“Average. It was the worst, most disgusting word in the English language. Nothing meaningful or worthwhile ever came from that word.”
― Portia de Rossi, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Today, I wasn’t feeling entirely well, and while I was resting and thinking about what today’s blog topic should be, I drew a blank. The only thing that popped into my head was the Sesame Street song from my childhood, “C Is For Cookie”.

It also got me to thinking how as a teenager, the same kids who learned along with that song would sing it in relationship to grades (since a C or above constituted a passing mark). It was, in a way, a song about accepting mediocrity and the realisation that sometimes, just squeaking by got you the same results as trying extremely hard.

Like many people in my generation, I suffer from a love-hate relationship with both laziness and perfectionism, which are often two sides of the same coin. Of course, sometimes laziness is just laziness–a lack of focus, a lack of discipline, not feeling like doing something because it’s hard and not that much fun. On the other hand, often laziness covers up the feelings that lurk behind laziness: You can’t fail if you don’t even try.

I think this is a common problem amongst people who describe themselves as lazy, ordinary, or not really that great at things. I know it always has been for me; all the auditions I never went to, the stories I never submitted, the books I never published, the jobs I never applied for, I tend to let people think didn’t work out because I’m a bit lazy, a bit disorganised, a bit immature. But the truth of the matter is, although I am a little bit of those things, I also consider myself an extremely ordinary person. There is always a voice in my head that says, “You aren’t special, and you’ll never be good enough.” I don’t know where the voice comes from. If anything, I spent most of my time until my early 20’s being an overachiever. If there was something I could do, I wanted to do it better than anyone else. If there was something I couldn’t do well–say, perhaps, playing volleyball or figuring out how to put furniture together– I tended to not try at all.If I didn’t even reasonably stand a chance at being the best at something, I didn’t do it at all.

This problem has followed me into adulthood, and left me with issues regarding laziness, procrastination, and a general lack of self-esteem. Recently, I had a dream in which I was attending an audition where all the other girls there were tall, beautiful, sexy, charismatic, and danced perfectly…and then there was me, kind of resembling Mary Catherine Gallagher from the infamous SNL “Superstar” skit.

Tonight, before I wrote this blog, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I watched an episode of The Goldbergs, and in it, the teenage daughter–who is actually pretty, bright, popular, and talented—decides she wants to become a pop star, like most teenagers somewhere along the way. Most kids want to be an actor, a singer, a movie star, the President, anything but an ordinary person. There is this feeling of “If only I were special, life would be easier”, and for some of us, that doesn’t go away with age. In the show, her parents attempt to crush her unrealistic dreams, but what does that is realising that every girl her age thinks they are just as special, just as talented, just as likely to be famous someday. Everyone shows up to the rock concert with a homemade demo, hoping something wonderful will happen and someone will say, “Wow, you’re really special”.

But it doesn’t happen, because in reality, most people don’t have extraordinary gifts. And for people like me, who grew up with very high expectations and surrounded herself with high-achieving, way-more-perfect people all the way into adulthood, the hardest thing to come to terms with is “being ordinary”. If you happen to be able to do a whole lot of things averagely well, is anything about you special at all? Should you even bother doing those things, knowing that so few people will ever really notice? Should you bother to speak if nobody’s listening? If you’re in a group of people where everyone is more accomplished, better-looking, more intelligent, more charming, is it normal to feel so inadequate you wish you could disappear–and wonder if anyone sees you?

I don’t think it is, and “not being special” has held me back from doing a lot of things and taking a lot of chances. I’ve always waited for the “someday” when I was more perfect, and as karma and time would have it, you often become more damaged and less perfect as time goes on. I do not even want people to see me until I’m able to be the person I could and should be, because I can’t stand being the one in the group who isn’t good enough, whom everyone laughs at.

I don’t know why I am this way; the same quality that’s led me to have a larger-than-life personality and a unique appearance and a quirky way of looking at and experiencing the world hides a very deep insecurity, one that says “When I try to be like everyone else and accept being just an ordinary person, nobody knows I’m here”.

The “C Is For Cookie, And That’s Good Enough For Me” mentality was never one I could deal with…yet looking at myself realistically, as an adult, I’m a C kind of person, one who isn’t going to be famous or change the world or be the most interesting person in the room. I’ll usually be less interesting in a social setting than my prettier friend, less noticeable in intelligent conversation than my more accomplished friend, less everything in most situations.

And somewhere along the line, I know the trick is stop caring how other people see you–even if you agree with them—and to just be happy with the little things. It is important to just accept being you.

It was much easier when we were all kids and were willing to make fools of ourselves because we genuinely thought we were showing the world we were special. In reality, that confidence and courage is special, because most of us don’t have it as adults. Not even people like me, who wear glitter and fascinators and have loud voices, and “suck all the air out of the room”. Not even that guy or girl with the great job, the perfect hair, the “just came from the gym” body, and all the friends. Not the woman who has all the kids but manages to still do everything perfectly. We’re all kind of faking it, hoping the world will see something better than a C. So many times, we don’t try, because we’re afraid that the only thing worse than failing is being unremarkable.

Today, I wrote this blog. It was not a masterpiece, and it was perhaps not even very good. It is sitting on the internet, where people, many of whom are better writers than I am, might read it and laugh at it.

I’m learning to be OK with that, because C is for cookie, and at some point, that has to be good enough for me.

C is also for courage, and I sometimes like to think it takes a little of that to write about what everyone else is feeling, but would never tell you.

A lot of the time, I am afraid I am not good enough and there never will be anything remarkable about me. What gives me comfort is knowing I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating told me I could have a special surprise if I finished this blog before midnight, and I did. I’m going to laugh if it happens to be a cookie.

I have been feeling a little melancholy lately, and in this strange place of loneliness. Sometimes, I can’t help but take stock of my life and upon looking around, feel that I don’t have very many people in this world which I’ve created for myself. Once upon a time, I did, but it seems that time moves without me. Many of the people who once populated my life, my heart, my attention, and my concern have now moved on to have relationships, careers, children, more “grown-up” and “socially acceptable” types of friends. Many people who once populated my days here in Atlanta are no longer here, or live so far away they may as well live in a different state. Many people who were once a constant presence on my phone or my Facebook seem to have taken a step back to tend to their own lives in different places and place focus on different people. Some people, I’m just simply not friends with anymore, and it’s difficult meeting new people to replace those I used to hang out with.

In short, my life has become a version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and I’m not sure how that happened. I’ve always been popular, always had people to talk to, to go to parties with, to form meaningful connections with. Looking back through my old photos and e-mails, as I move them from my old computer to my new, I realised that even at my lowest and most hated point, it was only a matter of time before I’d rebuilt a thriving social circle again, and the whole matter of “I’d like to go but I don’t have a ride” wasn’t much of a problem. I’m actually far more likeable now than I was then, having outgrown some of the obnoxious and childish need for drama or tendency to get inappropriately drunk and end up strange places. I’m still fun. I’m just a little more mature about my fun, mostly. Yet, I haven’t found it easy to rebuild my social circle.

I tend to be the sort of person who bonds closely with a few people, and then has a larger circle of acquaintances. The fact that for the first time in many, many years, I don’t have a girl my age who is a BFF/partner-in-crime living near me is a huge issue for me. I don’t have that many female friends, so when I find one with whom I gel, that person and I historically become inseparable, whether for a few months or a few years. Not having a partner-in-crime means there are many invitations to parties and events I simply ignore, because I’d prefer not to make the trek on MARTA across town and back alone, or to be at a swanky party where I don’t know anyone alone. Not having a girl my age to hang with on a regular basis is actually a little like being single—you feel like you’re missing out on fun stuff that you just don’t do by yourself.

Strangely, I also don’t have an “overly idealised infatuation” occupying my time and my thoughts and my energy. I almost always have one of these, typically a relationship that’s either inconvenient, unattainable, or overly complicated, and being the kind of person I am, it’s a connection that energizes my life and makes me smile. Strangely, all those who may have once fallen into that category have found spaces in my life and become “awesome people I know and like”. These relationships become less complex, more real, and easier to understand and make space for—or not—in my world. This is good for building meaningful connections with others. It is bad for someone who is always a little charmed by infatuation with some aspect of another person or type of connection. (I’ve always been so charmed by this particular type of connection, I wrote a book of poetry about it!:P)

In the absence of an overly romanticised infatuation, I often become infatuated with a *thing*. I may become obsessed with watching a TV show, reading 1200 pages of a series of books, writing letters to people, learning a new craft that requires me to buy things on Etsy and at Michael’s that will be used less frequently as the months go by. For a while, it was “swapping”. Then it was writing way too much crap in my journal. Then it was traveling and finishing my book. A few weeks ago, it was marathons of HBO shows.

As it is, my world is relatively calm and infatuation-free, and many people seem to have taken a hiatus from socialising with me. And while I get to read books and spend time with my boyfriend and do the quiet, normal things that quiet, normal people do…there’s something, or someone, missing. In fact, there are multiple somethings and someones missing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be good at being a quiet, normal person. Adventure is elusive these days.

One unexpected…and not exactly welcome…adventure involved needing a new computer this week. Normally, I’d be thrilled and jumping up and down at something exciting like new technology. However, the sudden death of the old one (I had little warning and about 15 hours to back up or rescue everything I could) caused me so much stress, and the missing two days of work made me feel so guilty, that I didn’t feel as happy as I should have about the new arrival. Compounding my stress is that I didn’t necessarily take to or understand Windows 8 right away, all my passwords and info are on my old computer (which currently refuses to boot), so I can’t log on to ITunes and may have lost years of purchases (no clue what my user ID is or what e-mail I used to sign up, except it is likely long defunct, and I apparently don’t know what I put for the security questions.). Also, my way old iPod Nano isn’t recognised by Windows 8. Thanks, Apple, for making me want to buy new versions of shit I already have, only to do it again in 5 years.

I told The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not only a computer guy but the person who helped me find and get the new computer I wanted at a good price, that I feel mentally fatigued. The toll of spending 15-hour days at computers, writing, reading, and being unable to turn off the “thinking” function is tiring me out. I’m actually very familiar with bouts of emotional fatigue, ranging from insomnia to not wanting to get up, but to have a deep sleep each night because my brain is just tired is something new. I can’t even seem to watch a TV show without multi-tasking it.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m finding it hard to rest my mind. My old computer may refuse to boot up, but I refuse to enter sleep mode. I don’t feel anxious or worried about anything in particular, I am just very restless, unable to cope with even minor practical stressors, and ready for adventure, one that involves more feeling and less thinking. I don’t think it’s necessarily good for a Feeling Extravert to get stuck in her head for too long, or she may become melancholy. I also have an iNtuitive feeling that there is reason for the melancholy, but am frustratingly unable to Perceive what it is. (hehehehehe…yes, I had to work my Meyers-Briggs type into a journal entry. I’m just clever that way.;P)

AUTHOR’S UPDATE: After writing this, I was almost pointed to this article via synchronicity. It’s no secret I don’t care for Jezebel’s perspective, especially when it comes to reading columns by female writers, but this article has more than a grain of truth. In fact, it seems remarkably tied in to everything I was feeling and writing about today.

“When 40 became the new 30, 30 became invisible. It’s a decade of major transition, a bridge from the broke hot mess of your 20s to the fabulousness of your 40s. Or when ‘Mean Girls’ graduate to ‘boring bitches.’ At least that’s one of the perceptions that hurts the pre-middle age group. Thirty-somethings are overshadowed by the antics of the 20-something “Girls” and the 40-something “Real Housewives” because, pop-culturally speaking, the best material is born from ‘having nothing’ (20s), ‘having it all’ (40s) or ‘losing it all’ (40s divorcee).”

I sometimes wonder if there are people out there who feel the way I do, who get to a point where they have so much restlessness and discontent inside of them, they’re ready to explode.

It isn’t a new experience for me, although it’s gotten worse as my situation has changed for the worse. I grew up with this feeling of restlessness inside of me, and even though performing provided an outlet for the experience and attention I needed from the world to feel happy, there was always a part of me that was biding my time. I grew up dreaming of bigger and brighter things. I wanted romance and adventure and experiences that I’d remember for the rest of my life. I wanted to travel the world and meet people and roam without being too accountable to anyone else. I wanted to converse with people far more interesting and worldly than I was. I was an adult who never looked back the moment the ink was dry on my high-school diploma. I had enough of being bored.

From 17-29, life was non-stop adventure and experience. Some were wonderful, glittering, romantic, legendary experiences. Others were immensely painful ordeals I did not have faith I’d know how to survive. When you’re a kid with daydreams about the world and all its adventures, even if you’re not particularly naive or sheltered, you’re still not prepared for how hard and callous and unfeeling the world can be. You abandon delusions that you’re somehow special, because the reality is you’re just another person struggling to get by in life.

Yet, in some ways, security and monotony has been the greatest struggle for me. It’s surprising, because I remember in those horrible moments in life, all I missed were the simple things, and swore I’d never take a night at home watching TV and eating pizza for granted again. Yet, it seems that people don’t change. I’m able to appreciate those small things with more frequency than I used to, and I’m able to live in my own little world for greater periods of time than I used to. However, that restless teenager that just wants to get out and live comes back frequently, and with a vengeance.

I am a grown-up now, with a rather ordinary and repetitive life. I no longer do much of note or accomplish much that makes me special. Time has taken its toll on me, physically and mentally. I no longer have the independence to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I have a dog that needs to be taken care of, and no roommate, and everyone who was ever going to help me with that responsibility so that taking care of a dog didn’t limit my freedom to travel is nowhere to be found. I lack regular income or any prospects that point to a way to make regular income, as my health still isn’t as strong as it needs to be to get out in the world and do things on a daily basis. Some days are great. Others, getting up and dressed is a challenge. It makes it really hard to remember that I used to be that person who would wake up practically bouncing on the bed because of all the exciting things life had to offer.

I always thought the above paragraph would be something written by someone closer to 80 than 30, but, here we are. I know that as long as I am on the Earth, I will never be done living, but the setbacks and limitations have been very hard on me in an emotional sense. All the time alone gets to me, and I have tried to make it otherwise, but it’s simply not how I’m wired. I’ve always needed to be doing things, interacting with people, having others notice me and engage with me. Like everyone else, I need my down time. Unlike most of my friends, 8 hours is fairly sufficient for me to spend alone and recharge my batteries, unless I happen to be ill.

My reality is that every day is pretty much like the next, and it drives me insane. I only see other people perhaps three days a week. Other days, I may chat with people on the telephone or via Facebook or e-mail, but I essentially spend about 70% of my life alone. For an extrovert, that’s hard, and it’s really easy to feel depressed.

I don’t always feel like I have a lot of friends, at least not here in Atlanta. People have rather forgotten about me, or understandably find dealing with the symptoms of my illness too restrictive or too much of a downer. The friends that I do have seem to be the type who look to me to plan interesting things to do or initiate adventures, which leads to my next limitation: transportation. I can only leave the house when someone wants to pick me up and take me somewhere, and in Atlanta, where it’s assumed everyone drives, it’s simply just too much of a pain in the ass a lot of the time. I hear “I wish you could have been there” a lot. I can’t help but feel, “I wish you’d cared enough to actually come get me.”

We have buses in my neighbourhood, but it is one of the least walkable areas you can imagine. My heart is unable to handle the mile walk to the bus stop, because it requires walking up and down a steep hill I’m just not physically able to conquer yet. It is a three-mile walk to the train station. You can call a cab, but the three miles to the train station will cost you $12. (Base fares for taxis in Atlanta are now $2.50-$3.00, but in 2008, they tacked on a “$3 gas surcharge”. Even though gas prices returned to normal, the taxis never got rid of the surcharge. Customers who need a taxi agree to blatantly be ripped off, and there’s not a thing to be done about it.)

Oh, and it’s not particularly safe to walk around after dark, which means that spending $30 just on round-trip transportation is my only option if I wish to attend an event that someone cannot drive me to.

There are very few decisions in my life I regret, but conversations with the ex who got me down to Atlanta where I expressed concern about transportation, and the reply was “Don’t worry. It’s very walkable and people can drive you where you need to go” should have been more detailed. In fairness, he wasn’t here much longer than I was, had a car, and grew up in the suburbs, so our perspectives were quite different. Also, living in the city is indeed much easier than living out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really the only way you can manage in Atlanta without a car, or the health and free time that allows you to spend hours on public transportation.

Although I lived in Midtown for more than half the time I was in Atlanta, looking back, the amount of money I wasted on taxis and car services was excessive. Even when I was working outside my house or for a company, I had a regular paycheck, but there were always travel expenses, always non-optional “social” events to attend. Once I started organizing for a social group, I realised I was going to take taxis everywhere, because I didn’t have the time to spend hours on a sucky public transportation system. I estimate that for about 3-4 years, I spent about $400 a month on paying people to drive me around. Yet, I still found myself being bitched about on other people’s blogs and talked about behind my back because I was committing the cardinal sin of not paying friends to pick me up and give me rides to things. In my defense, I have to say that I’m not an intentionally rude person, and this is a cultural difference. People don’t ask for gas money in the Northeast, especially if you’re going the same place the driver is going. Buying someone a beer and offering a “Thank you” is politeness enough. Here, people want cash, and I was shocked to discover that was one of the many things people didn’t like about me when I started living down here. There are things people should tell you when you move here, and one is there’s a whole new set of rules when it comes to interacting with other people. I do not like most of the rules, which is why I still have people who ask me when I’m going to leave.

I live in the suburbs of Atlanta because, frankly, it’s where I can afford to live. On paper, I’m not the ideal candidate that anyone would like to rent to, so the fact I have a place to live at all is a blessing. It has enough space for me. When I moved out here, I had one roommate and then another who told me “Don’t worry, we’ll give you rides wherever you need to go”. After a year, that turned into grumbling and resentment about how dependent and needy I was. It was never a *choice* to be dependent. If you isolate someone, you take away their independence.

Then I got sick, and lost my ability to walk around too much. That really erased what little independence I had left. Much of my life feels like a repetitive loop, a child locked in her room, “grounded” for some infraction and not certain if there’s a reprieve in sight.

I can keep things in perspective, most of the time. I technically have my freedom, in that I am not dead or in jail. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, cable, internet, ways to make a little bit of money here and there. I have imagination, if I don’t have health, and I spend a lot of time replaying the film loop in my head of the days when life was filled with adventure, and dreaming of a time it might be that way again.

I know it can never happen as long as I live in Atlanta, or likely, anywhere in the South. Yet, unless I am successful at something in some way, I don’t have a lot of hope for being able to afford to live anywhere that it would be easy for me to live life in a way that’s not dependent on others. It is the proverbial Catch-22.

The Guy I Am Dating doesn’t understand. When I tell him I sometimes want to rip my skin off just so I can feel less trapped, I get a look of worry instead of someone who relates to that feeling. Yet, he is a very different person from me. He is an introvert who has not traveled much, who doesn’t get depressed spending most of his days on his own, who doesn’t need the whole world to notice him, and really values peace and security. I think it’s easy not to miss adventure when you’ve never really had too much of it, or pursued it. Many of my friends here are that way.

People will say “You do things all the time”, but the fact of the matter is, they’re typically the *same* things. We play trivia. We go to restaurants. We watch movies. We sometimes go to clubs or parties or concerts. We watch our favourite TV shows. We do the things that people do.

Yet, that’s the problem. I know it hurts the feelings of The Guy I Am Currently Dating when I express just how freaking bored I am with life, because he thinks it’s me saying I don’t like him or that I think he’s boring. But,honestly, I need to get the hell out of here sometimes. I need to not only do things, but different things. I want to get in the car and drive somewhere we’ve never been. I want to go to Athens for the weekend and see live bands. I want to end up at a random country bar on a mechanical bull. I want to road trip to nowhere in particular and end up doing something I’ll probably make fun of, but am pleased, because I’ve never done before. I want to cross things off of my “life experience” list. I want to do something memorable with people I like that didn’t have to be planned, but just happened because the people around me are always open to adventure.

There is so much *new* in the world, and I’m not doing any of it. And I’m afraid that one day I’m going to look back, and realise I mostly stopped living at 29. Life is just too short for that.

I really can’t wait until an opportunity comes up when someone can watch my dog and I can travel somewhere, anywhere. If people don’t want to go with me, I don’t care. I’ll go myself. I’ll hitchike and crash on strangers’ couches and have stories about interesting things that happened to me. I’m just not the sort of person who is happy living life sitting still in one place, and am dating someone who appears to not like to travel. In all the years we’ve been together, we’ve never gone on a trip together that wasn’t because of a convention he was organizing or a reunion he was attending, and that does make me sad. I sometimes think that is a major incompatibility, because my ideal romantic partner is a travel partner who values adventure. Sharing your journeys *with* someone is so much more meaningful than doing it on your own, and when I hear about all the couples we know who are exploring places that are new to them, it makes me feel downright envious.

I don’t want to have to watch the world pass by without me, while I sit in my little bubble and daydream. I am too old to be a Disney princess waiting to be rescued from the Evil Overlord Monotony and Confinement.

Yet, that’s how I feel. I want freedom and independence and adventure so badly that it not being available to me sends me into fits of depression and anger.

I know I’ve done a lot in my life. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot, but there has to be plenty of new adventures waiting for me. I know that life isn’t over yet, and I should accept that I’m at an age where routine is just what people do. I don’t want children and obligation for precisely that reason. It’s just that, as long as I live here, I can’t seek out too many new experiences on my own. I can’t even go to events I put together for my social group. I can plan them for others and live vicariously through other people, but I can’t experience them, and that physically hurts me. :(

I wish I knew how to be happy with what I currently have in my life, but it’s hard to compare it to what I once had, and not dream of all the possibilities I never explored while I had the opportunity. I don’t want to sit still. I don’t want to do the same things over and over again until, one day, I’m 40.

I know there has to be more out there. I wish I knew the someone who could help me find it. Sometimes, even the person who is always inspiring other people to get out and live life and take chances needs to be inspired.

I know that if I am lucky, one day I will be old, and I will have the same limitations in my life: transportation, money, health, wondering if anyone really cares about including me in their life, or I’m just baggage. It seems a little unfair to have to deal with them now, unless I happen to not live long enough to experience them at a later point in my life. After all, I’ve heard these are the years I’m supposed to be doing the most, accomplishing the most, building my life the most.

Like most things I’ve heard, this one appears to not be so true. I haven’t woken up with the feeling of “It’s such a great day, I can’t wait to get out in the world and LIVE!” in a very long time, and because I can remember that feeling so well, I miss it.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be Christmas; it can be your favourite December holiday, or absolutely nothing at all, that decides it’s time for you to brave the cold (or, if you live here, the slightly unwelcome chill that doesn’t make “Winter Wonderland” seem really relevant.) and get out there in the world.

Last week, Gala Darling posted a day-to-day plan of action for December survival. While I found the article interesting, let’s be realistic. I’m not going to be motivated enough to do something cool, fun, or creative every single day of the month. Some days, I’m going to spend my evening in bed watching the Real Housewives of Something and eating pizza, because I like reality TV and junk food and don’t really want to do something with every moment of my life. I appreciate time spent doing nothing.

One of the suggestions, however, caught my attention: 12 Dates Of December. The premise is easy, of course. This month, schedule 12 dates to do something fun and interesting.

Gala’s list implied that you should schedule 12 dates to do something fun and interesting with your significant other or spouse, but again, I’m not really that kind of girl. I may *see* The Guy I Am Currently Dating 12 times a month, but if there were always the pressure to do something interesting or romantic or different, I’d quickly exhaust myself. Some of the best times we spend together involve decompressing from everything else, not planning even more shit to do on the calendar.:P Also, no matter how much I like a person, there is no one person in the history of my life that’s ever made me feel like “Hanging out together is so cool, we don’t ever need to hang out with other people”. I know some people experience this, but I think I’m just not wired that way. I’ve never been one to be part of the couple who falls off the radar, because they’re spending every night at home. After a week or two of that, I get incredibly bored. Additionally, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I do not live together, so I’d be even more over the introversion factor.

However, I totally support the idea that you should make the effort to put 12 interesting, adventurous, fun, or sociable events on your calendar for December. Being an event planner, this isn’t too difficult for me. I like to go out, I like people, and I like events that are a little out of the ordinary. When you think about it, though, 12 social outings that are not just a trip to the movies or the coffee shop can seem a bit daunting. Particularly for introverts, spending over one-third of your free time socializing with your fellow human beings can take some effort and commitment. Also, during a season where everything seems focused on the need to spend money, going out all the time can seem overwhelming for the average person feeling the pressure to buy expensive gifts for everyone.

I don’t really want or need much in the gift department. I like my clothes and my jewelry and my perfumes, but for the most part, I’m more likely to spend my money on experiences. It’s OK with me if I show up in pictures at different events with different people, and I’m wearing the same outfit, as long as all the photos look like I’m having a great time. I’d much rather have a friend take me out to do something new and interesting than buy me a scarf or an Amazon gift card, because in my world, sharing experiences with other people is what it’s all about.

I personally am going to try to focus on spending time with those important to me, rather than stress about spending money I don’t have in order to celebrate the holiday season. I’m not traveling this December, I’m not buying anyone a new flat-screen TV, and I’m not putting undue pressure on myself to find a new job before January 1st, or to make the holiday season the most perfect one ever. I’m not buying a $300 dress for New Year’s Eve, or looking to score tickets to the hottest event in town. I’m not even baking cookies. Strangely, I’m feeling pretty happy and relaxed about all of those things. It’s as if I’ve realised how much anxiety is really behind all our holiday traditions, and behind that is the desire to please other people, especially our families. Often, this is at the cost of our own peace of mind or emotional stability. Anyone who has ever seen Chevy Chase freak out because one of the two million lights he’s put on his house to impress his kids burned out and the thing won’t light up, only to discover the power supply in the basement was disconnected, knows that this pressure can be pretty great.

That’s why I like the 12 Dates Of Christmas. I am going to try to create 12 different, fun, memorable experiences with some of the people in my life who are important to me. (alas, many live at a distance, and while I really want to see them and spend time with them, I know it’s not feasible…and I may end up also having 12 Dates Of March to catch up with all my Northeastern friends and family.) Whether you’re in a relationship and want to schedule 12 dates with the same person, you’re actively looking for someone and want to amp up your dating life, or you’re like me and want to make time to really connect with those who hold true value in your life, it’s a really rewarding idea.

I rang in December 1st with my first date of Christmas, sitting outside on a rooftop bar in Buckhead, drinking overpriced cocktails and sharing stories with good friends while being silly with strangers.

I’ve recently become friends with a girl who moved to Atlanta and I’d known on FB via an old friend of mine in New York, but never met in person. I had no idea whether or not we’d hit it off; we’re the same age and have a few things in common, but also a few huge differences in our personalities. Since I don’t really tend to click with other women all that often, I wasn’t particularly expecting us to become friends, but I’ve been surprised how much fun I’ve had getting to know her. I wish we’d lived up in NYC at the same time!

Alas, we’re here in Atlanta now, and I wanted to make her feel welcome by throwing a housewarming party to celebrate her new apartment, and inviting out a few friends who have been in my life for many of the years I’ve been in Atlanta. I don’t think there was anyone in attendance I’ve known for less than four years, which was kind of cool. Since she’s the kind of girl who likes places, people, and things that are both fun and classy, we decided to do dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in the area that actually holds the honour of being the first restaurant I ever visited in Atlanta. That was followed by a cocktail at a bar known more for ambiance than for anything else, Whiskey Blue.

I remember the place having a nicer view of the city than it actually does. Although it’s a rooftop bar, the sides are obscured by plastic dividers that keep drunken patrons from accidentally falling off the building, and lots of fake trees with Christmas lights. We managed to not only make some friends who bought us tequila shots, but to steal their table when they left 15 minutes later, ending up with a good location to chill out, talk, and spend time with friends.

I also found myself in extroverted mode for the evening, and wore a fascinator in my hair that others seemed to find—well, fascinating. This resulted in free drinks, pictures, and friendly hellos from strangers, a vibe you don’t always get at bars where everyone is there with their own group of friends, or looking to hit on single people. We’d only intended to stay and have a drink before heading to a bar with a different type of scene, but before we knew it, it was 2:45 AM and the city was closing for the evening.

So, I have to give due thanks to Whiskey Blue for being more entertaining and providing a better atmosphere than expected, even if they did charge $10 for parking. It was a good way to ring in December, all captured with some fun photos. I hope, also, my new friend is starting to feel more at home in Atlanta. It’s not NYC, but you can definitely have fun and meet cool people if you try hard enough. :)

I have 11 more interesting Dates Of Christmas to go, and am not sure what sorts of shenanigans that might lead to, but I’ll certainly blog about them. I was born in December, so between that and the holidays, it’s always been one of my favourite times of year. However, it’s historically been defined by travel. (For some time, I was insistent on celebrating NYE in a different city each year, and I did.) This year, I’ll be going out of my way to have a great time in my own city. Advice and suggestions are always accepted!! :)

“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.

It’s good to know I have a few friends/loyal blog readers who care, but you guys truly don’t let some stuff go, do you? *laughs*

Earlier in the month, I posted a piece on synchronicity, in which I shared a sweet story about reconnecting with a childhood crush at a cafe in New York City, and our subsequent love story/short-lived engagement. The point of the piece was not to vent about my personal life, but to share why I believe in synchronicity, and the power contained in the signs the Universe tries to send you on occasion. However, the most common feedback I’ve gotten over the past two weeks is “What happened with the rest of the story?”.

I didn’t really want to go into the rest of the story, because it’s personal, and also because I wanted to avoid exactly what happened: spending more time thinking about my ex-fiance than I have in a dozen years. :P

Since everyone wanted to know what happened to Avery, and why I cut the story short, the answer is a simple one. Life happened to Avery, and he ended up making largely the same choices most conventional Americans make.

After we broke up, Avery finished grad school, and went on to law school. He met a nice Jewish girl who is also the uber-ambitious, driven type, and helped him overcome his overly romantic, idealistic tendencies. In short, he found the polar opposite of me, the girl who’d always loved him precisely for his brooding demeanour, depressing poetry, and desire to change the world.

He still lives in New York City, is with an accomplished civil law firm, and is still, I assume, married happily enough. We keep in touch enough to say we’ve kept in touch, yet not enough to imply any real connection or stir up any issues. We have lunch or meet for drinks perhaps once a year when I pass through town. It is all very adult and civil, and there’s nothing serendipitous about it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets about Avery, but not the part where we didn’t stay together, didn’t get married. I think I intuitively knew he needed to be someone and pursue something other than what I had to offer, and I would only encourage him to take his life in a different direction, one that may have brought him much less happiness in the long run.

If anything, I sometimes feel sadness. I feel a sense of “Why did you need to choose the conventional, the obligatory? Why couldn’t you travel through life the way we always talked and dreamed about, off the beaten path, with me? Why did you end up wanting to change me, rather than let me help you encourage the authentic, adventurous you shine through?”

The answer is, few people are strong enough to choose the road less traveled, which is why it’s called the road less traveled. Doing so means hardship, sacrifice, lack of stability, being judged by others. For Avery, he felt always that his personal happiness was secondary to doing what was expected of him.

Although it sounds judgmental, and it is, I’m of course equally guilty. I fell in love with the idealist who wanted to become a journalist in a war-torn country and write a powerful piece about life in other places, the intellectual who saw himself as a professor who’d publish papers and give lectures on how to make the world a better place. I wasn’t any better prepared for a future that involved me being the wife of a civil litigator, any more than he was prepared to show off an outspoken, bohemian wife without an Ivy League pedigree.

People change, and they do not always change or grow together…and that’s just the sad reality of life. That’s why over half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, because people aren’t static creatures.

I am inordinately proud of Avery and everything he’s accomplished in the world, and the happiness I hope he’s found. I have a close friend who, over the years, I’ve seen gone through a similar transition, and I am equally proud of my friend and his happiness—though a part of me will always be sad he didn’t choose a different path, and that’s simply selfishness. We all have those weaknesses.

And while I still adore and admire Avery, I believe everything worked out for the best. The person—or persons—destined to end up with me are those who chose a path a little less conventional, who retained a bit more idealism and commitment to artistic and intellectual growth throughout the thing we call life, even if it means a crappier apartment and a heart that is broken and disappointed more frequently, and parents who are a little less approving. :P

I didn’t share this part of the story, because I am still romantic and idealistic enough that when I think of Avery, I think of the sensitive, idealistic, protective 16-year-old boy I ran through rain and mud just to hug goodbye…and how the Universe found that moment as meaningful as I did, because goodbye wasn’t goodbye.

The infrequent times I meet up with Avery to catch up on old times and talk about how different our lives are now, I always carry an umbrella.

Old habits die hard, and undue romanticism never does. ;P

One of the things I discuss a lot, whether on my blog, in my private journals, or through my poetry and fiction, is the difficulty of struggling with a personality that tends to over-idealise a majority of people, things, events, and relationships, while simultaneously having a high level of distrust that borders on cynicism. It is a tough type of personality to have, one who sees the world as it could be, as it should be, yet is chronically disappointed that it isn’t, while knowing all along that reality is going to be the eventual outcome of a situation.

I have particular difficulty when it comes to friendships, and even acquaintances. The problem takes on a whole new dimension when it comes to relationships, but that’s a different story for a different day.

You see, I always expect other people, if they are a friend, to treat me in the same way I’d treat them…which, a majority of the time, involves a high degree of sensitivity that borders on well-developed intuition. (i.e. “If you really knew me, you’d understand why this is such a big deal.”) Unfortunately, I’m the sort of person who usually goes above and beyond when it comes to the “thinking about what others would feel” situation, thanks to an overly empathetic nature that often causes as many problems as it fixes. I am by no means perfect, and there are plenty of times when I let others down, when I put my own feelings first, where I speak first and think too late. As a former friend told me—and he is absolutely right—I value being right and having the last word over simply keeping the peace, which isn’t an attractive quality. Yet, for the most part, I try to go through life thinking about not only what makes me happy, but what makes others in my life happy. I have a lot of qualities that could use some work, but for the most part, I’m a really good friend.

The older I get, the more I realise I don’t have the time, energy, and interest to invest in someone who really just doesn’t think I’m that awesome. This isn’t just pure narcissism…although a small part of me does believe everyone I meet should think I’m awesome…but because I’ve been hurt by people who just didn’t care as much as they should have, or didn’t express it via actions. That’s a hard lesson, particularly for someone who has spent years running a social group where my job is to make unappreciative strangers happy as much as possible, and the number of “thank yous” and genuine friendships that have come out of that are far smaller than the number of people who complain, blame, treat me with disrespect, or say negative things about me or my group, when, frankly, they didn’t take the time to get to know me and aren’t giving any indication they can do what I do, only better, after offering their criticism. (there is one memorable exception, which, rather than offending me, makes me laugh.) It’s a hard lesson for someone who’s spent a lifetime understanding when so-and-so didn’t call, why a person she generally liked never wanted to see her again, why people aren’t as interested in connecting with others as in “fluff” and fun and not taking things too seriously. It’s a hard lesson for someone who has historically made excuses for people who don’t offer what she deserves, in terms of respect and appreciation and the value in friendship. (It’s been even worse when it comes to relationships…I have a rationalisation for why someone still loves me, even though he did this horribly disrespectful and hurtful thing, and I will use it, over and over again.)

Sadly, that lesson has been presenting itself in my life a great deal over the past year. There are a few people I genuinely liked and considered friends, or felt a connection with and wished I could get to know better, who simply cut off contact with me and made it clear they’d rather not know me. There are people I don’t know and have never behaved rudely toward to who criticise my social skills and call me fat to total strangers, while avoiding confrontation with me.

Every event I hold, there are 1/3 of the people who say they’re coming who simply never show up. It’s a complaint every Meetup organizer with a large group has, and there’s no way around it. It’s one thing that never fails to upset me, because I simply don’t understand it. I get that people are busy, that plans change, that there are people that others would just plain rather hang out with. However, the “no-show” business…the chronic idea that not showing up somewhere you made plans to spend time with someone, even a stranger, without so much as a phone call or an e-mail or a two word text….it makes me feel like giving up the gig altogether. I don’t understand how others can disrespect someone who is putting him or herself out there when it’s not necessary. I just wouldn’t do that, because I don’t believe in taking anyone’s presence, anyone’s friendship, anyone who offers something when they don’t have to, for granted.

It’s even worse when said behaviour becomes from a friend. A few years back, I had a friend who was known for this behaviour. Something would come up on the way to an event, and she’d change her mind and not show up. A day before, she’d inform me her plans had changed, and I’d have to deal with something entirely on my own. I’d make plans with her, only to be abandoned at the last minute, too late for me to make different plans of my own. This friend has changed a good deal over the years, but there was a point where life took us in different directions and I didn’t really reach out (although she didn’t, either), because I remembered all these moments where we really didn’t treat one another the way friends should. Fortunately, we are again friends, and now that we both know how to behave a little more maturely, the “situations” that caused the drama no longer happen. It helps when people are around the same age and go through the same growing-up process together. *laughs*

On the other hand, I also had an acquaintance for a long time who I tried to be friendly with, but we were just never that close. We had mutual friends with whom we were much closer, but she and I together just never really hit it off in that “Let’s hang out and be friends” way. For me, one of the reasons was a reluctance to open up to her, because she’d consistently RSVP for things and not show up, or tell us right before the event started. I generally think if someone is that casual about making plans with their friends, it’s often the case that said person is that casual with the feelings of others, and I’m just not in to that. I don’t need more friends I wonder if I can count on when I really need it, or are the ones talking about me behind my back, and printing out my “friends only” journal entries to read out loud and laugh about with their friends. :P

Tonight, I had flashbacks of this long-term attempted friendship with the flaky girl, while waiting for a friend who was supposed to join us for trivia this evening….one who never showed up. I didn’t get a phone call, or a text, and when I made it home later in the evening, I saw I didn’t even merit a two word e-mail or Facebook message.

Of course, my first thought was to be concerned about his well-being. Once, I had a friend who stood me up on Cinco di Mayo, and I was pissed because he turned his cell off and didn’t bother to get in touch. I resolved that I deserved better, and planned to discontinue the friendship ASAP…until he showed up at my front door needing a drink and someone to talk to. As it turned out, my friend wasn’t an inconsiderate jackass…he’d spent the night in jail after getting pulled over on the way home from my place the previous night.

At the same time, I have this intuition that tells me the non-trivia-playing friend is absolutely fine, and happened to be off drinking with friends, or hanging out with his girlfriend, or had an otherwise exciting change of plans that meant it was cool to ditch joining us…which it would be, if I’d been important enough to get some form of communication telling me so.

And, really, that genuinely hurts me. Frankly, I don’t know this person all that well…it’s one of those situations where I feel like I’ve gotten to know someone pretty quickly via chit-chat and sharing and even some “deep conversations”, without ever spending that much time together. But, for a while, I felt we were genuinely on the road to becoming friends.

Since the holidays, though, this friend has really shown limited interest in communicating with me…a far cry from how we were getting along previously…and when we do speak, it’s not in a very “connected” way. And perhaps that’s just what happens in life, and not everyone’s meant to be the best of friends. Sadly, though, this is what I do, the idealist that I am. I meet people who have qualities I like and admire and gravitate towards, and try to befriend them for that reason. I don’t always remember to take the time out to notice that if that person isn’t that interested in communicating with me or hanging out, it’s probably because they don’t see qualities they like and admire and gravitate towards in me. Friendship, like all other things, is a two-way street. I’ve been told a cardinal rule in life is to never chase after anyone, because if they’re not aware of how fabulous you are, there are plenty of people in the world who are. Somehow, I’ve learned the truth of this in relationships, but when it comes to friendships, I still expect too much of others. I still expect others to treat me the same way I choose to treat my friends. I still have this idealistic view of friendship, thinking favourably of others, and building connections.

One of the biggest has to do with respect. If someone thinks I’m not interesting enough that they’d rather ditch something I invited them to in favour of something better, I kind of get that. That someone is usually right. I’m not the world’s most exciting company. But if they think that it’s cool to just not show up without a word, while I care enough to wonder if that person is OK…that’s just not a lack of friendship, a lack of interest, but a lack of respect.

I am overidealistic and expect too much from people, and therefore, am constantly disappointed when I see others aren’t quite what I imagined them to be…but I know I don’t deserve that lack of respect. Being my friend may not be the most fascinating prospect in the world, and maybe some people will naturally be psyched about the chance to get to know me while others kind of take my openness for granted and think it’s not all that special…but the fact that I care, I think that should always count for something.

It hurts when the world takes that so lightly, and being the busy, self-absorbed, emotionally detached place that it is…well, it so often does. I’ve tried to develop thicker skin over the years, and to make myself less open, less accessible to befriending others. Sometimes, though, I wonder if it’s really me who needs to change how she sees, treats, and thinks of others.

The cynic in me says, after the experiences of 2011, “Whatever, I don’t need new friends. I have some perfectly great people in my life.” But once in awhile, I come across someone that has some rare quality, some rare connection in common with me that says they might be a good addition to that collection of wonderful people in my life. But, when that interest and that level of respect for building a friendship doesn’t run both ways…I have to know when to admit there’s nothing I can do.

It doesn’t keep me from feeling hurt, and disappointed…and wondering why I’m so different, so overly sensitive, because so many people wouldn’t care. Yet I always care, too much, and always end up getting hurt by that. Is it stubbornness, a lesson I refuse to learn, or just emotional masochism?

I heard from the no-show friend today, who apologised and explained a situation came up, he still wanted to be friends, it wasn’t personal, etc., etc. I know those things are probably true and genuine, and that my intuition is right…I’ve been dealing with someone who is a genuinely nice person. I am glad that he is fine and his situation got sorted out, but I also feel extremely distant, as if an important dynamic has changed in said friendship.

I deserve a thought, an e-mail, a phone call when you can’t make it to things. And I’m actually nice enough and have enough positive attributes that I’m worth getting to know; some people who really do know me will agree that in my own special and unique way, I’m pretty awesome. And so, I can’t be the one always reaching out and attempting to be friends with someone who may or may not see that. As I’ve said, I have literally thousands of acquaintances, some of whom I know better than others…and I’m always happy to add more. But if you really and truly wish to be my “friend”, it takes work, it takes interest, it takes respect and consideration, and it takes a willingness to put yourself out there.

Life has taught me not everyone is up for that…it’s not what our society is about. It’s not always fun and easy. It’s not always about the happy-go-lucky image instead of the real person. Actual friendships take work…and that’s why I know I’m blessed with more “true friends” than most people have, because I’ve put in the ups and the downs, the laughter, the tears, and the craziness. Most of my close friends have been an important part of my life from 5-15 years, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. I just celebrated a birthday, and while many of those friends couldn’t be present, virtually all my close Atlanta friends were…as well as a few new ones. And not a single person forgot to show up, or came three hours late. I was really touched that people brought cards and gifts and cake, when their presence would have been enough.

A guy who plays trivia with us on Saturdays, albeit on an opposing team that always beats us, has been having a tough time, as his dad is extremely sick. It seems likely that, barring an unexpected recovery, he may pass away soon. My heart really hurts for this person, and what he is going through…and it also reminds me how short life is. At any time, any person you know could be that person in a hospital bed somewhere, which is why it’s so important to actively appreciate everyone you care about, everyone you love, everyone whose presence you appreciate on a regular basis.

It’s a high ideal to live up to, and we all fall short (I don’t call home nearly as often as I should), but one that’s consistently worth trying for. That’s how I try to live my life, and like to surround myself with people who do the same.

This last week wasn’t really the most stable one, at least when it comes to interpersonal dynamics, friendships, health, money, and emotional well-being. Other than that, of course, it’s all been pretty boring.

Rather than writing about the tons of interesting…and mostly personal and off-limits….anecdotes that passed through my life this week, I’ll just fill you in on the list of life lessons I learned that have helped me grow into an older, wiser, and more perceptive person.

1) There’s often a very fine line between friendships and romantic relationships, and that line is not always—not even half the time—defined by whether or not you’re sleeping together. In fact, “defining the relationship” is probably one of the most traumatic experiences that occurs between people. Life is way more complicated than that.
2) When it comes to people you once allowed yourself to care about, merely the passing of time and the changing of the relationship does not result in you caring less. The reasoning behind who emotionally affects you a certain way, and why, defies reason. Life is complicated like that.
3) When it comes to people with whom you shared a connection, and then stopped liking or respecting for a bit, time not only heals many of those issues, it allows you to again see the things you liked about them in the first place. These things typically fall into the “Too little, too late” category. Life is complicated like that.
4) When it comes to people with whom you shared a connection, but probably should have liked a little less than you did, the desire of those individuals to want to sleep with your best friend(s) is an instant cure for any of those uncomfortable feelings. That’s one of those few life lessons that’s totally not complicated at all.
5) When it comes to other people whom you like, but struggle to communicate with in a conflict-free way, there’s always talking about the weather. The untimely arrival of Fall means Atlantians can avoid awkward and conflict-free conversations for at least the next two weeks.
6) When it comes to other people, virtually everyone wants what they can’t have, and when that thing becomes attainable, it’s almost always less interesting. In the rare cases this is not true, you’ve stumbled on to something good. At that point, life gets a little less complicated, with the exception that you will continue to want what you can’t have, and what you don’t really want.
7) Alcohol is a better and more successful treatment for those with mystery House-like diseases and anxiety disorders than are any drugs, prescription or otherwise obtained. I don’t understand it, but martinis and good company heal things.
8) Reality TV is not a contributing factor to any illness, but it won’t be long until doctors start putting it on health questionnaires and psychological inventories.
9) When it comes to knowing how you can expect to get along with others in your life, Meyers-Briggs is right almost without fail…in my not limited personal experience. :) They’ve figured out a reasonable way to navigate the complexity of life and predict which of your friends you will ultimately end up fist-fighting at some point.
10) It doesn’t matter how often you talk to your parents, or how far away they live. They will undoubtedly call you at the most inconvenient time, every time. It’s like they *know*
11) When someone is telling you that you don’t listen and therefore are not as sensitive to the feelings of others as you think, and your mind is already formulating the appropriately indignant rebuttal before that sentence is even finished, they may be right about you.
12) That couple that constantly breaks up and gets back together? It surprises no one when they get back together. If I worked for Hallmark, I’d design a card for that.
13) Overhyped parties where the premise is that everyone should dress kind of the same are, unsurprisingly, the most boring parties in the world.
14) Open mic night at comedy clubs are typically painful experiences. Very few people can ever say their first time was amazing, noteworthy, and memorable. Open mic is no exception.
15) You’d be surprised who doesn’t seem to remember you, or expect you to remember them, when they send you an e-mail. Perhaps I just have a far clearer memory than most.
16) It *is* possible for me to get from PJs to “ready to go out” in 15 minutes. An award should be given.
17) When I am 94, I will be Andy Rooney.
18) Witty sayings should pay more, even if you don’t print them on a T-shirt.

That was my week in a rather large nutshell. This upcoming one won’t be nearly as exciting…the highlight being my dizziness test on Wednesday. Considering I have panic attacks and other unsettling physical and emotional reactions to my unexplained vertigo, 75 minutes of doctors moving you around and saying “Are you dizzy yet?” doesn’t sound like a good time.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. A speedy diagnosis means more good times will be shared, and I’ll have less time to sit around and think about life. :P

A few days ago, I considered writing a post about September 11th, as I do every year. However, with all the feelings of personal anxiety and loss that have consumed my life lately, I figured the last thing that was helpful for me was to dwell on a traumatic experience that none of us will ever forget. In fact, it’s impossible to believe a decade has passed, since I can recall that day, both in a real and an emotional sense, as if it happened yesterday.

A decade. It’s a long time, a third of my life. It’s been enough time for me to live many different lives, that phase that people often refer to as “finding themselves”, and since that time did in fact encompass my 20′s, it makes sense that more should happen in a decade than I’d have ever thought possible in the previous decade of my life, when I wondered if anything notable or exciting would ever happen to me.

Tomorrow, September 15th, is my 10 year anniversary: the day I first got myself on an airplane and moved my life (and whatever fit into two suitcases) to Atlanta, a city I’d never seen, to live with a guy I barely knew. The story itself is not lacking in drama, as this ex-boyfriend and I met online and kept up communication over a period of years. We met,shared some amazing experiences, and a month or so later, I found myself packing up my life to move to Atlanta. The plan was to come here for a few months, see how I liked it, see how the relationship worked.

Ironically, after weeks of discussion and debating, I committed to buying a non-refundable ticket to fly out of New York on Sept. 12, 2011. As if some angel were on my shoulder, I made a last minute change to fly out of Philly, and decided to spend the 10th and 11th with family, since I didn’t anticipate seeing them for perhaps another 6 months.

I won’t go into what happened on the 11th…a day filled with panic and fear and worry and nobody reaching anyone on their cell….but I do remember where I was. I was actually up, on my computer, chatting with a friend in Australia, when you could simultaneously hear the entire block turning on their televisions.

I spent days in the airport, from the 11th-15th, because my tickets were non-refundable, and every Amtrak and car service for miles was booked. At some point, it seemed the entire East Coast was shut down, and everyone was on edge waiting to see if their city would be next. The airports were giving the Project Runway view on things, “Either you’re in, or you’re out”.

I chose to wait it out, and predictably, every time I got close to departing, the flight was canceled. On my 17th try, with 10 minutes to go before boarding, my flight changed from “Departing” to “Canceled”, and I reached a breaking point. I swore, I threw my luggage, and caused a scene right in the middle of the lobby. Before I know it, a large, pissed-off-looking guy is approaching me, and I’m preparing to get thrown out of the airport after all my trouble. Instead, he asked what the problem was. When I told him, he asked if I had my passport and other travel documents. Fortunately, I did, just in case I decided to stay put in Atlanta for awhile.

I’ll never forget that large, pissed-off-looking airline employee. He told me that while most domestic flights would be canceled for that day, there was an international flight leaving for Air Mexico. Being somehow related to Delta, which has a hub in Atlanta, the Air Mexico flight was returning to Atlanta for refuel.

Thanks to that guy, I made it to Atlanta a few days before most airports re-started their domestic schedules, but we also were able to see “Phantom Of The Opera” at the Fox on my first night in town. (As a surprise for my then-boyfriend, and also because I saw it as positive that something I loved was right there in Atlanta, I’d booked us tickets for the closing night show, and was certain I’d never get there.)

As for Atlanta, once I got there, I didn’t like it. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it reminded me more of Orlando than a major city. I mostly didn’t like it because it wasn’t New York, it wasn’t Philly, it wasn’t D.C. or London or any other city I enjoyed. I didn’t like that everything looked like someone took Brooklyn, stretched it out, and dumped a highway in the middle of it. I didn’t like that everyone had a car, and needed one, and I didn’t even have a license. I didn’t like that I was brand-new and didn’t know a soul in the city, except for the boyfriend I was staying with, who’d only arrived a few weeks earlier for school and didn’t know the place any better than I did. In short, I was homesick. I was bored. I missed the world I lived in where I had a lot of friends, always went out, and spent a lot of time being the centre of attention. I didn’t have a job, didn’t know how to make friends,found the performing arts scene to be non-existent, and the idealistic romance bit is much better when you not only don’t move in with someone you’ve been seeing for a few weeks, but you don’t move in to a single room. I spent a lot of time not being honest about myself, my life, what I felt, what I wanted, and who I was. For the first three months, I was actually miserable.

And, then, something happened. I went home, and I realised all these little things I thought I hated, I actually missed. I liked seeing the green trees, and walks around Midtown, and the run-down pizza place near where I was living. I did what people do. I started being real about my life and my future. I found a job, started making friends, and when the relationship didn’t work out, despite nearly two years of efforts to repair it, I found a place to live. It was one of the crappiest places ever, one of those places where college students live with 6 roommates in a house largely neglected by a slumlord. There were roaches, and the “living room” became a storage room populated by stuff left behind by the constantly rotating cast of roommates. In fact, it was no different from my own college days.

A few jobs later, some attempts at dating, and a new apartment, and it finally seemed like I had a home. I never meant for it to work out that way…frankly, I still didn’t much care for Atlanta and its lack of urban flair and dependance on cars (the fact that the city’s most famous citizen, Margaret Mitchell, was killed by a streetcar illustrates exactly the long history of apathy that the city has towards pedestrians.), but life worked out that way. I made friends, I had relationships, I had jobs…and when all of those things stopped working out,and changes had to be made, I considered each and every time that it was time to leave. But I never did. I “transitioned”, but I never just packed up and went back home…maybe because I don’t know there’s anyplace that is “home” for me. At so many opportunities, I could have, and likely should have, started over somewhere else.

But I’m still here, a decade and a few lifetimes later. I’m a little more jaded, and perhaps even a little more elegant than when I arrived. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but after a decade of searching and learning life lessons the hard way, I know who I want to be, and that counts for something. Once I decided to start letting people in rather than clinging to a rotating cast of acquaintances and adventures, I started to make friends…the type you can count on when you need bail money or a ride to the hospital or your roommate almost gets you evicted. Somewhere along the way, I traded in my out-6-nights-a-week, devoted-to-polyamoury, please-don’t-limit-me persona, and rediscovered the girl that stepped off the airplane and believed in adventure and love and the idea that anything is possible, and your life can be anything you want it to be, as long as you work at creating it. I’ve been in a stable relationship for a long time with a guy, and our biggest sources of conflict come from arguments over whether or not we might have a future together (Imagine! Me? Future-thinking?) and whether or not he’s willing to move, if not out of Atlanta, at least into the city. (I hate the suburbs, and that’s one part of my future-dream I’m not willing to give up or compromise. I love the people, the energy, the noise, the shops, the restaurants, even the dirt and grime and unpleasantries you encounter. I am a city girl, somewhere deep in my soul, and I think I need that in my life to be happy…so I can’t be with someone who doesn’t share that dream for the future, I think.) I am still independent, still in a situation where it wouldn’t take much to move my life elsewhere…but some of the people in my life here are like family to me. Not my family, whom I found remarkably easy to leave and difficult to visit for more than a few weeks a year, but the supportive and loving family I’ve always wanted. I have a support network. And,though sometimes I’ve seriously considered it, it’s still hard to leave.

Atlanta’s a lot like the Mafia. You may not like it, you may even think it has some kind of bad karma that’s making your life tougher than it needs to be but something about it will always pull you back in.

I think maybe it’s all because of that deal I struck with God on September 15th, 2001, when I was a terrified girl riding alone on a plane in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack, and still willing to face fear and risk everything for the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime, all-encompassing love. I said, “Dear God, if you just get me there safely, I’m never going to leave.”

I sometimes wonder if there’s an expiration date on that promise. ;) My life still isn’t exactly as I’d like it to be, and often, I think it has something to do with where I live—it’s impossible to be independent in the suburbs of a city that’s been widely noted for having the worst public transit system of any large metropolitan area, and not being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it is always a problem for me—-, and the fact that I’m still not where I want to be in terms of living on my own, earning the salary I need to keep me happy, and being lazy about achieving my personal goals. I’m still letting the Destroyer Of Self-Esteem that lives in my head (and is doubled as an actual human being, in the form of the Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating) limit my choices and dictate how I feel about myself.

And of course, spending the last few months scared to death by a chronic illness that a seemingly endless team of doctors have not been able to treat, nor identify, much less cure, has made me realise there’s no such thing as immortality. There are no extra lives, no extra energy pellets that keep you going. In a way, I’m exactly where I was a decade ago….on the precipice of a huge shift in my life.

I think, should I find myself able to recover from this illness and regain my life and my energy and my independence, I’ll be as elated as the first moment my plane touched down in Atlanta, and I realised “Everything is going to be OK.” I’ve had so many moments that weren’t OK, but also so many that were more than OK, that I don’t think I’d trade a single one for “Nothing special ever happens to me”.

Edith Piaf’s defiant song about regretting nothing rings true to me. I do, of course, have regrets. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve hurt people, I’ve made stupid choices. But in the end, they took me a step closer to where I’m supposed to be, and who I’m supposed to become. I don’t know if I care for Atlanta, after a decade of living here. But even after all the pain and heartache I’ve experienced in this city, getting on the airplane that day was still the best thing that ever happened to me.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much lately, and the “Life Less Ordinary” project has found itself on hiatus. Initially, this was a good thing—I spent two and a half weeks traveling to see family and friends in the Northeast, hanging out in NYC, Philly, and spending a week in the sun at the Jersey Shore.

Not unexpectedly, the latter is where things began to go terribly, terribly wrong.

If you know me, you know I love the beach. In fact, most of my “what I want to do one day when I’ve made enough money and am ready to disappear into anonymity” scenarios involve living on a beach somewhere. And, since I’ve been under a rather large amount of stress lately in my everyday life, I figured there was nothing better than spending hours each day on the sand, soaking up the rays.

This provided a fun and relaxing holiday, until the very last day, when I decided to rent a beach chair and sit near/in the ocean, while reading my book and drinking my contraband vodka and clementine Izze soda. It was a great day, and when I got back to the hotel and took a shower, I noticed I’d acquired a killer tan.

Two hours later, I noticed that the tan was actually sunburn, and it was kind of painful. By the end of the evening, I could barely walk without crying, and of course, the next day was the day we were set to travel to Philly.

I made it—barely—but spent the next week largely in bed, with blisters and painful 2nd degree burns over my legs and belly. In addition, I started to have dizzy spells for no reason, often accompanied by a feeling that fainting would soon occur, heart palpitations, and a feeling that my body was out of control. The first time, I thought I was having a heart attack, and was going to die. :(

I can’t tell if these experiences are provoked by heat exhaustion, anxiety, or a totally unrelated medical issue—but let me tell you, nothing is more frightening than the feeling your body is working against you. For nearly two weeks, I’ve been unable to tolerate bright lights, heat, and staring at the computer screen. Even small things have tired me out immensely, which is unlike me, and my typically energetic, vivacious approach to life.

Slowly, things are improving, and over the past few days, I’ve had the physical and mental stamina to return to work, largely through the help of sunglasses. (wearing sunglasses indoors so you can work on your computer looks silly, but if you are intolerant to light, it actually works quite well.) Yesterday, the sun and the 100 degree temperatures decided to disappear, and it was the first day I actually felt like my old self…so I have some level of confidence that I am recovering, although perhaps not as fast as I’d like.

As always, I enjoyed my time in NYC, although I’m always there far too briefly for my tastes. I had the opportunity to catch up with three old friends I’ve known for years, and always miss dearly. It seems like years ago, distance wasn’t such an impediment to friendships, since there was always time for phone calls, IM chats, e-mails, and the like. Nowadays, there’s rarely the time, and when there is, there’s not always the energy. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it’s something that kind of sucks about getting older.

Philly, on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster—with the exception of July 4th. If you’re going to be anywhere on the 4th of July, you want to be in Boston, Philly, or D.C., which is one of the reasons I always plan my trip up there over that timeframe. Unfortunately, being ill really limited my ability to see anyone or do anything, and also reminded me of how difficult it’s always been for me to get along with my family. They’re largely like strangers to me, strangers I find negative and less than supportive, and who don’t really relate to me or anything I have going on in my life. It’s always been that way, of course, but the older I get and the more well-defined my own life becomes, the less they seem like people I know or understand. There are always arguments, always difficulties co-existing, and within two or three days, I begin to miss living in my world instead of theirs.

I think that, all these years, I’ve tried to create a relationship and an understanding with my family that just doesn’t exist. I’ve tried to create a feeling of “home” in this place that should be home to me, and I’m always devastated to remind me that it’s not. I’ve created an ideal in my head that I’ve always wanted, a place that feels like I belong and am loved and understood, and it’s natural to assume that safe place should be with one’s family. For me, it isn’t, and I’ve come to realise that the stability and support and comfort I want from “home” is going to have to be one of my own creation. It’s reminded me why I’d like to focus on finding a place I’d like to live on a permanent basis, and being able to buy property there, so that “home” doesn’t have to be someone else’s, and it doesn’t have to be a transient idea.

I’m glad to be back in Atlanta, though, and to spend time with the people I care about here. Even if I have to spend a chunk of my summer in bed, watching TV and working with sunglasses on, there are still some good times to be had before the summer is over.

And, of course, Big Brother is back, one of my favourite summertime guilty pleasures!:)