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!! :)

Perhaps it’s a good sign, one that means I’m regaining some strength and ability to concentrate on more than just 30 minute television shows, but I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading a good deal lately. I think some of this is to do with the fact that The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire for my birthday, and as with my enthusiasm for anything new, I very quickly filled up my shelves with classics I’d been meaning to read and interesting works on Amazon’s $3.99 or less shelf. However, ironically, most of what I’ve been reading seems to be in the format of actual books.

I love my new tablet, for a number of reasons; when I am well again, or at least well enough to travel or spend my days outside my apartment, I suspect I will greatly appreciate the convenience of never having to travel with a carry-on bag full of books and computer accessories. I love, love, love the size and portability of it, and since getting an awesome pink case for it, it kind of resembles a little pink Bible.

On the down side, however, a number of the books on my wishlist—particularly newer ones—have the Kindle version priced at twice what it would cost for a used version of the book, plus shipping. Once I’m finished with a book, I tend to keep it on my shelf (if I love it; I only have so much space.), send it to a friend (if it inspires me enough that I absolutely must share), swap it on Paperback Swap, or sell it back for a few dollars on Amazon. On the Kindle, once I’m done reading it, I can’t do anything else with it. Therefore, I’ll likely never pay full price for a Kindle book when the actual book is being sold for the same, or less. Why would anyone? I hope that as book readers become more popular, there are more businesses launched like Paperback swap or apps where you can swap books with friends. This is just what people do, and have always done.

Yet, I’ve gotten back to reading, something I’d abandoned when I first became ill because attempting to look at the words on the page would trigger vertigo. Instead, I’d gotten in the habit of simply crawling in my bed and watching TV at night until bed, or eventually, writing in my journal.

I’ll probably put up a page on the site about what I’m reading this year, but here are some of what I’m reading one month into things. (I doubt I’ll reach my 100 book a year quota this year, but that’s OK, because I’m covertly working on writing my own from time to time.)

Learning To Breathe:My Yearlong Quest To Bring Calm To My Life
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. While I’m a fan of Paulo Coelho and other writers who bring a sense of spirituality into their stories, you’re not ever going to catch me quoting from Eckhart Tolle or The Secret. I’m just far too much of a realist to really believe in what’s being espoused, though I have no doubt it’s helpful to others. However, this book was recommended to me by two different people in response to talking about my recent diagnosis with an anxiety disorder, and then I later read multiple articles where it was highly praised. It’s more of an “Eat, Pray, Love” story about coming to terms with yourself than a book of Louise Hay affirmations, which I appreciate. It also gave me a clearer understanding of what was happening to me; like me, the author suffered from having a “highly-strung” personality most of her life, but managed to live a fairly well-balanced, productive life, often self-medicating with vodka. She was unaware of having a panic disorder, or why she’d have one, until later in life, when forced to come to terms with the idea of mortality. Her journey through therapy, Buddhism, meditation, Klonopin, and all sorts of treatment is a good read for anyone who suffers with anxiety or panic attacks. These issues are rarely cured, but when the reason is identified and treated, it can get better. The down side? The author’s detailed descriptions of panic attacks provoked anxiety in moe in a way that I had to put the book down and come back to it later. It sucks to identify too much with someone else’s experiences, particular when they resemble your own.

The Book Of The Courtesans:A Catalogue Of Their Virtues. Like their Japanese counterpart, the geisha, the idea of the courtesan is an old-fashioned one that’s not understood in today’s society. Sometimes street prostitutes who worked their way up into a different realm of society, sometimes actresses and ballet dancers kept by a succession of powerful, rich, and titled aristocrats, sometimes middle-class girls longing for a better life, courtesans represented power in a time when women had none. Throughout history, these women lived independently and owned property when aristocratic women could not, freed themselves of the restraints of chastity and inhibition when society dictated that being confined and without want or feeling or opinion was the role of women, and associated with some of the most brilliant minds in history in a world where a woman’s purpose was largely decorative. Of course, in today’s society, where women are presented with more opportunities and the ability to choose independence in virtually any aspect of life, choosing to exploit one’s sexuality in exchange for being kept by a man, or series of men, is frowned upon—whether you’re a prostitute, stripper, gold digger, mistress, kept woman, or conniving baby mama. These women were all of the above, and their stories range from the dramatic to the tragic to the inspirational. (many of these women appear in paintings by grand masters, are the subjects of plays, operas, and novels, and have become synonymous with luxury and opulence. Some died penniless, or at the hands of the guillotine, or an enraged lover. Others became nuns or wrote novels. Still others married into aristocracy, and amassed fortunes beyond belief. One, Sarah Bernhardt, became the grande dame of the theatre, acting from her wheelchair well into her 80′s.) It’s a great book that re-examines what the meaning of “virtue” is, and should be, and gives a glimpse into many other periods of time in which beauty was less to do with physical beauty, and more to do with an innate ability to charm and captivate.

Wintergirls. A book I discovered because it was an Amazon special for the day, Laurie Halse Anderson has a lyrical way of writing that’s provocative and beautiful at the same time, much like the two girls whose stories she tells in the novel. Dealing with the lives of two teenage girls struggling through the angst of growing up—one with anorexia nervosa, the other with bulimia, and both lost and depressed souls struggling to appear normal in the midst of dysfunctional suburbia—it’s the kind of story that’s been told a million times, in every Lifetime movie. However, the way it’s written is extraordinary; the writer is unknown, but gifted. I’d liken her to Jodi Picoult, and I stayed up until 5 AM in order to finish the book in one reading. It also proved to me I could get into reading books on my Kindle.

Over the holidays, I also finished reading biographies of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say they belonged to last year’s list.

Next up, I have a few more biographies, as well as Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, which I will drop everything and read as soon as it arrives.

I haven’t tackled any classics yet, but maybe I’m just not in that classic state of mind quite yet. You see, Jersey Shore is back on, along with MTV’s new Challenge show, Battle Of The Ex-es. There’s also the Real Housewives Of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and soon, Orange County…as well as Project Runway. February will bring Survivor and yet another Celebrity Apprentice, so I need to leave some quality reality TV viewing time.

Oh, and I’ve been catching up on How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, although all out of order, which is often on the confusing side.

Regardless, I’m pleased to note that Atlanta is #4 on the most literate cities list (odd, because I can’t remember the last time someone wanted to engage me in a conversation about a book.). Washington D.C. is #1, but then, they were also ranked #3 on the list. Maybe people in D.C. are only rude because you’re trying to interrupt them WHILE THEY’RE READING? :P

Whatever. I’d personally give Atlanta a spot in the top 5 on the rudest cities list. I suspect that, for some reason, gossip, judgment, and passive-aggressive behaviour are not registered as “rude” on this study. If they’re measuring the capability to be a total jackass to a stranger and not lose any sleep over it, might I recommend my home city of Philadelphia (which I’m convinced is nicknamed “The City Of Brotherly Love” by those who appreciate irony.)?

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Solitude is an achievement.” ~Alice Koller

I have a tendency to get overly attached to people. It’s handled in a way that’s mostly positive and harmless, rather than reminiscent of the creepy stalker from “Two And A Half Men”, but it can be said that in almost all of my relationships, and in many of my close friendships, there’s an element of co-dependency. An old friend of mine once hypothesized that my extended period of polyamoury was a choice well-suited to my personality, because I was self-aware enough to know there was not a single person in this world with enough time, energy, money, attention, or any other attribute to manage to keep me entertained, happy, and fulfilled.

I do not know whether or not this friend has a valid point, or is simply mocking some of the quirks of my personality, but one thing that hasn’t changed about me is this: after living on my own for my entire adult life, I still do not like to be alone. Yes, there are times when I want to concentrate and create and live in my own world, and, as a friend would say, I need the world to STFU and GTFO. *laughs* It’s also true that most of my relationships go haywire when the “moving in together” phase kicks in, because frankly, there’s not that many people I like enough to want to be around them all the time. My home is generally my retreat from introversion; I like my own little oasis, and I’m picky about who should be allowed in it. As my Meyers-Briggs profile correctly points out, I am an extrovert who needs time for introspection and quiet,solitary activities.

Yet, I do not like to be alone for long. To say that the past 6 months have been a challenge for me is an understatement, and the challenge is as much psychological as it is physical. Something as simple as gaining 20 pounds because I can’t walk miles each day, and I am constantly dependent upon others as a result, has significantly lowered my self-esteem. It isn’t just what I see in the mirror, it’s the person I see. This dependent, introverted, physically tired person that looks back at me is not the person with whom I identify. The hardest part of all of this has been the significant amount of time I’ve been forced to spend alone, in my apartment…and when the time comes that I am finally able to get out and spend time with others, there are never any guarantees my body will cooperate. Sometimes, I end up back home in bed. It is not something I can control, but it’s been very difficult.

This is something that really hit me recently because, over the past few days, most of my close friends have traveled home for the holidays…and those who aren’t doing so are staying because they’re choosing to spend time with their families. I know that in some ways I will be happier here on my own, than visiting my family, which year after year seems like an obligation—and one that reminds me maybe a visit to the psychiatrist would help me, after all, because my home environment is less than healthy. Yet, there’s a part of me that’s still convinced that any company, even toxic company, is better than being alone.

This part of me is destructive; it’s the one that would accept booty calls from ex-boyfriends who weren’t worth my time, the one that would stay in jobs and relationships with no future, the one that would make it impossible for me to go to a club in my 20′s and end up back in my own bed before sunrise. Things that are not good for you are not a viable alternative to keep you from feeling alone.

Alone doesn’t have to be so bad, and I know that. However, today it hit me: one by one, friends were leaving, my roommate was gone, and my former roommate dropped off her dog so I could dog-sit while she and her husband traveled home to the family (she always does the same for me when I travel, so it works out incredibly well.) And although today was no different than any other day; I still worked inside my apartment, watched some TV shows, tried to make time for artistic projects….it felt different. There was nobody on Facebook, nobody texting or calling me to say hello, aside from my boyfriend, who has seemed busier than usual lately. I should have treasured the peace and quiet, but instead, I felt alone.

I can recall certain relationships in my life where, after spending time together, I’d look forward to the person leaving so I could do all the things floating around in my brain. I’m too type-A to want to cuddle in bed all day; my brain goes on active-mode and starts wanting to get up and do *something*. Now, I have all the space and freedom in my life I could want and nobody to answer to, and I am too ill and too bored with myself to know what to do with my time.

Today, I wished intensely that I lived in a city. I’d have liked to walk around and see Rockefeller Center in a December that wasn’t 20 degrees, or haunt the independent coffeeshops and bookstores of Washington D.C. I’d even have settled for being able to walk to dinner at the Vortex here in Atlanta. I think the suburbs are sucking out my soul, making me feel even more isolated and dependent. And while maybe it doesn’t matter now, when I’m sick and technically supposed to be on “bed rest” (for me, this is bed rest, evidenced by the refusal of my favourite dresses to zip.), I do hope at some point I will be better, and it will matter.

I am comfortable alone, in a city, where I am surrounded by people I don’t know and perhaps with whom I’ll never interact. I am comfortable alone, as long as I get to go out in the evenings and be amongst people, or even have interesting phone conversations and Facebook chats with people who intrigue me, who have interesting lives, share interesting gossip. Some days, I even prefer to stay in alone and watch my reality TV shows, and turn down social invites to do so.

But lately, I am just immensely bored with myself and with all this solitude. There is plenty to be interested in, but nothing excites me, because I want excitement and adventure outside of this tiny little world that’s been my very limited home for months. I hope I’m able to get my medical issues resolved soon, so I can work on restoring a more active and inspiring social life. Or, at least, I can leave the apartment and get sunshine and exercise again, so I can stand to go to the mall or look at myself in the mirror.

Tomorrow, I am going to amuse myself with hot cocoa and chick flicks, and when my boyfriend comes over, we’ll finally put up the tree and the stockings. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem like Christmas, not the way it normally does. I’m far more excited about ringing in the new year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Golden Girls would say:

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

A bit of my former enthusiasm for all my “projects” has dissipated lately, as is obvious in that this blog has been neglected for the past few days. As I told The Guy I Am Currently Dating, the last time I blogged was very possibly the last time I had an interesting thought.

I dislike January immensely, and February is only minutely better. Without fail, this time of the year is one where I sleep 8-9 hours a night, decide there’s absolutely no reason not to eat the junk food I love, refuse to go outside unless there’s a particularly good reason, and even when I interact with other people, become acutely aware that I’ve absolutely nothing of substance to add to the conversation.

Around this time each year, I become bored, depressed, and a catch a frightening glimpse ahead at the person I might expect to be when I’m 80. Not only do I become bored with everyone around me, all the things I spend my time doing (and often really love), and with the direction my life is heading, I become immensely bored with myself. I start thinking about all the ways I could make dramatic changes, become a different person, living in a different place, perhaps with a different kind of life. All my goals, and plans, and things I looked forward to on January 1st have been replaced with an intense satisfaction and desire to just pick up and go.

Of course, I never do, because it’s way too cold. I can’t even handle the temperatures well enough to motivate myself to go across the street, much less make life-altering choices or embark upon a new adventure.

I’m thinking maybe hibernation is the answer for me. I know once it’s March and I can finally leave the house again without shivering beneath 20 extra pounds of sweaters, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves, things are going to be OK. But, in the meanwhile, Winter is fairly difficult for me to overcome. Even my skin wants to be hidden, as it’s sprouted icky dry patches resistant to lotion or moisturizer of any kind.

It’s hard to feel sexy in January. In fact, it’s pretty difficult just to feel human sometimes.

Thank goodness for my electric blanket. It doesn’t conquer boredom, but at least I can remain healthy while being restless and dreaming of running away to a fun, lively place where everyone wears sandals 11 months out of the year.