throughout her life as a performer, “You’re special just the way you are, and there’s a place for you, so don’t be afraid.”

It’s pretty easy to do when you have a well-crafted, much-loved image to hide behind. Most performers need to create much more subtle versions of their own image, one that doesn’t give the outward presence of being artificial—but still protects the person inside from demons like judgment, insecurity, and inadequacy. It’s no wonder that many artists, after years of performing, training, schooling, etc., find themselves out in the real, 9-to-5 world not being as accepted, liked, or admired as they’d prefer to be. I once had someone tell me the reason people didn’t like me was because nothing about me seemed real, like I was a character out in the world, rather than a real person. I thought about this more than a little, since the person who said it was someone I’d known for awhile (and later did me great personal harm, so as it turned out, really DIDN’T like me much.), and realised I understood the observation. Being a performer, to a certain extent, means creating a wall between yourself and the rest of the world, a way to protect the fragile pieces inside, and to be tough enough to survive with your confidence intact—and to compete, and win.

It’s not that much different in the “real world”, at least I don’t think so. It’s just that many people are unaware they’re putting those walls up, and others are unaware that without those walls, they’re likely to find themselves trampled upon. Everyone wants to compete, and win, and one of the weapons of choice in life seems to be finding opportunities to cut down your competition. Judging others, gossiping about others, making assumptions about people, and passive-aggressive tricks to create feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are extraordinarily common among even the most educated, talented, and accomplished of women.

In my case, it wasn’t until I spent a few years in the “real world” that I realised how cruel that place could be, and how it was much more difficult to protect yourself from what the world had to say about you, than from a director that refused to give you a job or a photographer that didn’t find your look appealing. Suddenly, all my defenses stopped working. I gained 20 pounds. I didn’t go out of the house to socialise for three months. And, I stopped being able to put myself out there—to go on auditions, to look for work, to flirt with someone I found attractive, to even get up and sing in front of friends, or play games where I risked looking silly. All of the sudden, I felt like what I perceived myself to be—a short, chubby, weird-looking girl that people didn’t like, and always talked about.

After a lifetime of “Fake it until you make it” in the confidence department, I’d started to believe in myself, knowing that whatever my flaws, I had a certain amount of charisma, appeal, and “star quality” working for me. After all, I’d always been a short, curvy, weird-looking girl, and I’d always had plenty of people who didn’t like me….as well as plenty of friends. I landed roles, got noticed positively for my uniqueness, was fairly popular, and had no problems in the dating department. My general attitude toward myself made it easier for me to brush off the rejections, the haters, the things I always disliked about myself.

A particularly negative experience with other people, and ultimately with myself, took that away from me. On one hand, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to me—and on the other hand, it’s the best. I’m learning to love myself in a more real, unconditional way, and learning that being loved by others can be real and unconditional, too. You don’t have to be perfect, thin, beautiful, accomplished, or rich to be loved…you just have to open yourself up to it, which is an extraordinarily difficult task, when you’re always hiding for fear of being hurt.

In reality, there’s no way to protect yourself from that. No matter how perfect, thin, beautiful, accomplished, or rich you are, there will always be someone to judge you, someone waiting to tear you down….and you’ll find that everything you thought would make you happy ultimately did very little. You’ll find yourself constantly hiding, limiting yourself, retreating from life, while simultaneously thinking you’re very free and open and confident enough to put yourself out there.

In case you were wondering, here’s what the average American looks like—and it’s not what you’re seeing in any magazine.

Men:
Height (inches): 69.4 (5 feet, 9.4 inches)
Weight (pounds): 194.7
Waist circumference (inches): 39.7

Women:
Height (inches): 63.8 (5 feet, 3.8 inches)
Weight (pounds): 164.7
Waist circumference (inches): 37.0

In addition, the average non-surgically-enhanced woman wears a 36B bra size, and has 39″ hips, making her between a size 12 and a size 14 for most clothing designers. Although this is average, a size 12 or 14 is considered “plus” size for many designers, and some choose not to manufacture their clothing in these sizes.

Unattainable perfection is the most dangerous illusion, because it leads to the idea that if only we can achieve it, we will finally be worthy of love and admiration, and protected from the possibility of being hurt. It leads to both men and women starving themselves, throwing up in the bathroom five times a day, drinking bottle after bottle to get through the tough times, taking drugs, having random sexual encounters, and mutilating their bodies, all in an attempt to punish themselves for not being a living example of unattainable perfection, and not deserving happiness.

Get out there and live your life, no matter how imperfect you think you are. Flirt with someone you find attractive, without assuming nobody would ever notice *you*. Eat a real meal with friends, carbs and all. Drink champagne to celebrate nothing special, except life. Fall in love. Travel. Open yourself up, without caring what others will say or what the photos will look like.

Personally, I’m going to spend this weekend wearing a few of the many cute outfits that have been retired and hiding in my closet because I think they make me look too fat, too voluptuous, too skanky, or someone else will criticise my quirky fashion sense. I’m going to ignore the scale, stop examining my flaws in the mirror, stop telling myself how unremarkable and unattractive I am. I’m going to get a pedicure, eat brunch, and remind myself that life isn’t an audition, and it’s not a competition.

It’s just life, and each of us is as well-equipped to participate as the next person—even if that person is thinner, richer, smarter, prettier, or has a better job.

Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love: ‘expresses the headlong libidinal attraction‘ of addictive love. Usually, one is inspired with an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone.” ~ Wikipedia

Day #5:



Infatuated, by Pink Butterfly Of Death

*~ Embrace Infatuation *~

I’m a big fan of infatuation, and it’s a state of being that’s played a huge role in my life over the years. In fact, it was the title of a short-lived, private, and thoroughly self-indulgent blog I kept off and on during my early 20′s, filled with emotional angst and feelings about….well….infatuation.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not excellent at relationships and everything that makes them work, which largely accounts for my rather complex and chaotic history in that department. However, infatuation I know well, and rather enjoy. There’s something invigorating about waking up each morning and being immediately reminded there’s this person or thing out there in the world that makes that day an amazing one.

Of course, infatuation doesn’t last—in the worst of situations, it burns itself out in the form of abrupt or cruel disillusionment, and in the best, the object of infatuation becomes a part of your daily life, changing your relationship with it and putting an end to idealism. But, during the brief point in time it exists, it’s a reminder of the human capacity to thoroughly enjoy and adore the people and things in the world, and makes it impossible not to enjoy life.

For someone like myself, someone who is happiest living in a world largely of her own making, full of idealism and emotion and ideas and creative energy, infatuation is a hard-wired personality attribute. I’m not just talking about infatuations with people—although they do exist, and contrary to popular conception of the word, are less romantic in nature than you might imagine— but with ideas, movies, music, books, culture, fashion, food, and even electronic gadgets.

When they apply to people, my infatuations can become dangerous; after all, I’m the type of girl who rarely ever had crushes on movie stars. Instead, I fell in love with characters, fictionalised representations of the types of people I’d be excited by meeting and to whom I’d be immediately attracted. As I grew older, these tendencies shifted themselves into my relationships with others, making it easy for me to idealise those that captured my attention, and even more insistent that I should be that interesting to others in turn. Too many crushes, flings, relationships, and friendships in my life have ended with the realisation that they were in fact infatuations, and I was far more inspired by the possibility than the reality. It is always the process of idealising and admiring another person that I fall in love with, which leads me to quickly fall out of love with the reality of that person, one of many factors that led me to embrace a non-monogamous lifestyle for a number of years. I also think it’s a character flaw that’s kept me from having relationships that work over the long-term, and the recognition of this has forced me to redirect my infatuation energy.


Nowadays, I’m far more likely to become infatuated with ideas, things that inspire my imagination, things that others have created. Over the winter, I became wildly infatuated with all things Tudor, an odd interest for me, because I’m not a history buff. After a previous infatuation, researching my family tree on Ancestry.com, led me to discover that many,many, many generations ago, a branch of my family tree descended from the Tudor line, it turned into me wanting to learn more about some of the crazy characters from that time in history. After immensely enjoying countless hours of The Tudors series by Showtime, I even found a few documentaries I thought were interesting (and I don’t tend to like documentaries.) Not only did I watch all the seasons in a period of a few weeks, I also started reading both fiction and non-fiction relating to the time period, and discovered a new favourite author in the process, Philippa Gregory.

Of course, this infatuation lasted for months, and didn’t disappear until it was replaced by another. Some are much shorter-lived love affairs, like deciding I was going to become more educated about wine, or reading Time Magazine, or that I was going to publish a book of poetry. However, I love that these infatuations come and go, and that some turn into lasting interests and talents—or, at the very least, help me accumulate trivia facts.

Reading over my old journal, which makes me feel a bit embarrassed for the version of myself that was around back then, reminded me that infatuations are healthy, invigorating, and inspiring. They help you grow, they help you discover yourself, and they sometimes even bring others into your life. Of course, the best part is that, unless you’re ready to mention them to the people in your life, your infatuations can stay your own little secret for a lifetime. ;)

I’m the kind of person that naturally gets bored and feels uninspired if I stay put for too long. I’m not sure why; it isn’t that I don’t have the capacity to be happy or content. Sometimes, I even value the feeling of safety and security that “home” offers me, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than hide out there for awhile. Those phases are often short-lived, however, and then I find myself plagued by restlessness and ready to chase adventure again.

Day #2:




Escape To Your Happy Place

At least for me, half the fun of going somewhere different is looking forward to getting there. Everyone has their own “happy place”, the place they’d much rather be, if there were no boring meetings, dull assignments, crying children, or endless obligations to attend to in life. For most people, it’s the first place you’d be likely to run off and hide out if you won the lottery tomorrow, quit your job, and had the personal freedom to go anywhere you wished.

My happy place is the beach, which is why I try to go at least once a year. Atlanta, being hopelessly landlocked and short on bodies of water, has the misfortune of having beach-worthy weather for at least 7 months out of every year, without any actual beaches nearby. The closest beach getaways are 5 hours away by car, too far for a day trip, and too inconvenient for non-drivers like myself.

It isn’t so bad, if you live in a nice complex with a pool—which, incidentally, I do not. My complex finally re-opened the pool, and it is now filled with screaming kids and angry, angsty teenagers all day long. It’s a far cry from some of the previous places I’ve lived in Atlanta, where I managed to spend an hour each day lying in the sun and shedding my vampire-like complexion for a few months. So, the result is that once March hits, I start looking forward to a trip to the beach.

I didn’t get to Savannah yet, although I’m determined to spend a weekend there at some point this summer. However, I’ll be visiting the Jersey Shore at the end of June, spending a lot of time lying on the beach and tuning out the entire world. In order to accomplish this, I needed a new bathing suit, and this one seemed to say “me”…at least today.


Sometimes, part of appreciating life is reminding yourself that you have freedoms, choices, options. While you might not always have the time, money, or energy to step away from your life and escape to your happy place, remembering that someday you will is motivating and invigorating. And, sometimes, your happy place might turn out to be exactly right where you are.

One thing I’ve come to notice about life is that it’s very easy for it to become routine. In fact, most of what a majority of us spend our days doing are the things with which we’re the most comfortable, often to the point that if we’re not paying careful attention, our lives end up on some version of auto-pilot.

When I was younger, the world seemed like this huge place full of adventures and possibilities and things I just couldn’t wait to get out and explore. When I look back, the most memorable of my experiences, the happiest times in my life have always been the ones that were the most unexpected—the ones that, if I’d just been content to sit back and let life happen to me, rather than flinging myself at it in a most undignified manner, I’d have missed out on.

As time has passed, I’ve seen more places, done more things, met more people, and life has started to feel like less of an adventure. After awhile, you start to feel as if one city is really much the same as another, and even though the world is full of people, 95% of those you’re meeting simply aren’t all that interesting. So much more of life begins to be filled with sameness, until you realise you’re not really inspired by your life anymore, not really growing, not really learning or experiencing.

For the past few years, I’ve felt that way. Don’t get me wrong, I have some pretty awesome things in my life. I make a living in a way that allows me freedom and independence, to a certain extent, that not everyone out there has. I have a circle of friends that care about me, and a wider circle of acquaintances I can call upon when I want to go out and have fun. I’ve been in a long-term relationship with someone who loves me, even though it isn’t easy, and even though I’m not sure our futures are in sync. I’ve abandoned a number of self-destructive habits and aspects of my personality that have always stood in the way of me being happy. If I just look at it from the surface perspective, I have most of the things I need in my life. It isn’t a fancy life—I’m not rich, or famous, or accomplished, or glamourous—but it’s one that’s filled with reasons to be happy.

Yet, I often miss that feeling I’d have when I was younger, and about to embark upon a new adventure. I miss that reminder that the world is big, and full of possibility, and there’s always something to be excited about. I miss that random connection with a kindred spirit that’s unexpected and absolutely enthralling, and the sense of empowerment and freedom that comes with going somewhere completely new and different, completely on your own. I miss wondering what’s next, and what’s going to be hiding behind the next door. I don’t necessarily want to give up the security and stability I have in my life now, things that weren’t there then—it’s just that I want to rekindle that sense of wonder, and adventure, and the feeling that the next day might hold something wonderful in store for me.

In order to try to make new things a part of my daily life, and to constantly remind myself that “comfortable” should not be the end-all, be-all of existence, I’m going to spend my summer inviting something new into my life every day. Most will likely be small things, but just the act of reminding myself to always broaden my horizons and let the world in much more frequently is a good way to keep life from becoming routine, while still enjoying many of the “comfortable” pieces of my life that I love, and look forward to each week.

After all, it’s a big world out there, and you’re never too old to stop exploring, taking chances, and choosing to do something different. It’s just that most of us become so busy and distracted and consumed by the obligations of every day life, we save that spirit of exploration, adventure, romance, relaxation, and discovery for weekends, vacations, and holidays…if we’re not too tired.

Life is too short to forget that spirit of freedom, and that belief in ourselves and in possibility we all have in our younger years. Perhaps adults just have to work a little harder to maintain that free-spiritedness that used to come more easily, when there were less obligations, and fewer experiences with heartbreak.

This summer, I think I’m going to go out of my way to try and reconnect with that part of myself. It may fail, but it also may become a new, lifelong way of looking at the world. :)