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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.” —George Eliot

NOTE: You can either read my snarky rant about positive thinking, or you can just read this awesome article that inspired it. Or you can read both, but depending on how positive you are, you may not be able to handle that.

We’ve somehow all survived the Thanksgiving holidays, and while it would be appropriate to put up the obligatory post about all the things and people I am thankful for having in my life, I’m not going to do that. I’m not an unappreciative, ungrateful kind of person. It’s just that the people in my life *know* how much I love and appreciate them. They received a text or a phone call or a Facebook message or an e-mail reminding them, and I don’t restrict this sort of “I’m just reminding you that I like you!” stuff for holidays.

I actually have a lot for which to be grateful, and the way I live my life is generally to express what I feel, in some form, most of the time. I don’t need a holiday for that. I will express my feelings in the moment, or in a moment soon after that one. You don’t have to know me very well to have figured that out.

Of course, there are also many things in my life for which I am not grateful. They are difficult, challenging, confusing, overwhelming, or just plain suck. I don’t give thanks for those things, even though I’ve been told they’re making me a better person, and being more positive would allow me to see the blessings in the things that suck.

However, I am a realist. I love the things that make me and those I care for happy, and hate the things that don’t. It’s pretty simple.

I’ve written about this topic before, but I have been defriended on social media sites, received scathing comments in response to me expressing my thoughts and feelings, have had people refuse to associate with me, followed by spending time discussing me behind my back in unflattering tones….all because I am not “positive” enough. This is especially true on Facebook, where I’ve had people write “Every time I read one of your posts, it’s complaining about something”. and “Why do you have to post all these negative personal feelings? Nobody really cares and it brings everyone down.”, and even, “Sorry you’re sick, but do you think everyone wants to hear about your problems?”

This seemingly disproportionate response to expression of feelings that are not positive and upbeat shocks me. In fact, when I used a tool to analyze my Facebook posts, it characterised about 70% of them as either “thought-provoking” or “optimistic” in tone. Overall, my Facebook page is more positive than negative, more emotional, more profound, and more concerned with social issues than most. Yet, people don’t like me because I am not positive.

I freely admit, I am snarky. I comment on the things that annoy me or suck about life with a wry sense of humour. I don’t pretend that “challenges are just triumphs in disguise!”. I think “The Secret”, and most self-help books like it, is utter crap. I don’t believe there’s a secret to happiness or to changing your life. Dream boards and visualizing what you want in order to make it happen is kind of like praying for what you want, without doing anything positive to accomplish that goal. There’s no magical formula. It’s great to understand yourself and want to improve your life, but “Closing the door to negative thoughts and people!” isn’t what’s going to get you there. In fact, most self-help and motivational seminars that encourage you to think about positive things and your life will be positive are selling you the oldest trick in the book: denial. When you plaster a smile on your face and deny that sucky things happen to you, and it’s OK to be angry, upset, pissed, and negative about them, chances are good that you’re going to see some anti-depressants in your future.

Shockingly, I’m not a terribly negative person. However, I don’t have blind faith in anything. Things don’t just “all work out in the end” because you’re a “good person”. Read a history book. Plenty of great, positive people didn’t exactly have things work out for them, and plenty of people you wouldn’t want to know have been very happy.

I’m an idealist. I see people and the world the way they could be, and am so often hurt and disappointed that’s just not the way things work out, so much of the time. I am often disappointed. I often feel let down and not valued enough by others. I am often shocked when someone is hurtful or throws something in my face, or claims to love me, yet causes me to cry. I am often looking for something greater than what I have, because I believe on an intuitive level that such a thing exists. However, I’m also realistic enough to understand that I often experience emotional chaos because I attempt to inflict my unrealistic ideals on the rest of the world, and my fellow human beings often do not operate in the same way that I do.

I am also a realist. I know the world doesn’t work the way I would like it to. The legend of Camelot has always been a story close to my heart (hence Lady Guenevere as my screen name everywhere.), for a number of reasons, but an important one is that it epitomizes the duality of my personality. Camelot fell because of human frailty. It was pre-destined to do so; yet, people never stopped believing they could make the world a better place and build something ideal. The ideals never matched up with reality, and the consequences were devastating. Yet, somehow, idealism could co-exist with a firm grasp on reality.

Things don’t always work out in the end. Things disappoint you, people let you down, you fail, bad luck knocks at your door. It doesn’t mean you should stop believing that your life will be filled with positive moments. It does mean that if you’re unprepared to acknowledge negativity and adversity because you won’t allow such ideas in your positive head space, that adversity is going to knock you flat on your ass when it’s your turn to get screwed over by “how life works”. And it will, someday, be your turn, no matter how positive you are about you and your life being charmed and perfect and full of everything you’ve ever wanted. That attitude didn’t work during the 1950′s—it led to people drinking Scotch and popping Valium on a daily basis, but hey, they were smiling— and it doesn’t work now.

Yes, whoever you are, whatever your challenges and things for which you should be grateful, there will be moments when your life just sucks. Something will happen that isn’t fair. Someone will be a petty, jealous asshole and try to tear you down. The stock market will plummet and you’ll lose half your money. A flood or an earthquake or a hurricane will come to your part of town. You or a loved one will get sick.

Inevitably, you’ll have to deal, and the “secret” to dealing is not to visualise a world where everything is so much better and trust that positive thinking means that the Universe or God or whomever is going to fix things for you. You’re going to have to know how to cope, and how to fix things yourself. I maintain that cultivating an outlook based on fake smiles, cliches, and denial in order to “focus on being a happier person” isn’t going to equip you with the survival skills you need. And one day, you are going to feel extremely negative about the fact that cliches and smiles and dream boards don’t protect you from the bad things in life, and avoiding anyone who talks about “negative” things in their life is not only unhealthy for you, it is, at the core, self-centred. “The Secret” seems to be to focus on how awesome you are so frequently that you lose patience and empathy for those who are struggling and suffering, and turn your back on those who need support because they are bringing negative energy into your world. The irony is that you are obviously struggling and in need of support, too, only you’ve found it in a book that claims to have all the answers rather than in other human beings, or deep within yourself.

I don’t argue in favour of toxic people. Toxic friendships and relationships can harm you, can hold you back, and you should like yourself enough not to tolerate them. This is not the same as saying “I don’t want to know you because you’re too negative” to someone who will discuss both positives and negatives openly.

I believe in a full range of emotion and human experience. Nowhere was it ever said that we’re supposed to be happy all the time. We’re not. Sometimes we are, and that’s great. Sometimes we’re sad or pissed off or suffer a loss or uncertain about the future, and that’s OK, too….unless we don’t have anyone in our lives with whom we can honestly share feelings because they’re all too busy searching for the elusive Holy Grail of “positivity, light, and happiness”. I would not want to live in a world where everyone was happy and bursting with self-esteem, announcing how great they found life and other people and themselves, every single day. I know some people like that, and frankly, they annoy the hell out of me. I don’t find it genuine, and the facade makes me angry. As much as people dislike me for being too “negative”, “snarky”, “jaded”, “cynical”, or “realistic”, I want to scream and shake people and say “Why can’t you just for one second behave like a real, multi-dimensional person?!”

However, that’s just me. This page is called “Jaded Elegance” for a reason, folks. You’re not going to find affirmations and self-help here. I do believe in learning about yourself, learning about others, and finding ways to cope with life that enhance the good moments and help the sucky ones suck less. I do believe in friendship, love, compassion, empathy, and tearing down the walls that people build to protect themselves from the world…but only succeed in creating falsehoods and alienation.

I don’t think that deciding to be happy made you happy. I think you lost weight because you decided to stop eating pizza and get on the treadmill. I think you found the right person after years of horrible relationships because you took the time to get to know yourself, and gained enough self-esteem to stop dating jerks and losers. I think you found your dream job because you finally had the nerve to go out and chase after it. If a book or a religion or a seminar did that for you, that’s great, but I think you’re selling yourself short. It may have inspired you to do something better with your life, but you did that for you.

And just because you made positive life changes, don’t start believing life will always be positive and peachy because you’re now one of those “positive mindset people”. Sucky things will still happen, on a regular basis. Hopefully, though, you’ve acquired the necessary tools to deal with them in a healthy way.

We don’t live in a world of happy, and all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to make it so. In fact, “Positive Thinking Is For Suckers!”, or so says this article I love.

Should people be happy? Of course. But trying to be happy, to the exclusion of focus on much else, is the same reason that those who are trying out a new diet rarely succeed. However, they become much less entertaining, telling you the calorie count of every single bite of food they eat, without losing a pound. Focusing all your energy on “being happy” is actually code for focusing all your energy on why you’re not happy now, making you a negative person in denial.

Living in the moment seems to be the best strategy, one that makes me the happiest when I can remember to employ it. Remember, we’re not promised an endless amount of them. Waiting for that day when we’re going to reach some ideal, to “be happy” means not taking advantage of a lot of days in between that could have been a lot of fun. Yes, some of those days will suck. I’d like to think the fun and memorable ones make up for it.

You can look at the glass half-full if that’s your choice, and I won’t judge that. You can bitch about the glass being half-empty all day long, and that doesn’t bother me one bit, either. As for me, I just see a glass with equal amounts of volume and empty space, and think, “Well, that’s usually how life is, isn’t it?”

On really good days, my glass is filled with a chocolate martini, garnished with a cherry. I promise, that’ll give a little boost of positive thinking to anyone. :P

In the end, it’s just life. It’s good and bad, black and white, positive and negative. But as long as you have a tomorrow, you have a chance to do it all over again. In my experience, the cherry will be there when you least expect it. However, when you demand the cherry on top, that’s the day the kitchen will be out of them.