Today, I spent my day trying to cheer myself up by hanging out in bed and watching “Mean Girls”, which I love and always makes me laugh, eating pizza, and drinking hot chocolate. Sadly, I spilled some of the hot chocolate on my hand. :(

It has *definitely* not been the most glamourous holiday ever. There should be some rule against getting sick at the holidays when you’re stuck at home because you’re ALREADY sick.

I am giving this one more day to go away, and then I’m breaking out the stash of antibiotics to see if it actually does shorten the life of my cold. (This is something people keep telling me, but it doesn’t seem to make much scientific sense, since a cold is a virus and antibiotics treat bacterial infections.)

At least I’ll finally get the tree up and add some sparkle to my living room. :)

“What’s hard is simple,
What’s natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free;
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me. ”

—Stephen Sondheim, “Anyone Can Whistle”

This is the first Christmas that I remember not feeling filled with joy, and thankful for the friends and family and relationships I have with people all over the world, and the bit of money in my pocket, and the small things that make the holidays worth appreciating. It is the first year I am not excited about traveling, seeing loved ones, embracing the lights and the energy of the city…because I’m not able to do any of those things. In fact, I feel an overwhelming depression that’s becoming more difficult to bear as the month drags on.

The beginning of the month didn’t get off to a stellar start. In addition to testing positively for a variety of medical issues, sinking even deeper into debt just trying to find out why I can’t function like a normal human being, and being de-friended by two people I once considered friends and actually cared about, I had struggles with work. Namely, the 9 projects a day I was receiving had been cut down to three a day; sometimes three every other day. The result is that my first paycheck for the month is smaller than if I’d spent my time working for minimum wage at Starbucks. My only hope was that things would improve, and the assignments would start rolling back in for the second half of the month. In the meanwhile, I contacted everyone I’d ever done work for, seeing if they had work for me to handle.

This hope yielded some positive results. I’ve gotten my 9 assignments per day, plus another client that said they’d have some work for me around the 17th of the month. Then, I find out today that I won’t be receiving another paycheck this month. My work won’t be paid until the 27th, due to the office being closed for the holidays, which means it won’t show up in my account until the 30th or 31st…which means it won’t, because weekends and holidays are not banking days. Therefore, not only can I not afford to visit family or do things with friends, even if I could, but I can’t afford to buy presents for anyone, either. I basically can’t afford to leave the house for the next two weeks.

But you always have your health, right? Well, unless you’re me. Then, you’ve spent 6 months being physically and emotionally ill and racked up $50,000 in medical bills that the insurance company won’t cover. Once you pay out of pocket for the tests that can diagnose your issues, you find out that you do have medical problems: one that will supposedly “resolve itself” but I can expect to be extraordinarily painful, and one that will likely require surgery in my ear…that is, after more tests that I can expect to pay for out-of-pocket are done to confirm the diagnosis.

And, if you’re me, you’ve also gained 20 pounds in six months as a result of said medications, and have constant breakouts for not reason…and it’s gotten to the point where you can’t stand to look at yourself in the mirror, much less identify yourself as a person anyone, anywhere would ever be attracted to.

However, since I’m in a relationship with a guy who’s not shallow enough to stop loving me because I’m fat and unattractive and can’t hold the pieces together long enough to have any semblance of a fun social life, at least that should bring me comfort. It doesn’t, though, because I feel like there’s a growing chasm between us. When we spend time together, we sit on our separate computers, play trivia, or watch movies. When I try to talk about serious things, I don’t really get answers. Serious things like: “Why have we been together for three years, but I still spend every holiday alone?”

Yes, The Guy I Am Currently Dating lives 15 minutes away, and I will be spending Christmas alone. I would have spent Thanksgiving alone, too, if not for friends that invited me to be part of their family for the weekend. In fact, I spend as many holidays alone as when I was single, when I was dating a guy who denied my existence in his life to his parents because they wouldn’t accept me, and when I was unwisely keeping company with a married suitor….which by nature of being “the other woman”, means you will spend every holiday alone. The Guy I Am Currently Dating spends every holiday with his mother, the lovely woman who has called me “ugly piece of shit”, pointed out all my undesirable physical and emotional flaws and told me no man would ever want me, told me I was trash, likened me to Casey Anthony, told me her son only settled for me because his self-esteem was too low to chase after pretty girls, called my a psycho, and wished me dead three times, before threatening that something vaguely bad would befall me if I didn’t move out of Georgia and get out of her son’s life.

Yet, that’s who he’s spending the holidays with, the person who treated me that way. Not me. It kind of shows where I rank in the grand scheme of things, and when I asked if any of this would ever change, if we’d ever have a normal life together, I didn’t get an answer. And it’s because I know the answer is “Not until my mother is dead and we can live together”. And I don’t know if I deserve to spend the next two decades of my life alone, waiting for someone who supposedly wants to build a life with me to put me first.

So, when I hear from a good friend of mine all the romantic things he’s doing for a girl he’s been dating for a few months, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. When I hear about my couple friends, who have all, in the same time I’ve been dating The Guy I Am Currently Dating, met, moved in together, gotten married, and had kids or adopted dogs, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. I feel like asking why I’m always the one left behind and alone when holidays and family occasions come around, always “the other woman”, even when I’ve changed my lifestyle to avoid that outcome. Why am I not the person that someone, somewhere moves heaven and earth to be with, travels with, adventures with, and not only *says* he cares about more than anything else, but shows it. I’ve had a lot of lovers and love affairs in my lifetime….too many….and yet, I’ve never been that girl. I’ve always been loved, amused, entertained…but never that girl worth changing everything for. I’ve had diamonds and Dom Perignon and holidays in the Caribbean, but never been treated like a permanent part of anyone’s life, never been anyone’s family. And that hurts me, somewhere deep inside. I guess I understand it, because committment and old-fashioned family values have never been my strong suit, and I don’t even know how to promise monogamy to someone I love….but there’s a hole in my heart that wonders why everyone seems to find this life-altering love and romance thing but me. It’s not that I’ve gone through life alone, but that all the love and romance I’ve ever been offered seems to come with a “but”….and that “but” means I’m not the girl that the men in my life have worked to woo and plan romantic adventures for or desire quiet holidays alone, just the two of us.

And part of me really wants that, feels that, maybe at some point in my life, I should start deserving that…and if I’m with someone who can’t or won’t offer those things, I’m with the wrong person, no matter how loving and supportive he is in other ways. It can’t be “I want to spent my life with you, but…”. :( ((((

In the past, I’ve tried to fight against all these feelings by visiting with my own family, who aren’t exactly paragons of love and support and remind me that I don’t know if I’ve ever really been part of a family, or loved like part of a family, since my first day on Earth. I’ve leaned on my friends, who over the years, have grown up and started their own families and fallen in love with their ideal partners…many of whom learned the hard way that that person turned out not to be me…and they’re happy to be there for me, when they’re not spending time enjoying the families and relationships they’ve built.

I still feel like the “other woman”, always, no matter what choices I make in my life. Maybe at one point, that was a specific road I chose…to be free, alone, unattached, unconventional, up for amusement, even connection, but afraid of love….but I had no idea back in those days that I’d end up at this point, feeling this lonely and isolated.

I don’t even recognise myself anymore. I don’t feel like any of the things that used to make me who I am are still there. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I have anything at all, and life just isn’t a place for people like me, who are always a step or two out of sync, marching to a different drummer, on a path that’s not only isolating, but easily forgotten.

It isn’t a surprise that people aren’t calling to invite me to parties this year, seeking out my company for drinks or celebration. I have another birthday coming up soon, one that puts me at an age where I’m well-past grown up…and I don’t have much to show for it, much less celebrate.

It’s like I’m still waiting for life to happen to me. Once upon a time, I tried to make life happen rather than the other way around…and I live four decades in less than one. Maybe it’s just that I’m done now. I don’t know. I’m what I never wanted to be: an aging party girl that’s lost her health, her looks, her charisma, her self-confidence, and is meant to spend a lot of her life alone, watching others easily find all the things that have never come easily to her.

Some days, you just feel like you’re having the scariest, crappiest day in the history of the world, and then you open your mailbox, and see holiday cards from people you’re really happy to have as a part of your life.

One today was from a long-time friend in Australia, another from a long-time friend who lives much closer, but I don’t see any more frequently than if he lived in Australia. They both contained beautiful and heart-felt messages that made me cry.

My life hasn’t been the most stable this year, and I know I’ve been driving everyone up the wall with my constant issues and neediness and emotional ups and downs. My life and my personality and my relationships and friendships aren’t the most conventional, and not everyone I meet likes me or wishes to be a part of my world, and I’m OK with that….because I know I’m blessed with friends and family that love me and want me to be happy.

My mailbox today made me remember that: that there are people who care, no matter how busy life gets, no matter how hard life gets, no matter how far the distance between old friends and family. Life is bigger than just the here and now, which I tend to forget. There are people who have loved and supported and stood by me through some tough times, and years later, are still there to tell me they’re there for me.

While it might hurt that not everyone is the person you think they are, and you can find yourself abandoned or hurt or betrayed when you put yourself out there, you can also find yourself with some pretty amazing friends.

I hadn’t checked my mail in like three days because I’m lazy, but everything happens for a reason, because today I needed the reminder that I am far from alone in the world…and that was there. In addition, I had some good conversations with people I do get to see on a regular basis, but still reached out and talked to me and cared, without even knowing I was struggling today.

As the Golden Girls would say:

Thank you, all of you who truly have been over the years, for being a friend.

Every passing day is another chance to turn it all around.“—- “Vanilla Sky

Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Like every year, the time of year that falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day (and includes my birthday) did not go exactly as planned. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love the holidays. The problem is, they don’t always seem to love me back.

For the last two weeks of December 2010, I’ve been hanging out in New York and Philly, catching up with friends and family. For the most part, I only get to see everyone back home twice a year, so I typically take two two-week trips up to the Northeast: one in late December, and one in early July.

The problem with this scenario is that every single time I’m up there, there’s some extreme in the weather that makes travel (and life in general) a little less enjoyable. During my December 2009 to NYC, a Nor’easter rolled through the area, making it too cold to walk around or really go anywhere, since the wind chills were in the single digits. My aunt called me, and advised getting to Philly a few days early, or I’d be stuck in NYC for Christmas (which is not a bad place to be stuck, at all.) I got on the bus, and ended up getting home a mere three hours before a blizzard hit, dumping a foot of snow on Philadelphia, and paralyzing the city for days.

During my July 2010 visit, there was a heatwave, delivering temperatures and humidity levels that make Atlanta look like the Pacific Northwest. Although I typically deal with heat much better than I do the cold weather, and I still got around and about, a majority of my time seemed to be spent in search of water and air conditioning.

This time around, Atlanta was going through a cold spell when I left, so I figured I’d be prepared for the typical Northeastern winter climate. Not so. I spent 3 days wandering around NYC in extremely windy conditions and wind chills in the single digits. The best investment of the season? I bought myself a proper set of gloves, hat, and scarf. Winter gear that you buy in the Southeast is not the same as what you buy in the Northeast, although you think it is at the time. All my sweaters, which seemed bulky enough here, are Fall sweaters in the Northeast. Even the scarves and gloves are lighter, and don’t provide the needed insulation. There is definitely a different level of wrapping yourself up and braving the elements in NYC, and even with my more appropriate gear, I ducked into Starbucks for a hot chocolate at least 4 times a day.

Despite the cold weather, the trip was relatively pleasant, and free of hassles like ice, snow, and sleet; that is, until it came time to leave. I was set to leave on Tuesday, from NYC. On Monday, an impressive blizzard hit, dumping 10.5 inches of snow on the ground in Philly, and a more catastrophic 20.5 inches on NYC, making it the city’s 6th-largest snowstorm. Needless to say, travel on Tuesday did not happen for me, and since I preferred not to spend my birthday potentially stuck (along with thousands of other travelers), I elected to reschedule for Thursday.

I finally made it back to Atlanta, tired and cranky and starving, early Friday afternoon. After two hours of sleep, I was up and ready to celebrate NYE with a few friends— and a lot of strangers—- at Aqua Blue, a restaurant and martini bar I love in Roswell.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I expected. The crowd was older, and I turned out to not know more than 10 people in the room. Aqua Blue was woefully understaffed, with two or three bartenders for a crowd of 225+ people. We had to wait over 20 minutes for drinks, and two hours before we snagged two seats at the bar. They did provide complimentary champagne and NYE party favours, as advertised, but we had to repeatedly ask for both. The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I had the good sense to have dinner before hitting the restaurant, so we chose a rather low-key, inexpensive Mexican place that was all but deserted. In retrospect, I might have had a better time with a crowd of 20 of my friends, ringing in the New Year with chips and margaritas.

I can’t complain too much; I was exhausted, suffering from a cold, and would have been cranky anywhere, and as an organizer of the event, we got complimentary admission (generally worth it on NYE in just about any city.). It simply wasn’t my vibe; more like a singles’ bar for the 40-plus crowd than an upscale event. Next year, I’m thinking I’m going to either plan something that is a little more my scene, or go all out and attend one of the formal galas in the area, since I generally enjoy that kind of stuff. Nevertheless, ringing in the New Year with those important to you is fun, no matter where you do it, so I was thrilled to have made it back to ATL for 2011. Some of my friends, unfortunately, were still stuck in airports around the country, so much is to be said for being where you want to be, when you want to be there.

New Year’s Day is always a positive day for me; the feeling of a clean slate, and new possibilities is energising, and something I enjoy. Even the rain, which I like in small doses, is providing a restful backdrop for the day. I don’t necessarily make resolutions, but I do make a list on things I’d like to work on, experience, or accomplish during the next year. I try to make them as realistic as possible, so as not to feel defeated by January 2nd.

One of them is pretty appropriate to mention here: working on this blog! I’ve missed being a part of the blogging world, and even if nobody ever reads me (which I kind of hope they don’t…*lol*), it gives me a sense of peace and contentment to throw myself out there into the virtual world.

Other resolutions? Losing weight, and living a little healthier top the list, and I’d actually made some progress on that (significantly reducing my Coke/caffeine habit, and adding water to my diet, as well as exercising a few days a week) which yielded results fairly quickly: I lost almost 9 pounds over a month’s time, without giving up too much. Unfortunately, like most people, I fell off the wagon over the holidays, and gained back 6 in a little over two weeks—more than a little disheartening.

I’m also resolving to put a sense of fun in my life, and to reclaim some of my adventurousness and free-spiritedness. Many of my 2010 resolutions focused on gaining more stability, and while I’ve done that, I’ve also gained a tendency to take everything a bit too seriously, to avoid taking chances, and to plan my life months in advance. I do know this is what most adults do, but it’s left me feeling constrained, and unlike myself. I’m hoping to kind of recapture a sense of the younger, more irrepressible me, without allowing my tendency to overindulge in all of the Seven Deadly Sins to take over my life. *laughs*

I’ve written a few blogs during my travels, so stay tuned for posts over the next few days. A Happy New Year to all of you, wherever you are!:)

For as far back as I can remember, Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of the year. Never mind that I’m a summer girl, and that snow, ice, and temperatures below 50 degrees turn me at least 3 even more drastically whiter shades of pale, cause me to catch colds three times in 5 months, and leave me with a perpetual desire to hide underneath my electric blanket with the TV remote and flannel pajamas. Despite that, for the 4 weeks or so that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (and include my birthday!), I’m clearly happy to be alive, prosperous, and enjoying the most festive time of the year.

Each year, I spend the holidays with my family, with the exception of one year involving an ex-boyfriend, snowstorms, and a broken-down car (which left us in a decidedly less urban area over the holidays, but the atmosphere was still warm, spirited, and charming, nevertheless.) Amusingly enough, after the end of my 10-to-14-day visit home, once the warm fuzzies have departed and everyone’s gone back to yelling at one another and pointing out why they’re glad Christmas only happens once a year, I can’t wait to get back to my home, my adopted family, and my normal life. But for the month of December, I’m a child again, one who can’t wait to get home and put up the Christmas tree in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, and listen to my mother’s favourite radio station on a month-long endless loop of sentimental carols and dedications to long-parted lovers, newly engaged couples, and children fighting in wars far away. Eleven months out of the year, it drives me completely insane. But at Christmas, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I’m also sentimental in another way, in that I love sending holiday cards, complete with photos and individually-crafted handwritten messages. I know that many people look at it as an outdated tradition, or an obligation, but I love taking the time out to tell someone special to me that I was thinking of him. I love the personal touch that, despite our technological advancements, e-mail just doesn’t quite convey.

So, when Shutterfly offered a promotion on their website, offering 50 free holiday cards to bloggers willing to share their holiday card stories, I was all about it. Each year, holiday cards are a huge part of my December ritual, encouraging me to break through the ice, snow, commercialism, and family squabbles to send a little bit of holiday spirit to those who’ve made my year a special one.

Are you a holiday card fan? Visit Shutterfly, and send one to those you love. And, if you’re a blogger, share your experience, and get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly.