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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl S. Buck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know, I know…you haven’t seen me much around these parts lately. There are many reasons for this, most of which are good, and some which aren’t quite so positive…but, hey, I’m still alive and kicking. Here’s a quick update on what’s been going on the past two weeks or so, and why it’s rather killed my inspiration to blog about my life:

  • Work.I’m back on a full-time work schedule now, which is wonderful, because it means I am off “probation” and make a somewhat decent amount of money writing again. The bad news is that I’m not making great money, since I only have one project going on right now. Hopefully, as my health improves, I’ll have the energy to take on some new projects.
  • Health stuff The health challenges continue. I finally found a doctor I like, one I consider both smarter and more knowledgeable about medicine than my brain and the power of the Internet. (surprisingly, this was a long and exhaustive search.) She is also the first doctor to take the time to perform a full physical exam, during which, she pointed out she believes I may have fibroids. Not at all related to the ear or the vertigo, but a possible cause of my hypertension, back pain, extreme PMS, and appearance of weight gain in my abdominal area (atypical for me; I carry all my extra weight on my hips and thighs). I thought these were just all signs of aging, but my doctor suggested that I may have had this problem throughout my 20′s, and the fibroids actually are increasing in size due to too much estrogen on my body. Long story short, another potential health worry. I have to undergo an ultrasound on Monday, and of course, I need to pay out-of-pocket. Today, I was sent for another extensive battery of blood tests; this time, they took 16 vials of blood from me. Last visit to the lab, it was 20. That’s not counting the 6-8 taken in the ER, and the countless IV’s. I am exhausted, and have no more blood left to give. While the experience is always anxiety-provoking for me, this is the first I’m feeling the physical effects of blood loss. :( Oh, and I have my super-duper, majorly expensive ear test coming up on the 30th. I am at the point where i don’t care what’s wrong with me; I just want a diagnosis and a normal life. I’m not masochistic enough to enjoy all the pain and discomfort of the “Guess what’s wrong with Alayna?” game.
  • Friendship drama. I’ve really been saddened by a falling out with someone I’d just started to connect with and consider a friend. The falling out seemed inevitable; for whatever reason, we don’t seem to have the ability to discuss anything of a serious nature without conflict arising. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to me; I have plenty of friends with whom I don’t see eye to eye on politics, or personal matters, and the discord is hardly one-sided. Being an overly-sensitive person, I’d find this person would inadvertently hurt my feelings, causing tension. On the other side of the coin, the friend has a habit of arguing things until his point is made, and then, if you continue to defend yourself, to dismiss you; i.e. “If you’re going to say this, I see no need to continue the conversation.” or “You’re much smarter than the argument you’re making and I expect more of you”. I think this particular friend and I just exist in kind of different spheres of being, and don’t understand how to communicate well. I brought this up and provided the opportunity to discuss our communication issues, but we somehow just never got there. While being “dismissed” by someone you actually like and respect and would have desired a friendship with is extremely hurtful for someone like me, I’m not sure we’d ever have gotten past our inability to communicate. A pity, because we actually have a good deal in common. Unfortunately, the things we’ve in common are all the wrong things. In retrospect, the way this friendship played out is very similar to another in my past, which is likely why I kept pursuing it rather than just saying, “C’est la vie”. I never received the closure and validation I needed from that friendship, and it doesn’t look likely to occur here, either. I’ve grown to realise that I’m too valuable to be “dismissed”, and if someone doesn’t see that, of course it hurts…but there are those that do. Sometimes, those you believe have the potential to become great friends turn out to be acquaintances, and that’s just the way of life. Maybe Adele should write a song about that. :P
  • Writing. In addition to working on writing for work, I’ve been devotedly reassembling my collection of lost poems and short stories, most of which I figured were gone for good. I also, after many years of the idea being suggested, have decided to work on writing a novel, and it’s going surprisingly well. I’ve never been able to work on such a large project without losing interest before. What started as a collection of anecdotes and autobiographical diary-type entries has turned into a cohesive story that has transitioned from being about me to being about the lives of these characters I’ve created. I do not know if the manuscript will ever see the light of day; although much of it is fiction, there is also much about it that’s biographical and autobiographical in nature, and perhaps too personal to expose to the world (on the assumption anyone would care to read a book by someone they’ve never heard of, or just because they’re friendly with that person.) But there’s nothing like thinking your health is so fragile that you might die soon to get you motivated to leave behind a piece of art, a piece of your soul that will outlive you. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that some of the most revered classic writers and poets died at a relatively early age.
  • Swap-Bot! As it turns out, I love making packages, cards, postcards, and writing letters to virtual strangers. I also love receiving them. It makes me feel connected with the world at large through creativity, and because many of my friends in my life here in Atlanta aren’t artistically-inclined and don’t care if I’ve drawn, written, or crafted something, it fills a definite void.Sometimes, I think that’s the thing that’s missing most in my life; someone who truly understands my desire to express myself and make an impact upon the world, and doesn’t dismiss it as “That’s too long for me to bother reading”. For instance, we’re (the boyfriend and I) are going to the opera tonight tomorrow to see Lucia di Lammermoor, and I remarked that I was excited to see a coloratura performance (I was trained as a lyric coloratura), as I hadn’t in ages. I didn’t get any sort of response to that, and it made me feel as if I’m missing something in my life, not having anyone who shares and understands my passions. It isn’t a failing on his end only; I don’t necessarily understand his passion for science fiction, and know little about computer programming. It just often feels that so many people in my life are so opposite from me, it’s hard to feel completely understood, as if I’m really connected.It doesn’t mean I love those people less, it just means I go through life feeling as if about half of me is something even those closest to me “don’t get”.

    I guess, simply put, I miss having a soulmate, platonic or otherwise. I miss connecting with other human beings on a soulful and visceral level. I’ve found terribly little of that since moving to Atlanta, which is one of the main reasons I can’t see myself staying here. It’s as if I’ve sacrificed a lot in order to try to fit in to a culture that doesn’t really reflect me, and never will.

    So, those are the things that have been keeping me away from my blog (another hobby few of my friends really “get” or care about, but is important to me nevertheless.) I’ll have to try harder to have thoughts worthy of sharing more frequently. ;)

She often spoke about loving two men. If she was seeing two people, it was not out of fickleness, but because she loved them both, they answered two sides of her personality. She was open to life, and when encountering a new experience, could not stay away. It may sound strange, but she was really a very loyal person.”

____“Lover Of Unreason”,Yehuda Koren

This week, I’ve been back up to my regular schedule of writing between 2700-3000 words each day for work; this is wonderful, in that I’ve effectively tripled my income and proven I’m healthy enough to keep up, but it’s also left me feeling a bit drained. Although I did work on my poetry journal a bit last night, I haven’t really been inspired to put in any effort on my “novel”. (I put that in parenthesis because I doubt it will ever become more than fragments and short stories; still, at almost 20,000 words, it’s the closest I’ve come to developing the vision for a long piece of fiction and completing it.)

November is actually National Novel Writing Month, which challenges people to write 50,000 words, or 175 pages, in a month. Ironically, hearing about this has made me less motivated about my own project, either because it’s no longer something “special” I’m working on, or because there’s this thing about deadlines and pressure that I dislike, and often that causes me to abandon projects midway.

This late night, instead of writing, I’ve been reading about writing. I’ve finished the biography on Sylvia Plath, and am now reading about her counterpart, Assia Wevill, who lived with Ted Hughes after Sylvia’s death and committed suicide in precisely the same manner. Assia’s story is not nearly as likeable, as she’s portrayed as a rather cold and selfish woman with gifts she never had any idea how to make use of, so she simply married numerous times. I think it’s also a marked difference to note that when Plath killed herself, she took special pains to protect her children; Assia Wevill took her youngest daughter to her death with her.

Still, an interesting and tragic story of a not-altogether-sympathetic heroine. I enjoy reading biographies from time to time, interspersed with fiction, because it reminds me how in some way, most everyone’s life is fascinating. Perhaps that’s what keeps me liking and interested in people, even though I often don’t think the best of them on the whole. Everyone has a story, and usually, it’s more than worth hearing. Since people aren’t so willing to be vulnerable and open in life, biographies exhibit this inner world we all have and spend way too much time keeping hidden.

My story isn’t terribly interesting lately, but I did successfully get a date for the ENG I’ve needed for some time, to determine if I’m suffering from a vestibular problem that’s led to my anxiety: November 30th. It’s amazing that you often need to book tests a month in advance. I’m also to see a new GP on Tuesday, one that comes recommended through a friend as an excellent diagnostician, something that’s been sorely lacking in other doctors I’ve seen.

In the meantime, my medications are temporarily on track, and I’m more motivated than ever to start trying to get rid of the extra weight the meds have caused me to put on my body. It’s horrifying; I have little stretch marks, which make me feel like I don’t even want to take my clothes off alone, in the shower. All this has been so immensely hard on my self-esteem, always a fragile issue with me regardless. If I ever get better, I’m going to need to see the plastic surgeon next. :(

Tine to go to sleep now, I suppose. Need to start saving up for that plastic surgeon. ;P

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

This morning I woke up to discover that my cable and internet were down; the icing on the cake for what I like to call the 2011 Summer Of Doom. After verifying that, yes, everything was plugged in properly, and, no, the dog didn’t unplug one of the multitude of cords and splitters that ensure delivery of TV and internet happens throughout the apartment on a daily basis, I was told they’d send someone out. After explaining that I worked from home and internet connectivity was essential to my job, they said they’d upgrade my case to “urgent” status. This means, at the very latest, someone will be by between 11-2 PM tomorrow, which in cable guy time, probably means 5 PM.

Annoying as this is, I kind of have the same feeling you’d get when you were a kid and there was an unexpected snow day. It’s that “YAY, I totally don’t have to do anything at all today!” feeling, which everyone appreciates. There’s a difference between choosing to do nothing…which everyone does from time to time, but it’s easy to feel guilty about being lazy….and actually having a valid impediment that makes it impossible for you to be productive.

For some reason, it gave me flashbacks to the summers I spent at CTY (also known as Center For Talented Youth; also self-mockingly called “genius camp”. ) For those who have never heard of it, it’s a 3-week program for kids 11-16 that score exceptionally well on the SAT’s at a very early age. The program is sort of a mini-introduction to college life, and allows kids to stay on a college campus while taking a freshman or sophomore-level college course. It was actually an incredibly structured program, but for thousands of overachieving youngsters, often with extremely pushy and demanding home lives, it allowed for a specific type of freedom. It allowed for “finding yourself” long before the age when most people actively started looking for themselves.

In any case, I adored my summers at “genius camp”, where I took all manner of writing classes…not because I had any specific desire to be a writer, but because my math scores weren’t in any way, shape, or form “genius”, and I was restricted to humanities-based classes. One of the built-in facets of ‘genius camp’ was that from 7-9 PM each night, you were required to stay in your dorm room, preferably to study, read, or work on homework. As one of the more extraverted spirits on a campus full of introverts, I always thought the two hours of “lockdown” would be tough for me…no TV, no radio, no distractions, just you, your thoughts, some books, and some paper. As it turned out, this “lockdown” time is what put me in touch with my introspective side, something that was previously neglected, with a highly busy schedule, demanding family life, and need to be popular and well-liked and all of that.

Years later, after learning about the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, I read that my personality type (ENFP) is the only extraverted type that needs regular opportunity for introspection. Apparently, it is my nature to learn, observe, experience, and take things in from being around other people…and later process them internally. In some ways, that’s the very essence of what blogging is, and perhaps why it’s a creative outlet that suits me much better than, say, trying to write a book or getting sucked into the world of academic research.
The result of those years at “genius camp” is that I learned just how distracted I truly am by any possible distraction in my vicinity. Even when I think I’m concentrating on one thing, there’s another part of my mind that’s thinking of three other things I might be doing. I learned to appreciate those few hours of forced, distraction-free “alone” time, because it helped me feel a little more centred and fond of my own life, even on those days when I wasn’t the most productive. Of course, I was also the first person to be excited about the two hours of social time that followed those study hours, because the chance to have fun and meet other people typically trumps introspection any day…at least it did until I hit about 27.

Days where everything decides to slow down and shut off, days like today, remind me of those locked-down study hours at “genius camp”, and although my first response to the inconvenience is general annoyance, I then feel a little happy about having the time to myself. I can write in my blog, I can read, I can work on some of the crafty projects I’ve been doing for Swap-Bot, I can write long e-mails to friends I won’t have opportunity to send until later…and I don’t have to feel guilty because I could be using that time more productively, making money, or doing things that other people would rather have me do. It’s anxiety-free, distraction-free time, and I wonder if maybe having a bit more of that in my life would help me cope with the anxiety-related aspects of my recent illness a little better. Perhaps I should start taking more regular retreats at Starbucks (if I still lived in a city, or a walkable area, I definitely would.), and stop feeling that even when I’m at home, suffering through the equivalent of “bed rest”, I need to be constantly entertained by outside forces, or working, or stressing over my situation.

As an adult, two hours of uninterrupted quiet doesn’t sound so much like a punishment anymore. And, I was reminded of another entertaining “genius camp” story to relate in the future…but that will have to wait for a future day of blogging.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! (and if you’re wondering, this post made it up courtesy of someone’s very slow unsecured wireless network.)

It seems like there’s a lot I’d like to sit down and write about, mostly stressful personal situations going on in my life. I’d like to update the world on the ongoing struggles with my health, and also an amazingly upsetting incident a few weeks ago that involved The Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating leaving voicemails on my machine designed to tear me down, and ended with threats to do me harm if I didn’t leave Atlanta (for good measure); confusion about the future of my relationship (and specifically, if there is one there), and my ability to be independent and start all over again, should that need to happen; and the audacity of a girl in my Meetup that was not only incredibly rude to me when I interacted with her, but wrote to The Guy I Am Currently Dating to ask him out to dinner without running it by me first. I’d like to vent about the isolation that’s come with two months of illness, and the disappointment in friendships and infatuations that aren’t what you put into them, specifically when some people simply are the type you can’t get too close to, or they’ll pull a disappearing act.

Perhaps I could talk about Dragon*Con, and the anxiety I’m feeling over going, because my recent struggles with anxiety and medication have left me fighting with odd symptoms of social anxiety disorder, and because the medication I am on caused me to gain 8 pounds and feel less loving toward myself than ever before. (especially given some of the commentary delivered by The Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating.) I could talk about how I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t believe anyone could find me attractive on any level; physically, emotionally, mentally, or just by virtue of being a “nice” person, and how I’m not sure how to interact with a world that doesn’t naturally emphasise my attractive qualities lately.

However, all those things seem stressful, so when I sit down to write, a blank screen stares at me, and I leave to do something else. Instead, I’ll share some of the things I’m infatuated with lately.


*Spotify. A new service that’s part ITunes, part Rhapsody, and one of the best ways I’ve found lately to discover new music, as well as share what I love with others. In theory, it can also help keep your music collection organised, but I’m afraid it takes a lot more to organise me.
*Christina Perri. A tattooed, long-haired native Philadelphian who channels a strange mix of Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, and Norah Jones, this girl is one of the more talented and unique voices to show up in the pop world in a long time. Her “Jar Of Hearts” caught my attention, as well as that of the radio stations, a few months ago, and immediately charted impressively on Billboard before Christina even signed with a label, or released a CD. Her first album is out in the UK right now, calledLovestrong, and is available on her website. Oh, and she’s a great supporter of To Write Love On Her Arms, one of my own favourite causes.


*Marie Antoinette One of the women in history that fascinates me to no end, I’m planning my own spin on a modern-day Marie Antoinette costume for Dragon*Con this year. And, just in time, I’m preparing to read Juliet Gray’s “Becoming Marie Antoinette”, the first book in the trilogy about this controversial coquette.

*Big Brother 13 Despite the fact I haven’t put any serious effort into campaigning to get myself on the show since making it to the final auditions way back in 2000, I still love the show just the same. And this year, I have Showtime, which means I can watch 3 hours a day (fortunately, while multitasking life.) It’s trashy, stupid, predictable, and I love it. Still cheering on the women America loves to hate, and waiting to see Rachel Reilly try to win the whole thing for her (and her cheating, controlling man.)

*Swap-Bot.Com I have always loved mail, and confess to an online shopping habit and missing the days when letters came in envelopes with stickers and handwritten love was usually involved. Today’s love letters to the world—and one another—are usually digital, and just not quite the same. (though, every once in a while, I’ll find myself getting excited when I see an e-mail from an old friend.) I also enjoy being crafty, unique, and sending little care packages to my friends…but the problem is, I don’t know many people like me. The last card I received from The Guy I Am Currently Dating basically signed his name, and the last present anyone gave me was tossed in a bag rather than gift-wrapped. Needless to say, I’m delighted to find a new hobby in Swap-Bot, where you can find like-minded pen pals and artsy folks, and even some writers and artists looking to get to know others. I highly recommend signing up and playing along!

I guess that’s all for me…ending on a positive note, so I can save my energy to recount some (if not all) of life’s dramas at a later date. See you over on Facebook! (do follow me if you’re a reader who’s not already a friend.I like to know who’s out there, but not enough to enable comments! ;P )

Day #7:


 

Enya,Only Time

*~ Reconnect With Your Past ~*

Earlier today, I had an e-mail in my Inbox that unexpectedly made me smile. It was odd, because it wasn’t from an old friend, or even someone with whom I have a long and complicated history…but from someone I barely know, yet have barely known for a long time, and accordingly, feel a bit of a “from back in the day” connection with.

We all have a past. For some, it’s an experience that’s symbolic of the “good old days”, something we’re not quite ready to let go of, no matter how much time passes. For others (like me, I suppose), it’s a bit more chequered, full of regrets and memories we wouldn’t trade for the world, and everything in between. For still others, it’s something to be fondly revisited from time to time, but with a greater wisdom and understanding.

Yet, for almost all of us, the past has a way of pulling us back in. That’s why sites like Classmates.com are so popular, and at any given moment of any given day, someone somewhere in the world is using Facebook to find out whatever happened to that ex that was never quite forgotten. It’s also why there’s a TV channel and a radio station devoted to the popular hits of virtually any time period, allowing people a way to escape, and relive the “good old days”—even if they weren’t always that good.

As I get older, I have to admit, I find myself becoming nostalgic. While there are many aspects of my past I’d love to forget, and I’ve picked up and moved on from enough situations,places, jobs, and relationships to make “moving on” a personal specialty, I am really extraordinarily sentimental. I hold a very special place in my heart for the people, places, things, and moments that meant a great deal to me, and I have an extraordinary talent for forgetting the end of the story, how badly that good moment turned out when all was said and done. For the most part, unless I’m in a rather melancholy and self-defeatist mood, I try to treasure all the exceptional moments of my life, and push the rest of them from immediate consciousness. When I look at life that way, I realise I have far fewer regrets, and a much better appreciation of my life as a whole. I have always treasured the experience of life, even if most things don’t end up the way I planned, or might have wished. Even the bad ones, I’m not sure I’d trade for anything, because they’ve molded me into the person I am today.



Now Is The Only Time I Know, ~indiae

I enjoy revisiting the past now and then—-taking a look at the random things in my “memory box”, listening to the 90′s weekend on Atlanta’s Star 94, reading old letters from those I’ve fallen out of touch with— or who are no longer here, and even watching old television shows or movies I used to love, and meant a good deal to me. (see: “Frasier”) :)

Recently, I renewed an acquaintance with someone I’ve known for nearly a decade, though at a distance. I’ve made an effort to reconnect with people who were once a part of my life, and to find out what happened to others. No matter what anyone might tell you, it truly does make you feel happier to know that person you *didn’t* end up with turned out to be happy—and it’s even more fulfilling when you can still have a positive and friendly relationship. I even bought a few of my favourite films from the old days on DVD, for those “blah” kind of days, or when I feel like sharing something I once loved with people now in my life.

I think it made me happy to hear from someone I was connected to what seems like a lifetime ago—although, in reality, it was perhaps 5 years— not because we were that close, or had so many positive memories from those days, but because it seems like a natural progression of things. Certain people are meant to stay a part of your life, in one way or another, as you go through the different stages of your life—and the result of that is a small reminder that the past doesn’t disappear, it just changes into something different, and often better.



Remembering Summers Past, Max Operandi

I treasure the people with whom I have a shared history, and with whom I am still on good terms, because they are a connection to the person I used to be, complete with a unique set of dreams, fears, and hopes for the future. It’s sad to me that so often, “moving on” means leaving that person behind, as well as the people who knew her.

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. ;)